The divisional round of the NFL playoffs is according to script -- teams that won their division are playing each other. With four divisions of only four teams, wouldn't it make the most sense to dump the Wild Cards, remove the bye week and start the NFL playoffs this weekend? To the division champion, it makes sense. To the Cinderella story, there's 24 more teams that should get in. And realistically, I figure the more football played, the better my weekends are. So who am I?
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San Diego. With the league's best running back -- some say best in generations -- and a defense that sports Shawne-Im-Totally-Doing-This-Naturally-Merriman, the highly favored Chargers would play the role of the Ohio State University if they lose. Thing about it is, no believes the Chargers will lose. And if they do, it'll be because they "beat themselves" -- whatever that means.
- Baltimore. The Ravens beat the Chargers, Chiefs and Saints during the regular season. They also beat Tampa Bay, Oakland, Cleveland (twice), Tennessee, Atlanta, Pittsburgh (twice) and Buffalo -- don't break a sweat. Having seen the Ravens this year, their offense isn't among the league's best. It's consistent with a pro-bowl quarterback managing the game. Jamal Lewis is a shell of his former self (evidence that 2,000-yard seasons hurt your career rather than help it). If the Ravens win, it's because of their good defense -- damn good. They allow 264.1 yards per game and allow a third down conversion rate of 28.8% -- both NFL bests. They are the least penalized defense and only allow 14.8 first downs a game -- both NFL bests. Oh, and they only allow 12.6 points -- NFL best by 2.2 points. They lead the NFL with 28 interceptions and a +17 turnover ratio -- both NFL bests. The team's 60 sacks was one short of the league leader -- San Diego (61). This defense is damn good.
- Indianapolis. I struggle to support this team. I think very little of Peyton Manning and his ability to win big games. But what we saw out of a defense that manhandled Kansas City, I'd be more willing to say the Colts win because of their defense, not Manning. Then again, Ty Law is finished for the season -- Manning rejoices.
- Philadelphia. I honestly believe the momentum the Eagles are playing with, the confidence that's grown with the offense and the super-charged defensive results against the Giants, that the Eagles will win the NFC. I don't see any NFC team beating Jeff Garcia. Whoa, that didn't sound right. That tells you alot about the NFC.
New Orleans. Without question, this offense is pretty good. Like Bengals good. What about the defense? They're 11th in yards allowed (307.3) and 7th in points allowed (18.9). But do they play down to their competition? They've lost to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Washington and were swept by Carolina. They barely beat Cleveland and Tampa Bay and were smoked by Baltimore. If the Saints keep this core of players together, then I think it would be justified to nominate this team as the best NFC team for several years. This year? Not so sure.
- New England. If you're like me (and that's very unlikely), then you struggle with this team. For one, it's the Patriots who are, thus far, the team of the 21st century. For another, they aren't the same team they were during their super Bowl seasons. But they so don't have a chance against the Chargers.
Chicago. The whole point about the Bears this season was their defense. In the past five games, the Bears defense allowed 373 yards and 26 points; 327 yards and 21 points to Detroit; 357 yards and 31 points to Tampa bay; 433 yards and 27 points to St. Louis; 348 yards to Minnesota. The point is they went into the post-season bye week having given up yards and points to teams that aren't that good -- a good defense doesn't allow that many yards and points. Of the four bye-week teams, Chicago is struggling the most.
- Seattle. I thought for sure the Seahawks would be eliminated by a Wild Card team. Tony Romo took care of that. Seattle seems like the team that benefits from a weak division. They seem old and tired. They're injuries have slowed up their star players and they still throw to Jerramy Stevens. All of which adds up to a weakest link comment.