With the NFL playoffs nearing, it's time to ease up a little around here. With all of the bonehead stuff going on in the world, the one thing I like about the Christmas season, is the heating up of NFL races. The games at the end of this season are proving to be some very important games.
Now, I fully understand that many of my readers aren't into the NFL. Many are French (or from some other Euro country), but I suspect that many are Americans that just do not like sports, as well. So now that I have eliminated the vast majority of my readers in one swoop, here is something that I will try to do for the 3-4 that do like it.
I didn't get to watch much today, but caught a glance of the Bears vs. Bucs, as well as Philly and NYG. But after seing some scores and some highlights, I can honestly say that the elite teams in the league are the ones playing well now, not the ones that started out of the gate fast.
Here is a list of those that are playing good now and could make some noise in the playoffs:
These guys have won 5 in a row. They beat a good Jacksonville team today, with defense (3 defensive TDs). They are proving that they can get on a run, by getting on a run. Their defense is proving they can get the job done, even when Vince Young has a so-so/all out bad day. I see these guys as dangerous and wouldn't take them lightly if they pull one out of their hat and make the playoffs, after such a dismal start.
New England Patriots
The Pats have been too inconsistent, to effectively gauge how they will do in the playoffs. Yet, there's the TBF (Tom Brady Factor). Experience helps them in most positions, they always have a way of turning it up a notch, when they need to. They have not had all of the attention that other teams have had, early on. Radar had not tracked them. But they definitely could sneak up on some teams and send them home earlier than expected. Whether they will or not, is another story.
The Colts got the attention early, Baltimore plugged along and won, under the radar. They have certainly had a better than expected year.
Defense is always a focal point with the Ravens and they have looked pretty good at times. Can they make a run? I'd say, "possibly". If Steve McNair can be efficient and put just enough points up, they could be one to watch. Ray Lewis will have the defense ready. Question is, "will McNair have enough oomph to get the wins?"
Cincy is cooking right now, too. They have won 4 in a row. They have a test tomorrow night, in the RCA Dome. How they handle Indy on the road will be the test to see if they belong in the elites.
If they beat the Colts, they stay two games behind the Ravens for the division. Thta will be tough. The Bengals will have to win out and the Ravs will have to lose out. That's a tall order, but it's not out of the question that if they win 2 of the last three they would likely win a wild card spot.
They started out good, then had their slippage in the middle. But now they appear to be turning it up, at the finish. Pittsburgh did it last year, and did it by winning on the road.
The once hot and mighty Colts have cooled and weakened, as they traditionally do this time of year.
Many teams have legitimate shots at winning with great defenses and efficient offenses. But Indy has a great offense, with a merely efficient defense. And to top it all of, their defense has been hit with a lot of injuries, both early on and of late.
Tony Dungy has gotten a lot from these guys, it's not easy when your job is to get the ball back for Peyton. But in the NFL, it has to be done by stopping the run and forcing the opposing team to punt, once in a while (and they can't seem to get that done). They cannot win a title that way.
San Diego Chargers
What can I say? Seven in a row. They have a premier RB in LaDanian Tomlinson. He definitely takes a lot of pressure off of a talented, young QB. Plus they have a pretty hard hitting defense that can stop the run. They held KC to 90 yards, for the whole game. Larry Johnson only got 84. Contrast that with SD's 265 on the ground, with LT's share, 199.
They are clearly the team to beat in the AFC, maybe even the league, at least until someone else says they are not. They may drop one between now and the end of the playoffs, but they still should get the number one seed. They may win it all, if Marty lets them play. I must say, I was shocked to see a fake punt by him so early in the game.
After getting a run, they shot themselves in the foot last week against New Orleans. But they bounced back this week. They may have lost at the right time (to get that long streak monkey off of their backs), but they picked it back up. Parcells has these guys playing pretty much up their potential. The question is, will that be good enough.
The NFC is a bit weaker than the AFC, but someone will come to the big dance from the NFC, anyway. I say these guys have a legitimate shot at being in the Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints
Whooped the Cowboys in Texas Stadium. They can play, but looked on the poorer side of mediocre today. They will have to eliminate some mistakes and not have let-down weeks after big wins. You cannot get a big head because you beat a team that was on a roll, you have to act like you were expected to win that game; then you have to re-focus on the upcoming game like they are standing between you, and where you want to go.
You have to look and act like serious contenders to send a message to all that may future opponents that may face you in the playoffs. You have to plant that seed of anxiety in their minds, by following up wins with wins. The Saints failed to get that done, today. Now, many see them as vulnerable. So do I.
They have managed to pull some close ones out. They have tried to give away games, only to pull them out. (Like today, for instance. They stopped playing in the 4th quarter)
But, they are the number one seed in a mediocre conference. Whether they win pretty or ugly, they've managed to lose only two games this year, so far. I think they can make it to the NFC Championship, but if they have to play the Cowboys, I think they will lose.
If I had to choose today, I'd pick Dallas and San Diego, in the Bowl. But as always is the case around here, everything is always subject to change.