Posted: Friday January 03, 2003 7:11 PM|
New York hasn't played from behind much lately. But when Indianapolis falls behind, the Colts get that much more one-dimensional and Peyton gets pressed into some throws, pressed into some turnovers. I can see it being a high turnover game for the Colts if they let the Jets chew up the clock a little bit and build a bit of a lead.
New York beats Indianapolis if ... New York can keep it balanced on offense and not have to put the whole game on Pennington's shoulders. The Indianapolis defense can be moved against, but you've got to be patient because Tony Dungy is not going to give you the big play. So that's where the Jets' run game and Pennington's short passing comes in. And that's kind of his game. He'll dink and dunk and find some things.
It's probably not going to be the big play down the field that the Jets will have, it'll be the intermediate stuff. If they can chew up a bit of clock, stay balanced, and just push it down the field on the Colts, which they're capable of doing, then that'll keep the Indianapolis offense off the field. Put it all together and it'll bode well for New York.
Because it's Lambeau Field, the Falcons are probably the longest of the underdogs this weekend. Now, the wild card is Brett Favre. If he has one of his typical Lambeau days, it might get away from Atlanta. But if he's having an off day -- and he rarely has those at Lambeau -- the Falcons could hang around.
Green Bay beats Atlanta if ... Favre's hot, as he usually is playing at home in that Green Bay weather. The Falcons' defense is a good solid defense. It's broad-based and doing a good job. But can it hold up against Favre when he's hot like he can get at Lambeau? I don't know. He could have a game like he did at St. Louis in last year's playoffs, but he usually has those games on the road. Not at home.
If Green Bay's defense, conceding that Vick is going to run around and make some plays, focuses on making him throw the ball down field, the Falcons aren't going to win unless they can hit those plays. That's the approach I believe the Packers are going to go in taking.
Where we had success last week against Pittsburgh was throwing the ball, but also balancing it with some good runs. That's going to be the challenge for Cleveland. Can the Browns balance their passing game -- and they'll hit some things in their passing game -- with success by William Green in the running game?
Pittsburgh beats Cleveland if ... Pittsburgh's offense runs pretty much at will against Cleveland. Quite honestly, as long as the Steelers don't try and get too cute, I think Pittsburgh will try to line it up straight and shove it down the Browns' throats. If the Steelers are patient and not too tricky, I don't know if Cleveland's defense can hold up against that all day.
Basically, the Steelers can't beat themselves. They can't turn the ball over or get too far away from a balanced attack. They'll attack the Browns early with the pass, because that's their M.O. on offense. They'll try to get some big plays, and if they hit them and get on top, like you saw them do against the Bucs, it's going to be tough for Cleveland to hang in there. Because then the Steelers, with the lead, can play smashball and run it right at them.
The Giants win when Collins is able to make plays down the field, even though they don't have a great corps of receivers to do it with. I think they have a great shot against the 49ers, but I'm not sure how much further they can get after this one. Under the circumstances they'll be facing, it's going to be tough for them to beat Philadelphia, Tampa Bay or Green Bay on the road.
San Francisco beats New York if ... The 49ers can get Terrell Owens started early. If that happens, it lifts the entire offense. He's their play-maker. If the Giants' defense can shut him down early, get him frustrated and pointing fingers, it's going to be trouble for San Francisco. Owens has to step up in this situation and lead the way, with Jeff Garcia's help.
That's even more important because the 49ers' running game has been as good or consistent as they wanted it to be. They haven't been able to run when they've wanted to run, and I still don't know if they can. The 49ers' defense also has to step in ways they haven't done a lot of lately. Their secondary has been picked on at times, and it has to have a solid game against Armani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey, the Giants' two receiving threats.