January 04, 2008

There aren't many unique weekends in the sports world, but this happens to be one of them. In addition to the start of the NFL playoffs, we have the buildup to the Allstate-sponsored Allstate Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game presented by Allstate. That means on Sunday afternoon Fox will bombard us with at least 500 promos for the game. Joe Buck will be so worked up from talking about it you'll think Albert Pujols is involved.

The important thing is not to let the BCS take your focus away from the NFL. All four playoff games are good enough to enjoy without even gambling on them, and all should live up to the league's rousing postseason slogan: "The NFL Playoffs: Now with 100 percent less Baltimore Ravens football!!"

Since the postseason is the time when the great handicappers separate themselves from those who are merely good (or in my case, the mediocre separate themselves from the below mediocre) I'm guaranteeing at least a 2-2 week.

Washington at Seattle (-3.5): You know how sometimes too many people cram into the subway and the doors can't close? That's what's happening to the Redskins bandwagon right now. Sorry, Howie Long -- no more room. The same goes for you, Chris Berman. Despite the Redskins momentum, Seattle will take the field confident in the same gameplan that worked last year -- cling to a small lead and wait for the other team's holder to drop the snap on a game-winning field goal attempt.Pick: Seattle

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (+2.5): The NFL Network actually wanted to air this game, but Congress passed a resolution saying they would break Roger Goodell's kneecaps if he allowed it to happen. Yada, Yada, Yada ... the game will be broadcast on NBC. Meanwhile, the Steelers are being plagued by severe injury problems, particularly at left tackle. The team even contacted Shaq about giving football a try, but they were informed that he was still playing in the NBA (the Steelers could have sworn he retired two years ago.) All week I've been unsure about this game, and when in doubt I've discovered the best thing to do is base everything on a really interesting stat that means nothing. On that note, did you know the last eight times the Steelers have been in playoffs they've won their opening game?Pick: Pittsburgh

New York Giants at Tampa Bay (-3): The Bucs took 14 weeks off after they clinched the NFC South in Week 3, but they say they'll be ready to play this week. Having successfully thwarted the Patriots' efforts to go 15-1, the Giants should also be ready to play. For Eli Manning this game is a chance to get his first playoff win and prove once and for all that he's a better inferior little brother quarterback than Tim Hasselbeck.Pick: New York Giants

Tennessee at San Diego (-10): Last year's home loss to the Patriots cost the Chargers a chance at a Super Bowl title. They won't have to worry about what might have been if they lose this week. What might have been would have been a Colts blowout. The big question swirling around the Titans is whether an immobile Vince Young is better than Kerry Collins. In case you were wondering, the answer is a resounding "no," but the Titans have to pretend the answer is "yes" because they're paying Young $60 million. Making matters worse is that fact that two of Young's favorite targets (Bo Scaife and Roydell Williams) won't be catching any more passes this season (because of injuries, not because Young's throws are flying 10 feet over their heads.)Pick: San Diego

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