My favorite game this weekend is Giants-Bucs. No, I don't mean the thrill-a-minute variety. I don't watch these things recreationally. I'm talking about the game in which I feel most confident as a handicapper.
I think the Bucs are weakest in the area in which the Giants are the strongest, O-line vs. D-line. I think that's the softest part of the Tampa Bay operation, and we know what the Giants can do when their rush is working.
The Bucs closed out their season allowing a lot of sacks -- four apiece in three of their last four games. OK, they were early playoff clinchers and a lot of the stats are window dressing, but still, once you get into bad habits ...
The basic reason why I like the Giants so much is I think there's a difference in class here. Tampa Bay played in the weakest division. The Giants had to struggle. What bothers me, as a handicapper who traditionally leans to unpopular teams, is that everybody I talk to loves the Giants.
"That's because you only talk to people from around here, from Jersey," says
That's another reason not to move down there.
Here comes Upset No. 2 -- The hot team stays hot, which means the Redskins take one from the Seahawks and their 12th Man in Qwest Field on the shores of, uh, the banks of ... Puget Sound? Is that where all those pretty pictures come from?
The crowd noise is supposed to scare people, terrify them. Next to the dentist who forgot the Novocain, I hate that 12th Man junk worse than anything. Linda, if you say something that begins, "They have a right to..." I'm going to tell you something about my background and history that'll give you nightmares. And the Redskins are now a battle-hardened gang of roadies who have won two must-win away games in the last three weeks.
The hot team theory usually works pretty well in the first weekend of the postseason. After that, quality of personnel kicks in, but right now I think it makes sense to ride with a club that's feeling good about itself.
Of course, we haven't seen what happens when things start falling apart. He didn't ride the bench for so many years because people thought he was great. But wines, cheese and quarterbacks do tend to age, and maybe we are seeing the emergence of something special.
The Redskin defense is opportunistic, active and well coached. The offense is capable of moving the ball by any means. The weakness is
You say you're a die-hard NFL fan? Fine, name me three members of the Titans' offensive or defensive lines, excluding
They're a nasty looking gang. Some of them haven't shaved when they hit the field. Sometimes their shirts come out of their pants. San Diego is pretty.
"So all this is why you're picking Tennessee, right?" says my partner through this stormy sea of life. Nah, I won't go that far, although stranger things have happened. I just like them with the nine points.
"Aren't you the one who likes to go with the hot team?" says a voice nearby. No question, the Chargers are hot right now, coming off six-straight wins, including an overtime victory in Tennessee. That accounts for the big number by which they're favored.
OK, I think they'll win, but not big. And here's another angle. The Merriman-Young affair. Young was involved in a scramble and Merriman happened to get in the way and Young ran into him and went out of the game with bad ribs. Sounds phony, I know, but honest, that's what happened. "I seen it myself, it could be nahtin' else," to quote Big Abe, the cabbie who used to go to the Brooklyn Dodger games.
The Titans cooked up a little retaliation number. RT
Talk about games that look too easy. Jacksonville, a teeny weeny two-point favorite over Pittsburgh, looks like the steal of the weekend. Beware the steals. The Jags beat them by seven, in Pittsburgh, almost three weeks ago. Out-Pittsburghed 'em. Ran the ball 42 times. Threw nine fewer passes. Yeah! That makes for a shorter game, so I can go outside and check my lobster traps.
What has changed since then, to make us believe it won't be another seven-point Jaguar victory? Beats me. But it must be something. How about this? Fast
One interesting statistical note. I'm assuming this contest will present the heaviest tandem of starting quarterbacks in a postseason game in history.
OK, I'll get off this extraneous kick and give you the same blah blah you'll hear from now until kickoff. Pittsburgh loads eight in the box to stop the run. Garrard hurts them with his arm. The Steelers drop back to a normal seven. Jacksonville runs. Back they go to eight. The old expanding box syndrome. Now they pass. The accordion number. Breathe deeply, please. It'll be over in a minute.
Here's what I see. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator
I'll admit this isn't much of an analysis. I really don't see the Jaguars showing the imagination to change tactics all that much and catch the Steelers preparing for the wrong thing. But one rule of the playoffs is that things always change, especially since a prior meeting. That's what the Steelers hope, anyway.