Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
Since Christmas is just around the corner I thought it completely appropriate to ask Santa what team I want the Saints to play in the playoffs.
I want Tim Tebow to have to come to the craziest city on earth and try his magic in the Superdome. You say the Broncos are in the AFC and it's not possible for them to face the Saints in a playoff game on Poydras St. The way Denver is winning games I believe Tebow could ride rainbows and unicorns so switching conferences in December wouldn't be impossible.
Fine. I'll deal in your reality based NFL. There are three weeks of football left and the playoffs are coming into focus so I'll take a guess on how things will shake out in the NFC and AFC.
#6 New York Jets: The Jets safeties are terrible and that was before Jim Leonhard was lost for the year. The Jets have one win over a team with a winning record (Opening week miracle win over Dallas). Tom Brady is the only elite quarterback they have faced and he lit them up. I wanted to pick the Bengals or Titans instead but if they beat the Eagles Sunday it would take total collapse for Jets to not make the playoffs. They'll be the trendy upset pick in the playoffs and get crushed.
#5 Baltimore Ravens: Every year I think age will catch up with their defense and they just roll right along. They have a bad habit of playing down to the level of their competition and I think they'll slip up once the last three weeks costing them the division title. John Harbaugh looks like that weird cousin we all have who is always trying to get us to join his great network marketing opportunity/cult/pyramid scheme.
'If you just invest 1000 dollars you can RETIRE BY MARCH. My method is full proof.'
'Then why do you live in a van?'
'So I can FOCUS ON THE METHOD. That's why.'
Just like the pyramid scheme I'll take a pass on Joe Flacco going deep in the playoffs.
#4 Denver Broncos: It's ok to admit you love watching Tim Tebow? He's like a puppy with short legs trying to climb stairs. He's trying so hard and it might seem like he's not going anywhere and then.... He's at the top of the staircase. What just happened? Tebow time just happened. To all the NFL analysts screaming about how Tim Tebow and the Broncos winning is a fluke, luck, and can't last. So what? If I were a Bronco fan I wouldn't care. Nothing in the NFL is guaranteed to go on long-term. Just ask Chief fans so enjoy it while it lasts. During the mid 1990's Saints disasters I'd have given a kidney to be able to have as much fun as those Denver fans had Sunday against the Bears.
Denver hasn't been this nationally relevant since John Elway was under center. After every crazy Bronco win Elway looks like a guy who just moved closer to marrying a girl he wanted to break up with two weeks ago. Here is a scenario that I think would have ended the world as we know it; Tim Tebow quarterbacking the Saints when Mike Ditka was the coach and going on this magical run. Instead of John Elway and John Fox not committing to Tim Tebow, Mike Ditka would be ALL IN with Tebow and deep in your soul you would love it. Can you imagine Ditka in post game following another Tebow miracle? 'I love Tim. He IS A WINNER. You are #@%^^ right we RUN THE WISHBONE! So what? I never liked passing anyway. I love the kid and Merril Hoge and Mel Kiper have never WON ANYTHING.'
If you think Tebow coverage is insane now just think how over the top media coverage would be if Ditka were his coach. Fox and CBS might interrupt games to cover the post game press conference. ESPN would do a 30 for 30 movie on Tebow living in New Orleans. In some parallel universe Tim Tebow is going 5-20 and leading the Saints to a 6-3 win over Atlanta while Ditka is on the sideline endorsing Coors Light. In both my made up universe and real life Tebow gets destroyed in a playoff game.
#3 Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers don't run the ball very well and I feel like a good defense can stop their offense. No coach looks as awesome on the sideline as Mike Tomlin in his Steelers winter gear. If looking cool won Super Bowls he'd have more then one.
#2 Houston Texans: When you wake up on the last Sunday in January and think, 'Are the Texans really about to go to a Super bowl with TJ Yates at quarterback?' it will seem crazy. In three years when he's still their quarterback it won't.
#1 New England Patriots: The only reason their defense is ranked 32 in yards is because the NFL only has 32 teams. Did you know the Patriots have cut 10 defensive players since the season started? If you combined the Patriots defense with the Saints defense they would still stink.
#6: Detroit Lions: Their closing schedule is brutal (Raiders, Chargers, Packers). They probably only need to win one game to get in and they scare me the most of any possible Saints playoff opponents on wildcard weekend. They shot themselves in the foot against the Saints on Sunday night and Megatron gives me nightmares.
#5: Atlanta Falcons: They don't have any real impressive wins but they also don't have any horrible loses. I don't count their Tampa loss because just like the Saints they lost to Tampa before the Bucs pushed the self-destruct button. I hate to say it but eventually Mike Smith/Matt Ryan will win a playoff game and it better not be against the Saints.
#4: Dallas Cowboys: Even though they lost to the Giants I still like them to win the NFC East. Can you imagine the horrible coaching decisions we will get to witness if Mike Smith and Jason Garrett face off? Going for it on fourth down at your own 20? Using all your time outs to ice the punter? Everything is on the table.
#3 San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith won't be their downfall; it will be the offensive line. Since they are the team I most want the Saints to play it probably means they are a lock to go deep into the playoffs.
#2: New Orleans Saints: The Packers, Saints, and Patriots all have awful defenses so if you think one of them will win the Super Bowl then you believe a historically bad defense will hoist the Lombardi. I believe they all can but I also believe all three teams could get bounced early. Even Green Bay.
#1 Green Bay Packers: They are going 16-0 but I still think if the Saints played their best game they can win in Lambeau.
Last Week: 1-4
New Orleans (-7) at Minnesota: I'm not really in the mood to get into Jared Allen's comments about New Orleans because I've heard nastier jokes about the city from any two-bit hack comedian. Jared, always remember what Boon said in Animal House, 'He can't do that to our pledges! Only WE CAN do that to our pledges.' Same rules apply for questionable jokes about New Orleans.
The Saints are due to administer a road beat down. The Vikings secondary is so bad they made Tim Tebow look like Tom Brady for the ENTIRE GAME. The Saints were primed to deliver a good solid beating to the Titans and then penalty flags got in the way. While I fully expect the Vikings to move the ball on the Saints with whoever they have at quarterback, I also think the Saints will do pretty much whatever they want throwing the ball.
Since Sean Payton has been coach the Saints are 1-4 in Week 15 games so you'll probably hear 'trap game' 19568 times on the Sunday pregame shows. Don't buy it. The Saints can smell that #2 seed in the NFC and I don't see a let up. Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin build on their shutdown of Chris Johnson with a shutdown of Adrian Peterson. Vikings hang for a while then turnovers bite them.
Atlanta (-11) vs. Jacksonville: Carolina had the Falcons dead and buried and then remembered they can't play defense. Atlanta might end up being the most boring 10-6 team I've ever seen. What exactly makes them fun to watch?
New England (-6) at Denver: Everyone keeps saying how Denver will be able to move the ball on New England because their defense is so bad. Detroit has a bad defense too and they went to Denver and blasted the Broncos. Besides I don't think the Internet is capable of surviving if Tim Tebow beats Tom Brady.
San Francisco (-3) vs. Pittsburgh: I think Big Ben plays and the Steelers defense may overwhelm a shaky 49ers offensive line but the 49ers and their crowd will be pumped to show America on Monday night they are legit. Or maybe since I've been horrible picking games lately this is my attempt to put the reverse jinx on Jim Harbaugh and the Niners?
Washington (+7) at New York Giants: New York had a great win in Dallas but their defense is awful and yes I'm expecting Rex Grossman to lead the Redskins to the upset. I can hear you laughing through your computer! You won't be laughing when the 1st quarter score pops up Sunday showing 10-0 Redskins.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.