Friday, January 13, 2006

NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional Round Grudge Matches

I went 3-1 last week with my big mistake being to trust Eli Manning and a Tom Coughlin team. How did I not see a Manning playoff debut opportunity to bet against? The Giants peaked too soon and limped into the playoffs. They also had receivers who gave up on balls and the game. This week, the games look slanted in the favor of the home teams. I recall the 4 underdog cover of '03, and get a little antsy, but it's still the smart play to stick with the home teams who have rested for 1 week (In the Colts case, 4 weeks).

AFC

COLTS (-9) over Steelers The Steelers lucked out last week with the roll that their d-lineman took into the knee of Carson Palmer. Kitna came in and performed well, but seriously, who wasn't expecting the second half meltdown? I kept waiting for it, and with the botched snap on the FG attempt, I knew it was downhill from their on out. Kudos to the Bengals for putting up a fight, but when they were down by 4 why did the offensive coordinator stop running? I like the Steelers. I like their style, their Qb, their trick plays, but I don't like them in this game. I foresee Peyton Manning and Co. coming out and destroying them to prove a point to whomever is going to Indy next week. They have had a week to rest their banged up defensive guys, and the Edge has had a week of rest. He was looking beat the last few weeks, and they need him healthy to win the Super Bowl.

Pats (+3) over BRONCOS I hate going against a home team with a week off. I hate going against a team that was 13-3. I hate going against the Broncos run game. I hate the Patriots fans, who just woke up from their slumber to cheer for the Pats last Saturday. I just don't see it happening for the Broncos. Of course, this will prove to be wrong and the Broncos walk all over the Pats because bruschi and Seymour are limited and Anderson and Bell are rested. This is my upset for the round.

NFC

SEAHAWKS (-9.5) over Redskins The Skins victory was ugly, but let's not shoot them down. In back to back years, the Ravens and Pats won playoff games with similar, craptacular offensive performances. Ravens-Titans in January '01? Pats-Anyone in Jan/Feb of '02? Their luck runs out this week. Clinton portis is really hurting right now, and it appears that he will not be able to carry the ball more than 15 times. With no Portis, defenses can double Moss and make one of the H-backs try to beat them. Brunell is running on fumes right now, and the Hawks defense is rested and hungry.

BEARS (-2.5) over Panthers I hate this game. I hate it almost as much as the Pats/Broncos, but this one is a bit easier to gauge since both teams met up and played while they were both healthy. The Panthers can run on the Giants depleted LB corps, but they won't run on the Bears. The Bears also have made an upgrade at QB. While it is not a huge upgrade, it is important for several reasons:
1. Orton had hit the wall physically and mentally. Ask Big Ben how he felt this time last year.
2. Grossman throws better and with more accuracy than Orton
3. They now are a threat down the field with play action passes.

I think point 1 is the most important, but the third is significant for play calling. Look at the Bears/Packers game. The Bears had 4th & short in Packer territory and called a play action pass. Rather than just stuff it up the middle, Lovie Smith took a shot at the end zone. Grossman threw a bullet to Muhammed who dropped it. While it was incomplete, it was a call they wouldn't have made with Orton at the helm. Teams need to respect that now with the Bears. I think It's a low scoring affair, take the under.

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