Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints
The Cardinals defense did not show up last week, but their offense was unstoppable against a Green Bay defense that has played extremely well the later half of the season. On the other hand, the New Orleans Saints had a rash of injuries, especially on defense, and have not played a meaningful game in a month. And in fact, they played rather poorly their last three games.
So what teams show up on Saturday? I find it hard to believe that the Cardinals, as great as they are offensively, can keep scoring on every possession two weeks in a row. And the Saints, despite being down the last few weeks, should be well rested and ready to go. Drew Brees has had a great season and has the more weapons than any quarterback in the league. Being at home, in the loud dome, against a porous defense, I think the Saints will pull this game out, maybe even in a blowout. New Orleans.
Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts
The Ravens really did not have much of a contest last week so I don’t know whether the Ravens are on a roll or not. They are very one dimensional with their key offensive threat being Ray Rice. Flacco only completed four passes last week in their win against the Patriots and has been shaky the second half of the season. Further, they have found a way to squander numerous games they should have won this year. Add to that, they have no true number one receiver and have a hard time getting the ball down the field.
On the other hand, they have already proven they can beat the Colts. They should have beaten them earlier this year in Baltimore, but blew their opportunity, like they have done so many times this year. They also have the kind of offense that can beat the Colts, a stout offensive line and running game that can control the clock and keep Peyton Manning off the field. But at some point they have to be able to make plays in the passing game to beat the Colts, and recently they have not show the ability to do that.
The Colts have not played much real football the past month. But they went 14-0 and always found a way to pull out close games. Peyton Manning has been a machine at quarterback, and even with the Ravens stout defense, he can pick apart any secondary in the league.
But what Colts team will show up? The perennial choke artists who swallow the big one when it comes playoff time? Even in their lucky Super Bowl season when the Patriots knocked off the top seed and best team in the regular season, the San Diego Chargers, they almost choked against a rather weak Kansas City Chiefs team in the Wildcard round.
I hope the choke artists show up against the Ravens and lose. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Ravens have the offensive firepower to beat the Colts. So I have to go with the Indianapolis Colts.
Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings
This is a tough game for me to call. Dallas is on a roll and has played very well on both sides of the ball. And while Minnesota ended the season on a high note, they falter a little bit during the end of the season. But at the end of the day, I really think the Vikings have a more talent on both sides of the ball. The have great receivers, Dallas has good ones, they have a great running back, Dallas has good ones, and they have a very good defense, Dallas has a good one. I will call Favre and Romo a wash, as they both tend to underperform in the playoffs (but Romo didn’t last week). Minnesota Vikings.
New York Jets @ San Diego Chargers
The New York Jets got three gift wins in a row. Don’t get me wrong, you have to respect what they did to get into the playoffs and win. And their defense is stout, the best in the league this year. But their offense, like that of the Ravens, is one dimensional. They can run the ball very well but have a hard time making big plays in the passing game. That will doom them against the red hot San Diego Chargers, who are going into the playoffs with the most momentum of any team in the league. Their much improved defense, along with the mouthy jerk but great quarterback Philip Rivers, a good if not sterling running game, and big receivers, will spell doom for the Jets. I think the Jets defense can hold up reasonably well, but their offense is not going to score enough for a victory. San Diego Chargers.