NFL Divisional Round Picks
Indianapolis Colts (13-4) at Baltimore Ravens (13-3). How much do you think the old-school Baltimore football fans have been craving this, a chance to humiliate the hated Colts in their playoff return to Baltimore? Joseph Addai ran all over the Chiefs' defense, but this is the Ravens, son. Addai may get a lot of carries, but he's going to take a lot of hits--hard ones. Indy's defense overachieved against Larry Johnson, and with their awful season against the run it's hard to imagine two such miracles in a row. On the other hand, Peyton Manning had three bad INTs last week, and it's impossible to imagine two games in a row like that. Steve McNair has been one of the NFL's great stories this year, and has playoff experience. The difference to me is that the Colts have Adam Vinatieri kicking, and if the game is tight--which I think it will be--he has a history as a difference-maker. Colts 19, Ravens 17.
Philadelphia Eagles (11-6) at New Orleans Saints (10-6). Is that record right? Were the Saints really only 10-6? With that offense, it seemed like they must have won at least 12 games. With Eagles CB Lito Shepherd out, it's tempting to assume that the Saints will simply launch an all-out air assault with QB Drew Brees (my NFL MVP) and a slew of sure-handed receivers. So tempting, in fact, that I am going to assume it. Can the Eagles continue their unlikely McNabb-less run with overachieving Jeff Garcia and the dangerous Brian Westbrook? In a word: no. Saints 31, Eagles 14.
Seattle Seahawks (10-7) at Chicago Bears (13-3). Seattle is coming off a miraculous win against Dallas last week, and while you can't count on luck to win playoff games, teams of destiny always have a few lucky bounces (or ball-drops by chumpface Tony Romo) on their way to history. The Bears' defense has been dominant this year on their way to the NFC's best record, and RBs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson are a dangerous one-two punch on the ground. But I don't see how Chicago merits an 8-1/2-point line in this game. Rex Grossman is the anti-Tom Brady; I simply can't justify picking him to win a game on this level, especially with such a weak corps of receivers. Mike Holmgren has won a lot of games in January, and there have been time this year when I would have played QB better than Grossman. This has all the earmarks of an upset to me. Seahawks 23, Bears 17.
New England Patriots (13-4) at San Diego Chargers (14-2). I could talk here about the Chargers' 8-0 home record this season, or the rough times Tom Brady has had under pressure this year. I could talk about LaDanian Tomlinson's ludicrous touchdown total or Marty Schottenheimer's history of postseason choking. But in all honesty, I just can't bring myself to pick against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the playoffs. I originally predicted a Saints-Chargers Superbowl, but I can't type the words "The Patriots will lose a postseason game" and mean it. Patriots 23, Chargers 21.