As we enter
into the home stretch of the NFL playoffs, let's take a look at what
the remaining teams have to offer and how they will fare in the
upcoming ball games. With the elimination of the pre-playoff
favorite Indianapolis Colts and reigning champion New England Patriots,
the playoff race would appear to be wide open for the taking. The
teams that are still standing are: Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos,
Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Last week’s performance vs. the Colts was truly
phenomenal. They not only ran the ball with success, but they
came out throwing the football. Rothlesberger completed 7-8
passes including a touchdown pass to Antwan Randal El on their opening
drive which really set the tone for the game. As impressive as
the Steelers were on offense, it was their defense that won the ball
game. The play of safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker Joey Porter
was just amazing. Peyton Manning was left scrambling with nobody
to throw the football to all game long.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos have been a solid team ever since
their week one loss to the Miami Dolphins. Quarterback Jake
Plummer is a bit more mobile than Manning, and has the offensive line
and running game to slow the Steelers down. Offensively the
Broncos have not been overly impressive. Pro Bowl receiver Rod
Smith has had an awesome year, but he is their only offensive
standout. Denver’s defense has been the reason for their success
this season. Linebacker Al Wilson, safety John Lynch, and corner
Champ Bailey are among the best in the league at their respective
Seattle Seahawks: Matt Hassleback was the NFC’s leading rated
passer, and will start in the 2006 pro bowl. Shawn Alexander
broke the NFL’s single season touchdown record with 37 and wide
receiver Darrell Jackson put up career numbers at wide out.
Seattle has proven they can score many different ways with many
different players, as they proved Saturday when Alexander left in the
first quarter with a concussion. Rookie linebacker Lofa Tatupu
leads a young and energetic Seahawk defense.
Carolina Panthers: The season-ending injury to Stephen Davis and then
last week’s injury to DeShaun Foster may slow the running game, but the
one constant has been wide receiver Steve Smith. Last week’s 15
catches for 218 yards against the Bears was probably the most
impressive performance by a receiver all year. The Panther
defense was one of the top five in the league all year long. The
great play of corners Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas has allowed the
Panthers to blitz at any time and take chances other teams don’t have
the luxury to take.
I am picking Pittsburgh on the road against Denver by 6 and Carolina on
the road vs. the Seahawks by 3. This weekend should be a great
one for football, let’s see how each of these teams will perform under
the pressure of a conference championship game.