Monday, January 19, 2009

NFL Conference Championships Recap

Yet another fabulous weekend of playoff football for the men chasing the pigskin ball all around the field in helmets and pads.

The first game was my Eagles playing at the Cardinals in the battle of seemingly cursed franchises. The Eagles were making their 5th appearance in the NFC Championship game in the past 8 years, while the Cardinals were playing in their franchise's first-ever conference championship behind the capable arm of Kurt Warner. Despite the Eagles' significant edge in experience, the Cardinals did not surprise me in the least by showing up to play some ball. Before the Eagles could really even blink, the Cards' Larry Fitzgerald had scored three touchdowns en route to an 18-point halftime lead for the Cardinals who absolutely destroyed the Eagles in the first half on both sides of the ball. Fitz is awesome of course, but the real blow of the half was a 70-something-yard touchdown catch by Fitz where Kurt Warner just lofted a ball up well short of the receiver, and Fitz readjusted a la Randy Moss while the Eagles' defender slipped and fell flat on his ass. Otherwise, the Eagles couldn't do shit in the first 30 minutes of play, while Warner moved the ball at will as the Eagles' overmatched defense finally came back down to earth against the best passing offense in the NFL this year.

The second half was a different story as the Eagles finally started getting to Warner with the blitz, after a first half that saw Warner completely crush the Eagles every time they ran extra players at him on the line. After 17 straight points shocked the world by giving the Eagles a one-point lead with just under 10 minutes to play in the game, that seemed to jolt the Cardinals back to reality as Warner promptly led his team down the field for the crucial go-ahead touchdown drive and the Eagles were once again unable to stop the Cardinals' offensive machine. With three minutes to drive for the game-tying touchdown, the refs declined to call the worst pass interference call in the history of the game as the Cardinals' defender held Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson before, during and after Donovan McNabb's 4th-and-10 throw, and the game was over with the Cardinals advancing 32-25.

In all, it was a good game thanks to a strong second-half comeback, but Eagles fans will recognize this as a continuation of the Donovan McNabb - Andy Reid regime that has seen this time perform well enough to make some big games but then consistently get utterly outcoached and outplayed in nearly every big game in the two men's careers. It is unfortunate for Eagles fans that this surprising late-season run will likely keep the quarterback and the head coach around for yet another year of winning nothing, but such is the way things go with the fickle fans and owernship in Philadelphia. Most interesting to me about this game was the way that the public allowed themselves to be so readily fooled by the Eagles. This was a mediocre team all throughout the regular season, a team that couldn't beat the shitkicking Bengals in a game that at the time was considered a crucial game for Philly's playoff chances, and one that also failed to score even a touchdown against the Redskins in a must-win Week 16 loss to a team that most believed had thrown in the towel for the year. This was a team that literally needed the Bucaneers to somehow lose at home to the Raiders in Week 17 and the Bears to lose at the Texans, and to beat the Cowboys on Sunday night just to back into the playoffs as it was. The Eagles went on a roll for all of three games starting with that Cowboys win on the last night of the season, and the public jumped on the bandwagon as if the Eagles' performance over these three games was how they would play against every team the rest of the way through the season. I wrote about this last week in advance of this game already -- the Cardinals were the better team all through the regular season this year, they won their division, they have a proven winner at quarterback, and they were at home against the Eagles. And they were getting 4.5 points. Easy money, and gg to the Eagles. Decent season for my boys in green, but in the end as I mentioned it's kind of a downer for the real Philly fans because the few true lovers of the team out there have known for certain for a few years now how the tandem of McNabb and Reid are the ultimate step-down guys in the big games, and now we'll surely be stuck with these two losers for yet another year of guaranteed mediocrity.

In the other game, the Ravens traveled to the Steelers in a battle between the two best defenses in the NFL in 2008. This one was all set to be a serious defensive battle, and it definitely delivered on those expectations. In the end this game too went pretty much according to plan, as the Steelers' #1 defense, led by best player on the field Troy Polamalu, outplayed their #2 defense counterparts on the Ravens, including a huge pick-6 interception by Polamalu late in the game to seal the deal for the Steelers. And as I discussed last week, the Steelers' offense far outpaced Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense, helping the Steelers to a 23-14 victory and their second superbowl appearance in the past few years. Ben Roethlisberger did what he does best, leading his team on several scoring drives with his excellent ability to throw on the run and to improvise along with all of the best quarterbacks in the game today. The Ravens' rookie quarterback simply could not keep up against an even better defense for the Steelers, ending eventually in the interception by Polamalu that sealed the deal and ended the Ravens' season.

Despite my team losing in the conference championships for the fourth time in five tries this decade, on the good side I am winning a ton of money on the NFL playoffs this year. I am now 8 for 10 against the spread in the playoffs, and for the first time in many years, I have bet on every single game along the way and it's actually paid off. I have basically tripled my roll on Bodog without even having to load up that so-called poker client onto my pc, and for whatever reason I have just been really tuned in to the teams in the playoffs this year, moreso than in past years. I've been betting around $75 a game, and the only two double-bets I made in this entire run were (1) the Panthers to beat the Cardinals a week ago by more than 10 points, which crashed and burned, and (2) the Cardinals +4 over the Eagles this past weekend, where I won back the double-bet I lost on the Cardinals last week. This all has helped to offset what has been a poor beginning to 2009 on the mtt front, where I have suffered every kind of suckout imaginable on all poker sites, from the standard dominating loss on the river to the more exotic losing in the final 70 or so players in a big-field mtt allin preflop with my AKs to their AKo.

Looking forward to the superbowl, I will take some time to ponder the right spread on the game, although I note that it has opened at 6.5 or 7 points in favor of the Steelers. As wrong as Vegas was about the Cardinals-Eagles game from the moment the spread was initially set at Eagles by 4, this time I think they've done a very good job at least of picking the winner who I feel strongly will be the Steelers by the time the smoke has cleared. I will check out all the superbowl prop bets that are available over the next couple of weeks and will post everything I end up betting on as I try to close out a very successful NFL playoffs season with a big bang.

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Blogger Chad C said...

I still cannot get over McNabb's box score stats! For once PHI fans will have to find something else to blame.....

Plus could you have imagined an all Penn Super Bowl? That would of been an obese bullets festival man! Wives would of been getating beat by hairy dudes in sleeve-less shirts all over Tampa Bay! Well at least three years worth of cops episodes could of been filmed in one weekend.......

11:22 PM  
Blogger Chad C said...

mullet festival obv

11:23 PM  
Blogger Bayne_S said...

Where was referee love over the personal foul 15 yard roughing the kicker penalty from Baltimore PittsburHGH game?

It's one thing to give the incidental 5 yards on an untouched kicker but 15???

11:57 PM  
Blogger Gmello said...

I had the moneyline +175 on the Cards and really enjoyed watching their passing game shoot the Eagles out of the air. The conditions were perfect for their strong passing game offense, and Tampa Bay's dry, mild winter weather should help the Cards passing game again in the super bowl. So I'm taking the +7 points, and will probably parlay it with the Cards scoring the first touchdown and maybe the under (47). The Steelers defense will be strong but they win so many games by only a few points, a field goal or two, so the +7 points seems a good bet to me esp in light of the consistently underrated Cinderella Cards, who will have all of their great wide receivers healthy for the big game.

7:13 AM  

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