You can read my NFL playoffs" target="_blank">wild-card round playoff predictions here. Note, while I went 0-4, I take solace in the fact that three-quarters of these picks were not the team I wanted to win, but rather the one I expected to win.
It should also be noted that based on my recent history if you check my archives from last year, I tend to get half of them right away, and with only eight teams left, I'd take that this week.
If there is anything the first round of the NFL playoffs taught us, it's that:
- Whatever your gut feeling is, you should go opposite of that. In essence, who you want to win, is probably the way to go (in my case) vs. you who expect to win which can be quite different.
- Home field is a mixed bag. While the Cardinals and Cowboys won, one was a struggle and one was a dog fight. Additionally, the other two teams, the Patriots and Bengals, got absolutely humiliated on their home turfs as the higher seeds.
Saturday, Jan. 16 4:30 p.m. EST
(4) Arizona Cardinals vs. (1) New Orleans Saints
This game is the first of a swing from the previous week. Who I want to win and who I expect to win are the same team, the Cardinals. Not only did we forget that Kurt Warner is the man in the playoffs, but the Cards stepped up nicely without Anquan Boldin.
Additionally, no disrespect to the Saints, but I was going to have whoever won their slug fest with the Packers beating them anyway, since by the time this game is played, it will have been five weeks since the Saints last tasted and remembered what victory looked like.
That's right, they'd have to go back to Week 13 of the regular season, and not only that but also these previous two games before the 1998 Denver Broncos-like three-game losing skid to end the season, they hardly looked good against the Falcons and lethargic Redskins barely eking out wins in each.
Finally, two of the final three regular-season loses came at the once-impenetrable Super Dome. That will be no doubt playing a factor in the Saints' weak psyches.
Can't really evaluate the Saints from their perspective since we don't know which version will be playing on Saturday, and it's been so long since we've seen them and they've won—out of sight and out of mind.
No matter what happens, the Cards successfully already proved they weren't a 2008 fluke and for that is victory in itself. You can't tell me that experience, something the Saints have equally as little, played a factor in Sunday's game.
Cardinals 31 Saints 24
One thing you have to understand about me is I don't like Peyton Manning come the playoffs. Consider the fact that he can win all he wants in the regular season, it doesn't mean anything if you can't win in January (and now February).
The one title the team does have (2006) came courtesy of the fabled Patriots blowing a 21-6 halftime lead en route to defeat. When can we start calling them the Atlanta Braves of the NFL?
This is another game that I am picking both whom I want to win, but also who I honestly think will. Don't forget first it was the Patriots clipping them in 2003 and 2004 before the Chargers returned the factor in 2007 and 2008. In all of these contests, the Cowtown Colts had no less than 12 wins and in most cases were seen as the favorite, if only by the law of averages.
Ray Rice made me a believer last weekend. We all know of the Ravens' "D" that doesn't rebuild—it reloads—to steal a New York Yankees line. Good running game and good "D" reminds me a lot of the 2000 Ravens, and we all know how that turned out.
We also know Indy has a porous run "D" and no-name nothing receivers Pierre "Division III" Garcon and Austin Collie to go with Wayne, and the tight ends who must be double-covered to the point that shrimp Garcon must beat them (Good luck with that).
I could say, "You ain't seen nothin' yet, Indy," but I think you get the point and I don't mean to be cruel, I mean I'm not even a Ravens fan. They're just time tested in the same way y'all are to coming up short despite the statistical advantages.
I'm not going to call the silver-spooned Manning a total hack. After all, he did win MVP for a reason with a bunch of young, inexperienced receivers. That says something.
I get the feeling he won't be the reason they lose on Saturday. He'll get some his throws but the Ravens (read: Ed Reed) will just pick a few of them as only they can. It happens. The way Brady and Palmer looked however, it really is anyone's guess.
Finally, similar to the Saints of the NFC, the last time the Colts tasted victory will be a month ago—Week 15. Will that be a factor?
Ravens 27 Colts 17
(3) Dallas Cowgirls vs. (2) Minnesota Vikings
Seeding alone easily makes this the most intriguing game of the weekend. That is one thing I predicted correctly in calling the Packers-Cards game by this prophetic label.
I honestly don't have an explanation as to how or why Dallas was able to come together these past four weeks, but I don't think anyone can deny they are the hottest team in the league.
You can say all you want about the San Jose Sharks of the NFL, the San Diego Chargers who choke every year despite entering the playoffs with an 11-game winning streak, but it's the Cowgirls, uh, Boys, who are the league's hottest team.
Clearly, I'm not a fan of the team, especially when you consider they are playing my team at their place, but the facts are the facts. They've won four-straight with the New Orleans win not only saving their season but turning it around.
Then in those games they've given up just 31 points total on "D." I get they have a good line so much, so I think this game will be Week 15 all over again when the Vikings played the Panthers only to see them humiliate them on national TV.
This time DE Demarcus Ware will be playing the role of Julius Peppers who schooled "Pro Bowl" starter (if you can believe it, I can't) Bryant "benched" McKinnie. I predict a few sacks and maybe an emergency halftime benching on the left side of the line to maybe save their season.
Another thing I cannot understand is Tony Romo's improvement. I guess it's just something you have to sit back and admire. Is this team a juggernaut?
No, but they are good enough to win it all, and they are just clicking at the right time, and it's unfortunate that the Vikings ran into the buzzsaw when it was clicking on all cylinders.
Still, I said last week I feared playing the high-flying Eagles, so I got my wish but it was really a matter of pick your poison it seems.
The Vikings saving grace would be: A. winning the coin flip; B. scoring first; and C. the fact the game is at home. But some good that did for the Pats, especially last week. That's about all you can say.
When you've been a Vikings fan as long as I have, you learn to live with disappointment. However, when you have no expectations, as I do after seeing who they'd be paired against, all you can do is hope for a win but prepare for the worst.
Look for the Vikings to get a late, meaningless TD to make the score look closer than it actually was just like 1996 all over again.
Cowgirls 37 Vikings 22
(5) New York Jets vs. (2) San Diego Chargers 4:30 p.m. EST
The Jets, too, have made me a believer as I was one of those—and I admit it—who thought the team was just happy to be here. Now, I see a lot of similarities between the 2000 Ravens and the 2008 Ravens.
First the 2000 Ravens had an excellent "D" as always and the Jets No. 1 across the board in all major categories will keep this game closer than some think.
Next, in considering the 2008 Ravens, QB Mark Sanchez is basically playing the role of Joe Flacco. Both were rookies who led their teams to the playoffs. Both had a strong run game and defense with marginal pass offense. Could Sanchez be this year's Flacco?
While I doubt it, and I expect the Jets to lose given the Chargers woeful playoff history mixed with the Jets rejuvenated success from last week, there is no way I'm going against them. A win here would match Flacco's rookie record of two postseason wins, which after never being done prior, would be matched in as many seasons.
A Jets-Ravens AFC title game? I could live with that. Especially since it gets plastic /pitchman Peyton Manning out of the headlines and, more importantly, the Jets haven't even been to a Super Bowl, much less won one, since 1968.
You want to win, LaDanian? Then step up and be the man. Bring that "D" with you and at least try and hang with the improving Jets.
Who knows, with some luck, and some valuable use of your bye week in addition to this week's film study, you may actually learn something—but until you do, I'm not counting on it. Time to prove me wrong, fellas. We've seen this talent dance before only to fizzle.
- 2004: Lost wild-card round as a 12-win team, to the underdog Jets 20-17 at home.
- 2006: as No. 1 seed, lost 24-21 to New England Patriots also at home in their first game after the bye.
- 2007: Lost AFC championship to Patriots 21-12.
- 2008: As an aberration 8-8 team, lost in the second round to eventual champion Steelers.
This year, at 13-3 and No. 2, why should it be any different when history doesn't suggest so? Call them the Anaheim Angels of football. The best regular-season team money can buy.
Jets 31 Chargers 17
You will notice that all of my picks are the lower seeds. While that was not intentional, as I was going to pick the Saints and Chargers opponents anyway, it just turned out that way.
While at best I should really only expect half of them to be correct after last weekend despite the blowouts, who knows? How good do we know Dallas, Baltimore, and New York actually are when they all made their opponents look so inferior in every way?
Each game should respectively be better than last week's non-competitive snoozers unless you like beatdowns, or in my case, who was getting beat down.