BASN NFL Picks: Wild Card Weekend

By Tony McClean
Updated: January 3, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Finally, no more corporate maggots putting their names on the game. No more Tim Tebow propoganda being shoved down your throat (at least until August!!!!).

No more wondering if the Miami Dolphins are gonna fire Cam Cameron. And for at least one week — not near a mention of Team Tivo in Foxboro. IT’S THE PLAYOFFS, DAMMITT!! Sorry about that bit of profanity.
Please forgive me and let the choir say “Aaaaaamen!!”

The next two weekends are the exact reason why pro football fans will put up with 17 weeks of overeating, pompous radio talk show hosts, overanalyzing TV announcers, the cable wars, self righteous nimrods who’ve never put on a helmet, and all the other stuff in between.

While the AFC games features a pair of intriuging regular season matchups, the NFC has four teams who have reached this point in four different ways. However, one thing that should prevalent in all four games — consistency.

In fact, it’s a solid playoff field, led by teams that have performed consistently over the years, with winning percentages of .600 or more over the past five seasons — New England (.825), Indianapolis (.788), Seattle (.638), Pittsburgh (.625) and San Diego (.612).

Since the NFL adopted the 12-team playoff format in 1990, only 17 of 34 (50 percent) No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Super Bowl with eight No. 1′s being crowned NFL champions (23.5 percent). The last No. 1 seed to win a Super Bowl? The 2003 New England Patriots, who defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Ironically, Carolina reached the game by defeating the NFC’s top seed that year, the Philadelphia Eagles.
On Saturday night against Jacksonville, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin will attempt to become only the ninth rookie head coach since 1990 to win his first playoff game. Which one of these coaches was the first?
A. Ray Rhodes
B. Jim Haslett
C. Barry Switzer
D. Bobby Ross
(The answer comes at the end of the column).

LAST WEEK: 4-2 (136-88 in regular season)
Not a bad way to finish the regular season. A dropped pass here and a penalty there and we might have gotten the upset of the year at the Meadowlands. Same thing with the Purple Gang at Invesco, but once the Redskins won they had all the fight leave them. We tried to warn you about Da Bears and the Cowboys. If you didn’t listen, shame on you.

There’s no doubt that in many ways, the Redskins are the emotional favorites of many to make a playoff run. Their improbable run reached its zenith last week in their home win against the hated Cowboys. Starting QB Todd Collins is on an incredible roll in completing 64 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions during the four-game winning streak. Washington has a solid running game and a good enough defense to carry themselves. However, the Seahawks may be perfect example of a team that suffers from a severe case of “East Coast bias”. Even though former MVP Shaun Alexander has been up-and-down season, QB Matt Hasselbeck is having a better season that two years ago when the Birds reached the Super Bowl. A solid defense led by DE Patrick Kerney (14.5 sacks) and LB Lofa Tatupu has quietly been one of the league’s best. It’s been a great season for Grandpa Gibbs and his bunch, but I think the story’s final chapter will be written on Saturday.
Pick: Seahawks.

It was only three weeks ago that the Jags visited a snowy Hines Field with game-time temperatures at 35 degrees and dropping and came away with a solid 29-22 win. Fred “The Groundskeeper” Taylor rumbled for 147 yards and the winning TD. It was the first 100-yard effort Pittsburgh surrendered at home in 30 games — and QB David Garrard threw three scoring passes. Somewhere along the way, Pittsburgh and their early season success was being kicked to the curb. The Black and Gold have not looked good since that loss and in many ways have replaced the Jags as the AFC’s most perplexing team. For example, last week’s loss to the Ravens was similar to the Jaguars’ loss because Pittsburgh couldn’t stop the run in either game. Which Steeler team shows up Saturday night? The dominant squad of the first eight weeks or the inconsistent one of the last weeks? At this point, me thinks Jacksonville can beat either one that shows up.
Pick: Jaguars.

Jeff Garcia and the Giants have a little bit of history against each other in the playoffs. Especially in the wild card rounds. Five years ago with San Francisco, he directed the second-biggest playoff comeback in NFL history with a 24-point rebound in a 2002 Wild Card game in a 39-38 Niners’ victory. Then last season with Philadelphia, Garcia again beat New York in a Wild Card game (23-20), taking the Eagles on three consecutive second-quarter scoring drives. Now after a valient showdown with Team Tivo, Big Blue goes down south to see Garcia and his Buccaneers waiting for them. Given the fact that both teams have strong defenses, this has all the makings of a feast for fans of smashmouth football. The difference may be the fact that Lil’ Eli is probably just a bit better passer than Mr. Garcia. And even without loudmouth TE Jeremy Shockey around to drop passes and bitch, New York’s receiving corps appears to be better as well. Another road dog winning in the first round? It can happen.
Pick: Giants.

Three weeks ago, these two teams literally beat on each other for four and a half quarters in Tennessee. The Chargers overcame a 14-point deficit and won in overtime on a LaDainian Tomlinson 16-yard run. The game was extremely physical, with four players getting fined a total of $32,500 by the league and San Diego LB Shawne Merriman accusing Tennessee of a cheap shot that left him with an injured knee. The Bolts are entering on a roll, as in a six-game winning streak which makes their 1-3 start seem like it was last year. The Titans are coming in banged up, especially under center. Vince Young is listed day-to-day after re-injuring his right quadriceps muscle in the win at Indy. However, coach Jeff Fisher says he expects VY to play. The stench of last year’s bitter home playoff loss to the Pats is still fresh on fans and players alike in San Diego. As much as I’d like to think the Bolts can win this, I also get this image of VY having a Cali flashback to the Rose Bowl. Add the Norv Turner playoff factor and I’m completely sold on the upset.
Pick: Titans.

D. The 1992 Chargers, behind rookie head coach Bobby Ross, lost their first four games before winning 11 of 12 to reach the playoffs as the AFC West champs. They shutout division rival Kansas City 17-0 in the wildcard round before being blanked 31-0 in the divisional round by the Miami Dolphins.