I'm so excited for some playoff football (and thrilled that I went 8-0 last week against the spread and over/under) that I'm going to open myself to ridicule and post my predictions for this weekend's games. They feature the four best teams in the NFL by far coming off byes last week, so that will give you some insight as to where my picks are leaning.
Seattle @ Green Bay (-9)
I like to check the road record of the visiting team versus the home record of the home team as a way to slant my pick one way or the other before I even dive into the stats. The Seahawks were 3-5 on the road this season, and the Packers were 7-1 at home. I don't care what the numbers say, I can't possibly take the Seahawks to win a playoff game on the road with that kind of record. As for the actual in-game analysis, I like the Seahawks to actually hang in and keep it close. Four years ago, in another Seattle-Green Bay playoff game at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin, QB Matt Hasselbeck excitedly yelled upon winning the coin toss to start overtime, "We're gonna take the ball, and we're gonna score!" He promptly threw a touchdown pass...to Green Bay defender Al Harris. The point is, they got to OT with the Pack at their home field. The running games should cancel each other out because Hasselbeck and Packers QB Brett Favre are so in love with their arms that they won't hand off very often. WR D.J. Hackett was used as a deep threat last week in Seattle's win over Washington, but he's questionable this week, and that will hurt. But with the Pack missing a defensive back, Will Blackmon, I expect a shootout between these two passing games, with coach Mike Holmgren's old squad coming out on top over his current one.
My Pick: Green Bay 27-20
Jacksonville @ New England (-13.5)
The war of words has been thick between these two teams. Earlier in the season, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his staff was caught videotaping signals, Paul Spicer and the Jaguars were one of a few teams publicly saying that the Patriots have a tarnish on their accomplishments because they were cheating. The Jags' web site even had an asterisk next to the Pats' record with the footnote "Cheated in one game," but that's been since removed. So this game should be emotionally charged unlike any other, especially when you throw in the undefeated record itself. How much pressure do you think the Pats will be under, knowing that if they lose in the playoffs that 16-0 record will be one of sports' biggest jokes? The Jags' 6-3 road record this year also scares me. But in the end, what scares me more than anything is the Pats' passing attack, with QB Tom Brady and the real MVP, WR Randy Moss, as well as those other receivers who seem to get open when needed. Oh, and the Jaguars' passing attack, which, like Santa Claus, doesn't exist. I expect Jacksonville to run the ball a little better because they're much more committed to the ground game than New England. But it won't matter when the Patriot missiles take the field and light up the sky with their aerial attack.
My Pick: New England 34-14
San Diego @ Indianapolis (-9.5)
My pick to repeat as Super Bowl champions, the Colts open their playoff push with the return of Future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison at WR. He was missing the last two months of the season with an injury, and he was missing when the Chargers beat the Colts in Week 10, a game in which Peyton Manning threw an unprecedented (for him) six interceptions. The Chargers still have the DBs who caught those picks, including stud Antonio Cromartie, who had three of them, but the Colts now have the aforementioned Harrison, a clean field (they're playing in a dome in Indy, not in the muddy, rainy conditions that they played in Week 10 in San Diego), and the focus and determination that QB Peyton Manning summons when he needs to. Manning used to be one of the biggest choke artists in big games, dating back to college at Tennessee, but he seems to have turned it around and become a lot closer to clutch than choke. As for the Chargers, their win last week over the Titans cost them TE Antonio Gates, who won't play this game because of a sprained toe. Gates is the Chargers' most consistent receiver, and QB Philip Rivers should struggle even more than he did in last week's ugly victory. DT Raheem Brock is back for the Colts, and defensive MVP Bob Sanders is healthy, adding more help to the effort to stop RB LaDanian Tomlinson, who would appear to be San Diego's only hope. He won't be enough.
My Pick: Indianapolis 24-10
New York Giants @ Dallas (-9)
That stat I had last week about how QB Eli Manning and the Giants seem to have much more success on the road may not apply for this game, because the last time the Giants lost on the road, it was Week 1, at Dallas, and they gave up 45 points. Only one team had more yards per pass attempt than the Cowboys all season, and that was the record-setting Patriots, so it's not like Dallas fell off after the Giants game. No, they're still pretty damn good, despite a couple of bad games to end the regular season. I think the whole team should have spent their bye week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to rest up for the playoffs. (BTW, there's one really simple reason why Cowboys QB Tony Romo has been catching hell for taking a trip to Cabo during his bye week, and that's jealousy. Every man and some women in the media wish they were fucking Jessica Simpson. They're not. Romo is. So they ignore what everyone else on all four teams who had byes last week did during their week off, and they focus on what Romo did, because they're totally jealous. It's a complete joke.) Manning and the Giants got off to a very slow start in beating the Buccaneers last week, but because the Bucs didn't have the offensive weaponry to take advantage, the Giants had plenty of opportunity to mount a comeback. They shouldn't have that chance against Dallas. Terrell Owens will see the spotlight shining and a national TV audience, and suddenly, the ankle pain that kept him out of the last game the Cowboys played will magically disappear, and he'll catch his usual two touchdowns and do his usual silly celebrations. The man legally patented the phrase, "I love me some me!" for Chrissakes. He won't resist the chance to perform. And Romo wants to throw every ball 99 yards for a TD just to prove that fucking Jessica Simpson is not a career detriment. He should have WR Terry Glenn, who hasn't played this season, as an extra weapon. The Giants have a couple of defensive backs missing who played in that 45-35 loss at Dallas. If they gave up 45, what will their backups do? I expect lots of blitzing from the athletic Dallas defense, forcing Manning to get rid of the football way quicker than he wants, resulting in mistakes and turnovers galore. And no more Yoko Romo references suggesting Jessica is destroying the Cowboys.
My Pick: Dallas 38-20