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Some preseason predictions end up like Humpty Dumpty

January 3, 2013
BY STEVE BROWNLEE - Journal Sports Writer (sbrownlee@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

If I didn't enjoy poking fun at myself so much, I'd claim my preseason picks for the NFL playoffs were spot on.

But where would the joy be in that?

So in a quick postseason analysis, I found several positives - correctly picking six of the eight division winners and also that Calvin "Megatron" Johnson wouldn't suffer from the infamous curse of appearing on the cover of the Madden video game.

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STEVE BROWNLEE

I didn't exactly say Megatron would go on to break one of Jerry Rice's "invincible" records, but hey, I was working in that direction.

Then there's the predictions I blew - and a couple were doozies. Of the two divisions I missed, one was the NFC East where I took the defending Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants. Eh, not so bad.

The other, though, I'll just say "Holy cow!" in the immortal words of Cubs baseball announcer Harry Carey.

That was the AFC South, where I didn't have confidence in Houston staying healthy so I reached for Tennessee, a team that had to finish strong just to get to 6-10.

Then there were my wild card picks - a big fat zero. None of them made the playoffs, not Detroit, New Orleans, Pittsburgh nor San Diego.

Overall, I picked six of the 12 playoff qualifiers.

But I think I'm holding the ace up my sleeve in all this mess - my pick of Denver going all the way and winning the Super Bowl. Do you have a better pick right now? I don't.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, let's look at this weekend's wild card round:

Saturday

Cincinnati at Houston, 4:30 p.m., NBC - The Texans have become the sexy pick to fall flat on their faces, losing three of their last four following an 11-1 start.

If it helps, those four games have been against playoff teams - Indianapolis twice, Minnesota and New England.

The Bengals, meanwhile, have won seven of eight to get to 10-6. But only one second-half opponent is a playoff team, Baltimore, and that was last weekend in a game meaningless to both teams.

Just to be fair, a week earlier Cincy won in Pittsburgh to end the Steelers' playoff hopes.

Two factors I think play into this game: home field, since all four of this weekend's AFC combatants are much better there; and Houston's horrendous pass defense killing its other strengths.

I don't think the Bengals are good enough through the air to make up for their road disadvantage, especially with Houston's biggest stars healthy, so Texans, 26-23.

Minnesota at Green Bay, 8 p.m., NBC - Each team won at home during the regular season, so this "rubber" game comes down to the Packers' passing game vs. Minnesota runner extraordinaire Adrian Peterson.

But Packer nation knows its receiving corps has suddenly become as healthy as it has since early in the season, with James Jones, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb all available.

Does a strong pass rush affect Aaron Rodgers when he's got his most trusted receivers running routes? It shouldn't. What the Vikings need are a whole pile of quality cornerbacks and I don't remember an abundance of them last Sunday.

Maybe Green Bay couldn't figure out how to stop Adrian Peterson the first time. Or the second time. But the third time ought to be the charm, especially when Minnesota has to venture outdoors, where it is 0-4 this year. Packers, 24-16.

Sunday

Indianapolis at Baltimore, 1 p.m., CBS - If I was one of the city fathers of Baltimore, I would only let the Colts' buses enter town between midnight and 6 a.m., just the way the team left town in the middle of the night on a cold, snowy March day in 1984.

Like the Packers, Baltimore is supposed to get several key players like linebacker Ray Lewis back this week, an emotional if not physical plus.

With Indy looking very ordinary on the road, and despite having the inspiration of the return of head coach Chuck Pagano, I'll take the Ravens, 20-10.

Seattle at Washington, 4:30 p.m., Fox - Maybe the most intriguing matchup to non-Packers fans, both these teams are 7-1 in the season's second half.

They also look uncannily like each other in many ways.

Each has an excellent run defense, which may stifle the offenses that like to run to set up the pass, a 21st century novelty in the NFL.

With both teams forced more to the air using rookie quarterbacks more than they're used to, what stat becomes prominent? Interceptions.

Each defense gets a pick once every 30 or 31 attempts, so that's a wash, but one stat isn't - with each starting QB attempting 393 passes this season, the Seahawks' Russell Wilson has twice as many interceptions as Washington's Robert Griffin III - 10 to five. Add in home field, and it's Redskins, 24-16.

Last week - 11-5, 69 percent. Final regular season - 163-92-1, 64 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.

 
 

 

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