The Geek's Guide to the NFL Playoffs
That's a great point about Mathis and about cornerbacks moving around in general. There are certain teams, like the Raiders, that seem to have their No. 1 corner follow the opponent's No. 1 receiver, but you're right that for the most part defensive coordinators don't make that move. A big part of the reasoning there is that moving your corners telegraphs to the offense that you're probably going to play man coverage—teams don't want to give away that play-calling edge. Having said that, I find it a bit ludicrous when a team leaves a struggling cornerback in an unfavorable matchup. It seems like leaving a bad corner on a great receiver does more harm to the defense than giving away some coverage information.
On to the predictions. While you think that the Giants have a great shot at pulling an upset, I think the Cowboys will win even if Terrell Owens can't play. As much press as the Owens injury is getting, don't forget that Giants cornerbacks Sam Madison and Kevin Dockery both missed the team's Wednesday and Thursday practices. New York was already thin at this position after placing Corey Webster on injured reserve last week, so they could potentially be playing fourth- or fifth-string cornerbacks in this game. The Cowboys receiving corps, even without a fully healthy Owens, should be able to win that kind of matchup. Given the Giants' offensive woes, which I talked about in my first post, I just can't see New York keeping up. Cowboys by at least 10 points.
I think injuries will also be a huge factor in the Seahawks-Packers tilt. I mentioned the impact that Charles Woodson's injury could have on the Packers' secondary, but backup corner Will Blackmon has also been limited in practice this week. In addition, Green Bay has three wide receivers that have missed some practice time. As explosive as the Seattle passing game can be, the Packers will need all of their weapons to keep up. With injuries likely keeping the Green and Gold from operating at 100 percent efficiency, I see an upset in this game: Seattle, 31-27.
Over in the AFC, I can't see the Chargers keeping it close against the Colts. It's hard to beat Indianapolis with a healthy roster. To do it with an injured QB like Philip Rivers and without a star like Antonio Gates is nearly impossible. Like you said, the Chargers' secondary is terrible, and it's hard to focus on much else in that game. The Indy offense isn't going to bother with running the ball against San Diego's big front seven. Peyton Manning will throw the ball around all day, and the Colts will pile up big points playing at home.
And I couldn't agree with you more that the Jags-Pats game could get ugly. You mentioned the New England offensive line's ability to run block (which I agree with), but I think their defensive front seven will be one of the main stories of this game. I just finished breaking down the entire season's worth of game tape of the Patriots' run defense and found that they have been playing very well of late. Richard Seymour gets the big headlines, but Ty Warren and Junior Seau are both excelling in their run-stuffing duties.
I also think Jacksonville center Brad Meester is going to have his hands full with Vince Wilfork. Wilfork defeated 19 percent of point-of-attack run blocks directed at him, which is a very good percentage for a 3-4 nose tackle. The Jaguars won't be able to give Meester the help he needs because of the fine play of Warren, Seau, and Seymour. That means Wilfork should have a big day, and I like the Pats in a blowout.
Of course, for all of these statistics we've been batting around, the final score depends on the funny bounces of a prolate spheroid. I'm sure this weekend's games will turn on some play that we didn't anticipate. Aaron: It's been a lot of fun guessing what's going to happen in these four games. Now, let the best teams win!