NFL Picks: Wild Card Weekend

By Tony McClean
Updated: January 6, 2005

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — While this opening act of the NFL Playoffs is called Wild Card Weekend, this really should be Rematch Weekend. All four matchups are regular season rematches that had a big bearing on a division title or playoff berth.
Saturday at 4:30 pm ET, the Seahawks, the NFC West champs, host the Rams to open the playoff parade. St. Louis won both matchups including a shocking 33-27 overtime thriller in October in which The Rams rallied from a 17-point deficit.
Later that night at 8 pm, the AFC West Champs from San Diego host the Jets at Qualcomm Stadium. New York beat the Chargers 34-28 back in Week 2 when the Jets were in the midst of a 5-0 start, but San Diego QB Drew Brees suffered a concussion on that day and was ineffective.
On Sunday at 1 pm ET, The Colts meet the Broncos at the RCA Dome. Denver dominated the Colts to qualify for the playoffs last Sunday, but QB Peyton Manning and RB Edgerrin James, among others, played just one series for Indianapolis.
Finally at 4:30, the Packers and Vikings meet for the third time this season. This time it’s at Lambeau Field. Green Bay swept Minnesota this year, including a come-from-behind 34-31 triumph in Week 16 with the division title on the line.
The 2004 season was an offensive record-setter in thee important categories. There were more 100-yard rushing (179) and receiving (190) games, and 300-yard passing games (81) than in any season in history.
The Rams are entering the playoffs on a role off home wins against the Eagles and Jets. Seattle needed a goal line stand to hold off Atlanta and win the West. The key to this game will be the defenses. Despite the big wins, St. Louis’ D is still very vunerable. If Shawn Alexander and head coach Mike Holmgren kiss and make up enough, it could salvage the season for the Birds. The rumors of Big Mike heading to San Fran definitely don’t do anything to help Seattle’s fragile psyche right now. This game has overtime written all over it.
Pick: Rams.
Gang Green fans have seemingly been walking on eggshells ever since New York’s loss at Pittsburgh a few weeks back. Backing into the playoffs did nothing to change that mindset. Getting DE John Abraham back into the lineup will be a key to the Jets’ success, but the Bolts are probably the better team defensively. This game also matches two of the league’s best running backs in NFL rushing leader Curtis Martin and San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers are much better now than when they met the Jets back in Week 2. They easily show that on Saturday night.
Pick: Chargers
Last year, Peyton Manning finally got the gorilla off his back with his first postseason win at the expense of the Broncos. Surprisingly (or stupidly), Denver has been barking about how the Indy receivers are soft following last Sunday’s win. It’s very similar to the trash talking that some of the Oklahoma Sooners did going into the Orange Bowl. You saw how USC dealt with that. Even though the Colts’ D is still shakier than stock tips from Martha Stewart, all this barking may be just enough to inspire their secondary.
Pick: Colts.
Both of the regular season games between these two NFC North rivals came down to the last minute. Both game-winning field goals by Ryan Longwell cost the Vikings a division title. Minny also enters the playoffs a little shaky while Green Bay toyed with the Bears last week before dismissing them early. Everything about this game screams of an easy Packer win at the Frozen Tundra. It’s eerily similar to a situation a few years back when the Falcons and Mike Vick handed the Cheeseheads their only home playoff loss in team history. Will history repeat? I say yeah.
Pick: Vikings