Friday, January 22, 2010

Degenerate Friday - Conference Championships!!

Before getting to the Conference Championship picks for the weekend, did anyone happen to catch Steven Bardo’s slip while announcing the Indiana-Penn State game last night? He was attempting to “give a lesson” to post players about keeping the ball high, but he instead took a shot at fat girls. “All you big guys and big girls out there, take note.” And of course his broadcasting partner quickly jumped in and reminded him that he meant “post players” and not healthy eaters. Solid.

When looking at the games this weekend, I started looking at movies that were based (in whole or part) in the locations of the games themselves, which meant finding movies based in Indiana or New Orleans. Obviously for Indiana, it was Hoosiers, which has some great parrallels to the AFC Championship game between the Colts & the Jets. The Jets have the brash coach of the underdog, who is probably having the field measured to tell his team that the field is 100 yards in Indy, just like it is in New York.

Aside from Easy Rider being another movie with Dennis Hopper (he was Shooter in Hoosiers and Billy in Easy Rider), it’s based on a motorcycle ride across the country to get to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The other reason is that I found a quote that works for the game, so I’m just going to go for it. Let’s get right to it and see if I can keep improving, from 0-4 in the wildcard round to 2-2 last week, it’s time for a 2-0 weekend.

Standard weekly disclosures – recreational purposes, spreads from the NY Post, home teams in CAPS, etc.

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP – Hoosiers quote from George to Coach Dale

“Look, mister, there's... two kinds of dumb, uh... guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and, uh, guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don't matter, the second one you're kinda forced to deal with.”

COLTS (-7.5) over Jets

Before getting to the game analysis, how great has Chelcie Ross’s career been? In addition to playing opposite of Gene Hackman in Hoosiers, he was also the veteran pitcher, Ed Harris in Major League, the coach in Rudy, and Connie Hilton in Mad Men. Talk about an underrated career. Anyway, the quote applies pretty well to Rex Ryan and the Jets. He’s now doing his barking in the living room of one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, and now Peyton Manning is forced to deal with him.

I went back and looked at Manning’s stats in games against teams he played in the regular season and replayed in the post season, and didn’t find an real patterns. But the one historical time I did find which had some interesting parallels was in 2004, when the Colts played the Broncos in the final regular season game, and Peyton threw two passes and rested while the Broncos won to secure a playoff spot. Denver then came to Indy and got smoked 49-24 in the playoffs with Peyton throwing for over 450 yards and 4 touchdowns. Intresting tidbit, except that the Jets have the best running game and best defense in the league. However, digging a little deeper, the Broncos had the 4th best rushing offense that season and the 4th best defense in the league. Another parrallel was with the Colt strong offense where they were 1st in passing offense in 2004 and they were second in 2009. The 2004 Colts defense was worse than their 2009 counterparts, ranking 28th in 2004 and 19th this season. So what does this mean? Probably not all that much, but it is a historical pattern where Manning and the Colts rebound strongly against a tough defense and blew the game open on the fast turf in Indy.

I expect the crowd noise to be a difference maker in this game, and while Sanchez has played tremendous in his first two playoff games, he will need to be perfect to keep the Jets close. If the Colts can score early and get a lead, Sanchez will be forced to throw without the comfort of play action, which allows the speedy defense of the Colts (tremendously faster than the Chargers) to tee off on him. The Colts will use jabs and some dink-and-dunk passes to keep the Jets at a comfortable distance for the majority of the game. The half point hook concerns me a little, but I think Manning and Company march on to Miami.

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP – Easy Rider quote from Billy (Dennis Hopper)

“Man, everybody got chicken, that's what happened. Hey, we can't even get into like, a second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel, you dig? They think we're gonna cut their throat or somethin'. They're scared, man.”

SAINTS (-3.5) over Vikings

In theory this should be the most entertaining football game of the entire season. A potent Saints offense against a stout Vikings defense. The most balanced Vikings offense against the opportunistic Saints defense. Darren Sharper gets a shot at his former Packers teammate Brett Favre & his former team, the Vikings. The reason I chose the quote was partially based on the fact that there really aren’t many memorable movies set in New Orelans. And this movie may even be a little bit of a stretch because it’s about the guys taking a motorcycle ride from LA to New Orleans and their encounters along the way. Anyway, it’s also because this is a scary game for degenerates to get involved with. Betting on this game is the equivalent of asking out Mariah Carey, I mean, I guess it looks good, but you know you’re messing with an unstable, and woman who is larger than she appears on television or pictures.

If the crowd noise affects Favre’s ability to check out of plays, it may make Brad Childress the happiest guy in the building, but it will limit his skills at taking advantage of the blitzing Saints defense. That could force him to make rushed and bad decisions, playing right into the hands of New Orleans. Yet as much as everyone kept expecting him to have that melt down game at some point during the season, he never did. So why would we expect him to suddenly go back to his old ways? The Vikings also will likely try to pound the ball with Adrian Peterson, and they should be able to move the ball on the ground against the Saints defense.

The Saints offense is loaded with weapons and Drew Brees and his merry band of receivers will be able to put points on the board. The Vikings defensive line is banged up, which should open up more running lanes for the Saints than have been there against Minnesota all season. If the Saints can establish any running game, it slows down Jarred Allen, which will give Brees enough time to dissect the Vikings secondary. The game will be a shoot out, not Cardinals-Packers level, but will be back and forth and at the end of the day, the Saints explosive offense will be able to put a few more points on the board than Favre and the Packers. We all know what happened the last time the Saints were in the NFC Championship game against an NFC North team (see picture) but this time they get their first trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history.

LAST ADD: Just to throw a prop bet out there to break any ties in case I somehow end up 1-1, take Pierre Garcon to have the most receiving yards at 10-1 odds. With Revis on Wayne, Garcon will be the quick target for Peyton. And after he catches some dinks and dunks, he might have a shot for a deep one, putting him up around 125 yards, which should be enough. The Viking have Rice, but his odds at 5-2 aren’t that appealing. The Saints spread the ball around too much, and the Braylen Edwards will lead the group in yards lost to drops.

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