NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks: The Perspective of Patriots Fans

C Douglas BakerSenior Analyst IJanuary 15, 2010

Unfortunately the New England Patriots are no longer in the playoffs, but being the true warriors we are, the show must go on.  This week your tried and true New England Patriots fan cohorts will once again pull out their crystal balls (admittedly some of them are cracked, like Steve’s) and give you our predictions on the upcoming Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.

Joining me this week are Sexy Steve Firth , Enigmatic EA , Grandpa Glenn Card , and yours truly, Doug Baker.  I’ll leave it up for the rest of the gang to decide what to call me.

Our intrepid colleague Terrible TR (which is only a play on Terrible TO, TR is not all that terrible, most of the time) was unable to join us this week.  He will be back soon.

Now, without further pontification, on with this week’s picks.

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints

SF:   I'm pulling for the Cards to pull this one out.  I don't like any team right now, seeing how my Pats have been destroyed.  If anyone can beat the Saints in the playoffs, it'll be the Cards.  Granted, the Cardinals haven't had a great season, but they did make it to the Super Bowl last year, and they did have a winning season, and they are back in the playoffs already, so they shouldn't have any butterflies entering the game.  The Saints, on the other hand, are in the playoffs, jockeying for their first Lombardi trophy.  Talk about pressure.  Look for Warner to pick apart the Saints defense with little dink-dunk plays, and a few large plays that help to build momentum.

EA:   It seems almost predictable because Arizona is typically a weak road team and New Orleans is typically a great home team. Typically.  Like Indy, though, the Saints threw away their momentum with three straight losses, and I don't think playing in front of their own fans will be enough to stop the Cardinals. The Saints have some holes in their defense, and you better believe Kurt Warner will expose them with ease. Cardinals.

GC:   I liked the Cardinals as the underdog last year because I like that an old warhorse like Kurt Warner can still get it done. A much better choice than the overpaid benchwarmer Matt Leinart.

The Cardinals have had their struggles this year but they made it back to the playoffs. They come into this game after a huge win during the Wild Card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. A game where the final score looked like something from a basketball rather than a football game.

Good for them. Too bad that they have to go up against the NFL's newest darlings, the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints lost a little steam finishing out the regular season with three losses in a row. They've had a week to rest their guys and patch and rework a couple of flaws.

There really wasn't much to fix.

The Saints are an offensive juggernaut with a respectable defense. The Cardinals defense did just enough to keep their last game close, but really were pretty porous.

I just don't think the Cardinals can do the same thing two weeks in a row, and put up the same amount of points that the Saints are going to post.

In the end the Saints will have the winning score and it will not be determined in overtime.

  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 latter 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 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

SF:   I don't care who wins this one.  I'd love to see Peyton choke AGAIN in the playoffs, in a yet once again "one and done" playoff run.  On the other hand, right now I wouldn't piss on the Ravens heads if their hair were on fire.  Since I can't have a "both teams lose" pick, I'll go with the Ravens to win, only thanks to Peyton choking late in the fourth quarter.  Just to reiterate, I don't like either team.  I wish they'd both lose.

EA:   Baltimore is lookin' good after last week's performance, and the Colts are notorious playoff chokers. After the Colts gave away an undefeated season by not even trying in games that could be easily won, I'll take the team with the real momentum here. Baltimore.

GC: The Baltimore Ravens dismantled the Patriots last week. They scored early and often enough to be able to defensively tee-off on the Patriots' offense. It was an impressive win.

The Colts have been resting their starters for weeks. It's a tactic I'm not particularly convinced will work out as planned.

Additionally, the Colts have been pushed to the edge several times this year where fourth quarter heroics have been required to get the win. Manning and the Colts have been able to answer the call time and again.

Have the Colts used up all their mojo? Because I feel the Ravens will be able to push them to the edge and topple them over.

The Colts go "one and done" again and the Ravens move on in the playoffs.

DB:   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. Joe 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 that they should have won this year.  Additionally, they have no true No.1 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 shown 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 which 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 Wild Card 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

SF:   While the Cowboys have kind of surprised everyone the last few weeks of the season, I don't see them getting past the Vikings.  I'm thinking that the Vikings will get a lead and keep it, which will keep the pressure off Favre, which means he won't have lots of mistakes, namely interceptions.  The short of it, the Vikings will make their way to the Super Bowl.

EA:   A comparable MLB playoff series to this game would be the 2007 Mets playing the 2008 Brewers in a One-Game-Choke-Off. Neither team has anything to be proud of from their recent postseason performances.  And the Vikings are so good at choking, I'm not even inclined to take them because of home field advantage. Since the Cowboys won for once, I think they'll decide to keep doing it. They have the talent.  I won't be surprised if they turn it on and get the W.

GC: In general the Cowboys finished the regular season with a well rounded display both on offense and defense. Tony Romo was able to get a monkey off his back with his first playoff win.

The Cowboys' defense has been very stingy with points allowed and they go up against a Vikings offense that is one of the best in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings do have a top ten defense as well and statistically the Cowboys' offense is a bit underrated.

I have no doubt this will be a good game well worth the price of admission.

As much as I have maligned Brett Favre in the past, he has not self-destructed as I thought he might. The Vikings have just enough of a running game to prevent Favre from trying to do it all on his own.

The same is true for Tony Romo. He has matured to the point where he limits his own mistakes.

I'm going to give the edge to the Cowboys because of their defense. It's my belief that they can stop the run and force Brett Favre into a couple of mistakes that the Cowboys' offense will take advantage of.

DB:   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 faltered 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

SF:   Ok, so the Jets won last week.  Whoopty doo.  I don't see them beating the Chargers, who have won their last 11 regular season games.  The last few weeks of football, the Chargers were indeed the hottest team in the entire NFL.  I'm thinking the Chargers will make it all the way to the Super Bowl, which means they'll stomp the Jets in the process.  The Chargers will struggle against the Jets defense until they can make their half time adjustments, after which they'll come back and have their way with the Jets. Jets will struggle offensively, with lots of mistakes by their rookie QB.

EA:   Mark Sanchez sucks. I mean he REALLY sucks. It's amusing, really, because there are lots of Jets trolls coming around stating that Brady is a fraud who can't be an NFL quarterback anymore and he should retire...well, if Brady can't play QB now, at least he COULD at one point..*cough* Sanchez. I'll take the Chargers because they're a better team and have a real quarterback.

GC: Did you see the Jets play last week? They played some inspired football.

Their coach Rex Ryan got a lot of mileage out of a mediocre team. Just because you say you should be favored through the playoffs doesn't make it so.

The Jets' opponents this week are a red-hot Chargers team that racked up eleven straight season wins to make it to the playoffs. The Jets defense is good but I've seen them burned a few times this year and the Chargers are going to light them up.

On the other side of the ball, Mark Sanchez looked good last week but I think the Chargers' defense are going to remind him that he is still a rookie and in this league, rookies have to pay their dues.

Better luck next year Jet fans because the Chargers will be playing for the AFC conference title next week with home field advantage.

DB:   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.

[Editor’s Note:  Glenn and I both used “red hot” to describe the Chargers.  Steve already picked them for the Super Bowl.  I wrote my entry before reading any of the others.  Interesting.]

And there you have it!  More from us next week.


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