Well, after going 1-3 for wildcard weekend I’m just glad I didn’t bet any money. But I definitely learned some things about all of the teams that won when I thought they wouldn’t. Darrelle Revis is a far more talented cornerback than I was giving him credit for. The Ravens defense and running game are likewise much stronger. And Arizona has far more than just Anquan Boldin for receiving options, making them very dangerous against bad pass-rush defenses. With all that in mind, here are my thoughts on each of the divisional-round playoff games.
Cowboys vs. Vikings: Despite everything, including being a legitimate Packers fan, it’s hard for me to root against Brett Favre. Part of me genuinely wants him to win this game. And I think Minnesota definitely CAN win. They have a good pass-rushing defense that can rattle Tony Romo. They have the best running back in the game in Adrien Peterson. And they have a more than competent quarterback in Brett Favre. I actually think Favre is still the stronger QB when compared with Tony Romo. Favre has the advantages of experience, a better receiving corps, and home field. The latter may play into this game the most, as Vikings fans will be going crazy for the first legitimate shot at the Super Bowl they’ve ever seen. My pick: Minnesota
Arizona vs. New Orleans: This is a tough one to call. On the one hand, Kurt Warner proved last week that he can hang with the best of them when it comes to quarterback shootouts. His receivers are good and his front line does a great job protecting him. The problem is that as good as he is, Drew Brees is still better. New Orleans will light up that weak Cardinals secondary like the Fourth of July. It’s just a question of whether or not Kurt Warner will answer every time. We saw how weak their defense is, not to mention their inability to close out games. Against a team that plays hard all four quarters (like the Saints) the Cardinals may find themselves too worn out to continue to score the way New Orleans can. And again, they won’t have the benefit of so many early turnovers to give them early leads. My pick: New Orleans.
San Diego vs. New York: This game seems to be the most lopsided, at least on paper. Mark Sanchez pales in comparison to Philip Rivers, as does his receiving corps compared to the Chargers’. San Diego also of course has LaDainian Tomlinson, who despite injuries in the last few years is still a more dynamic playmaker than anyone on the Jets offense. The Jets don’t stop the run as well as they stop the pass, and the Chargers’ have a good enough running game that the Jets won’t be able to expect the pass every time like they did against Cincinnati. All of this points to a quick exit for New York against a far superior Chargers team. My pick: San Diego
Baltimore vs. Indianapolis: You have to remember with this game that the Ravens played the Colts once already and only lost by two points. This week they’re rolling in with plenty of momentum on their side. Plus the fact that no one is picking them to win will be a huge motivational factor in their favor. They proved against the Patriots that they have a stout defense and a strong running game. This is usually what you need to win a playoff game. I expect Baltimore to pound it up the middle. All it takes is for a Peyton Manning off-day (he’s due for one, and it IS the playoffs), and the Colts are looking at a major upset. While Indianapolis has the better quarterback, I think Baltimore has both the edge on defense and on the ground. Plus, the home team can’t win EVERY time! My pick: Baltimore.