As the weekend’s divisional playoffs approach, we attempt to answer a few burning questions. Will the Patriots continue their march to perfection? Will Brett Favre demonstrate why he deserved to be named the 2007 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year? Most importantly, which Manning(s) will cry this week? For your enjoyment, we offer our playoff picks.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots
Clearly, we should talk about why the Patriots need the weather to be pristine on Saturday night. Otherwise, quarterback Tom Brady can’t possibly find success on a typical cold, windy, and possibly rainy New England night just like it didn’t work out against the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens.
Otherwise, the Patriots’ running game is underrated and overshadowed by the passing game. The question is how much of that is because opponents concentrate on stopping the pass?
Likewise, the Jaguars are able to run the ball, and one of the key matchups will be the Jacksonville run against an older New England defense. If the Jaguars manage an early lead, their running attack is capable of keeping Brady off the field.
In the end, the Patriots have too many weapons, and we can’t pick against a 16-0 team.
Pick: Patriots over Jaguars
San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts
Much of this game depends on how well and how quickly injuries have healed. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, their biggest offensive threat besides LaDanian Tomlinson, hurt his toe in last week’s win. His mere presence on the field would do wonders in opening up spaces for Chargers wide receivers Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson, both of whom stepped up nicely against the Titans. Their effectiveness against the Colts secondary, including NFL Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders, will be a key factor, assuming the Colts concentrate their efforts on stopping LT.
The Colts will finally get wide receiver Marvin Harrison back and should be the healthiest the team has been in a long time. However, look for them to start out rusty, especially coming off the bye week. They can’t afford to get behind early to a Chargers team that is on a seven-game winning streak and confident from beating Indy back in Week 10 (granted, they probably don’t expect six interceptions from Peyton Manning this time).
Yes, we know that Manning is a living legend, and we know that the Colts defense gave up the fewest total points this year. But there must be an upset somewhere, and the Chargers are hot.
Pick: Chargers over Colts
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Moving to the NFC, the Cowboys won’t lose to the Giants. Giants quarterback Eli Manning was lucky to earn his first playoff win opposite an uninspiring Bucs offense, but that won’t be the case in Dallas. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo wants to redeem himself after last year’s botched hold to prove he’s worthy of elite status (and Jessica Simpson). As for the latest T.O. injury saga, it has all the usual elements: T.O. is hurt. T.O. is receiving tons of attention. T.O. is going to play well and will be a difference-maker, albeit an annoying one.
Even if not, Eli’s newfound confidence may well revert back to skittishness, particularly when the Giants play against a team that vividly remembers beating them 31-20 in New York and 45-35 in Dallas.
Pick: Cowboys over Giants
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
Can anyone seriously pick against Brett Favre? We don’t care how well Seattle’s defense stepped up for all but a few minutes against the Redskins, but this is Brett Favre we’re talking about.
Green Bay is the more inexperienced team overall, but if anyone can calm and prepare a young team for a playoff game, it’s Favre. Besides, a win on Sunday and Favre might even be back for another year. Who doesn’t want to see that?
The Seahawks, known this year for their passing attack, will need a better performance from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. It is a daunting task without his “12th Man” in Qwest Field. As long as the Packers limit their mistakes, something the Redskins couldn’t do, they should prevail in a close one at Lambeau.
Pick: Packers over Seahawks
Think our picks suck?
Don’t just sit there, let us know why. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (before the games), and we’ll let the authors of the two best responses publish their picks for next week in next Wednesday’s issue of The Tech.