In last week’s predictions, I was 2-out-of-4. Saturday was a good day, but Sunday didn’t go so well. Here are my predictions for this week’s matchups.
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints – Saturday 4:30
The Cardinals won last week’s shoot out with Green Bay, but if that same defense shows up this weekend, this game won’t be close for very long. The Saints finished the year weakly, but will be fresh and ready to go after the off week. Quarterback Drew Brees didn’t play in the Saints’ Week 17 loss to the Carolina Panthers while running back Reggie Bush had just five carries. The Saints will have to shake off any rust immediately since the Cardinals are in full swing after last week. The Saints’ defense has had holes at times this season and the three consecutive losses to end the season are alarming. Meanwhile, Cardinals’ quarterback Kurt Warner had an excellent game last week. This game will come down to scoring. I’m going with the Saints again, because I think their defense will step up and hold the Cardinals to a reasonable score. Warner proved me wrong last week, but I’m saying the Saints win 35-24.
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts – Saturday 8:15
The Ravens upset the Patriots last week in a dominant performance that left many NFL fans in awe. Baltimore’s defense was just overpowering last week. Ray Lewis led the defensive attack and the Patriot offense had no answer for it. The Ravens’ offense played strong as well, putting up 33 points on a New England defense that isn’t nearly as good as it was in years past. Like the Saints, the Colts finished the year badly, losing their final two games while resting most of their starters. Even so, quarterback Peyton Manning had a terrific year. However, the Colts’ rushing attack was weak with no one rushing for over a hundred yards in any game this season. The Colts will be home where their only loss came to the New York Jets, but Baltimore proved that they have no trouble winning away from home after the destruction of New England this past week. I’m going with an upset here with Manning struggling to find his game and the Ravens win 24-17.
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings – Sunday 1:00
The Cowboys victory over the Philadelphia Eagles this past week showed how good this team can be. The defense shut down Donovan McNabb and the Eagles’ offense while quarterback Tony Romo and an excellent game from running back Felix Jones propelled the ‘Boys to a blowout victory. The Vikings won’t prove so easy an opponent. Quarterback Brett Favre has had another solid season while running back Adrian Peterson continues to be a large part of Minnesota’s offense. That combo should provide a big challenge for Cowboys’ defense that has had lapses throughout the season. As much as Dallas has the potential to have a repeat performance as last week, I think Favre will have an excellent game and Peterson will have a couple big runs to seal the deal. Look for Romo to have a good game as well, but to come up just short in the Vikings 28-24 victory.
New York Jets at San Diego Chargers – Sunday 4:40
The final game of the Divisional Playoffs may prove more exciting than any other. The Jets are talented and confident, maybe to the point of arrogance (aka Rex Ryan). However, the Chargers are underrated. Phillip Rivers is a great quarterback and doesn’t get the praise he deserves. Running back Ladanian Tomlinson has not been as good in recent years, but can still have a solid game and mix up the offense enough to keep the Jets’ defense alert. The key to this game may be Jets’ cornerback Darrelle Revis and if he continues his dominant defense. If Revis and the rest of the Jets’ secondary can contain Rivers, the Jets will have a chance. Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez is young, but passed last week’s test of playing in Cincinnati. He can do it again in San Diego. However, the Jets will rely mostly on running backs Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene for the offense. How the Chargers defensive line holds up throughout the game will be interesting to watch. The Jets don’t have enough offensive firepower to stay with Rivers and the Chargers and Revis can only do so much. Sanchez won last week, but needs to become a larger part of the offense to mix up the plays a bit more. On Sunday though, Sanchez will feel the pressure and the Chargers win 24-17.
Alright so there are my picks for the Divisional Playoffs. I could go back and review my other round selections from last week, but instead I’ll just leave these and give my AFC/NFC Championship predictions next week. Enjoy the games!