Patriots Report: Does Anyone Else in the AFC Stand a Snowball's Chance in Hell?
I didn't have to look it up in the Farmers Almanac to figure it would be bloody frigid to downright blizzardy in New England by the third weekend in January.
But I did anyway.
For the coming year, the Farmers’ Almanac predicts that Old Man Winter will exhibit a “split personality.” The eastern third of the country, (New England down to Florida and as far west as the lower Ohio River and Mississippi River Valley), will experience colder-than-normal winter temperatures. Across New England, where relatively balmy temperatures prevailed during the winter of 2009–2010, the upcoming winter will be the equivalent of a cold slap in the face, as we forecast much colder-than-normal temperatures.
Granted it's not down to the day, and god knows what they consider balmy temperatures in New England, the area always seems to be blanketed in some degree of snow come playoff time, but there you have it.
It'll be cold as hell in Patriot-land come playoff time and the bigger picture question prevails, even in the best of circumstances, no snow covered tundra, a relatively balmy 20 degrees, does any other team in the American Football Conference stand a snowballs chance in hell of keeping Tom Brady and the Pats from their seeming destiny in Dallas.
The Six Seed, New York Jets
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Despite a season ending blow-out win in Buffalo, the Jets defense has popped leaks like a sieve over the second half of the season and their offense has only been as good as QB Mark Sanchez, which means wholly inconsistent.
The Jets can play the run, but simply have not been able to generate a pass-rush with their front seven, calling on all out blitzes which leave Revis, Cromartie, and rookie Kyle Wilson out on a deserted island and those three were strafed in New England and then again in Chicago the weekend before last.
As a whole, the purportedly impregnable Jet defense has been anything but over part two of this NFL season and it will take a huge rising of the cream for this unit to get past the Colts in weekend one of the post-season.
But it's not an impossibility; they need a big game from Sanchez, no big drops from a pretty dangerous receiving core and a somewhat rested L.T. to get back to early season form while second year man Shonn Greene returns to last years hard running post season style.
If somehow all of that falls into place the Jets will be back in New England for a round two match.
Would they stand a snowball's chance in hell of reversing their fortunes of four weeks ago?
A 45-3 slaughter.
This is no guessing game. The answer is absolutely not.
The Number Four & Five Seeds, Baltimore Ravens & Kansas City Chiefs
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Now the Ravens can saddle up a serious defense, especially with Ed Reed back, still one of the leagues biggest impact players on the defensive side of the ball.
Do we like them at home to beat the Chiefs who were crushed in their own ballpark in the regular season finale by rival Oakland?
Generally speaking, yes, but the Ravens had their own problems with a pretty horrible Bengal club in what at least started off as a must win game for them and they have big questions on the offensive side of the ball.
It's not so much that Flacco has been inconsistent, but his hands are so tightly tied within the Raven scheme of things that the offense sometimes appears to be nothing more than Ray Rice left, Ray Rice right, and then Ray Rice in the flat, although he didn't catch any balls yesterday.
If K.C. can take a deep breath, get over their Charlie Weiss drama, get a big game out of explosive Jamaal Charles and a serviceable game out of QB Matt Cassel they have what it takes to beat the Ravens in Baltimore.
If you go with conventional thinking and the Colts beat the Jets in Round One, the winner heads to New England and neither has what it takes to compete with the Patriot juggernaut for a full sixty minutes.
The Ravens, purely on the strength of their defense, may hold the Pats in relative check for a short while. If their offense is humming on all cylinders they may even keep the game relatively close into the third period.
From there, the Pat defense will get a couple of stops, a seven point lead will turn to fourteen, even twenty one, at which point Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will have go back to the drawing board, think about drafting some receivers with game breaking speed and look to pick it up a notch in 2011.
As for the Chiefs and their chances in the tough environs of New England? There would be all kinds of talk about Haley and his staff, not to mention QB Matt Cassel having familiarity with the terrain. Off a first round win with a little momentum their will be talk of their balanced attack, the game breakers Charles and wideout Dwayne Bowe.
After they're down 21-0 midway through the second, all those sweet notions will fly out the window. From that point Haley will just look to keep the game from being an all out massacre and Coach Belichick might actually take some mercy on his former assistant so figure a final of 35-7 about fits.
Colts Versus Steelers?
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The Colts are on a run after a mid-season decline that was ludicrously attributed to Peyton Manning more so than the fact that they were being forced to play with a receiver group that wouldn't have impressed the nearby Indiana Hoosiers.
He's got Wayne and Garcon back in place now, the kids Tamme and Blair (who chipped in with four catches yesterday), and a too tight 23-20 win over the Titans yesterday sets them up for a first round match with the Jets in the Home Dome.
We'll go out on a limb, suppose the Colts will find a way against the Jets which will air them out to Pittsburgh for a tough match against the Steelers and their rabid fan base who will be revved to get back to the American Football Conference Final.
A couple of weeks ago, we were kind of feeling the Colts in this potential match up, but that was without Polamalu in the defensive lineup and you can never discount his massive, potential game breaking impact on any ballgame.
The fear factor is one thing, everybody knows #43 can lay the leather, but it's his uncanny instinct for the ball at the prime, but still the oft injured, age of 29 that sets him aside from any other safety in the league, even Baltimore's Ed Reed.
Still, this team has lost some maddening games this year and even with a stellar receiving corp, Mendenhall in the backfield and of course Big Ben, Pittsburgh fans will be only cautiously optimistic against Manning who can come on and beat just about any team under any circumstances when he's in his zone.
In the end I think the conditions will be too much for the Colts though and we like Pittsburgh at home in a back forth struggle 24-21.
AFC Final: Pittsburgh Versus New England
First, a word about the Patriots D, which has taken a monumental leap forward under the guidance of Defensive Coordinator, Bill Belichick.
That's right, Head Coach Belichick got sick of all his coordinators taking a walk on him so this year he took on the role for both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball.
You'd have to say the move has worked out pretty well, especially in the secondary where Arrington, McCourty, Butler, Chung and Merriweather have elevated their play to a lights out level of late which bodes well against any aerial attack that invades New England two weeks from this coming Sunday.
Upfront, Vince Wolfork has been dominating, and with Spikes back from suspension, the linebacking crew is whole again with Ninkovich, Mayo and the combination of Banta Cain and the athletic pass rusher Jermaine Cunningham, (out of Florida) wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
So the Steelers, even with a solid offensive core will find stiff opposition from a Patriot defense on a roll and will have to counter with better than solid play on their own defensive side of the ball to keep pace with the hometown Pats.
Obviously, they'll look to limit big plays; that's the Steeler way, attack Brady to the greatest extent possible, but how will they keep up with the mad pace and variety of an offense that hasn't been held under 30 in nine weeks running?
In 2007, the Pats had a very different kind of offensive juggernaut that teams had started to limit toward the end of the season. In the biggest of games against the Giants, their vaunted offensive line broke down and Brady, looking at deeper routes than the quick strike Pats are running now got hit often.
The Steelers will have no choice but to press up and get physical with the Patriot receivers, especially Welker, just to have a chance to get off the field.
But with Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden thusly occupied, Steeler safeties Clark and Polamulu will have to contender with tight end, Rob Gronkowski, over the top and at the same time be in position to help out with speedster Ben Tate, who can break deep at any moment.
Throw in an improved running game with an effective Ben-Jarvus Green Ellis leading the way and you start to get an idea of why it's been almost entirely impossible to get a grip on Brady and company virtually the entire season long, and while the physical Steelers with weapons of their own and one of the leagues top overall defenses may stand the best chance of all AFC teams to do so, they won't.
New England 31 - Pittsburgh 17 and on to Super Bowl XLV where the Patriots may find themselves in another tussle with the late emerging Green Bay Packers, maybe the only group in the NFL with a defense as a whole and secondary in particular that can do something about limiting the Pat's attack.
But that's a story for another day, hope you enjoyed it,