NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl Bracketology: The Elite 8 After Wild Card Weekend

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NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl Bracketology: The Elite 8 After Wild Card Weekend
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
January 8, 2011: Matt Hasselbeck releases on a hot read. He'll try to stay hot next weekend.

How many Super Bowl 2011 brackets were busted this past weekend—especially in the New Orleans area?  I can’t put a number on it, but there was probably a profusion of them.

I took a couple losses.  My bracket, though, is still intact.  My Super Bowl teams—Chicago and Pittsburgh—have yet to play.  They will be in action, though, next weekend in the NFL Divisional Playoffs.  I’ll be back.

They’re both No. 2 seeds.  Last year, both No. 1 seeds made it to the Super Bowl.  Several experts are picking the same thing to happen this season.  New England and Atlanta, the No. 1 seeds, are still alive, but I’m still going against the grain. 

By working my wood wheel and picking New Orleans and Indianapolis to win, I started out 0-2 last Saturday night.  How many experts did?   Plenty.  There were two upsets.  Not many picked the 7-9 Seahawks to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champion Saints.

I should have known.  No defending Super Bowl champion has won a postseason game since 2004.  New Orleans couldn’t even do it against an under .500 team in Seattle.  The Hawks hushed the chorus of critics. 

The brash Jets also shut a lot of their critic's mouths by posting a superb victory on the road against the Colts.  Former Dallas Cowboys place kicker Nick Folk played the hero in Indy.  In place of the once hopeful Super Bowl hosts—the Cowboys—the Jets could be headed to the big game.  It'll be in Cowboys Stadium—the Jerry Dome—on February 6.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
January 8, 2011: LaDainian Tomlinson scores against the Colts in Indianapolis. He'll try to get over the hump in New England.

First thing first.  The Jets will play the Pats for the third time this season.  Next Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS, in the late game, they’ll get it on in a tiebreaker of the highest order.

The two teams split their regular season matchups, and the home team won both games.  The Pats blew the Jets out, 45-3, on Dec. 6, 2010, and New York could use it as motivation. 

Before the game against Indy, Rex Ryan had a lot to say to the media.  He said the game was personal because Peyton Manning and the Colts had knocked his teams out of the playoffs twice.  Ryan's squad backed him up by upsetting Indianapolis last Saturday night in prime time.

In the early game next Saturday, seeded No. 5, the Baltimore Ravens will play Pittsburgh for the third time this season.  It’ll be the second at Heinz Field.  As the teams split two games, this one will be another rubber match. 

With one touchdown and over 100 yards receiving, Anquan Boldin had a terrific game against the Steelers in Baltimore.  He proved me right in my prediction in the game last weekend by getting behind the Chiefs secondary for a crucial touchdown in the third quarter.  It stretched the Ravens lead to 23-7 with 0:15 left in the quarter.

Baltimore’s defense helped me out by smashing Kansas City and snatching four—almost five—turnovers by the fourth quarter.  By then, the Chiefs had tied a franchise record for most turnovers in a postseason game (four).  Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles proved me correct by coughing up fumbles for Ray “Sugar Bear” Lewis and the Ravens. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
January 9, 2011: Safety Ed Reed (right) patrols the field in Kansas City. He played with concerns over his missing brother.

I was 1-2 in my picks after the Ravens won.  The final score of the game, 30-7, made it seem like it was an easier victory than it was.  The first half was close, and it was smashmouth football. 

I expect the bone crushing to continue in Pittsburgh.  Lewis made the hit on Rashard Mendenhall that injured the latter’s shoulder in 2008.  When they meet, these two division rivals always play some of the toughest physical football around.  Their next game will add to the lore.

Speaking of NFL playoff lore, the Green Bay Packers are back in the Super Bowl hunt.  The NFL Championship trophy is named after the former coach of the Packers—Vince Lombardi.  The Packers did it on the ground against the Eagles, in much the same way Lombardi's teams were known for.  They dropped me to 1-3 in game prognostications over the weekend with their victory in Philadelphia. 

As I mentioned, though, my Super Bowl picks are still alive. 

I'm sorry, New Orleans, for your brackets.  Keep your heads up.  The Saints fell victim to the curse of the Super Bowl winners.  Five straight Super Bowl champions have failed to win a playoff game the next season.  The last team to repeat as Super Bowl champions was the Patriots, who won in both the 2003 and 2004 seasons.  In Jacksonville, they won a wild-card game but lost in Denver to the Broncos in a divisional game in 2005. 

Since then, Pittsburgh (twice), Indianapolis, the New York Giants and New Orleans have been Super Bowl bracket busters.  They were all defending champions and failed to back it up with a playoff win the following season.

What do your brackets look like?  Tell me, please.  I've shared mine.  I want to feel your pain.

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