I usually get a steady stream of people on my site who are searching for information on “Frank the Tank.” This past week, however, the top search engine terms that sent visitors to Frank the Tank’s Slant were all variations of “Jake Plummer + beard + hair.” Best ones so far: “beard battle jake plummer vs ben roethlisberger,” “jake the snake plummer needs a haircut,” and “JAKE PLUMMER HAS A CAMARO” (it should be noted that the caps were not added by me for emphasis).
Clearly, America has found the real storyline to the conference championship weekend: the playoff beard showdown between Jake the Snake and Big Ben. On this front, I’ve got to give the edge to Plummer – as I said earlier this week, he looks like a cross between Jesus and the Unabomber. Roethlisberger has an impressive beard, but Jake the Snake takes the cake with his simultaneous disregard for the hair on his head, as well.
As for the games on the field, though, here are my picks against the spread and in no particular order (home team in CAPS):
1) AFC Championship: Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) over DENVER BRONCOS - The dominance of Jake Plummer’s beard won’t be enough to propel the Broncos to victory on Sunday. The two things I look at before analyzing a game are the defenses and the quarterbacks. If a team has both the edge on defense and at the quarterback position, I’d be hardpressed to pick against that team. In this case, the Steelers have a top tier defense that shut down one of the best offensive units in NFL history in the Colts last week and on the road, no less. The Broncos have a good defense, but they aren’t a shutdown-type of unit comparable to Pittsburgh.
At the same time, Big Ben Roethlisberger is the more accurate and efficient passer of the two quarterbacks. I still don’t believe that Jake Plummer has all of the sudden turned into a steady championship-caliber QB after being one of the most inconsistent passers in the NFL of the past decade. If Peyton Manning was rattled by the Steelers, Jake the Snake is way overdue for a meltdown. Since both teams employ similar running philosophies (run-first offenses using multiple running backs), I foresee this game coming down to a mistake by one of the QBs. My bet’s on Plummer making the mistake rather than Big Ben. Of course, I said this last week when comparing Tom Brady and Plummer and look what happened. Still…
Prediction: Steelers 24, Broncos 20
2) NFC Championship: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-3 1/2) over Carolina Panthers – This game is all about health. Carolina running back DeShaun Foster being out with a broken leg is a big deal since it will allow Seattle to put multiple defenders on Steve Smith (which is what the Bears should have done last week) without worrying as much about being burned by the Panthers running game. At the same time, Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers will be hampered with a shoulder injury.
Matt Hasselback was able to take apart a solid Redskins defense last week after his NFL MVP running back Shaun Alexander got knocked out with a concussion. Now, Alexander will be back and going up against a Panther defense unit whose best player, Peppers, is wobbly. Also, remember that the Panthers gave up 21 points to the inept Bears offense before Peppers got injured, which isn’t a good sign.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Panthers 21
Enjoy the football games and what will be an Illini romp over Northwestern. Have a great weekend!