This weekend's NFL Playoff matchups are all rematches of regular season games, giving idiots like Joe Buck and Bob Costas plenty to talk about on their respective sports networks. With little rhyme or reason to it, I present to you my predictions for this week's playoff action. Hold on to your hats folks, this is gonna be wild.
BALTIMORE AT TENNESSEE:
I think that this will certainly be the most entertaining game of the weekend. Two dominating defenses bringing everything they have against two offenses with, shall we say, "steady" quarterbacks. The Titans and Ravens are fairly even matched in all aspects of the field, Tennessee having a slight advantage on the ground, and Baltimore a small air advantage with Derrick Mason. I think this game will come down to special teams and turnovers. Therefore I am giving the nod to Baltimore. It seems that everytime I watch Baltimore, Ed Reed or Ray Lewis is making a huge play to seal the game for the Ravens. I also seem to remember Ray Lewis making a big interception in Tennessee in the playoffs years back that sealed the game for the Ravens, who eventually won the Superbowl that year.
Prediction: Ravens 21, Titans 13
SAN DIAGO AT BLITZBURGH:
I hope I am not the only person who has lost a lot of faith in the NFL playoff system. The fact that the Chargers are in the playoffs at all is laughable to me. A team starting out 4-8 should be banned from all playoff activity. The Denver Broncos, whose magic number for the playoffs has been once since about Thanksgiving should also be punished. We should all line up and kick Jay Cutler in the nuts or something. Regardless, the Chargers won last week and that can not be taken away from them. This game has a lot riding on it for me, personally and professionally. As a former Pennsylvanian (always at heart) I have a rooting interest in the Steelers. Moreover, Ben Roethlisberger is my twin brother even though we are not relation. When you combine those two immutable facts with the defensive player of the year James Harrison, I see no way out of Pittsburgh for the Chargers. The Steelers defense will be able to bottle up the mercurial Darren Sproles, who didn't produce on my fantasy team when it counted (another strike against San Diego) and Ben Roethlisberger will shake off the cobwebs, because he is a tough and ruggedly handsome man, to quash the Chargers playoff run. Pittsburgh in a bit of a run away here. I also hate Phil Rivers.
Prediction: Steelers 31, Chargers 17
ARIZONA AT CAROLINA
This game features two enigmas, the Cardinals and the Panthers. Despite my disrespect of the Chargers, I thought the Cardinals were easily the worst team in the playoffs. Much of this came from watching the Eagles dismantle them on Thanksgiving, and from witnessing first hand the Patriots annihilate them 47-7 in "Snow Bowl II". Needless to say I was surprised that they won last week. They could have a good thing going. I must say I know very little about the Panthers. I know that I hate Jake Delhomme because he is a douchebag, and I know that they have "Crash and Dash", or is it "Smash and Stash"? Whatever it is, they beat the Cardinals in their regular season showdown in Carolina 27-23. Despite this victory however, I am going to have to lean towards Arizona to pull an upset city and send the stupid Panthers home for the offseason. If Boldin and Fitzgerald can break through for a few big plays, the Cardinals have a pretty good chance I think. The Panthers are also favored by a hefty 10 points. Fuck it, they are going down. Cardinals in a wild one.
Prediction: Cardinals 41, Panthers 35
PHILADELPHIA AT NEW YORK
There are some fans (Mark Forwood) who would tell you that the Eagles are cursed because Desean Jackson was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. However, that flies in the face of all the karma that has been building up in Philadelphia this year. With the Phils winning the World Series the pressure is off. Everything else is gravy. I will be accused of being biased for this prediction anyway, so why not go crazy with it and bring in things like karma and feelings. What would make a better story than the Eagles riding the wave of momentum created by the Phils breaking the Curse of William Penn and beating the G-Men who are still reeling from the Plaxico Burress controversy? This writer says nothing. And if those reasons don't grab you, here are some real ones that I feel will tip the scales in the Eagles' favor. The Giants have not played a meaningful game in over a month. While the game against the Panthers was important for ceding and bragging rights, it was not a "must win" for the Giants. They have essentially been on cruise control since early December and ended up losing 3 of their last 4 games. In that same time frame, the Eagles have been fighting tooth and nail for that final playoff spot, playing exceptionally well (game against Washington and Portis not withstanding) at the most important time. The Eagles have been getting up for the big games and I think that, combined with the fact that it is difficult to just "turn it on" again for New York will keep the Eagles going this week.
Injuries will also play a huge part in this game. One injury that hasn't been ballywhooed too much, that I think is very important is Sam Madison's broken ankle. This will give the Eagles passing game the edge that it usually needs to make some big plays. I also found it funny that ESPN "expert" Marcellus "Dat Dude" Wiley highlighted Madison as a reason why the Giants defense would be better than the Eagles in this weekend's matchup. He got into Columbia because of his grades. Moreover, I think that Justin Tuck's "If I have to play on one leg..." comments do not portend well for a pass rush that has yet to sack Donovan McNabb this season. On the Eagles side, you have Brian Westbrook. I would dismiss this casually by saying that he is always injured and knows how to play injured. If he is hurting more than usual though it could be bad news bears for the Birdies. The health of Brandon Jacobs is also questionable. He is the X-Factor in this game in my opinion. If he can run over the Eagles speed defense, the Giants have a great chance of winning the game. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the injury of Plaxico Burress. If he is in this game, the Giants win hands down. Giants fans will realize what a huge mistake that was by Plax this weekend. With the edge in special teams going to the Eagles and Desean Jackson, I say that all signs point to the Eagles this weekend in a nail biting, nerve-wracking matchup. After all, Winning is for the Birds.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Giants 24