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Friday, January 21, 2011

NFC/AFC Championship Game Predictions

Packers at Bears

This will be a great game.  These two teams know each other most likely better than any other two teams in the NFL.  However, I expect to see a bunch of surprises out of Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz and Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers.  We got to see a nice preview of these two teams in week 17 as the Packers defeated the Bears 10-3 to clinch a spot in the playoffs.  However, the Bears had nothing to play for, and the Packers had everything to play for.  Although the Bears did play most of their starters for the entire game, I do not think that I can base my whole decision based on that game.

At the QB position, I believe the Packers have an advantage with Aaron Rodgers over Jay Cutler who been known to be quite errant times; however, the Bears' Tampa 2 defense did very well against Rodgers' passing game, holding the Packers to 3 points in the first 3 quarters of the week 17 game which the Packers needed so desperately.

At RB, I believe the Bears have a slight advantage with Matt Forte over James Sparks.  Although the Packers did a great job stopping Michael Turner last week in the Georgia Dome, I think the horrible condition of the grass at Soldier Field will play a big role in helping Matt Forte be successful both running and catching the ball against the stiff Packers D.

At WR, just as Charles Tillman has said recently, the Packers have the best receivers in the NFL.  On the other hand, the Bears also have good receivers in Hester, Knox, Aromashadu, and Greg Olsen at TE.  Both teams' superb corners and safeties will do a good job neutralizing the fire power at the wide receiver position.

On defense, both teams are very well equipped and have many stars.  The Packers like to come out with 5 corners and often blitz multiple corners.  The Packers have done a great job getting sacks with their corners.  The Bears Cover 2 scheme has also done well against Rodgers.  Overall, a big play here or there by either team's D could change the game.

Lastly, I believe the Bears have an advantage on special teams.  Not only do they have Devin Hester who could return a kick at any time, but they also have one of the best kickers in the league, Robbie Gould.


Bears 13  Packers 10

This is a very hard game to choose, but I've always heard that the third time is the charm.  I've picked against the Packers the last two weeks, so I'm going to go against them one more time.  I think both teams will play very well on defense, and one big play on either special teams or defense will decide the game.

Jets at Steelers

At QB, the Steelers definitely have the advantage with Big Ben.  Although the Jets D has done a great job shutting down Manning and Brady, I think Roethlisberger's mobility will be an issue for the Jets.  Matt Sanchez's swagger has outperformed my expectations, but I think his overthrows will be his downfall against the solid Steelers defense.

At RB, both teams have pretty solid runners between the tackles, Rashard Mendenhall (my UI boy!), Shonn Greene (Big Ten, represent!), and LT.  There will be a lot of run plays from both teams, but I believe LT will have a great game, and I hope to see Rex Ryan celebrating with him in the end zone again.

At WR, both team have great weapons; the Steelers have Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Heath Miller and more, and the Jets have Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller (Boiler Up!).

Both teams also have star-powered defenses. The Steelers have a very strong front line and linebacking core while the Jets have one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

On special teams, I believe that Brad Smith can be a game changer, but his playing status is a game-time decision.  I believe that Jets K Nick Folk's inaccuracy will bite them in the tail near the end of the game.


Steelers 20 Jets 17

Once again, the third time is the charm.  I've picked against Rex Ryan twice, and this time I believe the Steelers will send him home.  I think the X-factor of this game will be Ben Roethlisberger.  If he is able to be mobile in the pocket and escape the Jets blitzes, then he will find success and lead his team to victory.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NFL Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

Ravens at Steelers

The Ravens were the only team that truly impressed me last week.  Take that momentum and add some extra inspiration from Ed Reed after the disappearance of his brother, Brian Reed, and I think the Ravens will be ready to give the Steelers a run for the money. The last four meetings between these two teams have been decided by a field goal, and I do not expect this game to be any different.  Although I believe that the Steelers have the advantage at QB, I believe that the Ravens' RB tandem of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee is better than Steelers' RB Rashard Mendenhall.  Both defenses are loaded at all positions with Pro Bowl players.  Both teams are so evenly matched that there is no way to make an objective decision one way or another, so I'm simply going with my gut here and am gonna say that the Ravens will pull out a narrow victory.

Ravens 20  Steelers 17

Jets at Patriots

This game will be so full of trash talk that Cortland Finnegan would like a saint.  Frankly, I do not expect the Jets to even be able to stick within 10 points of the Patriots.  No, I am not on the Tom Brady bandwagon, but I do think that the Patriots' run game with Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead is much better than the effort that the Colts attacked the Jets' defense with.  By combining their run game with Tom Brady's determination to not throw any interceptions and Wes Welker, the Patriots will most likely be turnover free in the game while Matt Sanchez's lack of accuracy will lead to multiple turnovers.  Therefore, in a much more high scoring game than the other AFC game, I believe the Patriots will shut up Rex Ryan's Jets. He will probably enjoy the big foot that will be shoved in his mouth, just ask his wife.

Patriots 38 Jets 16

Seahawks at Bears

After the Seahawks shocked the world by beating the Saints last week, it would be very easy to jump on their bandwagon and say that they have a chance against the Bears, especially because they beat the Bears during the regular season.  I won't be one of those bandwagon jumpers, however.  I think Jay Cutler will finally play decent and Matt Forte's dual threat of running and receiving will wear the Seahawks defense down.  Da Bears' WR's Hester, Aromashadu, and Knox will have to catch some errant throws from Cutler, and if they do so, the Bears will be good to go because I think that the Bears will shut down the Seahawks offense barring another miraculous run from Marshawn Lynch.  All in all, the Seahawks are not playing at Qwest Field this week.  The game will be played in the cold, windy, snowy conditions of northern Illinois at Soldier Field; therefore, the Bears will advance to the NFC Championship game.

Bears 24  Seahawks 13

Packers at Falcons

This will definitely be the better of the two NFC games. Lucky for the Falcons, the game will not be played at Lambeau Field.  Although Hotlanta has surprisingly gotten a good deal of snow and ice in recent days, the game will not be affected by the weather as it will be played in the Georgia Dome. The Packers' defense has looked great over the last few weeks bringing pressure from all angles thanks mostly to Charles Woodson and Matthews.  On the other hand, the Falcons enter the game winning 9 of their last 10 games (including a 20-17 win over the Cheeseheads) thanks to the great play of QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner.  Once again, these two teams are very evenly matched.  I believe that Green Bay has a slight edge on defense, but I believe that Falcons have a much bigger edge on offense.  Although Green Bay rookie James Starks has looked pretty good out of the backfield, I do not believe his sheer athleticism will cut it against the Falcons' defense.  For the Falcons, I believe they will struggle at first, but their great leaders, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White will lead them back against the tough Packers' D.  Lastly, I think the x-factor will be TE Tony Gonzalez.  This another hard game to call, so I will lean on one factor to pick the winner: home field advantage.  Five of the six Packers losses came on the road, and the Falcons were undefeated at home.  Therefore, the game will be a great one, but I am going to have to go with the Falcons.  Vick's current team couldn't beat the Pack, but I think his former team will.

Falcons 31 Packers 28

Sunday, January 9, 2011

BCS Nat'l Championship Game: Oregon vs. Auburn

Statistically  speaking, Oregon and Auburn might be two of the most evenly matched teams in the nation. For instance, let's look at a few of the matchups:

                   Auburn                                                   Oregon
Passing:  Cam Newton                                          Darron Thomas
     28 TD's, 6 INT's, 2589 yds                    28 TD's, 7 INT's, 2518 yds
Rushing:  Cam Newton                                         LaMichael James
 242 carries, 1409 yds, 20 TD's                   281 carries, 1682 yds, 21 TD's
Total Yards Per Game: 497.7                                       537.2
Points Per Game: 42.7                                                   49.3

Although it may seem statistically significant that Oregon scored nearly 7 more points per game,  I don't think it is because one must realize the difference in styles of play between the SEC and the Pac-10. 
SEC teams have long been known for their running backs and rugged defenses. Pac-10 teams are perhaps best known for their quarterbacks and pass-happy offenses.

Because the offenses are so evenly matched, I think the outcome of the game will depend on which team's defense steps up and makes big plays.  On paper, this is how the two defenses stack up:

                                                        Auburn                                       Oregon
Total Defense (yards per game):    362.1                                           331.5
Run Defense:                                   111.7                                           117.5
Pass-Efficiency Defense (rating):   132.2                                           101.7
Scoring Defense (points per game): 24.5                                             18.4

While the Ducks appear to be stronger on defense than Auburn, one must keep in mind that Oregon faced four Top-50 offenses while Auburn faced six Top-50 offenses.

Just like on offense, Oregon is very fast-paced and unpredictable on defense. They do a great job disguising their sets and bring pressure from all angles.  The Ducks ranked third in the nation in turnovers forced this year with 35, and also play very well in the red zone;opponents scored only 17 TD's in 37 red zone possessions compared to Auburn allowing 25 TD's in 40 red zone possessions.  Auburn's secondary has looked questionable at times this year (allowed 250.5 passing ypg); however, Auburn has done a great job of making halftime adjustments as shown in the great comeback against Alabama.

As I said before, these two teams are very evenly matched, therefore, it is very hard to say which team will win because it is practically a tossup; however, I do know one thing.  Whether Oregon wins or loses, they will look great doing it. Oregon will be wearing white jerseys, white pants, pewterish helmets, DayGlo green socks, and white cleats with DayGlo green accents.

If you'd like to read about how Oregon has so dramatically turned around their program in the last 20 years and become so fashionable, I highly recommend reading the following article:
Oregon's Fashion Statement

My Prediction:

Once again, it is very hard to pick between these two teams, but I'm going to pick the underdog Oregon Ducks.

Oregon 42   Auburn 38

After 5 weeks of preparation, I think Chip Kelly will have schemed up many unpredictable plays on both sides of the ball.  Oregon's speed on both sides of the ball will be hard for Auburn to slow down, but spectacular performances by Cam Newton and Nick Fairley could keep Auburn in the game.
At the end of the night, I believe the Oregon Ducks will be singing this year's BCS Championship song by B.o.B, "I Am the Champion".

Friday, January 7, 2011

#1 Wooster vs. #7 Wabash

Tomorrow, January 8th, the Wabash College Little Giants (13-0, 5-0) will host the Wooster Fighting Scots (13-0, 4-0) in a battle of highly ranked unbeatens.  The game will tip-off at approximately 2:00 PM, and Chadwick Court is expected to be very loud and very red; Wabash students have called for a "Red Alert" so that all students will wear red to the game. 

Wabash enters Saturday's game coming off a strong 73-57 home win over Denison on Wednesday.  The Little Giants will rely on Senior guard Wes Smith, who enters the game averaging 23.1 ppg, to play well, but even more importantly, will need their top-ranked scoring defense, which is only allowing 54.7 ppg, to slow down the high scoring Wooster offense, which averages 79.5 ppg.  Wabash also will rely on its outside shooters, Aaron Zinnerman (8.0 ppg), A.J. Sutherlin (6.7 ppg), and Derek Bailey (6.2 ppg), to rip the nets against the Wooster defense which comes into the game allowing 62.5 ppg. In the frontcourt, Ben Burkett, Nick Curosh, and Pete Nicksic will be faced with the task of guarding Wooster's big men, 6'7" Justin Hallowell, 6'5" Bryan Wickliffe, 6'7" Josh Claytor, and 6'8" Jake Mays.

#1 ranked Wooster enters the game coming off a 79-77 scare against Baruch College (The City Univ. of New York) in the Bahama House/Best Western Aku Tiki Shootout in Daytona Beach, Florida. In tomorrow's game, Wooster will rely on its leader, pre-season All-American Ian Franks, for much of its scoring along with  Junior forward Justin Hallowell.  Franks and Hallowell are averaging 19 and 11.5 ppg respectively in NCAC play, combining to account for over 40% of the team's points.  Not only do the two do most of the scoring for Wooster, but they both also average over 6 rebounds per game.

After comparing both teams' statistics, the two teams seem to be very, very evenly matched.  Both teams enter the game undefeated, outscore their opponents by over 15 ppg, play an 8-9 man rotation, and rely heavily on 1-2 players for the majority of their scoring.  Therefore, on paper, the game seems to be a toss-up. 

However, Wabash has one great advantage that I believe they will use as a Gamebreaker: the Chadwick Crazies.  Although most of Wabash's students are still on break, I expect a great deal of the students to return to support their team in a game of such great magnitude.  The students have been persuaded by fellow students and even Dean Raters to venture back to campus and support the team.  If I know my fellow Wallies as well as I think I do, I know that many will show up for the game and will have a great impact on the game.  I believe that, just like Dr. Herzog described the 1982 Chadwick Crazies, we will refuse to lose and will will our team onto victory.

My prediction: Wabash 67 Wooster 62


Thanks to both Wabash and Wooster's SID's for statistics.

For more stats, visit: