So last week, I went 1-3 in my predictions column. Pretty embarrassing. In fact if you were to stop reading right now, I really couldn't blame you. I will say that if the Bengals and Jets were to play each other again, I'd still take Cincy. Sorry I didn't foresee Mark Sanchez having his best game since Week Three and Shonn Greene doing a Walter Payton impersonation.
No excuses for Dallas and 'Zona though. Should've called both of them.
But the great thing is, like sports, you always get another chance. And I can still go 4-0. Although, being a diehard Ravens fan, I'm more hoping for 3-1. You'll see why when I make these picks...
Cardinals @ Saints
Because of last week, Arizona suddenly looks like a huge sleeper. And I definitely understand why. Their offense was in high gear, and even though their D rolled over, Aaron Rogers is pretty tough to stop when he's slinging bbs.
(By the way, that OT was proof positive why I have no problem with the NFL's system. It forces teams to play all three facets of the game. Rogers, who was money the second half, let's one pass slip and the Cards D, tagged more than Snookie on Jersey Shore, makes a play to win the game. And with the way kickers shanked clutch FGs, how is a winning coin toss a guaranteed victory anymore? But that's another subject for another day.)
Heck, I'm inclined to pick the Cards here, especially since I picked against them last year in every single playoff game this year. But I'm going with New Orleans. Their crowd will be into it, and I think Drew Brees rises to the challenge. The Saints are healthier than they were at the end of the year. They may have lost a little of their edge, but they've shown up against the good teams all year and this won't be an exception.
Saints 38, Cardinals 34 (Most entertaining game of the first round)
Ravens @ Colts
I'm gonna catch a lot of crap from my friends who are Ravens fans. Picking against them does NOT mean I have no faith in them. Heck, I picked them to win last week. I just think the Colts take this one at home. With Jared Gaither and Joe Flacco banged up, I just don't think Baltimore will be able to put up the points to compete with Indianapolis. Peyton Manning usually does great against the Ravens, and while I think their vaunted D shows up, I just don't think they can make enough plays downfield to steal this one. Prove me wrong, boys!
Colts 23, Ravens 16
Jets @ Chargers
I know, I know. The Jets were a great match-up for Cincinnati. It was probably silly to pick against them only because of Mark Sanchez. Their defense is awesome, and the Jets have the advantages in three categories: run offense, run defense and pass offense. They have Darrelle Revis, the all-Universe corner (and my pick for DPOY). I have to assume the Chargers would much be rather facing New England this Sunday.
Still, I gotta go with San Diego. Philip Rivers is locked in and will distribute the ball well to whomever Revis doesn't cover. And I know the Chargers D isn't as good as recent years—I'm sorry, but Mark Sanchez doesn't do that two weeks in a row. He just doesn't. I don't care if he's comfortable playing in southern California.
I see the Jets starting early, making a big play, getting everyone fired up, then getting rolled on for three quarters. Much better than people expected but coming up short of Rex Ryan's Super Bowl prediction.
Chargers 27, Jets 10
Cowboys @ Vikings
I liked Dallas so much initially, I had to throw cold water on myself and reassess the situation. You have the Vikes at home, a solid veteran squad with one goal in mind. You have immortals at QB and RB and an underrated receiving corps. You have a defense that played great the first half and should be well rested. There's a lot to like with Minnesota.
Nevertheless, I'm sticking with my gut on this one. I'm not exactly prepared to jump on the Cowboys bandwagon, but I think they get the Vikings at the right time. They can contain Peterson and force Brett Favre to throw, a situation the Vikings really don't want to be in. Plus, Dallas' offense is so on fire right now, I think this could not have worked out better for them. Dallas finishes Minnesota's dream season and sets up a rematch with the Saints for the Super Bowl.
Cowboys 31, Vikings 27