NFL Playoffs 2010 Third Round
by Tony Medley
If I donít toot my own horn, nobody will. I
doubt if there is anybody who picked 7 out of the 8 winners this year,
as I have. And the only one I missed I admitted was an emotional choice,
Arizona over New Orleans. I donít like to pick against the team for whom
Iím rooting. It makes watching the game no fun. Even though Iíve never
seen a worse defense than Arizonaís in the playoffs, there was a bright
spot for Arizona fans because Matt Leinhart looked good when he played
the end of the first half after Warner got hurt.
I never thought Dallas had much of a chance
against Minnesota, despite what all the talking heads thought, and I was
right; it was a blowout.
Iíve been on the Jetsí bandwagon since the first
game of the season. However, the Jets did disappoint me. I said if it
got down to a 2-minute drill with Philip Rivers throwing the ball, the
Jetsí blitz would be a big hindrance to him. But when it got down to the
Jets protecting a 10 point lead with six minutes to go, what did they
do? They went retro on me and went into a prevent defense with a three
man rush! What did Rivers do? He scored with the ease all good
quarterbacks do when faced with the prevent defense. I hope Rex Ryan
learned his lesson. One of the main reasons I picked the Jets is that
Ryan eschewed the nickel defense all year long!
I also didnít think Baltimore had a prayer
against Indianapolis, and they didnít.
Now itís down to two games.
Minnesota at New Orleans:
Minnesota has a terrific team, with good
offensive and defensive lines, a great quarterback, and better than
average running. But this game is at New Orleans, which is a big
advantage for the Saints, and one of the main reasons I favor the
Saints. Further, the Saints have a much better running game than
Minnesota, now that Reggie Bush has come into his own. Drew Brees is as
good a quarterback as there is in the league. Even though Minnesota has
a good defense, Brees always has a swing man to whom he can throw the
ball if heís in trouble, and that swing man is often Bush. Minnesota and
Favre donít have this in their normal repertoire; at least they donít
play it as effectively as New Orleans.
There is also the Favre factor. His career shows
he is turnover-prone, forcing passes when he shouldnít, resulting in
devastating interceptions. This year his TD-interception ratio has been
the best of his career, but that factor hovers over the game as
an ever-present possibility.
As to the Saintsí defense, which is under rated,
they shut down Arizonaís potent offense, an offense that is arguably as
good as Minnesotaís. So Iím picking New Orleans, and there is a good
chance that it wonít be as close as most anticipate.
New York at Indianapolis:
Indianapolis isnít just a one man team; itís a
one man offense. Without Peyton Manning, the Colts wouldn't be in the
playoffs, much less playing for the AFC title. The Coltsí defense is underrated, but it isnít the
defense that is needed to beat the Jets; itís a well-rounded offense.
Indianapolis has the worst running attack in the league. Peyton Manning
is arguably the best quarterback who ever played the game, but if anyone
can stop him it is this Jets team. But they have to stick with their
philosophy; pressure the quarterback with a big rush.
The Jets are poised to be the team of the teens,
the Packers of the Ď60s, the Steelers of the Ď70s, the 49ers of the 80s,
the Patriots of the oughts. If Mark Sanchez continues to progress as
much as he has from the beginning of the season to now, he could be the
Bart Starr of the teens, a competent, unflashy quarterback who doesnít
make spectacular plays, but does make big plays when they are needed.
And thatís what he did against San Diego. When
the Jets went into halftime trailing only 7-0, having stifled San
Diegoís potent offense, I felt the game was theirs. They played a
brilliant, disciplined game. If the Colts or Saints donít beat them,
this could be anybodyís last chance for five years.
If the Jets play the same conservative first
half that they did against San Diego and are close at half, they can
win. That means not throwing on third and long, risking a turnover. If
Indianapolis jumps out to a quick big lead, the Jets will have little
In addition to the Jets defense and disciplined
offense, this game hinges on Sanchez. I donít think even
the Jets defense can shut down Manning like they did Rivers, so the Jets
are going to have to score. And that means they are going to have to
pass in the second half because their running game, which led the league, isnít potent
enough to do it without a passing attack against the Coltsí defense. If
Sanchez can continue his improvement, the Jets can win, and thatís my
pick (but, boy, do I hate to pin my hopes on a USC quarterback; the only
one who has ever been in the Super Bowl is Willie Wood, and he played
free safety, not quarterback, for the Packers in the '60s).
This is an emotional pick, because I will be
rooting for the Jets, but the Jets have a much better chance against
Indianapolis than Arizona had against New Orleans. I truly believe the
Jets can win this game if they play like they did against San Diego and
forget the nickel defense.
January 20, 2010