I'm so excited for some playoff football that I'm going to open myself to ridicule and post my predictions. (For the record, I'm sticking by my preseason prediction of Colts over Cowboys in the Super Bowl.)
Washington @ Seattle (-3.5)
The Sean Taylor Tribute Train should stop here. The Seahawks have a passing game led by Matt Hasselbeck that spreads the ball around to whomever happens to be open, and the go-for-broke Redskins secondary will get frustrated trying to cover everyone. Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris should provide enough running to keep the Skins off-balance. Plus, I can't possibly go with Todd Collins. That's like taking the hot pitcher in baseball who won his last four starts despite not having pitched in the majors in eight years. That would be crazy.
My Pick: Seattle 24-17
Jacksonville (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh
This smells like a trap. The Steelers suffered some huge injuries recently, such as their leading rusher, Willie Parker, breaking his leg, and their left tackle and return man ruled out for this game. Add to that the Jaguars walking into snowy Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and stuffing their nuts down the Steelers' throats, and that places the Steelers, 7-1 at home this year, as underdogs. David Garrard's playoff inexperience may lead to him making mistakes at QB for the Jags that he hasn't made all year. I actually will pick Jacksonville to play their style and win the game, but Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' underrated passing game can stay in the game and put them in position to steal it late.
My Pick: Jacksonville 30-28
New York Giants @ Tampa Bay (-3)
My friend "Jacob" can swear that I've been preaching one simple observation about QB Eli Manning and the Giants for two years now: They play much better on the road because he's so fragile that he doesn't do well in front of his home crowd. And the numbers bear it out--3-5 at home this season, as opposed to 7-1 on the road. This ain't the same Tampa Bay defense; they're older and not nearly as dominant. Yes, they're #1 in pass defense, but they used to back that up with hard run defense as well. Not anymore. Brandon Jacobs and the Giants running game will handle the line of scrimmage just enough to allow Manning to hit Plaxico Burress for a few long bombs, and that will be enough to scoot past Jeff Garcia and the predictable Bucs offense.
My Pick: Giants 17-16
Tennessee @ San Diego (-10)
The bettors are in love with the Chargers, and I can see why. One of the preseason favorites, the Bolts are finally playing like it, especially on the defensive side, where it took three-fourths of the season to figure out that maybe Shawne Merriman blitzing and wreaking havoc instead of being passive and playing back on his heels is the way to go. Meanwhile, the Titans are hurting. QB Vince Young had a sore quad, their only deep threat, Roydell Williams, is out for the playoffs, and their stud RB and defensive tackle, LenDale White and Albert Haynesworth, are both dinged up. And this may be the most fiery and personal matchup. Merriman was injured during a game between these two teams earlier in the season on what he thought was a dirty play in retaliation for Young being hurt. The Chargers will be geared up, and I don't think the Titans are healthy enough to do anything about it.
My Pick: San Diego 27-6