Last week, I went 2-2 on my Wild Card picks, so I will try to better myself this weekend. Here is my look at the Saturday set of games.
Baltimore at Tennessee: This is going to be an old-school heavyweight slugfest between a pair of defenses that live to hit hard. Weather could be a factor as rain, falling temperatures and wind is forecast. Both teams live by the run, and the defenses are built to stop it. This will be a field-position game, and staying disciplined and not taking silly penalties will be crucial to success. This might set up for the Ravens like the Pittsburgh game a few weeks ago. Can the Baltimore offensive line hold up against the Titans rush? Will Kerry Collins give Ed Reed any chance to pick off a pass? Can Joe Flacco figure out the Titans’ pass coverage? The punters might be the MVPs like Mike Scifres was for San Diego last week. Remember how Arizona defended Atlanta last week – stop the run and make the rookie QB throw the ball a lot? That will be Tennessee’s strategy today. The Titans will be without C Kevin Mawae, and that’s a big loss for Tennessee’s offensive line against the Ravens’ run-stoppers. Because of the weatherm and how division games tend to go, both teams won’t take too many offensive chances. The team to make the first major mistake might be sitting home the rest of the playoffs. Prediction: I hope I’m right here (wearing purple glasses) – Baltimore 10, Tennessee 3.
Arizona at Carolina: I was dead wrong on the Cardinals, who came into the Falcons game wanting to make a rookie QB beat them. The Cards stopped the run game and manhandled the Falcons. Can they do it again today? Carolina is a better team overall than Atlanta. The Panthers run game, behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, might be the best 1-2 punch in the league. Weather will also be an issue in Charlotte tonight – same forecast as Nashville, but not as cold. Arizona is a good dome team — not a good outdoors team, and Carolina will keep the ball and keep QB Kurt Warner off the field. Arizona needs turnovers and a bad night by Panthers QB Jake Delhomme when he throws (which won’t be a lot). Carolina’s defense has improved over the last month, and they will match well with a Cards squad that will be without Anquan Boldin. Prediction: Carolina 23, Arizona 14.