Free NFL Picks: Divisional Round Edition

WesAnalyst IJanuary 11, 2010

The Super Bowl was once considered nothing more than a formality in crowning the NFC Champion.

Following the San Francisco 49ers' 36-16 win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX, the NFC would go on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy 13 consecutive times.

Lately though, things have changed drastically as the AFC has won nine of the past 12 Super Bowls. The occasional blowout was sprinkled in here and there, but it was nothing like we had grown accustomed to during the heyday of the NFC.

We will probably never see a dominant run like that again, and the old running joke of "The NFC Championship is the Super Bowl," is most likely dead.

Well, it's time to step out on the limb and announce that the winner of one game in particular this weekend will determine who walks away with Super Bowl XLIV.

The game being referenced takes place on Sunday afternoon between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. Write it down:

The winner of this game will win the Super Bowl.

Before I get to the picks let me recap last week's 3-1 record that netted a positive return of 141.75 units. You can place whatever value you want on the units, but I will not go above 100 and I will not dip below 10. Some people may want to make each unit worth $5 while other may play it safe and make units worth $.50. You can do the math and figure out where you stand.

The lone loss came at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals and the big winner hit when the Dallas Cowboys rolled over my beloved Philadelphia Eagles.

The following lines are from the betting trends section as of Monday, January 11.

Arizona (+7) @ New Orleans (110/100)

There are two ways to beat the Saints.

You can try to get into a shootout with this team and attempt to outscore one of the most potent offenses around, or you can try to run the ball, grind out the game and keep that vaunted Saints offense on the sidelines.

The unique aspect of the Cardinals is that I believe they can win playing either style.

Last week the Cardinals gashed the league's best rush defense for 156 yards while Kurt Warner threw more touchdowns than incomplete passes. The Arizona offense was nothing short of perfect and it makes me question if the Saints defense can limit the Cardinals.

I also do not like to back teams that enter on a losing streak. The Saints lost to the Cowboys and showed everyone that if you put some pressure on Drew Brees he looks like a mere mortal and not some video game freak.

Following the loss to the Cowboys, the Saints needed to bounce back against a two-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. The Saints had the opportunity to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win.

The Saints jumped out to a 17-0 lead and then imploded. After that loss the Saints played the scrubs and lost to the Carolina Panthers.

Winning is a mentality in the NFL and once you start to lose it, it's tough to get back on track. Look at the Giants, who opened up 5-0 this year, and the Broncos who started the year 6-0. Both started to lose and could never recover.

I'm not saying the Saints are on their level, but those two examples prove how tough it is to start winning after you hit a losing streak.

Sorry Saints fans, but the Cardinals get the best of an NFC South team on the road in the playoffs for the second straight year.

Cardinals 40 - Saints 35

Baltimore (+6.5) @ Indianapolis (33/30)

Peyton Manning will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, but it is not due to his less than stellar record in opening round playoff games, which is 3-6.

Yes, good 'ol Peyton has been bounced in the first round of the playoffs six times. It is incredible to think that his teams only managed to get past the first round three times while failing to win a playoff game six times.

With such a poor record in the opening round I have to back the Ravens even though the Colts are 7-0 against the Ravens under the direction of Peyton Manning.

Outside of the trends I don't like how the Colts ended their season with a losing streak and I believe in the Ravens' ability to run the ball against the Colts.

If a team can run the ball and essentially make it a shorter game then points become a premium and that is something I am not going to pass up.

Don't be shocked if the Ravens win it outright.

Ravens 30 - Colts 24

Dallas (+2.5) @ Minnesota (55/50)

Well, here it is. This is your Super Bowl.

I honestly hate the Dallas Cowboys, but this is all about picking winners so I have to side with the team that is playing better offensively and defensively.

The only thing I don't like about the Cowboys is kicker Shaun Suisham. If this game is close and comes down to a field goal for the Cowboys I do not want a lot of money on them, which is why this pick is not rated higher.

Everyone wants to believe that the Super Bowl champion will be determined by the team that has a great offense and a defense that finds a way to survive.

Dallas will prove that thought process wrong. They have great skill players and the ability to put up points on offense. Defensively, they can put pressure on a quarterback and force turnovers, which means the defense can actually carry this team at times.

If Dallas gets pressure on Brett Favre he will turn the ball over and Dallas will win the game.

I know people think Tony Romo is due to cough it up a few times, but I don't see that happening anymore. He is protecting the ball and not trying to be a hero. He's experienced enough to make the smart play, and when he is asked to make plays in the clutch he makes them as well.

The Dallas running attack is built with speed and power and offers the perfect way to milk the clock late in games.

Begin to celebrate Dallas fans, because your Cowboys are marching on to the Super Bowl.

Cowboys 20 - Vikings 16

San Diego (-7.5) vs. New York Jets (55/50)

This line is as high as nine in some spots, but this is the number I have so I'm going with it.

Last week I had the Cardinals at -2.5 and before the game kicked off they were actually getting 2.5. Sometimes the numbers work in your favor and sometimes they don't.

In this case I feel that no matter what number you get is good because the Chargers should win by double digits.

San Diego is going to offer the Jets a much tougher matchup offensively than the Bengals gave them last week, and I don't think the Jets can hang with this team.

And once the Chargers get a double digit lead the Jets are in big trouble. Rookie Mark Sanchez will be asked to make plays to get his team back in the game and that's when the turnovers happen.

Chargers 30 - Jets 14


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