Saturday, January 12, 2008

AFC Divisional Playoff Preview

Here we go folks. The two greatest teams of the past decade playing at home against an upstart squad from Florida and the biggest enigma in the NFL. Lets do it.

Jacksonville at New England
How Jacksonville got here: The Jaguars combined the most physical style of play in the NFL with the talents of emering quarterback David Garrard to reach double-digits in wins, and then dispose of the Steelers for the second time this year to earn a trip to New England.
How New England got here: Tom Brady and Randy Moss broke scoreboards all season and led the Pats to the greatest regular season in NFL History. They also cheated.
3 Strengths of Jacksonville:
1. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew are the most versatile tandem of running backs in the NFL. Between these two, Jacksonville has become much more reliable and diversified on offense as the season has moved on.
2. David Garrard has become a very good quarterback. While he didnt play that great last week, he got it done when he had to, leading his team down the field of the dying minutes of the game to ensure victory. There's only about 5 or 6 other qb's in the league you'd be confident in leading their team on a game-winning drive like Garrard did last week.
3. Even without Marcus Stroud and Mike Peterson, the Jaguars can still shut down any running game in the league. They are physical and mean and can dictate the entire game if they are playing their game they are capable of.
3 Strengths of New England:
1. You can't think of New England without beginning with Tom Brady. Simply the greatest quarterback in the game today, he can make every throw he needs to while at the same time being content to take what opposing defenses give him.
2. Simply put, Randy Moss against any cornerback is always the biggest mismatch in the game. He is bigger, faster and more physical when he wants to be than anyone he's up against. And every time the Pats have needed him in a big game, he's shown up and made the plays.
3. The only team close to the Pats experience and confidence is the Colts. This team knows what it takes to win in the playoffs and is completely focused on capping off their undefeated season with a Super Bowl victory.
3 Weaknesses of Jacksonville:
1. Against a Bill Belichick defense, you have to make them cover the entire field. If not, he will gang up on one area of your attack until its shut down. The Jags still don't really have the recievers to keep the Pats secondary honest, which probably means Taylor and MJD will have to run it against 8 defenders in the box every play.
2. Reggie Nelson is going to be a great safety. But he is only a rookie going up against the greatest group of receivers in the NFL. Every other secondary has been torched by the Pats, so Swole is afraid of what Moss and co. will do to the young rook.
3. Last year, Jacksonville came into New England with a similar team and promptly got blown out of the building. While they have improved, obviously so have the Pats. Its going to take a monumental effort to beat the Pats, and its questionable if the Jags have the horses to get it done.
3 Weaknesses of New England:
1. Young Swole is not sold on Laurence Maroney. He's had some good games, but if he was really that good, don't you think Belichick would rely on him more, especially late in the season? Its doubtful he gets much done on the Jags front 7.
2. No team has ever had greater pressure on them to win a title than the Pats do this year. While its doubtful the team will be very affected by it, maybe they would get a little tight in a close game and make some uncharacteristic errors.
3. Rodney Harrison is a punk ass bitch. When he isnt cheap shotting players, he's either whining to the refs or getting toasted by a wide reciever. Young Swole honestly doesn't hate the Pats as much as a lot of other people do, but he does hate Rodney Harrison. Its too bad Darryl Stingley had to be paralyzed instead of this chump.
Player to watch for the Jags:
It has to be David Garrard. The Jags are going to need a lot of points in this game and he's going to have to turn in a great performance to keep it close. If he plays like he did last week in Pittsburgh, Brady is going to be back in the locker room impregrating Giselle by the 3rd quarter.
Player to watch for the Pats:
Kyle Eckel. If this guy is in the game, turn your TV off and go find another way to spend your saturday night.
Young Swole Prediction
There's only one team that can beat the Pats this season, and it ain't the Jags. The Pats simply do not lose at home in the playoffs with Tom Brady behind center. Young Sweezy hopes the Jags can keep it close because he really likes how this team plays so physically, but his hopes for a competitive game are pretty small. Pats get up early and cruise into the AFC Championship. Pats win 35-13
San Diego at Indianapolis
How San Diego got here: The Chargers looked the least impressive of any of last weekend's winners while going up against the worst team in the playoffs. For a roster with so much talent, they sure do underachieve even in the games they win.
How Indianapolis got here: The Colts overcame more injuries than any team in the NFL to still secure a first round bye. Ever since the Pats beat them in Week 9, they have been an afterthought around the league, which is a dangerous thing to do with a team this good.
3 Strengths of San Diego:
1. LaDanian Tomlinson. The greatest running back in the game has the talent to carry this team on his back to victory on any given sunday. And he's historically had huge games against the Colts in the Hoosier Dome.
2. The Chargers have the edge rushers to pressure Peyton Manning. If you give Peyton time to find his recievers, its a wrap. Lights Out and Sean Phillips have the skill and athleticism to throw off the rhythm of Manning, which is really the only way to force a mistake out of him.
3. For some reason, the Chargers are comfortable against Indy. Ever since Young Swole can remember, they have had big time success against the Colts, especially LT. They know what it feels like to beat this team, and despite being the underdog in this game, will fully think they can pull this one out.
3 Strengths of Indianapolis.
1. Even giving up 2 punt return touchdowns, Manning throwing 6(!) interceptions and Vinatieri turning into Scott Norwood, they should have beaten the Chargers earlier this year. No team has as much confidence in their role players and backups than the Colts do, a testament to their coaching and preparation.
2. It shocks The Swole One how much Indy's defense has improved. A lot of this can be attributed to Bob "I will gut you with a knife" Sanders, but so many other players have improved this year as well that they have become a complete defense.
3. Peyton Manning is still in town, Reggie Wayne is still in town, Joseph Addai is still in town. That means Indy's offense will once again be the best unit on the field.
3 Weaknesses of San Diego:
1. For how unproven he is, Philip Rivers sure does talk a lot of shit. He has made his career by basically turning around to give the ball to LT or throwing it 6 yards to Antonio Gates and letting him do the work, yet he still bitches at recievers and coaches as if he's Joe Montana. Nothing would make Young Swole happier than to see the Colts defense treat Rivers like Colt Brennan got treated in the Sugar Bowl by the UGA defense. Where's your messiah now Phil?
2. Last year the Chargers offensive line was one of the best in this league. And now they can't open a hole for LT against the Titans? Its amazing how they can no longer get any downfield push against a defensive line. If they can't open up space for LT in this game, its ballgame.
3. If Antonio Gates doesn't play this week, its a crippling loss for the Chargers. A cover-2 defense is most vulnerable to a big-play tight end, since most time he will be guarded by a linebacker. If Gates can't go, there's no one to stretch the field and make Bob Sanders cover. If he's free to come up and play the run, LT won't get more than 50 yards.
3 Weaknesses of the Colts:
1. Manning has struggled the most in his career against 3-4 defenses. 2 years ago Pittsburgh shut them down. Last year the Pats forced some huge turnovers against them. This year? Its San Diego's turn to see if they can confuse him with a bunch of diferent fronts and blitzes.
2. While the Colts have not been bothered by too much with the injury to Marvin Harrison, he's going to need to be there for them in the playoffs because he is such a reliable option for Manning. Young Swole will believe 88 is healthy when he sees it, until then he has no trust in Anthony Gonzalez.
3. Young Porque is huge Colts fan. This is the equivalent of having Richard Simmons the number 1 fan of your respective team. Its disrespectful to the Colts to have this chump root for them, and they might lose this on purpose just to get Porque off their backs for a few months.
Player to watch for the Chargers:
Antonio Gates. If he plays, Rivers has his number one option back and LT will have less defenders to run against. If he doesnt play, Rivers has to rely on bums like Vincent Jackson and Brandon Manemaleuna and LT will have to run against 8 defenders every play.
Player to watch for the Colts:
Ryan Diem and Tony Ugoh. If the Colts tackles can keep Shawne and Shaun away from Peyton, the Colts should be able to score points and control the game.
Young Swole's Prediction
Young Sweezy honestly doesnt see this game being very close. The Chargers have a bitch-made quarterback, a weak running game and a propensity to start slowly. The Colts have gotten rested up and will be the healthiest they have been in months. Look for Manning to start really fast, and Rivers to throw some interceptions and the rout to be on. Colts win 41-10.

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