Just some thoughts on this past weekend's playoff games:
PATRIOTS: Don't cry for the Pats. They had a good run, but Denver is a tough place to win anytime.
As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are there, they will be competitive.
REDSKINS: The Skins were pretty inconsistent all year. They'd blow out teams where they weren't expected to win, and lose games to teams (i.e. Raiders) they had no business losing.
The future looks bright for the Skins IF they can find a QB other than Mark Brunell, who is just a little too long in the tooth.
BEARS: Ironically, I expected their defense to carry them to the NFC Championship. Instead, their defense was what lost the game to Carolina.
Their offense played it's best. To expect more than 21 points from an offense featuring Rex Grossman at QB is EXTREMELY optimistic.
Only one other time this season did the Bears give up 29 or more points to an opponent: They gave up 34 to the Vikings in a meaningless game the last week of the season. When the Bears played the Panthers earlier this season, they only gave up 3 points.
I hang this "L" solidly on the Bears defense.
COLTS: Cough CHOKE cough...
Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning couldn't win a playoff game against the Texans if the Texans spotted them 4 touchdowns.
Maybe that's a bit much, but the truth is both Dungy and Manning have a loooooong history of choking in big games.
Hey Dungy, is your seat feeling a bit warmer today? Remember when you were in Tampa, and you kept choking in the playoffs? It's called "the hot seat". Normally, it is reserved for losing coaches, but sometimes coaches who choke consistently in the playoffs get it too.
Prediction: Indy has to make it to AT LEAST the AFC Championship next year, or Dungy's gone. Indy also has to make it to the Super Bowl within the next two years, or Dungy's gone.
By the way, time to bring back all those Scott Norwood jokes. Just replace "Norwood" with "Vanderjagt".
STEELERS: Considering Jerome Bettis will probably retire after this year, I am sooooo glad his fumble wasn't the end of his career. He deserves better than that mistake tacked on at the end of his legacy.
The Steelers followed the "beat Colts" gameplan (written by Marty Schottenheimer) to perfection.
Unfortunately, now they have to go to Denver. As a Raider fan, I can vouch for how tough it is to play there. For the Raiders, beating the Broncos in Denver is ALMOST better than winning the Super Bowl.
I'll be rooting for the Steelers, but I won't be betting on them.
BRONCOS: The Pats learned how hard it is to win in Denver.
Short of a meltdown by the Broncos, they should have their ticket stamped to Detroit by now.
Did I mention I hate the Broncos?
PANTHERS: The Panthers have a well-balanced team, but I'm not sure they have enough strength in any one area to really shine against the Seahawks.
Losing Deshaun Foster really hurts them. Nick Goings is ok, but he's a lot easier to stop. If I was the Seahawks defensive coordinator, I'm stopping Jake Delhomme to Steve Smith and forcing the Panthers to beat me with Nick Goings.
I don't have anything against the Panthers. I just don't see them winning next week.
SEAHAWKS: Based on the lame way the Skins beat the Bucs last week, I had a feeling the Hawks might roll them. They did.
Shaun Alexander is one of the class acts of the NFL, so I am rooting for him.
I think the Hawks have enough balance. When added to the tremendous running of Alexander, they look like the NFC Champs.
SUPER BOWL PREDICTION: Broncos vs. Seahawks. Either team could win, so I will have to go with a heartfelt pick: Broncos LOSE!
However, I will be rooting for the Steelers if they get there. Gotta love Jerome Bettis.