New Orleans Saints (-10 ½) at Seattle Seahawks: I'm sure the Saints players and coaches will stick with the politically correct jargon of how “Seattle is tough at home” and “any given Sunday” blah, blah. But let's face it: Drew Brees leading the high powered Saints offense against the 27th ranked defense in the NFL is a matchup which certainly has New Orleans licking their proverbial chops.
This game will feature the first team in NFL history to fashion a losing record in the regular season (Seattle finished 7-9). However, the Seahawks will not attain another first, which is a losing team winning a playoff game.
New Orleans 34 Seattle 17
New York Jets (+3) at Indianapolis Colts: This intriguing matchup is a rematch of last season's AFC title game, a 30-17 win for Indy. Last season the Jets (9-7 in 2009) were a surprise entrant in the playoffs while the Colts were pretty much dubbed the best team in the NFL with their gaudy 14-2 record. This season, both teams endured hiccups which called in to question their viability as Super Bowl contenders.
After a 9-2 start, the Jets lost 3 of their next 4 with their vaunted defense looking very vulnerable. And the Colts were a mere 6-6 after 12 games, including a three-game losing streak. In said losing streak, QB Peyton Manning showed unprecedented futility by throwing 11 interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns. But Manning proved he is still clutch with 9 TD passes and only two picks as the Colts won four in a row to end the season. It's still very clear that as Peyton goes, so go the Colts. That is why the Jets must pound LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene down the collective throat of the Indianapolis defense in an effort to keep Manning off the field. It wouldn't hurt either if the Jets could rely a little more on their second year QB Mark Sanchez. Alas......
Indianapolis 24 New York 17
Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Kansas City Chiefs: For the first time since 2006, the Chiefs are in the postseason. Meanwhile, it's been an embarrassment of riches for third year Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who has made the playoffs each season of his career, including the AFC title game as a rookie in 2008.
The matchup I'm most intrigued by is the NFL's second leading rusher (KC's Jamaal Charles) versus the Ravens stingy run defense, which allowed less than four yards per carry. Chiefs QB Matt Cassel has quietly put together an excellent season, as he was the eighth leading passer in the NFL. His favorite target is WR Dwayne Bowe, who led the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 15. This potent combo will have their opportunities against the Ravens' 21st ranked pass defense. The Ravens will counter with Ray Rice, their Marshall Faulk-esque running back who compiled nearly 1,800 all-purpose yards. Hard to believe that a game featuring the Baltimore Ravens could possibly turn into a shootout.
Kansas City 28 Baltimore 27
Green Bay Packers (+2 ½) at Philadelphia Eagles: This is a rematch of Week 1, a 27-20 win for the Pack in Philly. In that contest, Kevin Kolb started at QB for the Eagles but left at halftime with a concussion. Enter Michael Vick, who torched the Pack with 103 yards rushing, 175 yards passing and one TD toss. But that seems like a lifetime ago, as the Green Bay defense has stiffened in two must win games in Weeks 16 & 17.
Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings unveiled a game plan to slow down Vick by successfully barraging him with blitzes. This plays right into the Packers' hands, as their defense ranks second in the NFL with 47 sacks. However, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (1,080 yards rushing in the regular season) will be a key factor in an effort to keep the Green Bay defense off balance. This could prove to be an effective game plan since the Packers ranked near the bottom in run defense, allowing 4.7 yards per carry. Aaron Rodgers is making only his second career playoff start but essentially played in two “one and done” games to end the regular season. Unfortunately for Rodgers & Co., they have little running game to balance their offense. To me, that will be the difference.
Philadelphia 27 Green Bay 24