Playoff prognostications (cont.)
Posted: Monday January 7, 2008 12:55PM; Updated: Monday January 7, 2008 1:14PM
CHARGERS AT COLTS
WHAT I SAW: Sorry, but I didn't like what I saw in their Tennessee game. I don't know what it is with LaDainian Tomlinson, but he just doesn't look like the same guy. Oh, he's gotten his yards this year, but against the Titans he didn't do anything that popped your eyes open, the ways he used to. He was just an efficient back. I didn't see him making people whiff; I didn't see him run over anyone. Maybe I missed it.
I thought the best player on the field for San Diego was Chris Chambers, another guy who was stolen from the Dolphins. The wideouts now assume command of the offense, with Antonio Gates iffy with the bad toe.
Tennessee smacked it to their defense for a while, but that didn't last. Otherwise, the Chargers managed to chase Vince Young around for a while. Shawne Merriman, recovering from a knee injury, wasn't much of a factor, but Shaun Phillips, the other bookend rusher, compensated for it by turning up the burners. Nothing new there. I think he's been better than Merriman all season, anyway.
As for Philip Rivers, I'd call him a third echelon QB. The Big Four are first echelon. Guys such as Hasselbeck and Ben Roethlisberger, capable of having big games but also able to screw things up, too, are second echelon. Drop down one and you've got Rivers, not bad certainly, but not capable of pulling off the upset of the year, as he'd have to do Sunday.
WHAT LIES AHEAD: As the car dealer said, when he sold me the set of tires, "I see a blowout here." Adam Vinatieri's missed chippie field goal cost the Colts a victory in San Diego earlier this season, and that was with a lineup that had receiving threats such as Craphonso Thorpe, Aaron Moorhead and Bryan Fletcher. And the defense was missing weakside LB Freddy Keiaho, a fast, instinctive player whom I guarantee you will be a Pro Bowler next year if he can stay healthy.
Peyton Manning threw six picks against the Chargers back in November, and the Colts shouldn't even have been in it, but Rivers kept them afloat. His day was almost as disastrous, in fact the whole offense was going through a funky period then. It's improved, but I think Rivers and the boys will be surprised at how fast the Indy defense plays. Speed is what got it the lofty ranking of No. 1 in fewest points allowed.
They're expecting Marvin Harrison to be back, but I wouldn't make too much of that. Even before he went down with a sprained knee in late September, he was only a 10-yard threat. If, by some miracle, he's gotten his deep game back, and he can light it up with our all-pro wideout, Reggie Wayne, and tight end Dallas Clark, then it'll be even more of a blowout.
Indianapolis 38, San Diego 17
GIANTS AT COWBOYS
WHAT I SAW: Not meaning to take anything away from New York's gratifying win over the Bucs, but they faced a Tampa Bay team without many weapons. Joey Galloway hurt his shoulder in the first half and wasn't at full speed thereafter. Without him, the Bucs didn't have many ways to worry a good defensive team. Their wideouts were just guys. Their runners, Pittman and Graham, were willing workers, and that's about it.
Jeff Garcia? Well, he's always been one of my favorite players. He looks like the kid in the neighborhood whose mother sends him outside, to sit in front of the building with a blanket across his knees because the sun is good for him. He always seems to be throwing the ball one step ahead of the posse, and taking a ferocious bang, once it's delivered. Poor guy, he went down fighting Sunday.
There were two ways for the Giants to lose, but they didn't fall prey to either of them. One was for Sam Madison to give up some big plays to Galloway. Madison was inactive with an abdominal strain. The second one was for Eli Manning to turn the ball over. He didn't. He played one of those, "please don't screw it up," games, and was very efficient at it. I'm being unfair. He was better than that. He was very sound on his reads, and his receivers didn't let him down by dropping anything.
WHAT LIES AHEAD: I think the Giants will be better off keeping Corey Webster at right corner instead of Madison. The Cowboys have feasted off Madison, who's old and smart and plays the angles, but Webster is young and bold. Against the Bucs, he had what the British call a "blinder" of a game. I think the Giants ought to roll the dice and give him a shot.
I think I've written about 40 times in the past that New York must get a rush on Romo, but there's a formidable obstacle in their path. It's called Flozell Adams. I hate watching him. Techniquewise, he looks like a garbage man loading a sack onto the truck. But I finally picked him on my all-pro team this year because he has shut down a lot of fancy rushers. Once he gets his hands on them, it's all over. Osi Umenyiora has been a victim this season, not once, but twice, and without some kind of firepower from that right side, Romo will do plenty of damage.
How bad is his thumb? Can't say. Ask Jessica. How bad is T.O.'s ankle? Ditto...I mean don't ask Jessica about this one... but I have no word. Will these ailments cripple the Cowboys' attack to the point that the Giants will finally win their first of the three-game set this year and advance to, gosh, the NFC Championship? Don't think so, sport, but it could happen.
Dallas 34, New York 30
(Do you agree or disagree with Dr. Z's picks? Chime in at FanNation.)
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