Saturday, January 23, 2010

8 comments Colts and Vikes for XLIV

Let's jump right in.


Line: Indianapolis -8.0

Pick: Indianapolis 20-13

1) The blitz. You know it's coming from the Jets, and frankly, you know what Manning will do to it. Rex Ryan has a habit of getting in a bit of a rut when it comes to his defensive planning - he can be extremely stubborn sticking with tactics that just are not working. Manning's record against the Baltimore defense he coached is probably telling here. In the four years Rex Ryan was the defensive co-ordinator there, Indy won each game by an average of 19 points. I heard someone say that the Indy offensive line was the worst remaining in the playoffs last week, but that's not how I see it. Saturday is still there, as is Ryan Diem and Lilja, veterans of several playoff runs, and there is the unfortunate problem of the smartest player in the league picking up those blitzes behind the line. This is New York, this is what they do and this is what got them here. They are not going to stop. Basically, they get away with it because of the prowess of Darrelle Revis against #1 wideouts. QB's going to their second read are basically fucked. But if you had someone awesome in the slot you could get to quickly like say, Wes Welker or Steve Breaston or...Dallas Clark, the Jets D can be had. Also, despite the interception, Vincent Jackson had seven catches for 111 yards on Revis last week. Manning has a QB rating of 114.0 against the blitz. I see a 8-10 catch day for Clark.

Indianapolis gave up just 13 sacks (only eight were of Manning) this year despite throwing more times than anyone except Seattle (?), this weekend is going to be dominated by how teams rush the passer and how offensive lines deal with that. I like Indy's chances here.

2) Haven't we seen this before? Indy just played a team that closely mirrors the Jets. Defensive minded, pressure the QB, run, run, run some more. And Baltimore had a much better QB. And more playoff seasoning. Now, it is true, that you could also draw a comparison between Indy and San Diego. Indy were second in passing offense, San Diego were fifth. A pass orientated defense, with edge rushing and zone schemes behind. Indy was 24th and the Chargers 20th in rush D. But Indy are better at all positions - QB, improvement. Pass rush, improvement. Laterally quick linebackers against the rush, improvement. Zone coverage specialist secondary, improvement. If Indy can beat Baltimore comfortably, New York should be more of the same

3) The big question - will the Jets cover? This is really the issue for me with this pick - Indy get's it done, and it will take a team more special than the Jets to beat them. Although Rex Ryan reminds me a lot of Stan van Gundy which worries me, maybe there is some mirroring of the NBA where Orlando upset to get through to the finals. But at any rate, I think Indy will win but the Jets will cover. Why? Ball control, time of possession, defensive expertise. Also, it is symptomatic of this year. Of the Jets seven losses, five were by a combined seventeen points. Of the Colts last nine wins, five were by a combined fourteen points. Last couple of years, Indy has morphed into a "one score win" kind of team. Much less flashy than they were 4-5 years ago with the fifty odd TD passes. Since the start of November, Indy has hit 30+ three times in ten games. Against the #1 defense in the league, I can see the Jets hanging around, although I do not think Indianapolis will be seriously challenged here. Jets have lost seven games, they do not belong here.


Line: New Orleans -3.5

Pick: Minnesota 31-28

1) I can tell you that this was the first game of these playoffs where I have really changed my mind. I started the week thinking Norlans. When they are good they pretty much are perfect offensively, it's an offensive league, and although Minnesota have improved out of this world on offense this year (5th in total offense!), they cannot keep up. That was the theory.

But increasingly I have been focusing on this Minny pass rush. It's dominant, and may be the most powerful tool in the NFL. More than the Jets O-Line. More than Dallas' running game. More than Arizona's outside receivers. More than Philadelphia's secondary. Maybe more than Manning even. But more importantly - more than New Orlean's passing game. When Minnesota gets to the QB, they win. Sometimes the rest of the game is totally irrelevant (@Green Bay and Dallas for example). And as you may have heard, Jamaal Brown is out of this one, which means it's um...Jermon Bushrod on Jared Allen. Yes, New Orleans have talked about "getting him help", but either that's reducing the number of targets Brees has to throw to or unleashing the Ray Edwards effect. That O-Line isn't as good as it used to be either, only really Jahri Evans remains as a star. Minnesota has nine sacks in their last two games, the combined score is 78-10. They are in pretty much top possible form - if you don't pick them, you're basically saying New Orleans are unbeatable.

2) Ultimately the matchup comes down to this - Minnesota have a better running game (despite the ypg rankings, product of New Orleans quick 28 point leads, especially at the start of the year), better pass rush, are better tacklers, are better blockers, are better up front against the run, are better in pass coverage. Those advantages range from small to massive, whereas New Orleans has only one advantage - QB. And that particular advantage, while present, is not enough to cancel out everything else. Minnesota is a complete team, they are not wholly dependent on turnovers for defensive success. This is why the pass rush is such a big deal. Minnesota are capable of completely taking a QB out of a game (Romo) and in the case of New Orleans, there's no real plan B. For instance, all three of New Orleans losses this year occured when they scored less than 24 points. They can win track meets, they cannot win slugfests. There are more things that can go wrong for New Orleans than Minnesota. Consequently, Minnesota have more ways to win this game than do New Orleans.

3) Assortment of other things. This was the game we were waiting all year for (apart from Colts/Saints in the Superbowl I guess) and should be an absolutely tremendous contest. But a lot of the small things (aside from homefield) go to the Vikes. Do we know for a fact that Brees has ice water in his veins for instance? Saints have a rookie kicker vs veteran Ryan Longwell (and we know kicking has been a big deal in these playoffs). Minny has thrown seven interceptions all season and what does the Saints defense need to succeed? Turnovers.

And then there's Favre. While everyone wants to win a conference title game, Favre may have more reason than most. You do feel if he wins the Superbowl that will be it for him, and a particulary driven Brett Favre is something to fear. I understand that the homefield is a big deal in Norlans, but often an environment like that simply pumps both teams up, and the Saints have been tossed twice here. It feels like a Minny win, they were the most impressive team on display last weekend, beating the best team on display the weekend before. They are playing better football, they are more complete, they have more experience, they will win this football game.


KBilly said...

For what it is worth...My picks are up:

J.S. said...

J.S. - Jets and Vikes

Ben - Jets and Saints

Bill - Colts and Saints

KBilly - Colts and Saints

Bengoodfella said...

It's worth a lot to see your picks because you can still beat me and Simmons. So this week we have:

KBilly: Colts (-8) and Saints (-3.5)

Simmons: Colts (-8) and Saints (3.5)

J.S.: Jets (+8) and Vikings (+3.5)

Bengoodfella: Jets (+8) and Saints (+8)

Bengoodfella said...

Damn, that is weird as hell we just did that.

Dylan Murphy said...

Philip Rivers had a better QB rating against the blitz, and the Jets still got to him. But the main reason you have to pick the Jets is that the stars are aligning. Cinci and Indy rolling over, the Jets beating them for real in the playoffs on their way to an arrogant coach and rookie quarterback winning the Super Bowl. It's hard to pick against the stars.

Dylan Murphy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.S. said...

Ben, what did you think of my arguments mate?

Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, I actually find it hard to argue it doesn't look like it is the Jets year. It seems like it all adds up to them getting breaks and making the Super Bowl. I have picked against them the last couple of weeks, so we'll see.

J.S., you make a good argument, especially about Manning against the blitz. I feel like I have written off the Jets to an extent, which I actually haven't done...I just think offensively the fact they can't move the ball in the air will hurt them at some point. I think that point is coming.

As far as the Vikings and Saints, I actually am feeling a Vikings victory tomorrow. I feel like it is fate Favre plays in the Super Bowl. I do worry about the Saints offensive line against the Vikings and if they can't hold up it's game over. I have faith in the playcalling of Sean Payton and I also sort of feel like it is the Saints year...but then I could say the same about Favre. It's a tough game to call, but I think you make a good point a/b the Saints running game probably not being that strong, but I think the Saints will win...but I am not incredibly confident about this.