Crystal Ball

CHAMPIONSHIP CRYSTAL BALL: GURU Discusses Brady and Defends a Coach as Title Games Loom

My friends, THE GURU is excited about this week’s NFC and AFC Championship games with two interesting matchups on tap. But, first, let’s get to the Bottom Line on Tom Brady’s injury and the Pittsburgh coaching situation.

The big news this week is the injury to Brady’s right throwing hand. Some folks think he is faking it, messing with the press, while others believe he may play left-handed. If the latter were the case, it’d be a great game for Fox as Mr. Joe Buck could compare lefty Brady to fellow southpaw Clayton Kershaw.

But let’s get serious. First, there is not a chance that Belichick would allow his QB to miss practice reps, even to mess with the press. Second, Brady’s teammates say he was slinging the ball all over the yard at practice on Friday. That means he’s good to go and will be ready to roll at 3:05 pm today.

Bottom line: Brady may have a few stitches, but it’s largely a non-story.

Moving right along, let’s talk about a truly silly topic.

in 11 years leading the Steelers, Mike Tomlin has won a Super Bowl, gone to the playoffs eight times and never had a losing season. He has a regular-season winning percentage of .659 that is better than either of his ballyhooed predecessors, Chuck Noll (.566) and Bill Cowher (.623). And his team is consistently in the hunt as he is, by all accounts, an upstanding citizen and a great coach for whom to play.

Yet, there were reports this week that some of the Steelers minority owners are clamoring for Tomlin to be fired. Seriously? Sure, he might’ve erred a time or two in last week’s upset loss to the Jags but c’mon, the guy is a tremendous leader and a winner.

Bottom line: Pittsburgh would rue the day if they canned him in the wake of the tough loss to Jacksonville.

After a 3-1 week, the season mark is 156-86 (.645). On to the big games…



3:05 PM, CBS

Jacksonville (12-6) at New England (14-3). For a good chunk of this week, I envisioned a Jacksonville victory with the athletic and aggressive Jaguars defense harassing Brady from start to finish. In this vein, it struck me that Jacksonville is the probably the defense that Messrs. Belichick and Brady least want to see, largely because of elite team speed that is comparable to the 2000 Ravens.

But, while the Jags’ defense may compare in some ways to great defenses of the past, it doesn’t truly stack up in that regard. Yes, Jacksonville had 55 regular-season sacks this season – second in the NFL – but 27 of those QB takedowns (49%) were in the four games against the porous offensive lines of the Colts and Texans. Not to impugn the hard-working big fellas from Indy and Houston but I could put together a d-line including THE TRE MAN and a full-on incontinent version of THE CHIEF and we’d be able to apply some heat.

And it doesn’t end there. The Jags allowed 42 points to Pittsburgh last week, gave up 44 to the Niners in Week Sixteen and, hold on to your respective hats, surrendered 27 to Blaine Williamson Gabbert – yes, that Blaine Williamson Gabbert – in a Nov. 26 loss in Arizona.

Do I expect the Jags to make this a game? Sure, I do, at least for a quarter or two, but in the end, I expect Brady to slice and dice that defense, feeding Gronkowski as Jacksonville learns it has no way to match up against the superstar tight end. The Jags are a year or two away. PATS, 33-25.

6:30 PM, FOX

Minnesota (13-4) at Philadelphia (14-3). I LOVE the Eagles in this game. Love. Them. Deep down I don’t want them to win, mind you, but I think that guys like TOMMY BIRD and my father-in-law, SLICK WILLIE, will be very happy when their heads hit the pillow tonight.

Philly’s defense and its offensive line are playing at a high level, Nick Foles is in a bit of a comfort zone and the Birds are at home – a distinct advantage. Sure, I’m impressed by the Vikings – that defense, Case Keenum, etc. – but they are running into a buzz saw in Philly. And it’s dripping with Cheez Whiz. EAGLES, 19-16.

That’s it for this week, folks. Enjoy the Championships and God bless!

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