BASN NFL Picks: Divisional Playoffs

By Tony McClean
Updated: January 10, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — After last week’s Wild Card appetizer, it’s time for the next course of this year’s playoff smorgasbord — the divisional round. If you thought last weekend’s action was good, this weekend should be a little bit better. Just why do you ask??

Well, this week should be tougher than last week, if for no other reason than the top four playoff seeds (Dallas, Green Bay, Indianapolis and Team Tivo, aka New England) will be in action after enjoying a Wild Card bye. In fact, the remaining eight teams in the playoffs have a combined record of 101-31.

Also, it’s only the sixth time in the past 38 seasons (since 1970) that the Divisional Playoff teams combined for a .750 or better regular-season record (.758).

The Cowboys will join exclusive company should they beat the Giants on Sunday, becoming only the 12th team since 1970 to defeat an opponent three times in a season. This is the 18th time that two teams have met in the playoffs after one team swept the other in the regular season. Also, it’s the 54th time since 1970 that teams have met three times in a season.

Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware had a career-high 14 sacks this season after registering 11.5 last year. Who was the last Cowboy to have consecutive seasons of 10 or more sacks?
A. Harvey Martin
B. Randy White
C. Charles Haley
D. Ed “Too Tall” Jones
(The answer comes at the end of this column).

In retrospect, we may have went with our hearts instead of our heads in the lone loss we had last weekend. All I’ll say is I wish Jeff “Groucho” Fisher wouldn’t settle so so many field goals over touchdowns — especially in the postseason. I know the Titans had several injuries and VY wasn’t exactly 100 percent, but a 14-0 or even a 10-0 lead at the half might have made a huge psychological difference at San Diego. As for the other games, in all three instances, the team with the better quarterback won out. Todd Collins’ incredible run (luck??) had to end sooner or later, Tampa Bay’s offense still couldn’t hang with the big boys when it counted, and David Garrard’s fourth down dash was the play of the weekend as far as I’m concerned. Do the Jags have anymore magic left?? Stay tuned.
We all got an up close and personal look at Seattle’s underrated defense in last week’s win against the Redskins. Now the Birds must pack up their long johns and head to the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field. Way back in 2003, these teams met in a wildcard playoff match that is more remembered for Matt Hasselbeck’s mouth (remember “We want the ball and we’re going to score”??) than Al Harris’ interception that eventually won the game. The difference in this game may be which team can run the ball more effectively. Right now, I think the Cheeseheads have that advantage, which may be enough for them to move one.
Pick: Packers.
Despite all the disparaging things I’ve said about New England this season, I must admit that I’ve really tried to embrace the Patriots’ run at history. But I’m just getting sick and tired of people calling them “the greatest team in the history” when the deal is far from being done. I still think that their defense is suspect and I’d really like to see someone play them hard for ALL FOUR QUARTERS!!!!! Not three. Not three and a half, but four. The Jaguars strike me as that kind of team and last week’s topsy turvy win at Heinz Field tells me so. They could have very easily folded up their tent late in the fourth like they’ve done before, but they didn’t. This has the makings of being a truly epic playoff game, but with just one slight difference — Jacksonville pulling it out at the gun or in overtime. Either way, I think the Jags can beat the Pats. There I’ve said it.
Pick: Jaguars.
In the first game of Rematch Sunday, the Bolts visit the RCA Dome to take on the defending Super Bowl Champions. Now despite what ESPN and a few blowhards from Foxboro may think, the Colts are still the champs until you beat them. Back in November, Peyton Manning played one of the worst games of his career (a team-record six interceptions) but would rally the Horseshoes only to see Adam Vinatieri miss a chippy late in a 23-21 loss. For a team that won 13 games this season, it seems that Indy has been playing most of the season under the radar. I think that all changes Sunday when they come out with guns blazing against a San Diego team got all it could handle from Tennessee last week.
Pick: Colts.
When does a playoff game have the feeling of a trap game? It depends on how you look at it. Last year at this time, the Cowboys were riding the Tony Romo wave until it fell one botched hold short. Now the Boys are coming in as a No. 1 playing a home game against a team that they have already beaten twice this year. Even the most loyal Dallas fan knows that this team has not played well since the fantastic finish in Motown. Whether you wanna blame Jessica Simpson or T.O.’s sprain, something has been lost in translation over the last three games. Enter Lil’ Eli and the Giants who have peaking since their win at Buffalo. Big Blue enters this game with absolute no pressure on them because they’re supposed to lose this one. So say the experts. You saw that earlier stat about beating a team three times in a season didn’t you? This may make many friends (and several enemies) very angry at me, but in the words of Hulk Hogan, “What ya gonna do when all the pressure is on you????”
Pick: Giants.
C. In 1994 and 1995, Charles Haley would lead the Cowboys in sacks with 12.5 and 10.5 respectively.