There's nothing left to do now but play the game. I'm going to get my last words in on what I think will happen this weekend, then sit back, try to concentrate on something other than football for part of Saturday, so I can write some report cards, then let my brain melt Saturday night and Sunday. First, an in-depth look at Jets-Patriots, then I'll give you all my picks for the Wild Card Round.
In the playoffs, there's plenty of motivation to win. Any extra motivation is icing on the cake, but can be used to your advantage. The Jets know that Bill Belichick has slighted his former assistant/mentee this season. They are using that as some sort of extra motivation this week, whether or not they're saying it. And Belichick knows that too - how else do you explain him suddenly becoming Mr. Nice Guy this week in the media when talking about the Jets and Eric Mangini? Mangini has played the game well, not making a big deal of Belichick making himself look like a jerk back in November, and not making a big deal out of it this week, as a matter of fact, he heaped plenty of praise upon the Patriots. I start with that not because I think it's the biggest factor this weekend, but I do think it will be A factor - and definitely a plus for the Jets.
Yesterday, I wrote about the younger players getting some playoff experience this year, at the very least. Truth is, the Jets are full of playoff veterans. There are key members of the Jets (mostly on defense, but including quarterback Chad Pennington) who made the run in the playoffs with the Jets 2 years ago. There are plenty of former Patriots, who enjoyed the same success the Jets' opponents will be pointing to on Sunday (including the Jets' current head coach). My only concern is this is a new experience for kicker Mike Nugent - but he does have big-game experience from college at Ohio State. The Jets sorely need themselves a clutch kicker - remember two years ago. But now that I think about it, the FieldTurf at Gillette Stadium must benefit the kicking game. That's good for the Jets.
Things to look for this Sunday - as I mentioned yesterday, I fully expect the Jets to spring some sort of gadget play on the Patriots. I'm thinking some sort of fake kick. Sticking with special teams, I think Justin Miller will have a huge return at some point in this game. Not sure he'll score, but he'll set the Jets up nice. I also think this will be a tight game, my heart will be racing, and I will curse the football gods for putting the Jets up against the Patriots in round one. But I'll be thanking them when it's over. JETS 22, PATRIOTS 14
THE PLAYOFF PICKS:
I'm participating in a playoff pool I join annually, which gives you 250 shares to start with, and you can bet a maximum of 75 per bet. You can bet over/unders and spreads. So I will use those spreads for these picks (I'm not sure how far off they are from the real ones):
Kansas City at Indianapolis (-6.5): I know that people expect Larry Johnson to run all over the Colts, but I just think the Colts are the better team. I expect the Chiefs to jump out to an early lead, maybe 7-or-10- to 0, but the Colts to cruise from there. I say Colts 27, Chiefs 13. The over/under is 50.5. I'm putting $25 on the under.
Dallas at Seattle (-2.5): I originally said on this game Seahawks 24, Cowboys 10. I know very little about gambling, but I know that the bookmakers really know what they are doing. And home teams usually start out with at least 3 points in their favor. This seems like a game where the bookies are begging people to take Seattle. Therefore, I'm going with Dallas, taking the points. And I've adjusted my score. Seahawks 21, Cowboys 20. Seattle is still a tough place to win. I've got $20 on the Cowboys getting the points. The over/under here is 46.5 - I'm not touching that.
New York Jets at New England (-8.5): I had to take the Jets with those points - even if they lose, I don't see this game being more than an 8-point spread either way. This is my big bet of the day, $75 on the Jets. The over/under is 37.5, I would think under, but I'm not touching it.
New York Giants at Philadelphia (-6.5): I think this is the surest bet of the day, that the Eagles will win. I'm not as sure about the point spread, so I'm not going there, but I am pretty sure this will be a high scorer. Eagles 34, Giants 24. Over/under is 46.5 - I like the over for $25.
So to recap, I have $145 on the line this week. Some people will blow all $250 this week - I just hope I can move into the top 3 or so, then maybe next week I'll step up the bet amounts.
One last thing regarding picks - I really like what Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio do come playoff time - they do "Confidence Picks", where they rank the players they are most confident in on a given playoff weekend (they'll do quarterbacks, running backs, coaches, and defenses, I think), with the most confidence being given a 1, least given an 8, then adding up their total scores, and figuring out what teams will win that way. The problem is, I never hear the end of their show, so I never know how the system works. If I have time tomorrow during the Chiefs/Colts game, I may try it out, see if it's an accurate representation of picks.
Enjoy the games - I will have a recap on Sunday - hopefully it will be about a win...and if they lose, hopefully I'm not too upset to write. I'll try my darndest.