Before I get to the NFL Playoff quick picks for this weekend, I have to admit that it still makes me ill to even think about the NFL after what took place last weekend. It's gotten to the point where every time I turn on the tv, I'm half-expecting breaking news that Carson Palmer's leg has actually fallen off.
First, the injury. Was it a dirty hit? Probably not. Could it have been avoided? Oh, you bet. Pretty sure the NFL warns every defensive player in the league to never hit a quarterback below the waist. Well, not only did Kimo drive his shoulder pads into Palmer's leg, he even wrapped his arm around the leg. Watch the replay. It happened. I have no doubt that Kimo was aiming at the lower half of Palmer's body. I don't think he meant to hurt the guy, but I thought it was a cheap shot that certainly heightened the risk of injury.
Second, the reports. When the injury first happened, I kind of just assumed it was a sprain and that Palmer would be fine. Then the reports started trickling in from the locker room. Possible ACL tear. Possible MCL tear. Uh oh. Panic ensues. Phone calls, checking the internet, Bengals.com. Just looking for any kind of update. At this point, the game became secondary. You knew it was only a matter of time before the Steelers took control of this game. I just wanted to check on #9 and find out the extent of that injury.
Third, the aftermath. ACL tear. MCL tear. Palmer comes out the next day, and announces that he'll be back by training camp. Bengal Nation breathes a sigh of relief. Then, rumors start swirling later in the week that the injury was more serious than Palmer or the Bengals were letting on. ACL was shredded. Dislocated knee cap. The word "career-threatening" started getting tossed around. It got to the point where the surgeon held a press conference to discuss the injury, and then held another one to clarify what had been reported. No one really knew what to believe. Where does Palmer stand now? I'm hopeful that the rehabilitation goes well, but I think it's safe to say that Palmer's future is a huge question mark at this point.
Needless to say, the city of Cincinnati has been in a state of panic all week. I just got into town last night for tonight's UC-Syracuse game (big game by the way), but you get the feeling that this town has been like a morgue since Sunday. Everyone seems to have that "I can't wait for next year, but what if......." attitude right now about the Bengals. You almost get the impression that the Palmer injury has the potential to strike a final death blow to Bengal fans if Palmer never comes back to be the same player he was before the hit. Now that we've tasted success, I'm not sure if I could get off the mat yet again if this franchise goes back into the tank.
So where do we go from here? Well, for starters, the defense needs to continue to add playmakers, especially at DT and Safety. The offense should be explosive again if Palmer and Henry come back, but we really won't know until next year. With a brutal schedule ahead next year, it's hard not to think the Bengals will take a step back.
One other thing-Chad Johnson--Time to grow up, and start playing like a champion.
On to the NFL picks:
WASHINGTON at SEATTLE (Line: Seattle -9.5)
Pick: SEATTLE -9.5
Ugh. I hate that pick, but I have to say that I was not impressed with Washington at all last week. They weren't even trying to move the ball on offense, and probably would have eventually lost that game to Tampa Bay if that Tampa receiver had caught that ball in the end zone to tie it up. Washington has a solid D, but I think they'll need to score to stick around in this game.
I am not all that sold on Seattle either, but they're rested, playing at home, and should be able to score enough points to win this game comfortably.
As for Shaun Alexander, he's not the MVP of this league. Period. Has anyone seen the holes this guy runs through? Alexander doesn't even get touched until he's four yards down the field. I think he's a nice back, but I'm not buying this MVP talk.
There isn't any doubt in my mind who the MVP of the league is this year. I don't even need to say his name, but you know who I'm talking about:
Cut that Meat! Cut that Meat!
SEATTLE 31 WASHINGTON 13
NEW ENGLAND at DENVER (Line: Denver -3)
Pick: New England +3
Seems like one of those games where you talk yourself into liking Denver, but can't do it. New England will find a way to neutralize Denver's running game, and put the game in Jake Plummer's hand. In the end, Jake Plummer is Jake Plummer. Put Plummer in a pressure situation against an opportunistic defense like New England, and he's a ticking time bomb.
As for Tom Brady, what else can I say? The guy NEVER throws a pick in a bad situation. He can make every throw on the field, and always seems to find an open man. Brady is as clutch as it gets in sports. I have no doubt that he'll play well tonight.
One other interesting note about Corey Dillon. I read Bill Simmons' new column from Friday, and couldn't help but laugh about this line:
"They struggled running the ball all season, capped off by a discouraging effort against the Jags in which Corey Dillon was moving with the zip of a woman trying to walk on ice in high heels."
Welcome back Corey Dillon. The most overrated running back in the league has shown his true colors again. It was only a matter of time. Whenever the Bengals needed a big 3rd and 1 conversion, you could count on Dillon tiptoeing up to the line and getting stuffed.
New England 27 Denver 21
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis (Line: Indy -9.5)
Pick: Indy -9.5
You didn't think I would pick Pittsbugh after what happened last week, did you? The Colts could put 50 up tomorrow, and that won't be enough for me.
Bengal Nation will be foaming at the mouth when the Steelers come to Cincy next year. I highly recommend that Kimo Von Oelhoffen come up with a fake injury and not make the trip.
Indianapolis 35 Pittsburgh 17
Carolina at Chicago (Line: Chicago -3)
Pick: Carolina +3
Why is everyone so high on the Bears? Am I missing something? Every time I think of Chicago, I am reminded of the Bengals walking into Soldier Field and completely drilling the Bears. The Bears went to Pittsburgh toward the end of the season and got rolled. Don't believe the hype. The Bears are not that good.
On the other hand, I was impressed with Carolina last week. They run the ball well, and Delhomme is an underrated QB. I feel pretty confident in saying that Carolina will shut down the Bears offense.
Carolina 21 Chicago 17