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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 chance.

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