Meadow Muffins of the Mind

The droppings of some guy's imagination.

Tag: Cowboys

On the 2011 BCS – Heading into the Final Standings …

Well, Championship Sunday was slated to go down as almost totally intrigue free until the remarkable games of the night shift.  With Clemson repeating the throttling they delivered Virginia Tech (how fun was that!) in the ACC title game, Michigan State’s heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin, we got a couple of surprising and thrilling twists in the BCS puzzle.  That said, the big intrigue took place when Oklahoma State delivered an emphatic statement against preseason #1 Oklahoma.  The legitimate question is raised – who’s #2?

What is interesting is that as of last week Alabama was the #2, and on ESPN yesterday we had Lee Corso opining that there is no controversy – that Alabama was CLEARLY the 2nd best team in the country?  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I certainly agree with Corso and much of the orthodoxy.  I’d sure as hell pick Alabama against every other team in the country.  The Crimson Tide has the 2nd best scoring margin in the country – the team has  outperformed its schedule by nearly 30 points.  If I could draw a name out of a hat to challenge LSU, it’d be the Tide.

However, are we casting a television show, or are we asking who is the most DESERVING opponent for LSU?  Who is the “best” team is manifestly unknowable.  As quaint as the notion is that the 2 “best” teams should be playing for the title, that notion is more or less completely false.  Best ain’t got nothin to do with it.  It is who is the most WORTHY.  Has Alabama accomplished more than any other 1-loss team in the country?  For example, let’s look at the Power Rankings #2 and #4, Oklahoma State and Boise State.

  • Conference Championships?  Well – Boise State is going to lose its league.  Yeah a league title should not be slavishly used as the rationale to do anything, but why have it as a goal if winning was not important?  So of the three teams, only Oklahoma State has won a conference.  That counts.
  • The quality of losses.  Obviously Alabama is the winner here.  Oklahoma State lost to the #65 team, and TCU is #16.  Nuff said.
  • The quality of wins.  Alabama has beaten: Arkansas (12), Penn State (29).  That is the extent of Alabama’s Top 30 victory experience.  For Boise State, Georgia (23).  Oklahoma State had Oklahoma (11), Kansas State (15), Baylor (19).  Texas (31), Missouri (35).  We extend the list for Alabama, Auburn (40) comes in.  Oklahoma State crushes here by any standard.

Really – the question becomes who “deserves” it more – and breaking that down, CLEARLY it is about how you weight Oklahoma State’s loss against its wins.  Do we buy the narrative that any SEC win is innately better than any other kind of win?  Personally, I think Oklahoma State has done more than Alabama to have EARNED the title shot.  They have beaten more quality opponents.  The loss is tough to work around, but its just a matter of opinion.  Alabama is a better team sure, but Oklahoma State is a better resume.

2011 NFL Power Rankings #3

Another week, another number one bites the dust.  Of course, as the underlying quality of the teams gets revealed, some of the movement in the rankings is explained there.  Also – now with 4 games down, the “good team” criteria kicks in.  So if a team has at least played 1/3 of their schedule (1 game so far) against > .500 RPI teams, the games count in that comparison criteria.  Anyway, at number one is probably the people’s number one:

Rank Team W L RPI Margin PairWins
1 Packers 4 0 0.802 (1) 19.875 (2) 31
2 Lions 4 0 0.776 (2) 15.104 (5) 30
3 Patriots 3 1 0.696 (5) 17.979 (3) 27
4 Bills 3 1 0.698 (4) 13.521 (6) 27
5 Saints 3 1 0.724 (3) 17.208 (4) 27
6 Titans 3 1 0.651 (6) 12.063 (8) 26
7 Ravens 3 1 0.651 (6) 21.292 (1) 26
8 Texans 3 1 0.63 (9) 12.375 (7) 23
9 Cowboys 2 2 0.573 (13) 12 (9) 23
10 49ers 3 1 0.599 (11) 8.083 (10) 21
11 Redskins 3 1 0.641 (8) 6.833 (13) 20
12 Raiders 2 2 0.542 (15) 7.938 (11) 19
13 Jets 2 2 0.526 (17) 6.938 (12) 18
14 Bucs 3 1 0.554 (14) 3.917 (18) 18
15 Giants 3 1 0.618 (10) 6.625 (15) 17
16 Bengals 2 2 0.516 (19) 6.563 (16) 16
17 Bears 2 2 0.49 (20) 6.792 (14) 16
18 Steelers 2 2 0.526 (17) 4.188 (17) 12
19 Broncos 1 3 0.401 (22) 1.917 (20) 12
20 Chargers 3 1 0.583 (12) -1.229 (23) 9
21 Falcons 2 2 0.536 (16) -2.75 (26) 8
22 Jaguars 1 3 0.354 (25) -6.292 (27) 7
23 Eagles 1 3 0.354 (24) 1.042 (21) 6
24 Browns 2 2 0.406 (21) -6.333 (28) 5
25 Panthers 1 3 0.333 (26) 0.042 (22) 5
26 Cardinals 1 3 0.297 (28) 3.208 (19) 5
27 Seahawks 1 3 0.302 (27) -8.167 (29) 3
28 Dolphins 0 4 0.234 (30) -2.208 (24) 2
29 Vikings 0 4 0.255 (29) -2.396 (25) 2
30 Chiefs 1 3 0.359 (23) -12.063 (32) 1
31 Colts 0 4 0.214 (32) -9.208 (30) 0
32 Rams 0 4 0.229 (31) -10.354 (31) 0

Notes?

  • Detroit leaps to #2 both by staying unbeaten and beating a team who has been well regarded so far.  Dallas, #9 on this list, is only 2-2, but has played four good opponents.  They are just a bit behind Green Bay, though I think it is fair to say GB passes the eye test as well as the numerical one.
  • Baltimore, with the best adjusted scoring margin in the league, seems to have the most upside of any team on the list.  They have shown a propensity to score, though the Sunday game against the Jets was a different deal with all those returns and whatnot.
  • It is impossible to write this without mentioning the Eagles, suddenly 1-3 and 2 games off the pace in the NFC East.  Given the crazy level of turnover they underwent, it stands to reason that they will be a better team in Week 10 than now.  However, the team has to put some games away, or it might be too late.  This is not the NBA or baseball, where you have 50 games to iron things out.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 9

Just when the Patriots seem to be growing, they get whomped by the Cleveland Browns.  The Seahawks show some serious mirage-properties.  The Bengals look finished.  Yep, it’s the NFL wildness.  As always the rankings are a combination of scoring margin and opponents scoring margin against other teams.

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank Last Wk
1 Titans 5 3 0 13.786 2.942 7 1
2 Steelers 6 2 0 13.03 4.499 3 2
3 Packers 6 3 0 10.734 1.067 20 7
4 Jets 6 2 0 10.097 1.847 13 4
5 Giants 6 2 0 9.004 0.848 21 10
6 Colts 5 3 0 8.97 0.658 23 6
7 Chargers 4 5 0 8.225 1.781 15 5
8 Falcons 6 2 0 8.126 1.501 17 8
9 Eagles 5 3 0 8.052 4.209 5 9
10 Lions 2 6 0 7.917 4.917 1 11
11 Ravens 6 2 0 7.482 1.232 19 13
12 Patriots 6 2 0 7.306 1.837 14 3
13 Chiefs 5 3 0 6.971 0.471 25 12
14 Browns 3 5 0 6.113 4.863 2 21
15 Raiders 5 4 0 5.801 0.634 24 14
16 Saints 6 3 0 5.299 -1.423 31 19
17 Vikings 3 5 0 2.401 2.151 11 15
18 Redskins 4 4 0 2.204 2.329 10 18
19 Bears 5 3 0 1.843 -1.345 30 16
20 Texans 4 4 0 1.656 4.469 4 20
21 Dolphins 4 4 0 1.518 3.33 6 17
22 Bengals 2 6 0 0.134 1.259 18 23
23 Rams 4 4 0 0.076 -1.518 32 22
24 Bucs 5 3 0 -2.166 0.209 28 28
25 49ers 2 6 0 -3.167 0.208 29 26
26 Broncos 2 6 0 -3.619 2.443 9 27
27 Seahawks 4 4 0 -3.998 0.252 27 24
28 Cardinals 3 5 0 -4.579 1.577 16 30
29 Cowboys 1 7 0 -4.768 1.951 12 25
30 Jaguars 4 4 0 -5.069 0.806 22 29
31 Bills 0 8 0 -5.737 2.888 8 31
32 Panthers 1 7 0 -10.036 0.464 26 32

Some of the key observations as the Thursday night schedule starts to heat up?

  • Holy blowout!  The Patriots getting demolished by the Browns sent them plummeting to 12th from 3rd.  I am not sure they are this bad, but they do not have a ton of margin for error as their receivers gel.  That said, the Browns are THIS close to being a good team.
  • Ditto for 10th ranked Detroit.  Another tough loss to a good team.  They are THIS close to breaking through with all that talent on the offensive side of the ball.
  • Dallas and Carolina might consider taking the rest of the season off.
  • Seattle falls to 4-4 with a destructive loss to the surging Giants.  On the surface the loss is not a shock – but could this start the trend of Pete Carroll teams falling down the toilet as the season evolves?

NFL Power Rankings – Week 8

In another week of high impact games, we see the Saints and Packers make huge statements.  As always, the rankings are point margin based (modified so blowouts count less) and combined with the opponents results against other teams.

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank Last Wk
1 Titans 5 3 0 13.97 3.126 8 1
2 Steelers 5 2 0 12.838 4.446 2 2
3 Patriots 6 1 0 10.98 2.372 14 4
4 Jets 5 2 0 10.076 1.576 17 3
5 Chargers 3 5 0 9.42 3.357 5 10
6 Colts 5 2 0 9.273 -0.012 26 5
7 Packers 5 3 0 8.715 1.965 15 12
8 Falcons 5 2 0 7.922 1.207 20 7
9 Eagles 4 3 0 7.349 3.241 7 11
10 Giants 5 2 0 7.18 2.537 13 8
11 Lions 2 5 0 7.142 3.285 6 13
12 Chiefs 5 2 0 6.69 -0.667 28 6
13 Ravens 5 2 0 6.427 1.57 18 9
14 Raiders 4 4 0 5.691 0.254 25 22
15 Vikings 2 5 0 3.89 4.033 3 15
16 Bears 4 3 0 3.784 0.57 24 14
17 Dolphins 4 3 0 2.788 3.074 9 21
18 Redskins 4 4 0 2.678 2.803 12 16
19 Saints 5 3 0 2.655 -1.001 31 25
20 Texans 4 3 0 2.462 4.819 1 19
21 Browns 2 5 0 2.392 3.821 4 18
22 Rams 4 4 0 0.898 -0.696 30 24
23 Bengals 2 5 0 0.304 0.732 22 23
24 Seahawks 4 3 0 -0.982 -0.554 27 20
25 Cowboys 1 6 0 -2.52 0.694 23 17
26 49ers 2 6 0 -2.58 0.795 21 27
27 Broncos 2 6 0 -3.135 2.927 11 26
28 Bucs 5 2 0 -3.753 -1.395 32 28
29 Jaguars 4 4 0 -4.524 1.351 19 30
30 Cardinals 3 4 0 -5.335 1.772 16 29
31 Bills 0 7 0 -6.463 2.965 10 32
32 Panthers 1 6 0 -8.473 -0.687 29 31

Some observations:

  • Finally, the Cowboys form is starting to dip.  They were doing just enough to lose against a schedule of good teams, but now getting crushed by Jacksonville sent them tumbling.  They are as bad as they seem.
  • On the other hand, the Chargers vault back into the Top 5 with a win over the Titans, still the #1 due to the body of work.  The Chargers have been the ultimate team that is a few mistakes away from a good record.  The #1 offense and defense by yards, their wins have been dominant and their losses have been maddening.  I do not think they are the 5th best team in the NFL, but their ranking is a good potential harbinger for future results.  Of course they will put the ball on the ground 4 possessions in a row again now that I said it.
  • The Saints have scuffled all season, with their offense not popping and a pretty mediocre schedule.  But the win against Pittsburgh was huge for them – they have a chance to fix what ails them.
  • Yes, the 2-5 Lions are 11th – they have a positive scoring margin.  They seem like they just need to learn to win the games they are losing – if they make a 2nd half run, don’t be stunned.
  • The Bucs at #28 are still not getting any respect from the model, despite the 5-2 record (they are the opposite of Detroit, a good record with a negative margin).  They need to start beating decent teams, and that has not materialized yet.  But when they do, the numbers will respect it.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 7

After six weeks, the Steelers fall from the #1 perch.  Their controversial escape from Miami motivates this to a degree, but really a team which has been covertly piling up good result after good result is now at the top.  As always, 50% a team’s scoring margin, 50% the opponents margin against other teams … and so, a very AFC heavy Top 10 …

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank Last Wk
1 Titans 5 2 0 15.577 2.542 13 2
2 Steelers 5 1 0 15.546 4.671 1 1
3 Jets 5 1 0 12.014 0.597 23 3
4 Patriots 5 1 0 11.231 2.856 11 5
5 Colts 4 2 0 8.975 0.308 24 6
6 Chiefs 4 2 0 8.242 0.158 26 11
7 Falcons 5 2 0 8.162 1.448 19 7
8 Giants 5 2 0 7.851 3.208 9 9
9 Ravens 5 2 0 7.36 2.502 14 4
10 Chargers 2 5 0 7.173 1.387 20 13
11 Eagles 4 3 0 6.651 2.544 12 8
12 Packers 4 3 0 6.108 0.18 25 12
13 Lions 1 5 0 6.043 3.543 7 10
14 Bears 4 3 0 4.798 1.583 18 14
15 Vikings 2 4 0 4.321 3.404 8 15
16 Redskins 4 3 0 4.048 2.976 10 17
17 Cowboys 1 5 0 2.824 3.574 6 18
18 Browns 2 5 0 2.744 4.173 3 25
19 Texans 4 2 0 2.711 3.878 5 21
20 Seahawks 4 2 0 2.204 -1.713 31 19
21 Dolphins 3 3 0 1.878 4.128 4 24
22 Raiders 3 4 0 1.731 -0.34 29 27
23 Bengals 2 4 0 1.628 0.794 22 22
24 Rams 3 4 0 0.379 -0.014 27 23
25 Saints 4 3 0 -0.457 -3.207 32 20
26 Broncos 2 5 0 -1.494 4.292 2 16
27 49ers 1 6 0 -3.357 1.643 16 26
28 Bucs 4 2 0 -4.035 -0.201 28 28
29 Cardinals 3 3 0 -5.422 2.369 15 29
30 Jaguars 3 4 0 -8.195 1.59 17 30
31 Panthers 1 5 0 -9.61 -1.61 30 31
32 Bills 0 6 0 -10.056 1.028 21 32

Some observations from this week’s madness?

  • One of my friends on Facebook complained about the Eagles being rated lower than the Falcons despite a head to head victory.  My standard response is that the model does not know how good the teams are.  Each week’s results reveal that – so an early victory gets better or worse with age.  This obviously is unfair to injury cases, but you have to take that as it is.  Also games like Detroit’s 44-6 win over the Rams and this weeks Raiders pasting of Denver skew a bit.
  • The plunge of the week was Denver sliding to 26.  I don’t think much needs to be said.
  • Big mover is Cleveland, with as stunning a result as Oakland’s.  And, to be fair, they have competed fairly well – and Peyton Hillis has been a covert fantasy hero.  At the top of the charts, the mover is Kansas City – who week after week is proving that they might really be a good team.  Certainly nobody else in the AFC West is.
  • Chargers and Cowboys are the poster boys for punching below their weight.  The Chargers in particular have the fundamentals (#1 offense, #1 defense) of an elite team, but the wins have not followed.  Their #10 ranking is fair (the model sees what it sees) but obviously they have the losses to prove any sort of anecdotal “they suck” case.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 3

As has been explained before, the rankings are 50% a team’s margin of victory – 50% the other team’s scoring margin against everybody else.  After 28 points, additional points are only counted half up to 42.  Thus, the best a team can do for a given game is 38.5 points (a 6 touchdown win on the road).  So theoretically the best possible score is 77 (win all your games by 42 points against teams who beat their other opponents on the road by 42).  With that sort of scale in mind, the week 3 rundown:

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank Last Wk
1 Steelers 3 0 0 32.667 17.417 1 1
2 Falcons 2 1 0 21.625 9.958 2 2
3 Packers 2 1 0 19.458 6.792 4 4
4 Titans 2 1 0 18.375 5.208 6 9
5 Jets 2 1 0 15.417 7.25 3 8
6 Bears 3 0 0 12.667 6.5 5 13
7 Colts 2 1 0 11.667 0 21 6
8 Chiefs 3 0 0 10.167 -1 27 5
9 Eagles 2 1 0 9.417 0.167 20 9
10 Chargers 1 2 0 9.333 3.333 11 7
11 Ravens 2 1 0 8.333 5 7 17
12 Texans 2 1 0 5.417 4.583 9 3
13 Cowboys 1 2 0 4.5 1.833 13 22
14 Patriots 2 1 0 4.417 0.583 16 16
15 Seahawks 2 1 0 3.417 -2.75 30 19
16 Vikings 1 2 0 2.75 -0.083 23 14
17 Saints 2 1 0 2.75 -0.083 23 26
18 Dolphins 2 1 0 2.25 -0.417 25 23
19 Browns 0 3 0 2.083 3.75 10 11
20 Bengals 2 1 0 1.417 -2.25 29 25
21 Broncos 1 2 0 0.333 0.5 17 12
22 Lions 0 3 0 -0.125 4.875 8 20
23 Redskins 1 2 0 -1.833 0.667 15 18
24 Rams 1 2 0 -3.542 -7.375 31 32
25 Bucs 2 1 0 -3.583 -1.75 28 15
26 Raiders 1 2 0 -5.208 0.458 18 29
27 Cardinals 2 1 0 -6.917 0 21 27
28 Giants 1 2 0 -8.5 0.333 19 28
29 Bills 0 3 0 -8.667 2.333 12 24
30 49ers 0 3 0 -12.667 1.333 14 30
31 Jaguars 1 2 0 -13.917 -0.75 26 20
32 Panthers 0 3 0 -23 -11.167 32 31

Some observations for the week?

  • The Steelers stay at the top with their win over TB.  Their three opponents have not lost to anyone else.  Right now the defense has carried them – I don’t think Tampa will be a good team for much longer, but the model does not know that.
  • The big leaps of the week go to Dallas and New Orleans.  The latter might be a surprise, but the Falcons become the best team they’ve played, by far – and that combined with the close result lifted the ship quite a bit.
  • On the negative side, the Jaguars 11 spot drop is the worst of the week – a decisive loss combined with losses by previous opponents cause the double whammy.  Bucs felt it also.
  • The Panthers and 49ers remain lousy – though now the Jaguars join them.

Wild Card Weekend and The Divisionals

Full disclosure – I had a previous commitment which precluded me from watching the best (and perhaps, only good) one of the four wildcard matchups – the hellacious Arizona 51-45 win over Green Bay – aside from highlight form.  I expect it will be NFL Network’s game of the week – so some more complete thoughts are warranted then.  Obviously sounded like a great game – if not a great defensive performance until the end – and full marks to Arizona for stemming the tide when the Packers seemed to have turned things around.  As for the rest of it:

Jets 24, Bengals 14 – The Jets continued their physical, mauling defense and stifled the Bengals passing game.  Darrelle Revis is the best cover CB in the league obviously, and the Jets front seven is good enough to not make him defend more than he (or any defensive back) can.  But the offensive side of the ball was where the Jets triumphed.  The Jets have been ultra careful not to expose Sanchez – and they did a great job keeping him from being stuck in “pass when we have to pass” situations.  They remained unpredictable with their running game and used it to give Sanchez some easy throws which he made.  And hey he showed poise.

Cowboys 34, Eagles 14 – The Eagles are an outstanding football team.  They hung 45 up on the Giants very recently, they beat some good opponents, their offense is young and gifted in so many places.  The Cowboys just match up very well with them, especially in the trenches where so many games are won.  The Cowboys just flogged the Eagles up front and the rest took care of itself.  The way the Cowboys have played since shocking New Orleans a few weeks back, they are going to be a very tough out.

Ravens 33, Patriots 14 – A complete wipeout.  The Ravens and Patriots have been different teams all season – the Patriots have been so beaten up by injury and attrition, their lack of depth at receiver was exposed.  Their defense has been below average much of the season.  The Ravens suffered from a lot of bad luck and lot of close losses.  But their upside is so much greater than the Patriots and they played near the top of their form.  This was a physical beat down – and the shocking beginning upset any game plan the Patriots might have had.  Just a sad day in Mudville.  The Patriots Era is not over – not by any stretch – but Belichick (one of his poorer coaching seasons) has some work to do.

So now the iron enters the fray.  The Wild Card memories reek with the bias of recency – and we tend to forget that the reason the teams with byes got them was because they deserved them largely.  Does this mean we will see four servings to the firing squad?

Cardinals at Saints – The Cardinals defense got lit up by a very talented Green Bay team.  The Saints indoors might be even more gifted.  Kurt Warner has proven how good he is when is protected.  Facing a very aggressive Gregg Williams defense, the challenge will be to rob Warner of time.  Can it happen?  Sure – especially with Anquan Boldin hurt (though he might be available, who knows – either way not 100%).  The Saints ended the season on a 3 game losing streak, including a varsity-free Week 17.  However, the bye, being at home, and their ability to generate speed all bode well.  I admire the Cardinals toughness – this is a better team than the one that stumbled into the Super Bowl last season – but the Saints have too much firepower under the dome.  Saints 34, Cardinals 24

Ravens at Colts – This is not your father’s Colts team.  I am not sure how much I have seen them really light it up.  It is a testament to Peyton’s brilliance that they have not dropped off offensively.  That said, the Ravens defense is good – maybe not as good as they looked against the fossilized Patriots attack, but good.  The Colts though have had trouble exploding at times – though augmented by better defense than normal.  Their first meeting was a 17-15 tight game where the Ravens had 5 FGs, and against a good team you need more TDs.  Colts inside though should have a little better luck.  Colts 24 , Ravens 17

Cowboys at Vikings – Vikings stumbled down the stretch.  Cowboys are surging and riding a nasty physical defense and an explosive balanced offense.  The Vikings, aside from pasting a character-free Giants team, have shown vulnerability.  The size on the inside of their defensive front bodes well against the Cowboys, but the outside defense, I am less certain.  Also Favre has been good at serving up key turnovers against good teams.  There are so many pro Cowboys signs that I should veer the other way and pick a Vikings rout, but the Cowboys have looked so strong.  I will hate myself for this: Cowboys 27, Vikings 24

Jets at Chargers – The Jets defense and blitzing will cut into what the Chargers like doing – throwing the ball deep.  The Chargers will have to be patient, and might have to win a rock fight.  The Jets running game also plays well against a very suspect Chargers defensive front.  And as last week showed, Sanchez can make a play or two if the situations are handled smartly.  That said, the firepower for th Jets is limited with Braylon Edwards being more likely to drop a big play than make one.  The Chargers will struggle, but not enough.  Chargers 20, Jets 10

Happy New Year – NFL Playoffs are Back

With 17 weeks in the book, it is time to offer some thoughts on each of the Wild Card matchups, going in chronological order:

However first of all, some comment on the Wes Welker injury.  It happens – first quarter, guy makes a cut, untouched, season over.  (or whatever, given how coy Bill Belichick is)  It is tempting to say that this validates the Colts decision to sit their starters and turn their backs on an unbeaten season (not accomplished since the 1972 Miami Dolphins) – which has its eloquent defenders.  The defenses are fair and reasonable.  However, the argument misses a couple of key points:

  • History.  The unbeaten season is historically a fairly big deal – there is a reason that it has not been chased down in 37 years – it’s hard!  No true football fan believes that the 1972 Dolphins are the greatest team of all time.  But they are the one that never lost a game, and so there is immortality.  Maybe the players don’t care – somehow I doubt it.
  • Causation.  The 2007 Patriots did not lose the Super Bowl due to the chase of history.  There may have been stress factors, and dealing with being cast as villains – but really that might have been 2% of the cause.  The Giants were just better once – which is how single elimination tends to work.
  • You never know.  Welker blew out his knee in a somewhat meaningless game.  But it was the first quarter, he was not touched.  Manning could have been hurt in the same manner.  Football is a hard game.  Heck, airplane travel is dangerous – but the Patriots made the trip.  They are not faberge eggs – you hope they don’t go out like this, but it’s a risk with the sport.
  • Customer service.  The teams that DO play preseason games in January should declare their intentions.  Fans deserve (especially paying ones) to watch football.  They already are saddled with 2 preseason games, they should not be forced to buy a third or fourth.

Rant over.  Now to the playoff games:

  • Jets at Bengals:  One of three Week 17 rematches this weekend.  The Bengals did play their varsity against the Jets and the Jets, in a win or else mode, pasted them.  That said, the scenery changes to Cincinnati this weekend.  Both teams have stout defenses and pedestrian offenses, though the Bengals can throw the ball better.  The Jets are trying to keep Mark Sanchez away from having a role in the final result of games, but you cannot hide him forever.  He has star ability and presence, but he is a rookie and has looked like one.  The Jets have the league’s best defense and it’s best defensive player (Darrelle Revis).  The team can run and win bad weather games.  But the Bengals have a little more firepower and I suspect they held back a bit tactically.  Bengals 17, Jets 13
  • Eagles at Cowboys:  This is a little different.  Eagles had a lot to play for – a division title and a bye.  The bye of course increases the odds of winning it all geometrically.  The Cowboys manhandled them up front and won with defense and running.  There is the usual adage about the difficulty of beating a team three times, but the Cowboys physicality makes it hard to pick against them.  Cowboys 27, Eagles 17
  • Ravens at Patriots:  The Ravens are 9-7, theoretically limping into the postseason, like the 10-6 Patriots are.  However, I look at the Ravens 7 losses, and see that they were all to playoff teams except for a loss to the Steelers, and that they were outscored in those games by a combined 38 points.  In other words, the losses were competitive.  Add their second in the AFC +130 scoring margin, and the resume looks more impressive.  The Patriots have a higher scoring margin and 10-6, and playing at home, so they are in good shape, right?  Well, there is the Welker injury, that is one thing.  Tom Brady’s 3 broken ribs and resulting mediocre play is another thing.  They smashed bad teams and played well at home.  On the road their defense seemed not very good, and they had a knack for collapsing facing adversity.  The character seems lacking a bit.  They can beat the Ravens, but I have a hard time picturing it, with the injuries and all.  Ravens 23, Patriots 20
  • Packers at Cardinals: Well the Packers belted them 33-7 this past Sunday.  However, Arizona did play Matt Leinart extensively, and I am not sure how much they cared about the result.  The Cardinals have a true track record now, and this year even have some very big high profile wins.  The inconsistency is there (really the NFC is wide open), but the Cardinals know how to work in big games, especially if the weather is not a big deal.  The Packers with Rodgers can flat out score, and Charles Woodson has been magnificent defensively.  However, their protection has been an issue at times this season and I am not convinced they are ready to win this sort of game – not yet anyway.  Cardinals 30, Packers 27
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