The 2011 NFL Picks
The Playoffs ~ The Super Bowl

Within a few hours of the Patriots winning, I got an e-mail from my Dad.

A friend of his bleeds Steeler colors. It seems that back when Pittsburgh defeated New England during this year’s regular season, his friend had called before the game. And, he told Dad that he wasn’t sure who to cheer for.

My Dad was floored. The answer seemed obvious to him.

Obvious until his friend said that every time these two teams play during the regular season, the loser of that game goes on to win the Super Bowl.

Now, with the football sailing wide of the posts and New England headed to Indianapolis, Dad was sending me the story with a hope that his friend was right.

He wasn’t right.

You have to go back in the history books all the way to last year to find that out. Pittsburgh lost in the regular season to New England, and then they lost the Super Bowl to Green Bay. So… lose – lose… not lose – win.

Heck, in a funny twist, everything except losing in the regular season and winning the Super Bowl has happened since the last time the Patriots and Giants met for the title. New England defeated Pittsburgh in the undefeated regular season… and we know how that year ended. Pittsburgh won the next season and then won the Super Bowl over Arizona.

Now… the year Pittsburgh defeated Seattle for the championship? That year the idea actually worked. New England won the regular season contest, and Pittsburgh won the championship. But the story itself doesn’t hold water. The regular season loser does not always go to the Super Bowl and win.

There is no trend. It’s just an observational fluke being turned into more than is really there… much the same as how conspiracy theorists question why New England plays Indianapolis every year. (It’s the rotation plus both of them repeatedly winning their divisions. The NFL offices love it, but don’t go setting it up to happen.)

And yet… flawed reasoning or no… that’s pretty much as good a theory as any for this year. Because honestly, I think just about anyone you talk to has as good a chance of being correct as my Dad’s friend.


Anyone that tells you they know what is going to happen in this game is mistaken. And, anyone that is proven right about their opinion because of how the game plays out is exceptionally lucky.

Don’t believe me?

Ok… we’ll start with an easy observation. Stupid stuff happens in the Super Bowl. New York against Buffalo… New England against St. Louis… New York against New England… just some examples of how the way things played out differed from the expected.

And then consider that often you get unlikely heroes. An unexpected player makes an interception and we end up not seeing a quarterback earn the MVP.

But this year is different.

Tell me… have you already seen plenty of stories about Brady and how all you need to do is pressure him? Of course you have. How about comparison pieces about Peyton and Eli? Sure thing.

It’s all incredibly predictable. (And very safe, without being enlightening in the least.)

I’ve been telling you for a month that Tom Brady finished the regular season by playing in only the second half of games. And, that if he failed to show up in the playoffs while an opponent there went up by two scores, the Pats would be in trouble. Fortunately, in a down game, the Ravens never led by much or for long. And yet, in the days that followed the AFC Championship, all I saw was story after story about the Pats hoping the right Brady shows up on February 5th.


If we want to explore things, we can make a case about offense… but New England has been shut down by more than the New York Giants in recent years. Tom Brady wasn’t electrifying against Baltimore this year… or against New York (Jets) last year… Baltimore the year before that… New York (Giants) in the game no Patriots player will watch. Could the Patriots dominate this game from the start and just outscore the Giants? Absolutely. No one would predict that right now though.

We can talk about defense… discuss special teams… evaluate coaches… and the reality is always the same.

Things are so interestingly balanced here that even if you do predict things correctly, it wasn’t talent or insight that did it. It was luck that it played out that way.

Let’s give it a shot anyway… maybe I can find something worth noting… (and in fact, I think I do have something…)

New York (Giants) against New England (2½) – I believe there are two truths to be found in this game.

Number one – If this game is going to be lopsided, it will be New England destroying New York. (Not likely. But I don’t see any way New York crushes New England. Lopsided favors New England.)

Number two – A close game favors New York. (More likely it is decided by one score or less, and in considering a late-game scoring drive, New York seems better positioned to carry it out when considering the defense they’ll face. I think someone said the last three times these teams have played regular season or playoff games, each was decided by 4-points or less. Same quarterbacks in those three games… New York went 2-1 in them. Close game… favors the Giants.)

But the reality is, truth or not, all of it is simply words.

The Patriots have had a very obvious problem… as good as the defense has looked in two playoff games (and they have been significantly better here than in the regular season), they still don’t know how to get off the damn field. And that folks, is my big observation that people aren’t mentioning.

In the second half against Denver, the Broncos ran consecutive drives that lasted 14 and 13 plays.

Did you read that? Read it again…

Although up by a significant amount and allowing the Patriots a pass for being lackadaisical… in the second half against of the playoff game between New England and Denver, the Broncos ran consecutive drives that lasted 14 and 13 plays.

When was the last time you recall a 14 or 13 play drive? I mean… right? So… back-to-back drives of 13-plus?


Move on to the second playoff game of this year. I made a quick count of the number of times the Ravens faced third and 5 or longer. The total I got was seven. They converted five of them. That’s a success rate over 71% on third and long.


To me… that right there is the biggest question of the game. Can New England’s defense get off the field when they should?

As noted, I’ve been asking all postseason about Tom Brady and slow starts. Still worth asking.

But let’s take this defense thing a bit deeper in the game with Baltimore. Because Brady wasn’t particularly sharp… and yet New England led. When the second half began, the Patriots came out and controlled the ball for about six minutes before scoring a field goal. They were up 16-10 at that time. And, if the defense could stop the Ravens on that possession… force the aging Baltimore defense quickly back onto the field… the Patriots might have a chance to finish things off.

Did they do it?

No. The Ravens went on a touchdown drive that listed almost 6 minutes. They faced three third downs… one of 11 yards and one of 6 yards, which they converted with gains of 13 and 8 respectively. The touchdown was on a third and 4.

On arguably the biggest drive of the game for the defense, they failed on three third downs… including two decently long third down conversions.

And that is the biggest concern I have for New England. They have to switch things over… get their defense off the field and give Brady as many possessions as they can. Most importantly, on third down, they have to close the door. And despite all the “looks better” and “bend but don’t break” of Patriots defensive play here in the playoffs, getting off the field is something they haven’t done all that well.

Against the spread: New England
Without spread: New England
The beginning to end selection (have New Orleans against New England): New Orleans

Records to date:

With spread – 4-6 (0-2 in week three)
Without spread – 5-5 (1-1 in week three)
Beginning to end – 5-5 (1-1 in week three)

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at