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NFL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS - SCENARIOS - ANALYSIS
ARE THE GIANTS DONE??
I can't remember a year in the NFL with so many teams capable of going all the way and winning the Super Bowl. Most years we see one dominant team that is head over heels better than everyone else, followed by a couple more very good teams and then the playoff picture is usually rounded out with a couple of teams that really have no shot and no business being in the playoffs to begin with. Not the case this year folks. For starters, there isn't one team that stands out as head over heels better than the rest. They have all been shown to be vulnerable. However, some teams seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time. Let's take a look at the top contenders.
New York Giants - Why not start with the team everyone thought was going to be that one dominant team. What a difference a few weeks makes eh? Heck, a gunshot wound and a bad knee on a running back and we're looking at a different team here folks. I've read quite a few articles and fan forums with people wondering which has hurt the Giants more, no Plaxico or no Brandon Jacobs. Obviously, it's a combination of the two. The absence of those two guys completely changes the way teams defend against the Giants. It's not as if the Giants offensive line suddenly became bad the last couple of weeks. Burress and Jacobs help make the offensive line tick. Both players demand extra attention when they are on the field. With Burress, it's the double teams which leaves other receivers in single coverage and also keeps the opposing secondary honest which in turn aids the running game. In many cases, receivers are a dime a dozen and can be replaced, In this case, it's an absence that affects all aspects of the Giants offense. Never mind Plaxico's sheer ability as a receiver. He's a guy you can throw the ball to and just get it close to him and he'll find a way to come up with the grab.
Brandon Jacobs is equally as important. He's a monster back. The guy is a battering ram. He's virtually impossible to stop in short yardage situations, with or without a supporting cast. The good news for the Giants is that he'll be back. The bad news is, they really don't know how affective he will be. How bad is the injury? Will he be 100%? Will he be back this week? There's a ton of questions that need to be answered concerning Jacobs. Either way folks, the Giants have problems. Championship teams don't lose home games to division rivals in December. Championship teams don't lose two in a row in December when wins are still needed to secure their playoff position.
In my opinion, the Giants season comes down to this Sunday night against the Panthers. The game will set the tone for the Giants as far as the entire playoff run is concerned. They already lost a home game to the Eagles a couple of weeks ago. A loss here, at home, in a big game, would absolutely destroy this teams playoff hopes. Anything less than the Giants dominating all phases of this game Sunday, winning all the little battles that make up a football game, and the Giants can kiss their season good bye. Championship teams dominate at home in December. Simple as that. Championship teams don't limp into the playoffs. Championship teams make statements in games like this. Giants fans won't have to wait long. By 11pm est. on Sunday Night you'll have a real good idea whether your team has a shot this year.
Carolina Panthers - The Panthers, unlike the Giants, are hot at just the right time. They have won 7 of their past 8 and sit at 11-3 overall on the year. Despite having the same record as the Giants, the Panthers still haven't even clinched a playoff birth!! How does that happen? Needless to say, this weeks game against the Giants is HUGE. It means more to the Panthers than it does to the Giants and just as in the Giants case, as far as I'm concerned, this weeks game will dictate the Panthers future. A win and this team will be a team to watch. The problem I see with the Panthers though, is quality wins. Sure they are 11-3. But they aren't a dominate 11-3. Giving up 45 points to the Falcons and being lucky to win a 35-31 shootout with the 5-9 Packers doesn't spell Championship team as far as I'm concerned. Their signature win was that Monday Night game against the Bucs. Other than that, when you look at their last 8 games, it's not that impressive at all. Aside from the Packers, there's unimpressive wins over the Lions and Raiders not to mention the defenseless Broncos last week. This week will answer some questions for sure, but the Panthers don't look like a title team to me.
The Falcons, Bucs, Vikings, Cowboys and Eagles round out the rest of the NFC picture with a few of those teams controlling their own destiny and a couple still needing help. The intriguing part of this years playoff bunch is that there are really no cupcakes in the bunch. Anyone of these teams is plenty capable of beating any other team. The Giants actually catch a break in that the two teams that are likely their biggest threats are in their own division, the Cowboys and Eagles. The Eagles look to be a long shot and the Cowboys have two very tough games remaining.
In my opinion the NFC playoff picture all comes down to Sunday Night. If the Giants can return to form and resemble the team they were for most of the year, they will be tough to beat at home throughout the playoffs and would no doubt have the inside track to the Super Bowl. A flop performance by the Giants Sunday and this baby is wide open with any of the remaining teams capable of taking the NFC crown.
The AFC looks equally intriguing. It looks to be a 4 horse race. The Ravens, Steelers, Colts and Titans would be the horses and of the 4, there is no lock. The Steelers are on a great roll right now and are playing playoff football with a dominating defense that hasn't given up more than 13 points for 5 straight weeks winning all 5. But they did give up 24 in a home game not long ago to, you guessed it, the Colts. The Colts are also hot at just the right time having won 7 in a row but what seems to be lacking is quality wins during that stretch. They did beat the Steelers, but other than that, there are no signature wins. Not their fault, I realize, but if they find themselves having to win a playoff game in Pittsburgh, it may be a tall order.
We'll know more about the Titans after Sunday. Right now, they are not high on my AFC list as a result of failing to beat the Texans last week. Again, Championship teams don't lose big games in December against lesser quality opposition. Having the chance to lock up home field by beating a Texans team that really isn't that great, and failing could tell us all we need to know about these Titans. But Sunday will answer all the questions. A loss Sunday and you can write off the Titans for sure. Not winning when you have to is a death sentence for any playoff team. Stumbling into the playoffs, doubting yourselves, not being able to win the big one etc.etc. A big win over the what looks to be the most dominate AFC team, the Steelers, and we can talk Titans and Super Bowl. We'll have to wait until Sunday for that one. That game should be a dandy though!
The other team of note in the AFC is of course the Ravens. They are one of the hottest teams down the stretch and have been getting it done on both sides of the ball. This looks to be a year where defense will win a championship and the Ravens have one of the best. They have a huge game Saturday Night in Dallas which, just as is the case with most of these teams, will tell us alot more about the Ravens. Beating a quality NFC team on the road this time of year, lookout. While a 2nd straight loss may spell trouble for this bunch. They have the talent though, on both sides of the ball, to beat any other AFC team home or away.
To sum up, this is a crucial week in the NFL which will answer so many questions and will make the playoff picture that much more clear. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I can't recall a playoffs in the NFL in recent memory with so many potential contenders which should make for some fantastic playoff games. If I had to take a shot right now and pick the two teams most likely to be standing when the dust clears I'd pick the Steelers and Giants. But there are major questions yet to be answered, particularly where the Giants are concerned.
Check back with Bettorsworld throughout the NFL playoffs. Our team of experts will break down each and every game and put you on the right side!
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