BASN NFL Playoff Preview

By Tony McClean
Updated: January 5, 2005
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — After a 17-week, regular season appetizer, NFL fans are now ready to swallow the main course — the playoffs. The usual suspects (Pats, Packers, Colts, Rams) are in the mix along with a few teams (Steelers, Vikings) getting their dance cards back as well.
Today, we take a look at several different aspects of what should be a interesting postseason.
Just last year, many of us “experts” said the NBA should just bypass the entire Eastern Conference and crown the winner of the Western Conference finals as the league champ. Five games later, the “weak” sister of the East walked away with the NBA title. If you don’t watch out, it could very easily happen this year with the NFC. Yes, Philly doesn’t have TO and all the other contenders have some warts, but you still have to play the games.
So really, who’s the hottest team entering the postseason? Pittsburgh’s road win at Buffalo (their 14th straight) with the second stringers was very impressive, but the Chargers have gone 9-1 since their 3-3 start. There are some that think if the Rams get on a roll, they’re the team to beat in the NFC. But what about the Packers and Brett Favre. Could this be a farewell run for No. 4?
There are several players and coaches that will have a large bullseye on their back as we enter the postseason. Here are just a handful to chew on:
— RBs LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers and Corey Dillon, Patriots
Both have been all-World performers and will now finally get the chance to display their skills in the playoffs. Despite the accomplishments this year, they’ve both been somewhat under the radar nationally. LT is arguably one of the five best players in the NFL while Dillon has more than proven his worth to the Pats. Ironically, the two could be on a collision course especially if the Bolts get by the Jets this weekend.
— Head Coach Mike Martz, Rams
By the grace of Kevin Dyson’s outstretched arms, Mr. Martz might not have a Super Bowl ring at all. Has it really been nearly five years since the Rams won the Super Bowl? Since then St. Louis has had more ups and downs than the Stock Exchange. Do they have another run left in them and if not, will Martz keep his job? Their have been more grumblings than usual in Ram Land this year. Win or lose, it might not be enough to keep Mr. Mike employed as head coach.
— WR Jerry Rice, Seahawks
This time of the year has always been Star 80’s time of the year. If there ever was a team that needed some veteran leadership, it’s Seattle. Yes, he’s 42 and doesn’t have the quick step, but with apologies to the late Rick James, he’s still Jerry Rice, dammit! He’s been in more big games than the entire Seahawk roster. With the catfighting between Shawn Alexander and coach Holmgren, maybe the Birds should lean on the old man’s shoulders.
— The Colts’ secondary
Given all the hype that Indy’s offense gets, only folks on the witness protection program get less scorn and grief than these unnamed fellows. Unfortunately no matter what Peyton and the boys do, it will always come back to them. Yes DE’s Dwight Freeney (16 sacks) and Robert Mathis (10.5 sacks) have done their part to improve the D, but for Tony Dungy to become the first black head coach to reach a Super Bowl, the secondary must make a serious stand.
So who do I like to reach the Super Bowl? In the AFC, I really like the Steelers to defeat the Chargers in the AFC title game. The Black and Gold have won every way imaginable this season. The Bolts are no slouch, but I just think Pittsburgh is just a tad bit better. As for the NFC, I think will come down to Philly and Atlanta. Having Brian Westbrook for the playoffs is definitely an advantage for the Eagles. But I just think that the Falcons are a better balanced team on both sides of the line. And I’d feel that way even if TO was healthy.
So there it is: The Steelers vs. The Falcons in the Super Bowl. And who will win? Stay tuned.