After a solid season that saw me finish 20+ games up, I figure I might as well give you my playoff picks as well- you know it’s been a weird season when not a single first round playoff game gives you a favored home team. Craziness!!! But I don’t see the favorites winning all four in Round 1 of the NFL Playoffs – oh no – I have two road winners and two home team victories – which is which is for you to find out… Good luck with your playoff bets!!!
Atlanta Falcons (-1) @ Arizona Cardinals: The Falcons have trouble with prolific passing teams. New Orleans, Denver, and Philadelphia combined to give Atlanta each of their three losses over the last 10 games of the season. Am I saying they can’t beat a passing team? Nope – they ousted the Packers, Saints, and Chargers already this season, so they have it in them, they just have more trouble with pass happy teams. And it doesn’t seem to be the passing game that kills them, but the threat of the pass that seems to really open up the run. The Saints, and Eagles both had big time rushing days against the Falcons, but I don’t see the Cardinals doing that. Even with the awesome production of Edgerrin James last week against the Seahawks, Arizona’s run game still doesn’t scare me much. I also don’t like how the Cardinals gave up just as many points per game as they scored this season, that kind of football rarely gets you wins in January. What else has me going against the home team in this one? How about Arizona’s wins over the last 10 weeks of the regular season? Seattle twice, St. Louis twice, and San Francisco – just barely. Something about that doesn’t excite me. I know Seattle was playing better down the stretch, but the best team in that group is San Francisco, and the Niners weren’t really jelling 8 weeks ago. Atlanta has been tested, and they’ve passed. The Cardinals have to prove to me that they can beat a good team before I go putting money on them to win, even as a home dog.
Indianapolis Colts @ San Diego Chargers (+2): The Chargers have always been a tough match-up for the Colts, and San Diego plays well in the playoffs. I know that the Colts have a pretty tough pass defense, but with Rivers out to prove a little something, I have a feeling he has a nice day for the Chargers despite the Colts success at stopping the pass this season. I’m not sure if LT will be 100%, but then again, has he been at the top of his game yet this season? This is a tough one – there probable isn’t anyone in the league playing better than the Colts have over the past 8-9 weeks – but the Chargers have done a little turn around of their own. The Chargers always seem to play their best football against the best teams, and that has me thinking that they are built for the playoffs. They needed one hell of a run to get in, but now they are in, and that can’t be exciting for the rest of the AFC. The Chargers may have won just 8 games, and they had to take all of their final four to get to 8 – but they’ve played plenty of close games, and very well could be 11-5, or 12-4 just like the Colts. The talent is there. The last part of this that really pushes me towards San Diego – it’s hard to beat a good team twice, and it’s even harder to go on the road and beat a good team twice. If the Colts want to make it to the 2nd Round, they have to beat the Chargers in San Diego for the 2nd time this season. I’m betting that doesn’t happen.
Baltimore Ravens (-3) @ Miami Dolphins: Can Baltimore really come in and beat the Dolphins for the second time this season? In Miami? I think so, but only because the Ravens are such a terrible match-up for the run-happy Dolphins. I know Miami has been throwing more, and successfully with Chad, but the Ravens defense doesn’t give up anything for free – and I think it stays that way. In the last 10 games, the Ravens have only lost to the Steelers and Giants. 8 wins, 2 losses, and the 2 losses were to a couple of the best teams in the league. Miami is solid, but the toughest win they’ve had in the last 10 weeks was last week against a flailing Jets club that had lost any identity they had. Both teams are solid – the Ravens are tougher – they may be a tough call as a road favorite here, but their toughness should overcome, and Joe Flacco is playing as good as he’s played all year.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Minnesota Vikings (+3.5): This one is really more of a toss up to me, but I still like the Vikings side more. I know the Eagles have played pretty well in 4 of their last 5 games, but I think they’ve been inconsistent enough to be a tough bet as a 3 point favorite on the road against a physical running team. The Eagles have no run-game anyway and the Vikings have been better against the past since their tough start to the season. The Eagles play much better at home than on the road, and so do the Vikings for that matter- but this game is in Minnesota. Everyone is loving Philadelphia here, but I’m not sure I can buy it. Look at the teams Philly has lost to lately, Washington, Baltimore, Cincinnati (tie), and the Giants (Those are the Eagles last 4 losses) – all of these teams have something in common; no matter what they are going to run the ball. Not all of them were super successful running against the Eagles, but all of them ran the ball a lot. Philly has a tendency to break down a bit in games that are physical like that. After coming off that huge party-win against the Cowboys to get in, it will be interesting to see how they come out. Either way, I think +3.5 at home for the Vikes is a solid bet.