It may just be me, but this year's playoffs have been a dud. Save for the Green Bay-Arizona and New York Jets-San Diego games, every game has been either lopsided or boring. Hopefully we can get at least one good championship game this Sunday.
Speaking of duds, I have to once again acknowledge my pitiful playoff record. Maybe I've tried to predict too many upsets. Whatever it is, it's pretty discouraging.
(1) New Orleans def. (4) Arizona, 45-14: Would this game have been different if Kurt Warner wouldn't have gotten hurt? Maybe, but Warner doesn't play defense. The Saints are great on offense, but there is no excuse for letting them drive up and down the field at will like the Cards allowed them to do.
The pursuit was bad and the tackling was worse. There was a point in the game where it looked like the defending NFC Champions had conceded the loss.
I didn't think the Saints would be particularly rusty, but I didn't anticipate them looking like the Greatest Show on Turf, minus the turnovers. They looked great enough to make the overrated Reggie Bush look like Marcus Allen.
(1) Indianapolis def. (6) Baltimore, 20-3: Baltimore had its chances. Ed Reed fumbled away an interception that could have gotten the Ravens to within a possession of a tie game. Ray Rice fumbled away a long run in the fourth quarter. Against the Colts, those kinds of chances cannot be wasted.
This was close until Reggie Wayne's late touchdown in the second half. Peyton Manning and the offense didn't have a great game, but Joe Flacco and his offense could never put pressure on them to score.
The Ravens are an offensive playmaker or two away from being an elite team, but until they add those players, their passing game will never scare good defenses.
(2) Minnesota def. (3) Dallas, 34-3: Going into this game, Dallas looked like the best team in the league. From the last three plays of the Cowboys' first drive until the end of the game, Minnesota dominated the game. Their defensive line (specifically Ray Edwards and Jared Allen) was amazing.
Tony Romo will probably get a lot of the blame, and while he does deserve some blame, this one is on the offensive line and Jason Garrett. Flozell Adams' injury left Doug Free and Marc Colombo on islands against the Vikes' defensive ends, and Romo suffered as a result.
The entire Vikings defense had incredible pursuit to the ball, effectively ending this game in the third quarter.
As for the final touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Visanthe Shiancoe, Keith Brooking needs to stop whining and get over it. This was a National Football League playoff game, not a Pop Warner one.
Defensive players are paid millions to stop the offensive guys from getting into their paint. If you don't like them doing it, stop them from getting in.
(5) New York Jets def. (2) San Diego, 17-14: I'm now convinced that the Chargers will never win a championship with the way they are currently constructed. Going back to the wild card loss to the Jets six years ago, they have consistently choked in the playoffs when it looked like they should make a deep run.
Granted, they had every chance to win and a lot of what happened during the game falls on the players (I'm looking at you, Nate Kaeding), but this ultimately falls on Norv Turner.
Turner is a great offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He's even a decent head coach during the regular season, but he's a horrible one when the pressure's on.
Bottom line is the Chargers did not come into this game as prepared as they should have been. They were looking past the Jets towards the Colts and that falls on the head coach.
All this is without even mentioning his horrible decision to onside kick the ball with a timeout and the two-minute warning left against a rookie quarterback. I don't think the Jets would have gone for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 30.
As for the Jets, I owe them an apology. I thought they were the worst team in the playoffs, but their defense has been outstanding and Mark Sanchez has outplayed both of the quarterbacks he's faced in the playoffs.
Last week's record: 1-3
Playoff record: 2-6
(5) New York Jets @ (1) Indianapolis: The Jets are coming into this game with a ton of confidence, but they also have to come in with the same game plan that they had against the Chargers. Both teams also have to remember that before the Colts pulled their starters in the Week 16, it was a five-point game. The Jets stayed close and had a shot at winning before it became a glorified scrimmage.
The Jets are great on defense, but I don't see them stopping Peyton Manning. It won't be difficult for them to shut one of Indy's weapons down, but they must get to Manning if they are going to win. Look for Indy's offensive line to give Manning just enough time to pick through the Jets' D.
Indy wins, 23-10
(2) Minnesota @ (1) New Orleans: I trust New Orleans' defense to be able to stop Minnesota's receivers more than I do Minnesota's to stop the Saints' receivers. That is a moot point if Minnesota's stellar defensive line can get to Drew Brees.
The running games will be crucial. Adrian Peterson has not been that special this season and has been pretty average since the beginning of December.
Some are jumping on Reggie Bush's bandwagon after one good game, but I'm not confident that he can run like that against the Vikings. However, he will be one of the reasons the Saints win because of what he can do on special teams.
Both offenses can do a lot of damage. Minnesota's defense is great, but their offense is not explosive enough to expose the Saints' defense.
Therefore, one team needs to make a big play on special teams. The Vikes' special teams is below average, and Bush can beat them if he gets decent blocking.
New Orleans wins, 30-21