Saturday 4:30PM EST
Arizona is backing into the playoffs having lost 4 of their last 6 games and winning a putrid division by default at 9-7. They have won 6 of 8 this year at home but got recently blown out by playoff contenders the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants in the latter half of the season. They also own a 7-5 record against the rest of the NFC meaning no fattening up against the AFC or the junk in their division. This should be the easiest game of the weekend to predict.
Michael "the Burner" Turner runs wild on the Cards 160 yards+ (see a running version of the Farve 6TD game vs the Cards), Matt Ryan "manages the game" and the Falcons (who almost rallied to win their division and get a 1st rd. bye) roll 24-7.
Saturday 8PM EST
Despite San Diego cruising into the playoffs ala the Philadelphia Eagles, the Colts are even hotter having won eight in a row. This is probably the 2nd easiest game to predict. Indy has shown they can travel West and beat San Diego in their own undaunted house in the playoffs before (2007?) and they will do it against as pretty boy Peyton has another ho-hum 300 yard 3TD game in a yawner of another season of wasted talent by the Bolts.
Indy 34 San Diego 17
Sunday Jan. 4 1PM EST
A lot of people no doubt would like to see the 'Fins miracle (read: they weren't really as bad as their misleading 1-15 record last year) continue but the boring yet solid Ravens defense leads the way with the new generation of lazy, "stellar" Peyton Manning-like QB's like Joe Flacco continue to reap his team's success simply because he doesn't turn the ball over.
Ravens 21 Dolphins 7 in a defense dominated game (as usual) where Flacco gets meaningless credit he doesn't deserve
Sunday Jan. 4 4:30PM EST
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota QB Tarvaris Jackson's 9 TD 2 INT performance can't possibly hold up right? The Eagles will line up 9 men in the box on nearly every play making Adrian Petersen irrelevant and forcing the over matched Jackson to beat them-which he won't. If the blitzes don't get him, a few rushed throws (and subsequent) INT's will.
Yes the Eagles do this every year—win just enough games to get in, mess with everyone thinking they are a legit contender, and then choke in the playoffs, McNabb and all. Why should this year be any different? It won't, but they will get by this game in probably the most competitive game of the weekend.
Nevertheless, Vikings fans will feel disappointed and cheated as always.
Philadelphia 31 Vikings 10
Yes, if you noticed, I have all four road teams winning and that isn't by default. The road teams are clearly better (particularily in the cases of Atlanta and Baltimore) and in certain cases I think the "home field advantage" the playoff-virgin Cardinals have will be almost irrelevant as I get the idea they still aren't over the shock of actually making the playoffs and are likely just happy to be there.
I think San Diego is an annual choker and it doesn't help that Manning's experienced crew is coming to town as a misleading No. 5 seed.
If any of these teams has a shot I think it could be Minnesota but only because they have a true home field advantage but even then, they'd have to play near mistake-free football, especially on defense and special teams to compensate for the struggles that will come on offense with Jackson's ability to move the ball.
Just for fun: Vikings Peterson runs for 41 yards, Philly gets 6 sacks
Rivers throws 3 INTs one of which is returned by Bob Sanders for a TD
Warner struggles for the Cards who can't run the ball
Chad Pennington's stats come back down to earth and the Raven's D wins a feild position game of timely blitzes, field goals, and maybe a stereotypical Ed Reed defensive TD or two.
Easiest predictable opening round in years.