NFL Divisional Playoffs

As everybody knows, winning 1 out of 4 isn’t so bad in Vegas, so I’m only disappointed that the Packers got knocked out. Here I go again:

New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers have it all. A hard nose defense, a terrific running game, a decent passing game (Plaxico Burress is back) and even though Big Ben Roethlisberger is a rookie - he’s supernaturally calm in the pocket, he’s surrounded by great protection, and he is also Rookie of the Year. The Jets, meanwhile, have DE John Abraham injured and he’s openly worried about jeopardizing his free agent status with further injury (who cares about winning championships, right?), backup QB Quincy Carter is at his mom’s side (she’s ill) which wouldn’t be a problem if injured but playing QB Chad Pennington didn’t have the stomach flu all week. I’m sorry, is this a playoff team or not? Still, they played hard, stupid and lucky last week so they could win it. Edwards is a hell of a motivator. Still, I’m picking the Steelers.

St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons - A crazy coach with a high powered passing offense and little D to speak of, versus the league’s best running game and run stopping team. Oh, they also led the league in Sacks. That’s bad news for STL QB Bulger. Vick is explosive on the ground and twin RBs Duckett and Dunn could insure that the Rams don’t have the ball much at all. Still, it’s on turf and that’s in STL’s favor, but it’s in ATL and again … Michael Vick. But really folks, this time Martz will do something crazy to ensure the loss.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots -Now here’s a matchup. A nice rivalry. The League MVP and by far the best offense in the league versus one of the best coached teams in the history of the game, who also happen to be the returning SuperBowl champs. Since it’s in NE and outside, the Pats have the edge, but the fact is that, despite adding Cory Dillon, the Pats are a bit weaker than last year (Ty Law is out) and the Colts are a bit stronger. I think the Colts have the edge and it’s Manning’s game to win or lose. Still, I pick the Colts. There’s a “destiny” feeling going on with the blue and white.

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles - I really hope Randy Moss moons or wipes his ass on something in celebration because Philly fans are not as nice as Green Bay fans. They’ll kill him. Regardless, this one is a toss up. The Vikings D stepped up last week against the Pack, and the Eagles (the obvious pick) are missing Terrell Owens (which is what made them the obvious pick). Andy Reid rested the Eagles starters since that injury… How scary is it to go into a must win playoff game with what amounts to an untested offense? Very scary. Worse, the Eagles secondary isn’t a great matchup against the Vikings weaponry. I hope the Vikes go down and I’m only picking the Eagles because, I think that betting that the 9-8 Vikings will choke is a safer bet.


Just to clarify, if you take out Vick’s rushing figures, the Falcons are one of the league’s worst running teams. I know Vick’s numbers should count, but my point is that they can’t actually rely on Dunn and Duckett in the way you suggest.

Here are my picks, and I take it we are just going by stright wins and not points right? If we were using the spread, my picks would be a bit different, I think.

Steelers (Andrew gave all the reasons, so I won’t relist them)

Rams (indoors suits the Rams, and Vick et al. aren’t that good when they fall behind. I think they will fall behind and the Rams will win because Vick is not a great passer. He’ll run for 80 yards, but it won’t be enough because running will just eat up the clock in the end.)

Vikings (the Eagles are not prepared for this game. They don’t have TO and they didn’t get ingame practice without him. The offense will come out flat, despite Westbrook’s valiant attempts to get things going. The Vikings will score quick, forcing the Eagles to play catchup, and they aren’t built for that. The Eagles defense will be exposed)

Colts (by 10! The Colts will not fumble the ball like they did in week one and they will destroy the Patriots secondary. Troy Brown will finally show why he plays WR. The Patriots will get 2 penalties for illegal contact, but it won’t overly affect the game. The Patriots offense will struggle as they fall behind because Indy’s defense is VERY good at playing the pass)


Because of NFL scheduling I haven’t seen the Falcons at all this year but I know the ESPN show this morning was talking about D.V.D. and saying that Duckett and Dunn were a hell of a running combo so… um… are you sure? Of course, since Martz is batshit insane, he could crazy them another win… (Actually I’m mostly kidding. The Rams are good enough to win on their own despite Coach Nutcase, though both teams have shown a propesity to choke. Rams in Miami for example.)

The Vikings are a real X-factor this weekend. Partially because we agree that it’s hard to gauge the Eagles because Reid (stupidly, imo) sat his team for so long and partially because the Vikings have a really good Offense (which has underperformed up until last Sunday) and a mediocre defense (who over-performed last Sunday). They could choke, like they did at the end of the regular season. Or they could steamroll, like they did through September and early October this year. One thing is for sure, without TO, this isn’t a true rematch of the earlier MNF face off (but then again, will Moss play well? He was limping bad last weekend).

Also, the Eagles might surprise us because TO gave them a lot of confidence and forced McNabb to lead. Maybe he’ll carry them?

Brave call on the Manning versus Belichik game Robert.

I’m rooting for the Jets, but it seems the best they could hope for right now is to take a halftime lead and hope to be within striking distance in the 4th Q. A Steelers blowout seems more likely.

I’m expecting a no-show for the Vikings this week. Eagles should romp in this one. I don’t think Owens’ absence makes a difference yet in a weak NFC.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rams - Falcons game go to OT. I know the Rams are so bad they lost to the Dolphins, but I’m not sold on the Falcons yet. I think it’s a coin flip.

I’d really hoping we get a good game out of Colts-Patriots. I think it’s got 37-34 written all over it. I’m rooting for the Colts, but they’ve got a really tough road from here on out.

Sure. The counter to the Rams example might be Week 1 against SF. Or the game versus the Cardinals where they won 6-3.

Jets (I know I’m the only person on the planet picking them)

The Patriots also lost to the hapless Dolphins. That puts the Rams in not-so-bad company, right?

That said, you’d be crazy not to take the Falcons. Teams getting a bye week before the playoffs are pretty invincible, iirc.

Umm, how exactly is Mike Martz insane?

And if you go back to '99 (the year he took over as head coordinator of a team with an atrocious offense, coming off 8 consecutive losing seasons - he became head coach the following year), the Rams are tied for the best record in the NFL since then, with 2 Super Bowl appearances and 1 win. I would imagine that most other teams in the league wish their coaches were half as crazy.

Please list actual offenses Martz has committed that mark him as crazy. (Yes, I know it’s the fashion for ESPN commentators to rip on him now, but I’m curious as to the specific reasons why)

Yeah, I noticed that ESPN finally caught up to me (ask Mark, I’ve been calling Martz insane since he took over the Rams) and it’s annoying, frankly. ;-)

Phil, I’m mainly just baiting Mark when I say that, but I do think Martz is a poor head coach. I think plenty of coaches could have done just as well with the team Martz inherited from Vermeil and I don’t like the soulless way they played when Warner was there (I certainly wasn’t the only one to notice that). This year they’ve got a good team and they went 8-8 and, given their talent, that’s tells me there’s a coaching problem.

As far as insanity goes, I don’t keep a list. But going for a tie in a playoff game and running the clock out when you’re 30 yards from the goal and have over 0:30 (and Holt/Bruce), counts. His pass/run ratio through his tenure counts. Passing many times in a row one game and then reacting to press criticism by running many times in a row the next game, counts. Getting the owner to write the team a memo proving to them that Martz isn’t getting fired, counts. What he said about Turley, counts.

He’s a genius Offensive Co-ordinator, I’ll grant that, but I think he really needs someone who can over-rule him on the field. I admit, crazy might not be the right word. Egomaniac is probably more accurate. But what it really amounts to is that I don’t like his style of football and think his team and your city deserves better. You don’t get a team like the Rams in 2000-2005 very often and STL may never see their like again. Martz squandered it, if you ask me.

Bottom line is: if Martz had been with a less talented team. He’d have been fired years ago.

I went sniffing around the Rams web site looking for more statistical fodder - unfortunately, there appears to be nothing so straightforward as a listing of record and playoff wins by season. Still, found some things that might be of general interest. From here

They first to employ a full-time special teams coach (Dick Vermeil - 1969).

Striking that it took until 1969 for any NFL team to devote a full time coach to special teams. And striking that it was Vermeil and he was able to work up from that to head coach (by way of Philly).

The first NFL team to loose all 8 divisional games one year, then win all 8 divisional games the next.

I’m pretty sure this is '98 (last pre-Martz year) vs. '99

The first NFL team to score at least 500 points in 3 consecutive seasons.

I think this was '99 through '01

The first NFL team in the post-WWII era to employ black players.

One never hears of the equivalent of Jackie Robinson for Football, Basketball, etc. If anybody has a link to a history page on this subject, I’d be interested.

The first professional sports team to move West of the Mississippi.
The first NFL team to move back East (To St. Louis in 1995).

I still can’t believe the NFL hasn’t had a team in L.A. for almost a decade. I would think the networks would be beating them up for this.

Hey, I love(d) the Rams. I grew up in Irvine and used to see 'em in Anaheim stadium a few times a year. I happily rooted for their first Superbowl win against the Titans. I just don’t like Mike Martz. (I also prefer the blue and yellow, thanks.)

Repeated instances of blowing time-outs easly (like, all 3 in the first or 3rd quarter), costing his team a chance to either stop the clock late, or challenge plays (both of which have cost his team points, if not games).

An absurd ego that causes him to abandon the run, in the past when Faulk was healthy and now when Stephen Jackson is a solid rookie.

Oh, and the whole “Kyle Turley is a layabout who’s just here stealing paychecks.” thing. Even if it were true (which I seriously doubt), Kyle Turley is pretty clearly borderline psychotic, so you’d have to be batshit insane to make that kind of accusation.

You could also make an arguement that Martz has just been the beneficiary of what Vermiel built and left him.

You could also make an arguement that Martz has just been the beneficiary of what Vermiel built and left him.

You can make any argument you want, but in this case, I think the evidence doesn’t support the argument.

Vermeil was coming off two or three 6-10 seasons (I think), and was nearly fired before Martz was brought in. Martz transformed an offense that had been lousy for years into the best offense in the history of the NFL (the 3 consecutive seasons of 500+ points). That was a product of a number of factors.

Some of it was talent driven, including some players maturing (Pace), and a number of additions new for that year (Faulk, Holt, Timmerman). I’m not sure how much credit Martz gets for those (IIRC, he pushed for Timmerman and Faulk, but my memory is hazy).

But, after Green went down for the season in preseason, he DID push to stay with Warner (who I believe had only 5 NFL passes to his name at that point), over signing a crusty free agent (Hostetler was mentioned, I think). Not only in making that decision, but in grooming Warner before and after that switch, he deserves all possible kudos. And his ability to spot and groom obscure quarterback talent in Warner was not a fluke. He had done it before, in Washington, with Trent Green, and he did it after Warner’s injury, with Bulger.

When you’ve got a team that, pre-Martz had the WORST record of any NFL team in the 90’s (Cincy was 2nd worst), then, with his arrival shoots to the stratosphere, and is tied (with N.E., I believe) for the BEST record in the NFL since, I think it’s being quite uncharitable to call him lucky or just the beneficiary of inherited talent.

Doh, I was wrong on the Jets pick but looking at that game I should have been right :)

Yeah for the Steelers!

What a close game. The Jets really should have it at a few moments there.

Yeah, absolutely. Just as I expected, Big Ben looked like a rookie when the pressure was on and the Jets defense slowed them down enough to keep NY in the game. My only surprise was that the Jets offense never found the end zone. Well, and that Brien missed TWO chances to win it.

Huh?! The Steelers CLEARLY outplayed the Jets, the only reason they were close was because of two fluke plays, a PR for a TD and an INT for a TD. The Jets offense got NOTHING going. The Steelers at least made two offensive touchdowns.

Yes, football is all about managing the fluke plays, but play by play, the Jets were clearly the inferior team.

Pitt was having a LOT of trouble doing well on their own drives. I believe it was about 8 drives in a row at the end, 5 ended in punts, 2 ended in an int, and another in a fumble. Thats just ugly.

It was kinda a game of “who fucked up less”.

You can count on the Jets saying goodbye to Paul Hackett, Doug Brien and Anthony Becht this offseason. Lamont Jordan or John Abraham will get the franchise tag - it’s likely the other won’t re-sign.