Life in the NFL
Ravens and Chargers were surprising losers; Colts and Bears to move on
As predicted, the divisional round of the playoffs featured the most exciting football we have seen all year. Unfortunately, I was only 50-50 on my game predictions, as both the Ravens and the Chargers fell this past Sunday. But that is why the NFL is the greatest game in sports, because you never know what is going to happen.
In the two losses -- Patriots over the Chargers and Colts over the Ravens -- I felt that the better teams lost. But regardless of who we all think the better team is going into the game, the team that plays best on Sunday is always going to walk away with the win, especially in the playoffs.
Personally, the Ravens' loss was the biggest upset. With the Ravens defense ranking first in the NFL in total yards allowed per game (264.1), second in rushing yards allowed per game (75.9), sixth in passing yards allowed per game, and first in points allowed per game (12.6) and Peyton Manning not playing his best, I thought that Baltimore was a lock to win.
But that is why they play the game. While the Ravens defense was still exceptional, it was once again the play of the Colts defense that propelled them to victory.
The Colts' young secondary of Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea, Marlin Jackson and Nick Harper was outstanding all game long and kept Baltimore contained, while Manning and the offense struggled for the second consecutive week.
My other upset of the day was the Chargers' loss to the Patriots. As much as I had wanted to see Steve McNair back in the Super Bowl, I really wanted the Chargers to be playing in Miami for the championship.
I felt that the Chargers were the best team in the NFL all season long. They have the best player in the NFL in LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Chargers defense is one of the most exciting defenses to watch, especially since they pressure the quarterback better than any team in the NFL. But it wasn't the Chargers' day, as the Patriots' playoff experience showed true as they upset the Chargers.
I have to send a shoutout to my boy, Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips, who injured his groin during the game.
Shaun had a Pro Bowl-caliber season and had an exceptional game against the Patriots until his injury. I wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to another big year from him next season.
In the NFC is where I had the most success in picking games. Nevertheless, the Bears-Seahawks game was a lot closer than I thought it would be.
Rex Grossman and the Chicago offense seemed to find a groove early. Grossman has been criticized all season for erratic play, but had a phenomenal game on Sunday. His two main targets were former WAC standouts Bernard Berrian and Rashied Davis, who scorched a banged-up Seahawks secondary, combining for 189 yards and a touchdown.
Finally, the Saints are on their way to the conference championship game after beating the Eagles in a game that wasn't as close as the 27-24 score may make it seem.
This was a hard-hitting game that was incredibly fun to watch.
While the Saints' big three (quarterback Drew Brees, running back Reggie Bush and receiver Marques Colston) all had solid games, it was the play of running back Deuce McCallister and the New Orleans defense that led the Saints to victory.
The best thing about the Saints' win is how uplifting it was for the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. It is amazing how far they have come following a catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina and how positively they have impacted the region with their play.
In the AFC championship game, I have a tough time picking a winner. I want both the Patriots and the Colts to lose, especially since the Patriots knocked us out of the playoffs and the Colts are our arch rivals.
But if I have to pick one team to represent the AFC in the playoffs, I have to pick the Colts to win. I have a lot of respect for Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney, and it would be good to see someone other than the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Plus, if the Colts win, we can say we beat the Super Bowl champs.
The NFC championship game is just as hard to pick. This will be the most interesting game to watch.
The Saints have the challenge of traveling to Chicago and playing in one of the NFL's most hostile environments. It's hard for a team that plays indoors, under controlled climates, to have to play outside in freezing temperatures. For that reason, I am going to pick the Bears to win.
The Saints are the sentimental favorites, but the Bears have a considerable home-field advantage, an incredible defense and an offense that is playing very well of late.
So I am predicting a Colts-Bears Super Bowl. But like I always say, anything can happen.
More information on my first annual Island Weekend is coming. We have moved the date up a week and now will be out there from June 7 through 10. I will be posting it on my new revamped Web site soon, but as always, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or if anyone is interested in participating.
This is going to be an awesome event and I am excited to have you all join me in June.
Former UH lineman Travis LaBoy is chronicling his season with the Tennessee Titans for the Star-Bulletin