We’ve finally arrived at the first weekend of the playoffs (why they gave such a great thing in the NFL Playoffs such bad names like Wild Card Round and Division Round I’ll never know) and the NFL couldn’t have found a worse way to start it off. Three of the four games are rematches from last week. Roger Goodell should have just said there was a mistake with the seeding and the matchups will be switched. Anyways, here are my picks. Home teams in CAPS.
BENGALS (-2.5) over Jets
This matchup features two of the most two inconsistent teams in the NFL. After losing to the Falcons, Rex Ryan said his team had no shot at the playoffs, and a few weeks later with thanks to the Colts and Bengals laying down, look where he is. Now he says they should be the favorites to win the Super Bowl. That coming from a coach who’s team has Mark Sanchez as their quarterback. So maybe the Jets did beat the Bengals last week 37-0, but I’m fairly certain the Bengals didn’t bring their A, B, or C game. And I don’t think I’m taking a rookie quarterback on the road.
The Jets are still missing Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington, and if I may remind you again, have Mark Sanchez. The Sanchize is the second least competent quarterback in the league (better then JaMarcus Russell, but worse then Jake Delhomme) and the Jets are extremely lucky to even be in the playoffs, the Texans really deserved it more. The Bengals are getting no respect, and they will use that, like they have all year to motivate them to get the victory. One last note is that the Vegas sharks usually lean to the team the average fan is betting against, and the Jets are getting a lot of movement now.
Eagles (+3.5) over COWBOYS
I’ll give you another football cliche here, but it’s nearly impossible to beat a quality team three times in one year. It’s also nearly impossible for Donovan McNabb, who has been an absolutely clutch playoff quarterback up until the NFC Championship Game, to have another game as bad as he had last week when he had two fumbles and just wasn’t on target. It’s a shame that these two teams are playing now because they are my two favorite teams to go to the Super Bowl. The Vikings and Saints are down and no other team wants to be that team, so the NFC will be a crapshoot. The Eagles can guard the pass and have so many weapon to kill you with on offense.
As for the Cowboys, fans and the media kept saying that Dallas would fold again in December and the team is the same. Whatever it is, maybe Tony Romo growing up or Terrell Owens leaving, this team is different. They have three quality rushers and a ton of talent on defense. At the moment, all the sign are pointing to the Cowboys (especially with the game being in Jerry World), but I can’t pick the Cowboys to win three times this year versus the Eagles. Remember the 2007 Giants and Cowboys?
PATRIOTS (-3.5) over Ravens
Colts’ head coach Jim Caldwell was much maligned for benching Peyton Manning and his other starters early in Weeks 16 and 17, but his point may have been proven correct when Bill Belichick played his starters in a meaningless game and Wes Welker blew out his knee. But I can defend The Hoodie. At least he always goes for the kill. If you take you foot off the gas, you’ll slow down, and if you take your foot off their throat, they’ll get back up. Bill Belichick is the best coach in the playoffs and Tom Brady is the best playoff quarterback. The Patriots don’t lose at home, and Brady doesn’t lose in the first round.
As for the Ravens, they have the upside of a team who could go all the way. They have a ferocious, albeit aging defense and a fantastic running game with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. They have great leadership from Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, and Derrick Mason. Their only problem is that they are playing the Patriots in the first round. As for replacing Welker, the Pats will put Julian Edelman is the slot/security blanket role. He is bigger then Welker, and has filled in fantastic with 18 catches and 201 yards combined in his two starts filling in for Welker. I’m taking the Pats big here.
CARDINALS (+1) over Packers
Like the Bengals/Jets game, the Packers and Cardinals will rematch and the home team is coming off a huge loss to the team they just played. The Cardinals lost 33-7, and similar to Cincy, didn’t bring their bets game, at all. The Cardinals are also another one of those strange teams, similar to, again, the Bengals. They have a much higher upside, but a much lower down-side, too. Assuming the Cards will have Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Anquan Boldin, we should be in for a great game because we have no idea which Arizona team we will see.
Since their ten point loss to the Bucs, the Packers have been the second hottest team in the league, second to the Chargers. They have won seven of eight games and Aaron Rogers is becoming a top-tier NFL QB. They have been great on defense, but they are missing two key players: Aaron Kampman and Al Harris. They are tops in the league in pass defense, but much of that came with Harris in the lineup. I think both players will be sorely missed, especially with the Cardinals’ depth at receiver.
Super Bow Pick
I am going with the Chargers over the Eagles in the Super Bowl. The Chargers have been the best team in the league since Week 7 and there is no team ready to stop them. The Colts and Saints will regret stepping off the gas at the end of the season and the Vikings have to many problems between Favre and Childress and missing E.J. Henderson. The Cowboys are a dark horse in the playoffs, and they will be my new NFC favorite if they beat Philly.
Last Week: 9-7
Lock of the Week: 8-8