Monday, December 24, 2007
Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs As the National Football League playoffs approach - again without my Buffalo Bills, for the eighth straight year - it's pretty apparent the New England Patriots are the team to beat.
I'll put this out there: I hate them. I hate Bill Belichick. I hate Tom Brady. I hate Randy Moss. I hate Bob Craft. I hate cheaters. I hate Massachusetts. I hate Boston.
That said, the Patriots are virtually unstoppable.
So when you talk playoffs, you've got to start with teams that can pick the Patriots off. Let's use a little deductive reasoning.
In the AFC, you've got Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Jacksonville, San Diego and Indianapolis.
Tennessee still has a shot, but they have to beat the Colts in Indianapolis next week - so we'll call them eliminated.
In the NFC, it's Green Bay and Dallas.
The Patriots have shown they're susceptible to a solid running game.
That eliminates Cleveland, despite the resurgence of Jamal Lewis.
You've got to have a good game plan going in.
That eliminates San Diego and Norv Turner. Despite the Chargers' recent run, who'd you take in a coaching showdown? That creep Belichick, or Turner? If you say Turner, start watching soccer.
You've got to have a defense that can get to the quarterback.
As much as it kills me to say it, that eliminates Indianapolis. While Bob Sanders is the best defensive player in football, the Colts are without Dwight Freeney coming off the edge. Without the front four getting pressure on Brady, the Patriots would have a field day.
You've got to be hot at the right time.
Pittsburgh, you're out. The Steelers look like they might not make it out of the first round. Their once-dominant defense is giving up tons of points and, of course, leading rusher Willie Parker is out for the playoffs.
You simply can't trust the NFC in any situation.
Dallas and Green Bay, that means you're out.
I'd love to see Brett Favre go out a winner. But against the Patriots and Belichick, I have a tough time seeing Favre or Tony Romo being able to light it up. No doubt both quarterbacks can put up big numbers, but against New England, it's tough to not see numbers for either quarterback resembling something like 11/33, 147 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT.
That leaves Jacksonville.
The Jaguars are an interesting team. They've got a great running game. I like Jack Del Rio as their coach. They proved against Pittsburgh they can win a big road game, and with gnarly conditions, no less. David Garrard is a mobile quarterback who won't give you those four-interception games.
Their defense is solid against the run and the pass. They are the team you really don't want to play.
So there you have it. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the one team that can pick New England off.
Mark it up.
Late January in Foxboro, Mass. Weather nasty. AFC Championship game.
Jacksonville 24, New England 20.