BASN NFL Picks: Divisional Playoffs

By Tony McClean
Updated: January 11, 2007

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Well, so much for the first round upsets. Unlike in previous years, all four home teams prevailed in Wild Card Weekend. However, it took a mishandled snap for the Seahawks to come away with the W.

How close to form are the playoffs going after one week? All top four seeds from each conference are still alive. Needless to say, this weekend’s match ups all offer many different stories and varying contrasts.
For example:
Three games are between teams now either tied in wins (Indianapolis at Baltimore) or separated by only one win (Philadelphia at New Orleans and New England at San Diego).
There are two 2006 regular-season rematches (Philadelphia at New Orleans and Seattle at Chicago).
One game features the NFC’s top seeds of the past two seasons (Seattle, 2005; Chicago, 2006).
— And, another game (New England at San Diego) pits a three-time Super-Bowl-winning quarterback (some guy named Brady that doesn’t have three sons and is marrying a lady with three girls of her own) against a QB making his first postseason start (that would be Philip “I’m Not Eli” Rivers).
When Indy visits Baltimore Saturday, it will mark the ninth time since 1970 that the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense of the same conference meet in the Divisional Playoffs. The Ravens ranked first in the NFL in defense (264.1 yards per game), and the Colts led the AFC in offense (379.4 yards per game). Of the eight such teams to win those divisional games, five won conference titles and three won Super Bowls. The 1971 Cowboys, and the 1988 and 1989 49ers won Super Bowls after defeating their conference’s top-ranked defense in the divisional round. Saturday’s game at Baltimore will also be the first meeting between a conference’s top offense and defense in the divisional round since the current 12-team playoff format began in 1990.
Indy rookie running back Joseph Addai ran for 122 yards in his postseason debut last week against the Chiefs. Which player has run for the most yards in the first two playoff games of their rookie season?
A. Earl Campbell
B. Curt Warner
C. Duane Thomas
D. Ickey Woods
(The answer comes at the end of this column).
We knew we were living dangerously going with the Chiefs on the road. Little did I know that Reverend Herm’s stubbornness would take over K.C.’s game plan as well. But it evens out, especially when a bobbled snap is the only thing that keeps you from going 0-for-2 on Saturday. The Pats-Jets game went the way we expected and Big Blue settled for too many field goals instead on TD in Philly.
EaglesEaglesCOLTS at RAVENS
Welcome to the “Carpetbaggers Bowl” with a twist — a trip to the AFC Championship game awaits the winner. This week in Cleveland, someone is saying unprintable things about Art Modell and the Ravens. Meanwhile on the Beltway, folks have been cursing the late Robert Irsay ever since he and the Colts left Baltimore like thieves in the night back in the early eighties. While these teams have been several times before, the stakes will be incredibly high this Saturday. While the Ravens rested last week, Indy had their way with the Chiefs. The big question this week is whether or not Peyton Manning can deal with all the stuff that Baltimore’s D will throw at him. Given the nature and atmosphere that will be surrounding this game, the Ravens must try not to be too fired up and allow No. 18 to chop them apart. One gets the feeling that with McNair, Jamal Lewis, and others on offense, Baltimore will have a few more weapons than K.C. had last week.
Pick: Ravens.
EaglesSaintsEAGLES at SAINTS
Needless to say, but someones Cinderella story is going to come to an end Saturday night on Bourbon Street. While Philly did get by the Giants, they come into this game down one Pro Bowl defensive back — Lito Sheppard. Given the strength of the Saints passing attack, this could prove to fatal for the Iggles. But ever since that loss to Indy (which seems like ages ago), Jeff Garcia and the offense have been clicking on all cylinders. Watching them win without Donavan McNabb reminds me of the ’99 Knicks playoff run without Patrick Ewing. To me, despite the fact that many folks still don’t believe in them, I just think that New Orleans is bringing a little bit more to the table right now. But don’t look for Philly to make this easy at all. This looks like it could be a barn burner.
Pick: Saints.
Way back on October 1st, Seattle came to the Windy City in what was built as a battle for NFC supremacy. Just a little over three hours later that night, Da Bears pimp slapped the Birds 37-6 on national TV. Now you must remember, Seattle was without Shaun Alexander that night and Rex Grossman was still doing his best Jim McMahon impersonation. Come Saturday, Grossman hopes to stop doing his best Rusty Lisch (yuck!!!) impersonation as Seattle returns for a rematch. The Birds got outta Dodge (literally) last week as a bobbled snap by RomoCop was the winning margin. Never has so many wanted folks wanted to come to Chicago in January so soon. Will this be a walkover for the Bears or does Seattle have an upset in them. If their defense was a little healthier, I would say the Birds have a shot. However, the football gods don’t allow for miracles to extend from week to week. It may be ugly, but Chicago probably takes this thing.
Pick: Bears.
Okay, you all know the numbers: Tom Brady is 11-1 all-time in the playoffs, Marty Schottenheimer is 5-12 all-time in the postseason, Philip Rivers has never started in a playoff game, the square root of five is…….well, you get the idea. So what will all of this mean come Sunday. The Bolts come in with the AFC’s best record, but somehow all the experts are starting to make New England out as the uncrowned champs. A bit premature? Yes, they looked good beating the Jets, but really what did that prove? This week they face the league’s MVP in LT. Now I like Leon Washington and Kevin Barlow as people, but I’ve seen LT, I know LT, and they’re not LT. Quite simply, I’m still not sold on the Pats’ defense. Yeah, I know Bill “Hug Me, Dammit” Belichick will have a week to prepare, but I just don’t think that will be enough. Now I don’t like to pick all the home teams, but I have a sneaky suspicion that we may have another home sweep on our hands.
Pick: Chargers.
C. In 1970, Duane Thomas of the Dallas Cowboys ran for 278 yards in his first two playoff games of his rookie season.