NFL Playoffs Week 2 Picks, Part Two

If you’re looking for 2011 playoff predictions, then you’re in the wrong place — click here to get to my current picks!

If you missed it earlier today, then simply scroll down the front page for Part One of my NFL playoff picks for Week 2.  Or, you can simply click here.  It’s just that easy!

With that out of the way, let’s move onto Sunday’s matchups:

Dallas (+2.5) over Minnesota

If you’d told me a month ago that I’d be picking Dallas to make it to the NFC Championship Game, I’d have thought you were crazy.  After all, the Cowboys were still coached by Wade Phillips (of the zero playoff wins in his eight full seasons as a head coach), still had Tony Romo at quarterback (he of the terrible track record in December and beyond over his career), and still had a meddling Jerry Jones (he of the “I’m smarter than everyone else in the room” mentality) as the owner.  It’s a recipe for late-season collapse, right?

Felix Jones's emergence as a big-play threat in the Dallas running game may be the key to a Cowboys run to the Super Bowl

Except, this season, something happened.  It’s hard to know exactly what changed with this cast of characters in Dallas, but it’s easy to pinpoint when the Cowboys season changed for the better: the Saturday night victory in New Orleans over the previously unbeaten Saints on national television.  Since then, Dallas has played like the team so many people always thought they were capable of being, but never were.  The Cowboys are running the football effectively, with Felix Jones the breakout star to watch in the playoffs, Tony Romo is playing brilliantly under center, the receivers are coming up big, the defense is playing out of its mind, and Jerry Jones … well, Jerry is doing what he needs to do, and that’s signing the checks and staying the hell out of the way.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has had problems.  There was the whole Favre-Childress controversy from a few weeks back to serve as an unnecessary distraction for the team.  There’s been breakdowns on the offensive line, and the inability of the Vikings to get Adrian Peterson going, leaving Minnesota more and more reliant on Favre’s arm to win games.  And there’s been defensive breakdowns as well — and it wasn’t just high-powered offensive teams like Arizona taking the Vikings to the woodshed, but inept-all-year offensives like Carolina and (gulp) the Bears.  For the last month, there’s been a feeling hovering around the team that reminded me of what surrounded the Jets as they were coming undone down the stretch last season.

The Vikings’ trouncing of the Giants last week meant nothing — New York had mailed it in so convincingly, that the game should have been sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service.  Minnesota hasn’t looked the same since their road loss to Arizona in Week 13, and I’m still waiting for the meltdown you just know is coming from Favre at some point.  I think it’s this week against Dallas.   The Cowboys win this week and advance to the Superdome for a rematch against the Saints for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

San Diego (-7) over N.Y. Jets

And we end it this week with the only team not to smack me and my off-base predictions in the face during Wild Card Weekend, the Jets.  In a departure from everything else that happened last weekend, the Jets did exactly what I thought they’d do against the hapless Bengals: they ran the ball effectively, and they played solid defense, particularly against the pass.  As a bonus, they also got a great game out of Mark Sanchez, who played error-free ball in punishing the Cincinnati defense when they tried to over-defend against the run.  Rex Ryan couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

But will it work again this week against the Chargers?  If San Diego has an Achilles heel, it’s been their lack of a running game (31st in the NFL and averaging a putrid 3.3 yards per carry).  Despite what so many pundits have said coming into the playoffs this year, it’s still hard to win in the NFL — particularly when the level of your competition is playoff-caliber — if you can’t run the ball at all.  And San Diego has been dangerously close to that level of ineptitude.

So what’s been saving them?  It may be that their opponents simply don’t acknowledge that the Chargers can’t run and that they’ve been giving Tomlinson far too much respect, when it’s been painfully obvious that he’s not even the best running back on his own team anymore.

The Jets have the biggest defensive weapon in the playoffs on their sideline in Darrelle Revis, a player so talented that entire threads on fantasy football message boards were devoted to him and who he was shadowing on any given week — and why said receiver was reduced to unworthy of being rostered.  Revis shuts every receiver down he faces (which is your warning now not to be playing Vincent Jackson in any playoff fantasy leagues you’re in, unless you happen to be playing against me), and if San Diego has trouble getting their passing game going, then this could be a more competitive game than people think.

It’s just hard for me to get behind the idea that Mark Sanchez has made the leap yet into a QB who can win consistently in the playoffs; as good as he looked last week, it was against a Bengals team that I thought was overrated — cue the Falcons victory over the Jets in Week 15 as your game plan on how to beat New York.  I have visions of a three-interception game this week for the rookie quarterback — and if he’s turning the ball over, it’s going to be a long game for the spunky underdogs.  While the Jets hang around for a while, the Chargers turn it on in the second half to set up another meeting with the Colts for the AFC Championship.

That’s it for this week’s predictions (which I’m sure will all look idiotic by the time Sunday is over).  I’m be back briefly tomorrow for a wrap-up where I’ll mention Mark McGwire (finally), Wall Street, and Spider-Man’s reboot.

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One Response to “NFL Playoffs Week 2 Picks, Part Two”

  1. […] more useless opinions combined with a little brutal honesty « Tragedy In Haiti NFL Playoffs Week 2 Picks, Part Two […]

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