NFL Playoffs Week 2 Picks, Part One

If you’re looking for 2011 playoff predictions, then you’re in the wrong place — click here to get to my current picks!

So let’s try this again, shall we?

When this is your action figure, you shouldn't be surprised you're not the player you used to be

There’s no need to cry over the spilled milk that were my selections for last week’s games — I did that already a couple of days ago.  On the bright side, I guess, is that it could have been even worse — I could have gone 0-4 like ESPN’s Bill Simmons did.  So there’s that small victory — in your face, Sports Guy — in your face!  Since that’s been said, I’ll remind myself that he has a prominent job writing for a major national sports network and I … well … I currently do not.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so pleased with myself for that 1-3 mark after all.  Instead, I’ll slink back in my chair and concentrate on making my picks for this week with the goal of actually breaking .500 — though, I will do so with a sense of satisfaction that in his column this week the Sports Guy used a version of the “LaDainian Tomlinson is so washed up, that even his McFarlane action figure is of him sitting on the bench” joke I’ve been running into the ground for two years (and that I sent to him earlier in the year when he was bemoaning having drafted LT2 on his fantasy football team).

So without further ado, it’s on to this week’s selections — which let’s face it, after last week’s mess, can’t be filling you with any sense of confidence in what I’m about to say.  Heck, as wacky as last week was in many a sense, I don’t have a lot of confidence in what I’m going with — but here it is anyway:

New Orleans (-7) over Arizona

The truth be told, I don’t particularly like either of these teams.  In fact, there’s only one team left in the playoffs I really do have a good feeling for, and it’s not in the NFC (that’s San Diego).  Rather than focus on the positives for both of these clubs, it’s a whole lot easier for me to focus on the negatives.

If the Saints need this guy to win against Arizona this week, who do they sign next? George Rogers?

First, New Orleans:  I don’t like how the Saints finished the season, particularly the troubling home loss to Tampa Bay; I don’t like the way they mailed in the last game of the season, when it was clear to me that their offensive rhythm had been off in the losses to the Cowboys and the Bucs; I don’t like the way Sean Payton used his running backs (too little Pierre Thomas, too much of the mediocre Mike Bell, too much ball-handling from Reggie Bush as a conventional ball carrier), and I certainly don’t like whatever the signing Deuce McAllister means; and I don’t like the heavy injuries that the Saints have suffered on the defensive side of the ball.

On the other hand, I still don’t like the Cardinals inconsistency, and their ability to follow up a great effort with a mail-it-in performance; I don’t like the Cardinals defense, which was shredded by Aaron Rodgers and the Pack last weekend, I don’t like Arizona having to play in one of the most hostile settings left in the NFL for a visiting team, the Superdome;  I don’t like that Anquan Boldin is still not going to be 100% for this week, and I really don’t like Arizona’s chances if something should knock Kurt Warner out of the game and Matt Leinart has to exit the hot tub and put the Cards chances on his shoulders.

I do love Warner, though, and what he’s done for the Arizona franchise, as well as Saints’ QB Drew Brees (who may be as responsible as any one person for saving professional football in the Big Easy).  I think this game is going to be as much of a shootout as the Green Bay-Arizona tilt was.  I’m going to go with New Orleans both because of the home field, as well as the fact that the Cardinals have the propensity to turn the ball over a lot more — particularly in those “mail-it-in” type of games.  I think Arizona comes out flat, and it’s all downhill from there.  Saints advance to the NFC title game.

Baltimore (+6.5) over Indianapolis

Come on now!  If you’re been a regular reader, you already knew how I felt about the Colts disgraceful tanking act in the season’s last two weeks — and what I thought it signaled for their playoff chances; this pick shouldn’t surprise you in the slightest.  Except for the fact that I’m not expecting (or predicting) Baltimore to actually win this game, merely to cover the spread.  (Which I’m surprised is as low as it apparently is.  Shouldn’t a team that was 14-0 and flirting with immortality at one point be more than a touchdown favorite over a team that barely finished over .500, squeaked into the playoffs, and wasn’t picked by too many people to even win last week?  What does that say about the vibe surrounding the Colts right now?)

The Ravens dominated the Patriots in the playoffs in a way we haven’t seen happen in more than decade, and they did it with a heavy dose of the run.  The problem for Baltimore is that they’re still going to need to get something out of Joe Flacco if they hope to beat the Colts — 4 completions for 34 yards just ain’t gonna cut it — and I’m not sure if the second-year quarterback has it in him.  Flacco has had his moments over the season where he’s looked more than capable, however, so a much better performance by the youngster is certainly possible.   In the end, though, the key to the Ravens offense will be Ray Rice — can the Colts stop him (they held him in check — 71 yards on 20 carries — in their first meeting), and will he be used to his utmost capability (or will there be a maddening moment Saturday where Willis McGahee is in the game instead and the offense stalls)?

Indy and their reaction to having essentially three weeks off is the real x-factor here.  I expect they’ll come out rusty and with their timing in the passing game off, so a repeat of the two teams’ earlier low-scoring match-up — won by the Colts 17-15 in Baltimore when the Ravens simply couldn’t put it in the end zone (punctuated by a bizarre sequence near the goal-line where McGahee was stuffed a billion times and even Flacco tried to carry it in, but Rice was inexplicably on the sidelines) — is likely.  The Ravens have to be confident, thinking they should have won that game — but what will the mindset of the Colts players be?  I predicted that Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell’s “spit in history’s face” strategy was going to backfire on them by arguably raising the pressure on the Colts in the playoffs — we could well see the results of that if, let’s say, Baltimore jumps out early on them the way they did on the Patriots.  If that happens — well, it could get real ugly at Lucas Oil Stadium.  I’m hoping for it simply to see the reaction of the Colts faithful in that case — it could get Kiffin–leaving-Tennessee ugly if the Colts do lose.

But as much as I’ll be rooting for that, I don’t think Indianapolis goes down — yet (we’ll save that for next week).  Baltimore still makes too many mistakes, and commits too many penalties (which they then whine too much about) to win a game like this in the playoffs.  Can Baltimore pull off the upset?  While I think it’s possible, it’s more likely that a dumb pass interference call — or Willis McGahee getting stuffed three plays in a row from the 1 late in the game — is the key play in the game that sends the Ravens back home and the Colts to the AFC title game.  Baltimore covers in a close one — but Indy squeezes by to hold their critics off for another week.

That’s just the Saturday games — click here for Part Two and the predictions for Sunday’s games.

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One Response to “NFL Playoffs Week 2 Picks, Part One”

  1. […] The Last Honest Man Just what the world was asking for — more useless opinions combined with a little brutal honesty « NFL Playoffs Week 2 Picks, Part One […]

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