Here come the drums people ........ its SML Playoff time and theres nothing like it!!!
The Superbowl drama in the SML reads like a Hollywood highlights list - who can forget Eli Mannings' Giants choking big style in SBI, Johnny Knox actually hanging on to a pass to win SBIII and the immortalised Vince Jackson hail mary to win SBIV and send Pastinator into re-hab! Yes folks, someone is going to write themselves into SML folklore in the coming week, only question who will it be? Let us review ...
NFC - dont fall off your chair in surprise, but Minnesota are favourites. Adrian Peterson ran for nearly 2500 yards with an amazing 10 yard average per carry - and he is the player all other HC's fear the most. Out of the NFC teams, Philadelphia are best equipped to stop the Vikes run attack with OLB Kendricks, SS Woodson and the best tackling corners in the league in DRC and Nnamdi. The reason i like Philly is because they can move the ball too - Djax and McCoy spearhead a top offensive unit and throw in the scrambling of Michael Vick and defending the Birds becomes a real headache. Minnesota also have Percy Harvin and TE Kyle Rudolph to go to if anyone actually manages to halt the Purple Express.
The Panthers and 49ers have great LB's, but their secondaries will need to step up if they are to gain a ring. SF have lost Frank Gore and that makes it SO much harder for them, as they will need to despatch Chicago/Carolina/Philadelphia en route to the Conference game and without Gore that may be tough to do. Coach Pastinator is a defensive mastermind and he will need to call upon all of his defensive creative alignments because if SF are to go all the way, without Frank The Tank they will need to do it on D. Carolina have had a great season, winning a tough NFC South but will need Beason to continue to terrorise QB's as the Sack Leaky Bears O line comes to town in the WC round. The Bears won a mid-season encounter fairly comfortably and i wonder whether Beason and Keuchly are enough to turn the tables.
The WC entrants both come from the NFC North, Chicago and Detroit. Do any of these teams have a shot? Yes, both actually. The Lions are a bit like Minnesota in as much that they rely mainly on one player to set the tone - Megatron! If he is shut down i'm not sure Detroit have the running game to carry them to a SB. They are however a 'streaky' team. If they call the game right on the day they can beat anyone - but unfortunately if they get it wrong it goes belly up! Which Pride of Lions will turn up in the post season? Chicago are dangerous, but their whole season depends on Jay Cutler. If he's hot they can win, if not, like Detroit, they will lose heavily. Still, Julius Peppers is always a problem!
The AFC is just as unclear with my mid-season favourites New England continuing the good work and nothing suggests to me that Baltimore, Tennessee or Oakland have the DB's to stop the Brady Bunch from going to the show. However, Buffalo's pass D is gathering momentum as Coach Infemous has moulded a tight unit over the 2nd half of the season. With CJ Spiller tearing up the turf Buffalo match up well against the Pats and even though their divisional rivals from Foxboro swept them easily during the regular season the Bills will have learned much from those games and pose a serious threat.
Baltimore have gone a little cold of late, early season their man to man coverage was awesome but as offenses have evolved, the Ravens are not as dominant as they were and after big wins over NE and Philly have struggles against Washington and NYG - 2 teams not in the playoffs.
The Titans are the AFC 2nd seed and rightly so. They have CJ as the outside threat and have protected their QB Jake Locker better than any other team in the SML. I make Tennessee as my dark horses for the AFC Conference as they have all the weapons to outscore anyone, but the Titan D needs to show up if they are to progress. And finally Oakland, one of the front runners for 'Coach of the Year' award after turning around a miserable past into a divisional crown and first ever playoff slot. RB Darren McFadden has a healthy 4.7 yard average but the Raiders will find the Bills D tough as they have struggled to close out games with McFadden. Palmer throws TD's and picks 1-1 which in the SML knockout stages will not be good enough. Coach OSS will need to come up with a gameplan that creates enough mis-matches in the Raiders favour if they are to continue the dream.
So, all in all, Minnesota versus New England is still my tip for the SB with Coach Eder lifting his 4th SB crown. But those Patriots (another front runner for Coach of the Season) have closed the gap dramatically between the AFC nad NFC, along with the Ravens, Bills, Titans and Raiders. Tennessee are my AFC dark horse and Philadelphia are worth a punt from the NFC. Whatever happens, the SML Playoff Rollercoaster is about to hit top speed.
Play hard guys - and congratulations to all who made the post season. And to those who didn't ....... contact me personally .... i have an address for a very competitive netball league you bunch of girls!!!