Playoffs?!? It’s about darn time we started talking some playoffs! After 17 weeks of games, we finally get to watch some real football. Do-or-die football. Win-or-you-go-home football. For the eight teams playing in the wild card round, their whole season is on the line. And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited. Let’s do this. Last week: 5 wins – 11 losses. (Ugh). Season record: 129-122-5.
New Orleans Saints (-10) at Seattle Seahawks: Who did you think I was going to take? The defending champs who finished at 11-5, or an NFC West division winner Seattle who limped into the playoffs at an embarrassing 7-9? Ten points seems like a large spread for a playoff game on the road, especially for the Saints who have never won a playoff road game (0-3 all-time, the Super Bowl counts as a neutral site). But come on. Are you serious? The Seahawks have a mediocre defense at best, ranking near the bottom of the league at total defense at 369 yards allowed per game. In particular, Drew Brees and the high-powered passing attack of New Orleans should light up a Seattle pass defense that ranks 27th in the NFL with nearly 250 yards allowed per game. Homefield advantage won’t save their porous defense, even if they have that extra 12th man.
New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5): Quiz time. How many of the Jets’ 11 wins came against teams with .500 records or better? You have five seconds to Google it. Time’s up. Your answer is 2. That’s tied for fewest among the remaining playoff teams. Yes, that’s right. The Jets have won as many games against .500-plus teams as the 7-9 Seahawks. When you consider that New York beat the Patriots in Week 2 before Tom Brady caught fire and the Pats’ young secondary came together, you’re down to one good ugly win in snowy Pittsburgh. I know the Colts are banged up, and not exactly the offensive juggernaut that they used to be. But you expect me to bet on Mark Sanchez over Peyton Manning in Indy for a primetime playoff game? You gotta be kidding me. If there’s one rule to playoff picks, it has to be go with the quarterback you trust the most. And there’s no way I am putting my faith in Mark Sanchez.
Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Kansas City Chiefs: A few fun facts for this game. The Chiefs are 7-1 at home this year, and historically Arrowhead Stadium is one of the loudest and toughest to play in for a visiting team. The Ravens, however, are 3-2 in road playoff games in the past two years, including a win at New England last year, a place where very few visitors ever leave happy. Oddly enough, Baltimore is tied for the best road playoff winning percentage all-time at .667, as the Ravens are 6-4 in their relatively short history. Need a couple more to sway you towards the Ravens? How about the fact that the Chiefs’ only win over a playoff team was against Seattle? Kansas City won only 2 games over teams with .500 or better records, vs. San Diego and vs. Jacksonville. Then there is this gem about Baltimore. The Ravens held a fourth-quarter lead in every single one of their games. No other team in the NFL did that. Not even the 14-2 Patriots. (They got blown out in Cleveland, remember?) Granted the Ravens blew nine of those leads, eventually losing four of them, but the Ravens do not get blown out. They have chances to win every single game. Baltimore often wins ugly, but all coach John Harbaugh cares about is that they win. Again the Ravens defense will keep it close enough, and the offense will make some plays to get at least one playoff victory in each of Joe Flacco’s and John Harbaugh’s first three seasons.
Green Bay Packers (+2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles: Honestly, I just think that Green Bay is the more complete and better all-around team. Clearly, the Eagles have the most dynamic player in all of the NFL. But as much as Michael Vick amazes crowds, his counterpart for Green Bay, QB Aaron Rodgers has a top-five quarterback in the NFL for several years now. And yes, the Packers did defeat the Eagles 27-20 earlier in the season, but that was in Week 1 and Vick did not start that game, so I think we can discount it when discussing the upcoming game on Sunday. While the dueling QBs should make for a fairly even game on the offensive side of the ball, Green Bay’s defense is going to be the difference in this game. The Packers ranked 2nd in scoring defense this season, allowing just 15 points per game. That defensive effort was a large reason that Green Bay had the highest scoring differential in the league at +148. Like I said, the Packers have the whole package, offense and defense, so I’ll take Green Bay and the points.