Saturday, January 13, 2007

NFL Playoffs... Divisional Matchups

As much fun as Wild Card Weekend can be in the NFL Playoffs, it's usually a bit of a dud. LAst week, for instance, the home teams won all their games with the wild card teams biting the dust, sometimes in spectacular fashion. I didn't see the Colts/Chiefs game, but from all accounts I didn't miss anything. Then again, what do you expect when Herm Edwards is on the sidelines?

This weekend has the potential to go down as a great one in NFL playoff lore. You have great storylines for ever game including: a great offense facing off against a great defense; the hottest team in the playoffs versus the best story in the league this season; a potential team of destiny against the shakiest #1 seed in recent memory (with the possibility of crappy weather looming); and, the three time champs going against the upstarts from out west.

First up we have the Ravens/Colts game, which here has become the Battle for Baltimore. Could be Ravens by 10 or more, though I think they'l use a steady diet of Lewis and Anderson to pound the ball up the middle and keep Manning on the bench. I predict at least one defensive TD for the Ravens. Ravens win and cover.

Any Eagles win from here on out is gravy for me. They won the division against all odds and got further in the playoffs than Dallas and NY. The loss of Shepard is going to hurt and the Saints have a ton of weapons. If Garcia bounces back from last week's so-so performance and has another 300+ yard, mistake free game they can get the win. Remember, they went in there earlier this year and lost on a last second field goal when the defense allowed an 8:00 drive at the end of the game. The play of the defense is what has really fueled this turnaround but my head still tells me the Saints have too many weapons and win this one. Saints win and cover.

The Bears are notorious playoff chokers and play in one of the worst divisions in a crappy conference. Since their hot start the defense hasn't been all that impressive and if the weather is as bad as they say I see a lot of frayed nerves in Chicago... a low scoring game lets the Seahawks stay in this one. I think the Bears win (but fail to cover) this week but will lose to the winner of the Saints/Birds game in the NFC Championship, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

On paper the Chargers should win handily. But they don't play the game on paper. Only two of San Diego's eight home wins came against teams with winning records. Rivers has never played in a playoff game. Schottenheimer has a horrible postseason record (5-12 I believe) and has a penchant for blowing it with poor play calling and clock management despite having superior talent.

My guess is that Belichick will focus on bottling up Tomlinson and put the game in Rivers' hands. Since losing in Miami in week 14 the Pats have put up more than 35 points per game and their defense was second only to the Ravens (one of two teams to beat the Chargers), giving up less than 17 points the last four games. With The Football Jesus (10-1 postseason, 3 rings) taking the snaps on the other side, I'll take the proven winners any day given that San Diego isn't much of a home field advantage (nice field, great weather).

So my picks are:
STRAIGHT UP: Ravens, Saints, Bears, Pats
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Ravens, Saints, Seahawks, Pats

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