We sat watching football last weekend, presumably NFL football. We weren't sure what the game was about - was it a special game? A regular season match up? All-star game perhaps?
Thank goodness the powers that be were kind enough to put, right there on the field, 20 yards across, the word PLAYOFFS. We smacked our collective forehead, and gave thanks that the glorious league continued with its continuing campaign to CHEAPEN. EVERYTHING. Seriously, from officially sanctioned celebrations (wearing official celebratory logo hats and T-shirts) to prepackaged, canned trophy presentations, it's just so much crap. "Wait, before you begin your spontaneous celebration, put these things on - okay, now go whoop it up!"
Eh, let's just move on.
Buck up, kiddies, we've only got seven, count 'em, seven more NFL games (we don't count the Pro Bowl lovefest, thank you very much) that matter left this season. As depressing as that sounds, don't let that spoil the greatness that is this weekend - the top seeded teams return after a well earned week off, and the survivors from Wild Card weekend all are looking to keep the magic alive another week. Good stuff.
Some late ugliness by the Titans contributed to a 1-2-1 mark last week, as only the Seahawks panned out, while the Jags decided to tank an 18 point lead, then not go for the spread covering TD late in the fourth quarter, thus earning the enmity of gambl- er, "gamers" everywhere by gaining a push. Tennessee was covering for about, oh, 54 minutes before allowing the second chance LT goal line plunge to fall by 11. Only with the Tampa pick did were we completely wrong, as Eli Manning decided he would be Phil Simms, circa 1986.
Let's dive right in with the selections:
GREEN BAY Bay (-8) over Seattle
"Packers at Lambeau" isn't as automatic as one would think - they're just 4-4 in the last 8 playoff games on the no-longer-frozen-heat-coils-under-the-tundra. Favre must've needed a week off, at his age, and the place will be abuzz with vision of a trip to Big D next week. Much has been made about the YAC (yards after catch) factor of the Green Bay wideouts, but the physical Seattle corners could slow them down.
THE KEY: The Seahawk offense. They did not look great in winning last week, as the misleading final score was padded by two defensive TD's. Matt Hasselbeck will need to carry much of the load, and the speedy Pack defense could be teeing off on him as the game progresses. It's been a magical sesaon thus far in Green Bay, as very few people outside of Wisconsin expected this team to be here. We don't see the ride ending just yet.
Packers 27 Seahawks 17
Jacksonville (+13.5) over NEW ENGLAND
Jags, as stated above, tried like hell to give the game away last week, but were saved by David Garrard's legs (and perhaps a slight hold on the play) in knocking off the Steelers. Weather will not bother this team, as they are built to play in foul conditions. The defense, though prone to lapses (see last week, late 3rd/early 4th quarter), has enough to stifle the mediocre Pat running game while keeping some heat on Tom Brady.
THE KEY: Patriots defense. They played much better than they actually were for most of the season, owing to large leads provided by the record setting offense. When games have been tightly contested (Eagles, Ravens, Giants), the cracks have shown. There is no way this one is a blowout, despite any of the bulletin board items put out there by the press this week, and teams have shown that just by staying close to the mighty Pats inspires a ton of confidence. Jacksonville is the better than the teams mentioned above that have challenged NE, so this figures to be tight, with the aforementioned New England defense likely being forced to come up with one or two key stops in the 4th to hang on and advance to the AFC title game, but not by much.
Patriots 31 Jaguars 27
INDIANAPOLIS (-9) over San Diego
Bolts are brimming with confidence after second half surge last week produced first playoff win since 1994. The team is clearly on a roll since late October, and there is something to be said for riding the wave of momentum into the playoffs. Included in the recent surge was a win over this Indy team, which will do nothing but enhance the San Diego belief that this game is theirs for the taking.
Back it up, boys, let's take a look at that, shall we? We don't think it's likely that the Chargers will score two TD's on kick returns, intercept SIX Peyton Manning passes, and have Adam Vinitieri shank a chip shot figgie late in the game. All of those things happened in the previous match up.
THE KEY: Tomlinson. With Antonio Gates hurting, QB Philip Rivers loses one of his best weapons, and a fired up Colts defense will give him fits all day. LT needs to elevate his game and be the game breaking back he has shown himself to be, but in a big spot. It wouldn't hurt if Norv Turner tried to get him as many touches as possible - can anyone explain why he didn't do this in the first half last week? Sorry, Norv, the run ends in the Dome.
Colts 24 Chargers 13
NY Giants (+7.5) over DALLAS
The only red flag seems to be that, much like the Jags last week, everyone loves the G-Men. No doubt, they were very impressive last week, and seem to be playing with a loose confidence of a team that has absolutely nothing to lose. They don't, as the 'Boys are the overwhelming favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. One small problem; Dallas has been playing its least impressive football over the past month or so. Terrell Owens is a game time decision, though it would be a big surprise to not see him out there. Tony Romo not only has a bum thumb, but has been forced to answer questions all week about his little Mexican holiday with Jessica Simpson. Add into the mix the 8 game Giant road winning streak (last loss: here in Big D back in Week 1) and you've got the current conventional wisdom which says take the Jints.
THE KEY: The Giants pass rush. If they can at least contain Romo and limit his room to scramble, and occasionally knock him on his ass, their chances go way up. Romo has killed them in both meetings, tossing for nearly 600 yards. If the defense does a better job, and newly confident Eli Manning efficiently manages the game, mixing in the suddenly potent double barreled ground attack of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to control the clock and keep Dallas' offense on the sidelines, New York can keep this one close, and maybe steal it outright.
Cowboys 30 Giants 27
Last Week: 1-2-1