SAN DIEGO -- Best weekend of the year in the NFL, always. And especially this year, because of the weirdness of the end of the season, when the two top NFC seeds had some very shaky moments and the Colts took their annual late-season siesta.
As I flew out here Thursday (there is so much to like about JetBlue and the satellite TV on board), I put my picks together with one idea in mind: How can the underdog win? And that's how I'm going to look at these games. I'm going to present the scenario for the 'dog to win, and then tell you if that's how I see it going.
Strange thing: The Chargers allowed 4.3 per rush in the first six weeks, and 4.6 in the last 10 weeks -- but teams stopped trying to run on them as much. No team in the first six weeks ran fewer than 30 times a game on the Chargers. No team in the last 10 weeks ran more than 30 times a game. It was a function for the Chargers of getting ahead of teams, often, and keeping the foot on the gas, and teams trying to throw to catch up in San Diego's 11-game winning streak.
For the Jets to win, and they can, they have to keep the ball from the red-hot
Offensively, I'll remind you of the biggest difference in these Cowboys from a year ago -- other than the obvious breakout year of
I wouldn't be surprised one bit if the Vikings won and Favre had the best playoff game by an old man ever. But I think it's more likely the Cowboys, who've surrendered two touchdowns in the past 12 quarters, make enough stops of a very good offense to win.
"Look at the elite quarterbacks we've played this year and done well against,''
Everyone says this against the Colts, but the important thing will be to stop Manning from the big plays and eat as much of the clock as possible with
I can see the Ravens winning, especially if
What the Cardinals have to do, very simply, is pick up where they left off last Sunday, with the most impressive six-offensive series sequence in playoff memory: eight plays, 66 yards, touchdown; 6-71, TD; 3-68, TD; punt; 11-80, TD; 6-67, missed field goal. That's 352 yards in those five drives, in about 36 minutes on the clock. And they can do it again.
The Saints' secondary will have a healthy
On the other side, I think
Through no fault of his own, Manning will enter this divisional playoff game against the Ravens with a little bit of extra weight in his shoulder pads. The Colts chose to hand over the Week 16 game to the Jets by pulling Manning in the middle of the third quarter, then played Week 17 only to get
I got a Tweet last night from a Colts fan who says she's still not over the giveaway to the Jets. If the Colts were to lose against Baltimore, there'd be not only great grief over the loss, but also the biggest second-guessing over the Colts' methodology in recent playoff history. Again, that's not Manning's fault, but the brunt of the pressure in this game, particularly against an aggressive D like Baltimore's, falls on the quarterback. That plus the fact that Manning has presided over two straight first-game playoff losses (28-24 and 23-17 to San Diego in the last two Januarys) and you have some idea of what he'll be feeling Saturday night when he jogs onto Lucas Oil Field.