Sunday, January 9, 2011

NFL Playoff Picks-Wild Card Playoffs, Sunday Edition

Wow, what a Saturday of football. We went 1-1, getting it right that Seattle would make a game of it (but of course, not suggesting that they would win) and missing with the Colts. File this away: if Seattle and Green Bay play in the NFC Championship it will be in Seattle. Nice.

If there is one thing to take away from yesterday's games, it's that touchdowns are king. Anytime a team limits the other to a short field goal it is a huge win for the defense. Yesterday, the Saints kicked field goals of 21, 22 and 26 yards. The last line of my preview was "...the key is to make the Saints kick field goals and control Marques Colston in the redzone." Seattle kept twelve points off the board with those three field goals. Colston had four catches, but no TDs after getting two in their first meeting. Seattle won by five.

In the Jets-Colts game Peyton Manning had a QB rating of 108.7, Mark Sanchez 62.4. Somebody call Elias or Stats Inc. and find out if that is the greatest negative disparity ever between winning and losing playoff quarterbacks. I've got a fair amount of cash betting yes. The Jets dominated the ball in the second half. The Colts needed to stop the run, but couldn't do it. At the end, though, it was a long kick return that really did them in. Highly unlikely that Mark Sanchez could take them 60 yards in 40 seconds, but he did move them 30 after Antonio Cromartie got them near midfield. And credit to the Jets staff for using Cromartie back there after Brad Smith got injured. Now the Jets go to Foxborough to face their execution.

Great games on Saturday, let's see what we can expect on Sunday:

Baltimore at Kansas City +3:

Going on the road is nothing new for Baltimore. The Ravens have played their last five playoff games away from home, going 3-2. Last year they won at New England before falling to the Colts. Yesterday, it was loud in Seattle, loud in Indianapolis and it will be equally loud at Arrowhead as the Chiefs make their first playoff appearance since 2006.

Like most games, this game will be decided at the line of scrimmage. Kansas City was first in the league in rushing and Baltimore was fifth against the run. Look for Matt Cassel to throw off play action early and get his tight end involved down the middle of the field in order to keep the Ravens from filling the box. I think Kansas City will be able to move the ball on the ground and I look at 130 rushing yards to be the magic number. More than that and I expect a Kansas City win.

For Baltimore to win they have to take the chains off Joe Flacco. I don't think Flacco is a great quarterback, but he has been hindered by the Ravens play calling. Kansas City's corners are really good and equally underrated. If the Ravens go run, run, pass and find themselves in third and long situations they're going to be in trouble. They need to hit Boldin underneath out of the slot and work the outside guys deep on occasion to keep the secondary from jumping routes. Ray Rice has a chance to have a big day as the Ravens offensive line should dominate the point of attack.

I expect another great game. Give me the home team, but I see a Ravens win: Baltimore 24 Kansas City 23

Green Bay +2.5 at Philadelphia:

Looking at the weekend playoff schedule, this game clearly was the marquee matchup. Obviously the NFL thought so, putting it into the Sunday afternoon time slot. After what has come before it, there is a lot to live up to.

Philly is loaded with offensive weapons. Jeremy Maclin averaged 13.8 yds/catch, had ten touchdowns and he's an afterthought in the Eagles arsenal. DeSean, LeSean and of course Mike Vick are the headliners. Vick is the key and the Packers will be fully focused on keeping him in check. Vick and his receivers had trouble handling the blitz late in the season, particularly off the corner, so expect to see Charles Woodson coming off the edge. The Eagles only went 4-4 at Lincoln Financial during the regular season so it isn't clear that they have a huge home field advantage.

Green Bay opened their season in Philly beating the Eagles 27-20. They knocked out Kevin Kolb and had to face Mike Vick, so they've seen this fish before. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFC and he's going against an Eagles defense that was 21st in the league in points allowed at 23.6. I expect Rodgers to have a great game.

Both these teams are pass first. The difference will be Green Bay's defense, led by probable Defensive Player of the Year Clay Matthews, which was second in points allowed and fifth against the pass. I expect Coordinator Dom Capers to dial up enough in coverage to keep the Eagles guessing while also keeping Vick in the pocket.

The Pack is the choice: Green Bay 37 Philadelphia 20

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