NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview and Free Picks ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
An interesting note about the playoff schedule before we get to picks. The two teams that played last Saturday (Jets and Cowboys) will actually have an extra day to prepare, since they will play this coming Sunday, while the two teams that played last Sunday (Cardinals and Ravens) actually have a short week, with their Divisional Round games to be played this coming Saturday. Fair? Probably not, but such is life in the “TV-dictates-all” world of the NFL. And now, onto the picks.
Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints
On the flip side, not since Phil Simms in the first Giants’ Super Bowl win has a quarterback played such an impressive playoff game. Warner had more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (4) en route to spearheading an offense that put up 45 points in regulation. They capitalized on every opportunity Green Bay handed them in the opening quarter, and should have been able to lay claim to leading a game-winning field goal drive if not for Neil Rackers doing his best Scott Norwood impression. The end result of this game might be “first team to punt loses,” and if that’s the case, as good as Arizona’s offense is, I’ll take the Superdome and the Saints.
Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts
Meanwhile Peyton Manning will take his first meaningful snap since the third quarter of the Jets game in Week 16. In a move that would be fitting only of the football gods, I could definitely see the Colts and Jets meeting in the AFC Championship Game next weekend and Manning and Co. watching as New York wins the game and earns a trip to the Super Bowl on their home turf, handing Jim Caldwell the world’s greatest dose of karma. After all, it’s never wise in professional sports to give a team life when they should instead be getting buried. The Colts let the Jets off the mat, and if both teams win this weekend, they could be in line for the ultimate payback. That said, the Colts have to beat a playoff-tested Ravens team first, and while the defense and running game are dangerous for Baltimore, there’s no excuse for Indianapolis to lose this game.
Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings
Sure, Dallas looked good in dismantling the Eagles in back-to-back weeks, but like I said in last week’s column, that was all about matchups. Now they face a Vikings team that can actually run the ball, and those are the teams against whom Dallas has struggled. If the Cowboys can make Brad Childress and the Vikings put the game on Brett Favre’s right arm, then there’s a good chance for a Cowboys victory, especially if the game goes to overtime (see: Packers-Eagles, 2004 NFC Divisional and Packers-Giants, 2008 NFC Champ). Adrian Peterson is the key to the entire game. Dallas will get their points, so the question becomes if Minnesota can match them in that department. For my money, I’m not buying into Tony Romo on the road in the playoffs until it happens.
New York Jets @ San Diego Chargers
That said, Rivers CAN throw the ball, and throw it well. Add to that the combo of LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles in the backfield, and this is a potent offensive club. If the Chargers can get a lead and force Mark Sanchez to make plays to win the game, then San Diego is in good shape. If the game stays tight and the Jets can continue to pound the football, look for a repeat of the 2005 playoffs when the Jets went into SD on Wild Card weekend and knocked off the Chargers in overtime. Just don’t get me started on Doug Brien the next weekend in Pittsburgh….
Last Week: 3-1 (I should have picked NFL games instead of NCAA games all year)
Super Bowl XLIV