Predicting the NFC Playoffs: New Orleans Saints to host championship game
Everything was setting up perfectly for the Saints to return to the Super Bowl even though they failed to repeat as NFC South champions.
They won in Atlanta, deflating the Falcons’ belief in their invincibility with Matt Ryan at the Georgia Dome.
Green Bay, statistically the most dominant team in the conference, sneaked into the playoffs as a very dangerous No. 6 seed, giving New Orleans the real possibility of a championship home game.
Seattle beat St. Louis, giving the Saints a road date with the worst playoff team (by record) in NFL history as their opener.
Philadelphia, the team New Orleans appeared to match up with the worst, went into the tank against Minnesota and cannot face the Saints until the NFC Championship Game.
At most, the Saints will play only one playoff game in frigid conditions – probably at Chicago, a shaky No. 2 seed.
It was all good, but this week the good turned to bad when running backs Chris Ivory (team-high 733 rushing yards) and Pierre Thomas (Mr. Clutch) went on the injured list. Winning multiple playoff games on the road is difficult. Doing it without a running game is damn near impossible.
Last year, I predicted every NFC playoff game correctly. There’s nowhere to go but down this time.
New Orleans over Seattle
The Saints lost at putrid Arizona and almost lost to San Francisco, Cincinnati and Dallas (combined record: 14-34) on the road during the regular season. Seattle will be motivated to shut up its critics after becoming a national punchline.
This game could be closer than expected, but Drew Brees and company keep finding ways to win when they play poorly. Plus, teams like Seattle don’t win in the playoffs.
Telling stat: All nine of the Seahawks losses were by 15 points or more. The Saints have not lost by 15 or more since October of 2008.
Green Bay over Philadelphia *
It’s funny how everyone is burying the Eagles two weeks after they were the consensus favorite to win the NFC. If they get by Green Bay, they will become a bandwagon pick again.
This selection is about the Packers’ strength rather the Eagles’ weakness. Green Bay held six teams to seven or fewer points and would have won the NFC North if Aaron Rodgers had not been concussion-prone. The Packers have a much better shot at containing Michael Vick than the Eagles do of slowing down Rodgers.
Telling Stat: Vick leads the NFL in taking sacks from the shotgun formation (20). The best running QB in NFL history has no internal clock when it comes to a pass rush.
we don't need a huge running game just a little to say we can if we want.
I think it's funny how everyone just assumes that because we are without Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas that we will have no running game. As if our backfield will be populated by dunces all of a sudden. Allow me to explain:
A. Julius Jones has averaged 4.0 yards per carry on the season.
B. Reggie Bush has averaged 4.2 yards per carry on the season.
C. Pierre Thomas only averaged 3.2 yards per carry on the season, though I do realize his great significance to the Saints and his excellent overall play.
D. One could do worse than have DeShawn Wynn and Joique Bell as backups.
E. After Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas went out for weeks on end with injury, all the Chicken Littles said, "Oh noes! What are we going to do now!" But the excellent coaching staff of the Saints found a way to string together a whole bunch of impressive victories with new running backs and they will do the same here.
We are almost there. Still time for more talking. We will see.
It is what happens on the field that counts.
Green Bay was close last time in ATL. They make it there again and I say it is 50/50 that they can beat them.
We just need to win today and stay as healthy as possible.
The law of averages says we are due against the Bears. I don't think we have won there since 2002 and 0-2 in the playoffs (1990/2006). I really want to take them out...
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