Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
NFL Playoff Predictions
January 2, 2004
I found out at work today that Peyton Manning and Steve McNair had split the NFL's Most Valuable Player award. And, in the end, that seems fitting. If I had been given a vote (which I wasn't), I would've voted for Manning, based on what he means to that Colts offense (take him out and the complicated Colts offense becomes much different). This point of view lead to me getting involved in several lively debates while back in Nashville last month with those who advocated McNair winning the award. And keep in mind that earlier in the year I was advocating McNair being the top choice for MVP (with a pathetic rushing game, a terrible interior offensive line and an iffy receiver corps outside of Derrick Mason). Incidentally, look for
Justin McCareins to be the annual NFL "rising star" receiver who gets overpaid as a free agent and promptly busts elsewhere.
Anyway, while I'm not fond of splitting awards, if it had to happen then I'm glad that it went to those two. Kind of interesting that I received both a Manning and a McNair jersey for Christmas (an omen perhaps?)
The NFL playoffs begin tomorrow, and here are my predictions. Take them as you will.
Tennessee 27, Baltimore 13. Tennessee puts eight guys in the box and says Jamal Lewis won't beat us. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and Jeff Fisher has a long memory. So do Titans fans.
Indianapolis 31, Denver 27. This time Denver won't keep the ball for 3/4 of the game like they did when they played in Indy two weeks ago. Ashley Lelie is trouble on turf (I hope you're taking notes, Arthur Blank -- he could've been yours up there on the Georgia Dome carpet) and the Colts cornerbacks aren't exactly all world. Bonus points for Dungy's crew if they can get a scheme where
Larry Tripplett can get multiple sacks on Jake Plummer.
Tennessee 19, New England 17. McNair duct-tapes his body together, goes up to Foxboro and leads the Titans to victory. Chris Brown rushes for 75+ yards and establishes himself as the Titans feature back for 2004. The Patriots patchwork finally unravels... at the most inopportune time.
Indianapolis 38, Kansas City 37. The "idiot kicker" Mike Vanderjagt hits a 47 yard field goal in the freezing cold as time expires to beat the Chiefs. Dick Vermiel cries (I predict that happening win or lose, though).
Tennessee 24, Indianapolis 21 (F/OT). In a scene eerily familiar to Minnesota in 1998, Mike Vanderjagt misses a fourth quarter field goal (snapping his consecutive made field goal streak) and Steve McNair leads the Titans on a game tying TD drive. And in an ultimate ironic twist, Gary Anderson (who missed that infamous '98 field goal) hits the overtime winner for the Titans. The Colts find out the hard way how tough it is to beat a team three times in one season.
Dallas 17, Carolina 13. Bill Parcells takes a team that has no business being in the playoffs and leads them to a win, on the road, no less. If the Cowboys can stop Stephen Davis, this will happen.
Green Bay 41, Seattle 6. How's this for a sub-plot: Mike Holmgren leads the Seahawks into Green Bay to face the team he once took to the Super Bowl. But Seattle is horrid on the road, the Pack are on a roll (they've been a whole new team since they gave Favre more freedom following a loss at Arizona), and this one has blowout written all over it.
St. Louis 31, Green Bay 18. Green Bay's defense hasn't been its strong point this season, and you can look for Mike Martz and company to exploit it early and often with the long ball. Look for Favre to keep the Pack in it for awhile, but this will be mighty tough.
Philadelphia 28, Dallas 10. A great rivarly matchup here, but this has all the makings of an "ugly game", particularly if there's incliment weather in Philly at gametime. Dallas has a solid secondary, but Philly should win with Donovan McNabb dragging along his b-list cast and getting help from the defense and special teams (what are the Vegas odds on at least one punt or kickoff return taken back for a TD by Philly?)
|Titans fans haven't forgotten about this.|
St. Louis 37, Philadelphia 17. You know at least one conference title game has to be one-sided. St. Louis' defense is underrated, and I predict it will stifle Philly's running game, forcing McNabb to try and do it all (which he'll do as best he can, but he's just one man).
Super Bowl XXXVII
Tennessee 27, St. Louis 21. It's the Titans Revenge Tour 2004. First Baltimore gets vanquished, then Indy gets punished for sweeping this year, then the Rams get theirs for their win over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV (the best Super Bowl since 1991). After the game, Jeff Fisher finally reveals what he whispered to Steve McNair after that Super Bowl loss four years ago.
It could happen. Soon enough, we'll find out how it will play out...