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What a sexy quartet of matchups! This is my favorite weekend of the NFL season to begin with. I've always loved the second weekend when the best teams get involved and the wildcard winners have a chance to pull the upset on the road. I think winning on the road in this round is one of the toughest things to do in sports. All of the matchups this weekend are very compelling with big time storyline lines and stars. Expect the ratings to be as high as the divisional round has seen. Now to the picks in time order! ( 3-1 in the Wildcard Round)
- Green Bay 27, Seattle 24
Of the road teams this weekend, I think Seattle has the best chance to win. They are more experienced in the postseason than Green Bay, and have played well in Lambeau in the playoffs in 2004. However, I think the problems of Shaun Alexander will be the difference in this game. His poor year has made the Seahawks' offense one dimensional, and thus puts a lot of pressure on Matt Hasselbeck in this game. Hasselbeck is certainly capable of having a special game, but that's asking a lot in a hostile environment like Green Bay. The Seahawks also have a very good pass rush, but Brett Favre was only sacked twice in the second half of the season. So, we'll see if the Seahawks strengths show on Saturday. I think their experience keeps them close and could possibly give them a chance late, but I think the Packers are a more rounded football team who is at home. Plus, I picked them to go to the Super Bowl at the beginning of the postseason. I can't change now!
- New England 38, Jacksonville 17
Enough of this Jacksonville is the team that will knock off the Patriots talk. It is utterly ridiculous for anyone to predict the Jaguars in this game. Those who are, are just looking for attention and should hell freeze over and their right, they can claim to be geniuses. The Jaguars struggled against the injury riddled Steelers' offense last weekend, and needed four game changing plays to win. This isn't a knock against Jacksonville, but I don't think they are ready to pull of an upset of this magnitude. It would be considered a great upset in the eyes of many if the defending champion, better than ever Indianapolis Colts should beat New England. So, how will Jacksonville win this? They will need several things to happen. First, they will need Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 300 yards combined to chew up lots of clock. Second, they will need to have an extreme amount of success with the pass rush and hope for some Brady fumbles, which he does do more than he would like. Third, they will need to go into this game calm. Sure everyone is saying they have no pressure on them, but we know they will feel it. I like the Jags, but there is no way they are winning this game. (Hope I'm wrong!)
- Indianapolis 34, San Diego 20
Are the Colts the greatest overlooked defending champion in the history of professional sports? They have received very little recognition this year, outside of their opening night trouncing of the then NFC favorite New Orleans Saints. Outside of that early praise, most of the discussion they got about their team was negative. People dropped them in their power rankings behind the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and even the Pittsburgh Steelers. They should never have been dropped below number two! Let me tell you something. This is the best all around Colts team I've seen and I expect them to be a very difficult out in this postseason. Even for the Patriots. As for this game, I think the Chargers have been way too inconsistent this year to expect them to go into Indy and win. The Colts' defense is the best it has ever been, and I expect them to give LT and Philip Rivers a hell of a time. The injury to Antonio Gates really hurts them too. This is also a payback game of sorts for the Colts. The Chargers ended their perfect run two years ago, and beat them, when they really shouldn't have, earlier this season.
- Dallas 35, NY Giants 31
The perfect storm for an upset? The Giants come in riding high on all sorts of momentum from their battle with New England and their impressive playoff win vs. Tampa Bay last week, while the Cowboys haven't played well since November. I think this game will be a high octane battle all the way to the finish. I expect both quarterbacks to play well, and have the secondary scratching in all states of confusion. The Marion Barber/Julius Jones vs. Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw battle intrigues me. This will be key in determining who wins the time of possession battle. The battle of DeMarcus Ware vs. Osi Umenyiora on the defensive line to see who can assert more pressure on the quarterback will be interesting to see as well. Whether Terrell Owens can play and be effective is a big question, but I would expect him to play well if he plays. Remember Super Bowl XXXIX? Will Terry Glenn be effective coming off the long injury? He's a very underrated receiver, but he also missed a year. These teams are actually very much alike, but I will pick the Cowboys because they have more talent and are at home. I think this is the most intriguing game of the weekend.
I hate picking all four home teams, but I really think this is the toughest year in a long time for the road teams in this round. Perhaps one will one, but that will be it. Enjoy the games!