For the NFL fan, this weekend can be described as the best weekend of the season. You have the Divisional Playoffs set to begin and the anticipation for the four games is high. Eight teams are left and each feel it has as good a shot to advance to the Super Bowl. Statistically speaking, the home team usually wins the Divisional round. For one, the home team has a higher seed than the visiting team and has had a week to rest and prepare for its opponent. I can see the home team winning three of the four games this weekend, but my pick for the upset may not be obvious as you might think. So let’s go over the games.
Saturday – New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:30 p.m., CBS
The Jets come into this week without Defensive End John Abraham. Chad Pennington had the flu during this week’s practices and might be physically weak coming into the game. The Steelers have one of the best defenses in the league. Ben Rothlisburger is an untested commodity and how he will perform in the biggest game of his career is a question mark. But the running attack with Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley will help the Steelers ground up yardage and put touchdowns on the board. I can’t see the Jets winning this game. I know the Jets have confidence after beating San Diego last week, but I don’t see them winning two road games in a row. My prediction: Steelers 28, Jets 10.
Saturday – St. Louis Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons, 8:00 p.m., FOX
The Rams are coming in sky high after defeating division rival Seattle last week. But both had mediocre records for playoff teams. Coach Mike Martz actually had a balanced offensive attack with Marshall Faulk and Stephen Jackson carrying the load and Marc Bulger getting the job done through the air. But the Falcons’ defense is underrated and attacks when necessary. Michael/Mike Vick is chomping at the bit for a chance to showcase his weapons. Tight End Algie Crumpler has had a good year. Warrick Dunn has a tendency to fumble in big spots, but he has a Super Bowl ring with Tampa Bay and knows how to win. I’ll take the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, 35-27.
Sunday – Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m., FOX
The Iggles have the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They don’t have star wide receiver Terrell Owens and may not have him for the rest of the year. But the Eagles have Brian Westbrook, who can run and catch. Last year, the Eagles lost Westbrook and their offense looked like it was stuck in mud. However, the Vikings have Randy Moss and whatever you think of him for leaving the game early two weeks ago against the Redskins or for his bush league shenanigans vs. the Packers last week, Moss can get the job done and make plays. Dante Culpepper can run with the best of them and that includes Donovan McNabb. The only problem is the Vikings defense can be like a sieve sometimes. Here’s where I break from the norm. I say the Vikings will pull the upset at the Linc and defeat the Iggles, 35-30. I think the Eagles are prime for the taking.
Sunday – Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots, 4:45 p.m., CBS
For some reason, New England fans are whining over the fact that Peyton Manning has a high powered offense and the Pats’ secondary is decimated. This is true, but does anyone doubt head coach Bill Belichick’s and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s abilities to come up with a game plan to stop Manning? Don’t forget that Manning has not played well in New England since Belichick became HC of the NEP. While Cornerback Ty Law is hurt and Defensive Lineman Richard Seymour may not play, the Patriots do have enough weapons on defense to stop the Colts’ attack. Plus, the Colts gave plenty of bulletin board material when liquored up kicker Mike Vanderjagt said that the Patriots were prime for the taking and that the AFC Championship Game would be in Indy next week. Then the Colts put AFC Champions t-shirts for sale on its website only to take it off shortly after it was discovered. Despite the fact the Colts scored 49 points against Denver last week, I can’t see them doing that again. I say the Pats take this one, 37-14. Call me crazy, but that’s how I see it.
We’ll see how this goes at the end of the weekend.