An Epic Mess of Post-Season Propaganda

If you haven’t noticed yet, I love alliteration. It tickles me more than I tickled Elmo growing up, and leaves me with one of those self-satisfied grins after I feel I’ve rattled off a successful and clever one. After a long week without NFL football, I’ve held onto my Wildcard predictions until the day before competition begins. However, before I begin with my lengthy but insightful analysis on the weekend’s slate of games, here are some quick updates from the NFL:

ESPN reports that Seahawks head coach Jim Mora has been let go. In his first official season as head coach, Mora’s team under-achieved dramatically for the talent level he has.

President of football operations Mike Holmgren appeared satisfied with head coach Eric Mangini in their meeting, because he decided to keep him after all. Return Specialist Joshua Cribbs could be a different story entirely, though. As Deion Sanders so eloquently pointed out to the Browns organization in dealing with Cribbs: PAY DA MAN!

Notre Dame reject Charlie Weis is going to rejoin his buddy Todd Haley deep in Missouri as the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator. I smell a bad sitcom.

For those of you who hated the idea of the New England Patriots being the team of the decade, you might like this.

News flash time is over, time to hit hard.

New York Jets @ Cincinatti Bengals, 4:30 pm EST.

If you watched football last week, you heard about the Jets laying a smackdown on the Bengals’ collective candy asses(thanks, Rock). Before giving them too much credit, let’s just take a moment to remember that Carson Palmer played(poorly) in limited snaps, Cedric Benson sat out to rest his weary legs, Chad Ochocinco hurt his knee during warmups, and head coach Marvin Lewis took the game off to be with his family. Wait, nevermind, he was there. I don’t care how hot or good a team thinks it is, losing 37-0 to a team that needed to win to qualify and would then face your team the following week is not a good way to enter the playoffs. So even though the Bengals were resting key players, I do NOT give them a pass.

There are a few alarming things about the Bengals this year that should be examined closely:

1. Only once did they blowout an opponent. That opponent was the Chicago Bears, who the Bengals’ current running back used to play for, and had a grudge match against when they visited Cincinnati in week 7. All of their other victories, and there are 10 of them, were by an average of 6.4 points. THAT’S IT. That means that those games were actually very close games, and that the Bengals scraped by on the skin of their teeth.

2. Of all the playoff teams, Cincinnati is the only club that didn’t even crack the top 12 in Team Efficiency Rating. They didn’t even crack the top 19! These guys are 20th behind, GET THIS, the San Francisco 49ers, who marched out Shaun Hill at quarterback through the first trimester of the season. Cincinnati has quietly been an over-achieving team all year. This could spell trouble for the Bengals, because they’re catching a mildly warm Jets team that matches up extremely well with them.

3. The Bengals’ bread and butter so far has been their ability to run the ball. The previously mentioned Benson should be healthy enough to get them going, but when the game’s close, and it will be if the Bengals season is any indication, they are eventually going to have to throw the ball. Besides Ochocinco, they have nobody. As Bill Simmons pointed out, even the Miami Dolphins didn’t want free agent Laverneus Coles. The big play guy of the Bengals used to be Chris Henry, who’s no longer with us. That leaves Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer with a daunting task.

4. The Bengals haven’t beaten anybody. One could argue that their division counts, but I dismiss it. They swept division play, which is impressive, but still, only one team outside of them made the playoffs. Not only that, but ALL their games were close, even the one against the Browns, and one victory against the Ravens and one against the Steelers were comeback victories at the end of the game. Maybe this shows their intestinal fortitude, or maybe it shows that they’re over-achieving. I’m going with OPTION B for a million dollars. Let’s look at games they lost: week 6 at home against Houston, week 11 at Oakland(what the?), week 14 at Minnesota, week 15 at San Diego, and week 17 at New York. The one game they did win in the last month was against Kansas City, and even that was a one-touchdown affair. What you’re seeing here is the Bengals coming into the playoffs as a) winners of no big games outside of division play, and b) losers of 3 out of their last 4. Stay away. (By the way, Carson has yet to win a playoff game)

Now, I don’t want to focus too much on the Jets, because they are playing with nothing to lose. The one thing I will caution betters and viewers about is that they are marching a rookie quarterback into a road playoff game. That could spell trouble. I don’t anticipate too much from him though, so it should be a very ugly, physical game, whichever way it turns out. I certainly like the Jets’ chances on the road, and here’s why:

1. The Jets are built to run the football. Thomas Jones had one of the best years of his career, rushing for 1,400+ yards and 14 touchdowns. The Jets rank first in the ground attack, gaining 172 yards a game. This inherent trait will work wonders for them against Cincinnati, who claims is actually not as good against the run as the universal stats suggest.

2. Their defense is amazing. They rank 1st in the NFL in points allowed per game at 14.8, total yards allowed at 252.3, passing yards allowed at 153.7, and 8th in rushing yards allowed at 98.6. These guys are coached by Rex Ryan, one of the most gregarious and defensive-minded coaches in the history of the game. They boast a scary front-seven with a guy named Darrelle Revis at cornerback, who consistently locks down #1 receivers. After shutting down the likes of Randy Moss and Terrell Owens twice, Andre Johnson, and Roddy White, I somehow think Ochocinco is going to be a slightly easier task.

Sorry Charlie(Woodson), but Darrelle Revis is my pick for Defensive Player of the Year.

For all of these reasons, I think the Jets are going to stroll into a chilly Cincinnati stadium and upset the Bengals.

Jets win, 23-19.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys, 8:00 pm EST.

Being a Cowboy fan, this is a really hard game for me to predict. In divisional matchups, one never knows what’s going to happen. All we can do is predict based off previous experience. That would suggest the Cowboys will win, having defeated the Eagles twice in the regular season. However, we all know what happened against the much-hated New York Giants back in 2007. Ugh. UGH. Why did I remind myself? This year should be different. I emphasize SHOULD. The Cowboys are a different team, one with a secret identity that other teams have trouble matching up against. In those same football efficiency rankings, the Cowboys rank 5th. Since I’ve already set up the teaser, here’s my list of things you need to take into account:

1. The Cowboys are actually a good football team. It feels weird having to qualify that statement with “actually” seeing as how they’re 11-5 and owners of the NFC East division title. However, I am not delusional, so I understand any lack of trust people might have in the Cowboys. They haven’t won in December before this year since 1999. They haven’t won a playoff game in even longer(1996). Even after his 2009 make-over, it’s still hard to trust Tony Romo. And at the end of the day, head coach Wade Philips is still 0-4 in post-season play. Was this supposed to be my reason why the Cowboys are good? I failed. Epically. I’ll try to salvage this point as best I can. Here’s the thing, despite what history tells us, this season, which is much more recent, proves otherwise. Tony finally had an excellent December, as did the Cowboys, and he threw for a career-low in interceptions. The Cowboys lost an early December road game to the Giants, which they had a 10-0 lead in until MBIII fumbled it in the Giants redzone. Their next loss was to the hottest team in the league, the San Diego Chargers, which is not a bad team to lose to. The Cowboys then dominated two road games, being the first team to make the New Orleans Saints lose a game, and then shutting out their Redskin rivals in Washington. The Cowboys then took care of business in a Winner-Takes-the-NFC-East-game against the Eagles, shutting them out 24-0. What you see here is a different team. Instead of getting down on each other, this team uses adversity to get closer. Players take responsibility instead of blaming others and that results in a better, more productive team mentality. The Cowboys only blowout loss was to the Packers in Green Bay, and the final score there was 17-7. Every other loss the Cowboys were in position to win or tie, but simply couldn’t get it done. The Cowboys, for all intents and purposes, are a good football team.

2. Wade Philips has secretly coached a really, really good defense. I won’t say great, because they do not generate turnovers as much as they should. Once they take that extra step forward, then we can discuss them in terms of great. They have two weaknesses in the secondary, but they do a decent job of masking them both with a stellar pass rush. Terence Newman is not the cornerback he used to be, as he is the guy offenses pick on when given the choice between him or Mike Jenkins(who is a legitimate pro-bowl snub, thanks to Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie). When Newman zones in, he is tough to beat. Also, the slot receivers give the Cowboys trouble because Orlando Scandrick simply isn’t as good a corner as the two guys he sets up in between. In his defense, the middle of the field is extremely difficult to cover, because as a defender it’s hard to really take anything away when there’s no sideline to help. The sideline acts as an extra defender for corners, but in the middle, it’s all footwork, low hips, and timing with deflections. But that’s all semantics. The Cowboys’ defense ranks 2nd in the league in points allowed per game at 15.6, right behind the Jets. They rank 9th in total yards allowed giving up 315.9 per game, and 4th in rushing yards allowed at 90.5 per game. Like I said, their one weakness is their passing defense, but when it has to, it stiffens up. Jenkins is a beast on that right side, locking up anyone who lines up opposite him. I seriously can’t gush enough about his play this season. That guy is playing with tremendous confidence, and is easily our best player in the secondary.

Now let’s look at the Eagles.

Before last Sunday’s loss, the Eagles were on par with the Packers as the hottest team in the NFC. The Eagles came into Dallas winners of 6 straight games. That’s remarkable. To win that many games in a row with a tough schedule that the NFC East teams are given is pretty damn good. Now, statistically, the Eagles are middle of the pack defensively. They rank 19th in points allowed at 21.1 per game, 12th in total yards allowed at 321.1 per game, and 17th in passing yards allowed per game at 216.4 per game. Their run-stopping defense is their best attribute as they’re ranked 9th in the league in that category. But don’t let the statistics fool you. Even thugh Sean McDermott isn’t as good as the late Jim Johnson at defensive play-calling, he’s no slouch. The Eagles get after quarterbacks with their pass-rushing specialist Trent Cole. Cole had a solid season tallying 57 tackles, 12.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Aside from him, the Eagles secondary is among the most physical and opportunistic in the league. Cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown are probably the best cornerback tandem, at least on paper. Samuel is a master at reads, using his opponent’s body language as an inclination for when to pounce, as well as his unique ability to keep his eye on the quarterback whilst defending. He jumps more routes than any other cornerback, and that is both a good and a bad thing. It’s a high-risk/high-reward endeavor, as he could either end up with an interception(he has 9 on the season. 9!) or a complete mis-timed jump that results in his assignment sprinting down the field as he’s left playing catchup for his error. Either way, Samuel and Cole are the two best Eagles defenders, and they’re among the best in the league at their respective positions.

The Eagles offense is surprisingly hit or miss as well. They rely heavily on the big-pass play in order to keep defenses honest. They’re easily the second best in the league(the Chargers being the first) at testing the safeties of opposing defenses. The Eagles will chuck it deep to Desean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin and allow them to use their ridiculous speed to make defensive coordinators look clueless. Their running game is virtually non-existent, but that’s because Andy Reid has traditionally only used it out of necessity. It’s been said that if he had his choice, he would never run the ball. With his depleted running back corps, I don’t blame him. Plus, his deep threat weapons are off the chain. Jackson turned in an incredible year, but the statistics tell you all you need to know with him. 1,167 yards on 63 catches and 9 touchdowns for an average of 18.5 yards per catch. Read that last part again, please. Jackson caught the ball less than most number one receivers, but because they are mostly 20+ yard receptions, his average balanced out to an insane 18.5 ypc. It speaks for itself. The short-passing game of the Eagles is either screen-based for running backs or takes place in the middle of the field courtesy the Brent Celek-Donovan McNabb combination. The third year tight end had a pro-bowl caliber season, catching 76 passes for 971 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is easily McNabb’s go-to guy, and with numbers like that, it’s hard to argue it should be anyone else.

The one problem I do have with the Eagles is their offensive line. Now, McNabb is a battle-tested quarterback who you have to like in this situation. It just seems like his offensive line isn’t going to give him enough time against a Dallas defense that consists of Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, and Demarcus Ware all getting after the passer on nearly every play. Add to that the Eagles are without their starting center, and things could get dicey up front for the Eagles o-line. Not counting the blitzes up the middle from the Dallas inside linebackers Keith Brooking and Bradie James, things still look bleak for Philadelphia. So, what we have then is an offensive line that is far under-manned to stand the test of the Cowboys’ superior pass-rushing attack, combined with an Eagles running game that is non-existent, and an offense built almost entirely on big-play potential. The reason why the Cowboys are 2-0 against the Eagles this season is because they know the Eagles very well having played against them twice a year since the dawn of time, and because they have the personnel to take away what the Eagles want to do. The Cowboys have kept Desean Jackson in check both games this season, keeping him under 100 yards and with 0 TD’s in the season series.

Once McNabb starts to feel the pressure brought by the Dallas front-seven, and his deep threat options are taken away due to the Dallas secondary doing its job effectively, he will then be forced to check it down to his hot reads, and McNabb is historically not good at check-down throws. His mechanics are bad, which can be translated into his front knee locking up as his back knee pushes off, which results in the ball being thrown at the feet of his intended hot read receivers. This happens far more often than Philly fans like, and is the reason McNabb is not a top 5 quarterback in the league.

Cal me bias, call me unreasonable, call me whatever you want, but I am picking the Cowboys against a playoff experienced Philadelphia team, if for none of the reasons of above, at least for experience.

Dallas wins at home, 24-17.

Analysis on Baltimore @ New England, and Green Bay @ Arizona to come tomorrow.

If you don’t like my picks, feel free to check out the experts’ opinions.

If you feel like losing money but enjoy a good read, Bill Simmons is your guy.

Till next time.


10 Responses to “An Epic Mess of Post-Season Propaganda”

  1. Steven Sandoval Says:

    Great blog man. I was hoping there was more about the Cowboy game, I couldn’t get enough of it haha. I see the game being 24-13 Cowboys. And with the Jets vs Bengals. I think the Bengals are gonna squeak past thet jets with a 21-17 victory. I think Sanchez is gonna be throwing picks left and right. I guess thats just my UCLA devotion still having a grudge against the guy.

    Anyway great read. Keep up the blogs, and I’ll keep up the reading.

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