Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Playoffs Round 2, Plus a Look Ahead to April

Went 2-2 ATS and 3-1 straight up, missing badly on the Tebow game, which broke the record for Most Tweets Per Second. Literally. What is there to say about Tebow that hasn't already been said. Nothing. I'm so eternally glad that Pittsburgh is out.

Last year, my 3 least favorite teams were in the final 4 (PIT, CHI, NYJ). This year, I actually like all of the final 8 teams a decent amount, though the order of who I am cheering for goes like this:
1. New England
2. Denver
3. New Orleans
4. Green Bay
5. Houston
6. Baltimore
7. Giants
8. San Fran

I still love my preseason prediction of Saints over Packers in the NFC Championship. Nobody will see them coming as everyone overemphasizes the cold outdoor weather. I don't think Drew Brees will care. As for San Diego, they can all go suck a bunch of lemons.

Saints @ 49ers
Predicted Line: NO by 3.5
Actual Line: NO by 3.5

I'm taking the points. San Fran won't make it easy for Brees. Their defense is a million times better than Detroit's. I'll say Saints 30-27.

Broncos @ Patriots
Predicted Line: NE by 9.5
Actual Line: NE by 13.5

Pats have lost their first playoff game two years in a row. There's not a chance in hell that that happens again. Not against Tim Tebow.

This is a dreadful matchup for Denver. New England's D is actually decent against the run (Wilfork, Mayo), but can't stop the pass or rush the passer. Tebow might have lit up the Steelers with 10 completions for 300+ yards, but still, it was just 10 completions. That doesn't usually work. Not when the other quarterback is arguably The Greatest of All Time.

Patriots 41-23.

I should probably say something about Josh McDaniels, the former Pats coordinator who took the Denver job, drafted Tebow, got fired, took a job with the Rams, coordinated the worst offense in the NFL and possibly crushed Sam Bradford's career, and then quit to reunite with Brady and Belichick in the middle of the playoffs, right in time to face his former team and his former 1st round draft pick. What a coward. I would hate his guts if I were a Rams fan. I pretty much hate his guts anyway. He better not get one single ounce of credit for Brady's 5 TD game.

Texans @ Ravens
Predicted Line: BAL by 6.5
Actual Line: BAL 7.5

Both teams are looking to run the ball, control the clock, and play awesome defense. So this line has to be a little bit too high. Andre Johnson is supposedly fully healthy and Baltimore doesn't have anyone who can cover him. But I'll take the Ravens 24-20.

Giants @ Packers
Predicted Line: GB by 10.5
Actual Line: GB by 7.5

How about Packers 41-13.

... More to come later I guess ...

*Quick note on the NBA.

Ever since Joe Dumars traded Chauncey away and plunged the Pistons head-first into a septic tank, I have been searching for a new team to root for. I briefly entertained flings with the Bucks and Grizzlies and the Thunder, and early this season I was pretty excited about the Clippers. But I believe I have settled with a new love interest, and it may surprise you.

The Minnesota Timberwolves.

Yeah, they haven't been good since KG left 4 years ago, and yeah they were never really good before that. But I love Kevin Love (the hero of my fantasy team), I love rookie Derrick Williams, and I love Ricky Rubio. The supporting cast has all sorts of great characters - JJ Barea, Luke Ridnour, Michael Beasely, assistant coach Bill Laimbeer, and of course, Darko!

So that's my note about the NBA. Of course, my main routing interest is still the same: anybody but the Heat. Also, don't look now but with a new coach and a new GM the Pistons might be able to rebuild 2 or 3 years from now. They have two decent building blocks with Knight and Monroe. If they can keep those guys, keep Jerebko, and draft a mega-stud player to build around, they can compete in a few years. So basically, we need a top 3 pick and we need to not screw the pick up.

Back to the NFL.

The Lions are officially slotted as pick #23 on the Draft board, which means I've already begun the analysis process. Last year at pick #14 it was significantly later than we are used to picking. But #23 is crazy. I don't know how to function in a world where Detroit doesn't get a top 20 prospect. All this fantastic talent is leaving the silly world of college football and entering the NFL, and Detroit doesn't get any of it. Oh the woes of being a playoff team.

Making things worse for Detroit, two of the top QB prospects (Matt Barkley and Landry Jones) decided to stay in school for another year, presumably so they can battle for the right to be taken #1 in 2013. That means two less QBs will be taken in the top 20, which means two less OT/DE/LB/CBs will be available.

Of course, Mayhew and Lewand and Schwartz have made it clear that Detroit doesn't draft for need. Perhaps that's why Nick Fairley was the least effective rookie taken in the first round of 2011. Because he was coming off the freaking bench. Maybe this year the Lions will address any one of the 6 glaring positions of need (the four I mentioned, plus center and safety) with their first round pick, but based on history, we're more likely to take a backup QB or another freaking defensive tackle.

I'm starting to chart out a mock draft for April, but with still a lot left to be determined, I'm not getting ahead of myself. We know the Colts are taking Luck #1, and it will be very interesting to see if Peyton gets traded or retains the starting job. I'd like to see Indy keep him, but he's owed something like $28 million next year, so trading him is certainly sensible.

Teams that definitely need a new quarterback include the Redskins and Seahawks, but teams that aren't completely sold on their current starter will be a much longer list: Jets, Browns, Bills, Dolphins, Jaguars, Cardinals, Rams, Vikings, Bucs, Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, 49ers, Titans ...

Really, less than half of the league (15 teams by my count) are happy with their current starting quarterback. Those teams are, in descending order, the Saints, Packers, Pats, Lions, Panthers, Steelers, Giants, Chargers, Bengals, Cowboys, Eagles, Texans, Falcons, Ravens, and Bears. And you could argue that 4 or 5 of those guys are replaceable if the right situation (namely, Peyton) was available.

So while only a few teams are in the Peyton market, probably upwards of 12 teams are in the market for the 2nd quarterback in the NFL Draft, Robert Griffin III. A lot of pundits think Griffin will be taken 2nd overall, not by the Rams, but by the highest bidder. The Browns (4th pick) stand to land Griffin if he drops, but with teams jockeying for position to move ahead of Cleveland, Cleveland might just want to move ahead of themselves. They have the most picks to make an offer that St. Louis can't deny.

However, the #2 prospect after Andrew Luck is a once-in-a-decade left tackle, Matt Kalil from USC. Kalil is considered a clone of Jake Long or Joe Thomas, and will probably be one of the best LTs in the NFL within one season. The Rams would be smart to ignore trade offers and take Kalil, which would give the Vikings (pick 3) the chance to hold an auction and amass picks.

That's what I see happening right now. I don't think St. Louis wants to trade out of pick #2 and lose the chance at Kalil. But there isn't a clear #3 prospect for the Vikings to take ... CB Claiborne from LSU or WR Blackmon from OSU are more of mid-first round pick type of talent. The Vikings very well might trade out of the 3 spot to the highest bidder, and end up addressing needs later in the draft, probably getting a future 1st rounder as well.

With the new rules of the CBA, teams actually won't be afraid to trade up into the top 5. Paying a top 5 pick is no longer a death sentence; it's actually the best way to rebuild. So expect the Robert Griffin bonanza to be crazy and teams to offer an arm, leg and a kidney to obtain his services. Whether he'll succeed in the NFL or not is a different story. I'm not convinced. Of course that's what I said about Cam Newton....

Anyway, my hope is the Lions will play it smart, address a need on the O-line or the defense, not do anything cute (like the stupid Pettigrew pick a few years ago), and get their asses back in the playoffs next year. Before the Draft, the key is going to be re-signing key players, namely Avril and Tulloch. We might not be able to afford both guys, so Tulloch is more vital in my mind than Avril, because we have no depth at linebacker.

That's all for now.


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