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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obviousness in the NFL Playoffs

Can you honestly say you were surprised?

I am, of course, referring to last weekend's playoff games. Can you say you were surprised that Indianapolis beat Baltimore? Or that New England beat San Diego? Or the Saints beating the Eagles? Everyone and their mother knew that Seattle would lose to Chicago.

For instance, we got really caught up in San Diego's all-around talent that we forgot several key factors:

1) Marty Schottenheimer's playoff performance
2) Marty Schottenheimer's playoff performance
3) Marty Schottenheimer's playoff performance

Once the game was over, it was obvious that this would be the outcome. The Patriots always step it up a notch in the playoffs, and Schottenheimer-coached teams regress. It's a pattern.

On Indianapolis' "stifling" defense, let's get a few things straight. The Chiefs have no quarterback. Larry Johnson is a man without an offensive line. Tony Gonzales is not what he once was, and Eddie Kennison and Sammie Parker do not a receiving corps make. It was obvious that they would look good in that round, and the Ravens kept up the charge.

A quick perusal notes that the Ravens offensive line is not as good as everyone says, what with Jonathan Ogden having more problems that he used to. Steve McNair needs an oxygen canister to stand up, and Jamal Lewis is still having chafing problems from his time in the clink. It's not an overpowering offensive team, and Brian Billick is not an overpowering offensive coach, as much as he likes to think he is. Thus, the game was practically gift-wrapped and handed to the Colts. Obvious.

This brings us to this weekend. What are the obvious points? New England and Tom Brady is great in the playoffs. Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning struggle, historically speaking. The Colts weakness has been rushing. The Patriots have two very talented backs in Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney. The Colts front four is good, but the Patriots' offensive line is better, and so on and so forth.

Everyone wants to believe that this is the year for the Colts, but it isn't. Defense wins championships, and the Colts haven't faced any offense that put it to the test. The Patriots win this game. Throw out the home-field advantage, because it doesn't matter.

In the NFC, no one was surprised by the outcome of the two divisional games. Chicago and New Orleans were expected to win, and win they did. However, everyone is now talking about Rex Grossman is Getting It Together and can Lead His Team To Victory.

I call shenanigans. Seattle played without three starting cornerbacks. Grossman had it easy. The Saints are old and a little slow in the secondary, but they're fundmentally sound, and healthy to boot. Obvious.

Next, people rattle on about the Bears' defense. A broken-fingered Matt Hasselbeck and a banged-up Shawn Alexander dented the vaunted Bears' behind a line that is no longer one of the best in the NFL. They have a few receivers, but nothing terrifying.

However, the Saints have a healthy, sound QB in Brees, a few rookies who are feeling their oats, and, oh yeah, Deuce McAllister. Forget about him? He's the glue for this team, and he's been their rock all season long.

The Bears may boast and brag about their amazing defense, but the Saints match up very well against them, and will keep them running all game long, en route to trip to Super Bowl XL.

It's obvious.