Last week, I announced my Super Bowl XLV. Some of you were surprised, some of you were shocked. However, I’ll be sticking by my All Birds Super Bowl pick of the Ravens over the Eagles. Despite last Monday Night, despite Philly’s 2-4 start, I remain strong in my conviction.
Most people don’t exactly find the Ravens a surprising pick to go to the Super Bowl, but few, if any, still think the Eagles will do much of anything in the playoffs–if they even make it. But this team, as Vince Young told us, is incredibly talented. They don’t just have good players on offense, they have explosive home run threats capable of scoring on every play–whether on the opponents 20 or the Eagles 20.
But we’ve always known the Eagles were talented, that’s never been an issue. The issue has been run defense and turnovers. The team is dead last with 17 giveaways, but that can be easily corrected. MV7 fumbled seven times this year, but they were all in the first three games. Offensive linemen and offenses in general are taking longer to get back into top form because of the lockout and lack of OTAs. Now, Michael Vick is making safer decisions, and better protecting the ball when pressure comes. Furthermore, two of his four interceptions in the Buffalo game alone were fluke picks, they were tipped and not entirely Vick’s fault.
The key to the offense is Michael Vick, for sure. They’re first-ranked in rushing behind the explosive LeSean McCoy, so don’t need to win the game through the air. When Vick gets pressure and has to make a play, he should not be trying to force the ball down the field to DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. There’s nothing wrong with a check-down play to McCoy or Brent Celek. There’s even nothing wrong with running the ball for a handful of yards–as long as he doesn’t keep taking unnecessary hits.
Defensively, the Eagles do have some holes. Behind Nnamdi, Asante, and DRC, they secondary is absolutely fine with then 10th best pass defense. But behind a smaller defensive line, they’ve been punctured for a gaudy 123.8 yards on the ground per game. However, none of the NFC power have a great running back. Ryan Grant and James Starks aren’t world-beaters for the Packers, Jahvid Best is fine, and the Saints’ running back committee won’t exactly make Cullen Jenkings and Mike Patterson shake at night. Frank Gore and Michael Turner are good backs, but not great. I don’t really expect to see the 49ers or Falcons deep in the playoffs anyways.
The Eagles are fantastic on offense and just good enough to get through the NFC defensively. Most people just look at the record and the media debacle and call this a lost season for the Eagles. But if you look deeper at the numbers, you’ll see a possible sleeping giant.
The other team in my Super Bowl pick, the one I actually picked to win it all is the Ravens. Unlike the Iggles, this team is built around stout defense, and an offense good enough to take them far. Don’t get fooled by last week’s loss, this team is poised for greatness.
The problem last week was the distribution of touches. Ray Rice, the only great player on the team, only got 8 carries and 5 passes. Compare that to Joe Flacco dropping back 42 times, and you’ve really got to question their play calling. In the lone other loss this year, Rice was only given 13 carries and 5 passes. Flacco is a slightly upgraded version of Mark Sanchez. I’m not sure I’d trust him with the offense in his hands, but he can manage a game well enough. Plus he doesn’t turn it over at nearly Marky Mark’s rate.
Baltimore’s key is ball control. If they can keep feeding opposing defenses a steady diet of Rice, they’ll most likely be coming out on top. Don’t get fooled by his (maybe) 5’8″ frame, he packs a mean punch. Averaging 6.2 yards per touch, there’s no reason to try to force passes down field to Lee Evans, Ed Dickson, and Torrey Smith.
This team is tough, it’s gritty, and has a chip on its shoulder. They wanted to start the season with a bang against their rival Steelers and won 35-7. After they lost in Week 2, they crushed the Rams 37-7. After the bye, they beat down the Texans 29-14. When they really get motivated, and have extra time to prepare, this team is really good.
As we reach the midpoint of the regular season, I’d like to hear some of your Super Bowl picks, too. Here are my Week 8 picks with home teams in CAPS.
Colts (+9.5) over TITANS
The Colts are an interesting team in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes: when Peyton Manning comes back next year, he’ll be a better QB than Andrew Luck. But two years down the line? Who knows. A team like the Dolphins clearly needs Luck more, but Peyton won’t be good for much longer. In the mean time, I don’t think the Titans can put up more than twenty points, which is what they’d need to score to cover this game.
Saints (-10.5) over RAMS
With all due respect to A.J. Feeley, he’s no Chase Daniel. Gregg Williams will bring five, six, and seven men rushing every down to take Steven Jackson out of the game and force Feeley to make a mistake. If the Saints put up 62 against the Colts, how could this game possibly end with a difference of less than 2 scores? Easily the Lock o’ the Week, Lance.
GIANTS (-9.5) over Dolphins
I can’t trust Eli Manning, especially when he needs to win by ten, but Matt Moore is like watching M. Night Shyamalan’s Last Airbender. You go in knowing you just wasted $10 on a terrible movie. Then you watch the movie and realize it was much worse than you could have ever imagined.
PANTHERS (-3.5) over Vikings
Not only do I not think Christian Ponder should have been drafted 12th overall, I wouldn’t have taken him in the first three or four rounds. He’s just not good. But Cam Newton is. He’s very good.
RAVENS (-12.5) over Cardinals
The Ravens lost last week and will be even more jacked up. What do you think is going to happen?
TEXANS (-9.5) over Jaguars
I’m just going to throw last week’s Monday Night game out of the window. Why? Because I can. The Texans are a legitimately solid team, and the Jaguars are still legitimately terrible.
BILLS (-5.5) over Redskins
Boy, I spent a ton of time thinking about this game. I don’t think the Bills are a team worthy of a winning record, and I originally wanted to take the Redskins and the points. But then I remembered the ‘Skins are starting Ryan Torain, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong, and John Beck The Great. Those four key skill position players wouldn’t be active on at least sixty percent of teams.
Lions (-3.5) over BRONCOS
The Broncos have become so underrated, they’re overrated. What do I mean? People are over-valuing the Broncos because of all the hate directed at Tim Tebow. Don’t forget, Matthew Stafford is light years ahead of Tebow right now as a passer and facilitator.
SEAHAWKS (+2.5) over Bengals
Why would you ever take the Seahawks? Well, the Bengals are coming to Qwest–I mean CenturyLink Field. That, and Bernard Scott is starting alongside Andy Dalton. That combo is less likely to end in success than Shawn Kemp and birth control.
Browns (+9.5) over NINERS
Colt McCoy is just competent, and Alex Smith is more likely to make the big pass–but also more likely to make the big mistake. Ultimately, I do think the Niners will win, but they run the ball too much to really pull away, so I’ll take the points.
Patriots (-2.5) over STEELERS
Pittsburgh may be 5-2, but do you know who they beat? Seattle, Indy, Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Arizona. The Pats don’t lose after a bye, but when they do lose, it’s because of turnovers. And the Steelers are last in the league in that category with three turnovers.
EAGLES (-3.5) over Cowboys
The Cowboys have continually called out the Eagles, but this is not the offense to taunt. If the Eagles want to stake a claim for a good playoff seeding–if they can get a playoff spot at all–they need to beat quality teams. Watch out for Jeremy Maclin to have a field day against Mike Jenkins and a fairly porous secondary.
Chargers (-3.5) over CHIEFS
The Chiefs have no pass rush, and inconsistent run game, and Matt Cassel. So what exactly qualifies them to stay in the game with Phillip Rivers and the Chargers? The only thing that I can think of is that Arrowhead is going to be insanely loud on Monday Night. And we all know how excited Jackie Battle gets when the crowd is behind him.There’s probably no one I’d rather have than the great Jackie Battle.
Last Week: 8-5
Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 5-2