Looking to bounce back after going 2-2 in the wild card round last week, I will be a little more cautious in picking my three definite winners and, of course, one upset; which is probably very surprising to most NFL fans out there. But, what can I say? I enjoy living on the edge. It's not like I have any money riding on the outcome of these games. Once again, I will present to you:
- What I, myself think.
- What Madden 09 (for XBOX 360) says.
and, of course...
- What 'Whatifsports.com' says (FYI: WIS just recently released the 2008 rosters).
Saturday, January 10th, 2009 at 4:30 PM ET
ME: BAL 21, TEN 24
Like most playoff games nowadays, this game will be close and will come down to the team that makes the least mistakes. With DE's Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch back in the lineup, Tennessee will get plenty of pressure on rookie QB Joe Flacco, sacking him many times and forcing multiple turnovers. With their elite RB's--Lendale White and rookie Chris Johnson--in the backfield, Tennessee will have no trouble controlling the clock. I actually believe if QB Kerry Collins can limit mistakes on offense and maybe score two or three times, they should be able to control the tempo and dominate both sides of the ball. Collins keeps the ball away from Ed Reed and Chris Johnson rolls for 120+ as Tennessee advances.
Madden '09: BAL 19, TEN 13
Turns out Baltimore's defense is very good, though I'm sure you already figured that out for yourself. The Ray Lewis-led squad dominated Kerry Collins and Tennessee in this Madden matchup by sacking him four times (two of which went to Lewis, himself), plus a Terrell Suggs INT. The bright moment for Tennessee was Chris Johnson's 56-yard run early in the third quarter, which gave Tennessee the 13-12 lead. But, the rookie Flacco managed a late scoring drive which was capped by a three-yard TD which he ran in himself. The Matt Stover extra point gave Baltimore the 19-13 lead with just over a minute to play. Ray Lewis sealed the win with a late sack of Kerry Collins as time expired. Could Baltimore match their 2000 Super Bowl season? Their defense just may be good enough.
WIS: BAL 6, TEN 12
Kerry Collins was't near as affective as he should've been (7 for 18, 44 passing yards), but he was able to get the job done, nonetheless. As I expected, defense is what won the game. Tennessee shut Flacco down, sacking him three times and limiting him to just 115 yards through the air. Chris Johnson led the team in rushing yards, with 75, as Tennessee picked up 155 on 35 carries. Four Rob Bironas FG's and three Matt Stover FG's were the only points of the game. So, I guess in a way, it was the special teams that made the difference. Anyway, Tennessee moves on, according to WIS.com.
Overall: TEN (2-1)
Saturday, January 10th, 2009 at 8:15 PM ET
ME: ARI 35, CAR 31
Ah, yes. The big, head-scratching prediction. I have been praising the Panthers' running game and calling Jake Delhomme the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year all season long, but I'm going to have to pick against the mighty Panthers this week. I like the matchup of Kurt Warner and Pro Bowl WR's Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin v.s. Carolina's 16th ranked pass defense. Arizona limited Atlanta's sixth ranked offense to 250 total yards and the game's second-leading rusher, Michael Turner, to just 42 yards (forced a Turner fumble, too). Not to mention the three turnovers they forced, including two Matt Ryan INT's. Arizona has as much of a chance at stopping the Panthers elite running game as anyone.
Madden '09: ARI 17, CAR 33
So, it appears as though John Madden and his crew don't agree with my upset pick, at all. He has Carolina playing mistake-free, T.O.P. dominating football. In this game, the killer duo of DeAngelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart combining for 165 yards and 2 TD's (one each). Jake Delhomme went 18 of 26 for 261 yards and a late second quarter TD pass to All-Pro WR Steve Smith, which gave Carolina a 17-0 advantage. A late scoring spree for Kurt Warner and his Cards wasn't enough as the second seeded Panthers advanced to the NFC Conference Championship game.
WIS: ARI 38, CAR 24
Wow, this result really surprised me. Not only did Arizona beat Carolina by two TD's, but Kurt Warner threw for 269 yards and three TD's while Arizona stopped the DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart-led Carolina run game to 116 yards on 34 carries. Larry Fitzgerald was Arizona's leading receiver with 5 catches for 93 yards and two of Warner's three passing TD's. Arizona's defense also sacked Delhomme (14 for 22 for 182 yards) twice and picked him off once more, which happened to be returned 61 yards for a TD by former Steelers LB Clark Haggans in the second quarter.
Overall: ARI (2-1)
Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 1 PM ET
ME: PHI 17, NYG 31
I'm not buying into the whole "Eagles are untouchable" talk I keep hearing. Yes, they may have beaten the Giants earlier in the season, but I guess you haven't learned your lesson yet: don't doubt Eli Manning in the playoffs. He WILL prove you wrong, he's done it before. ESPN's poll showed that about 54% of people out there believed Philly would win. Philly's D gave up 83 rushing yards and two TD's to Adrian Peterson last week. What do you think the trio of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw are going to do to this defense? If Philly can't get Brian Westbrook going early, it could be a long day for this Philly offense going up against the NFL's fifth best defense, led by DE Justin Tuck.
Madden '09: PHI 18, NYG 17
Philadelphia advanced with the slimest of margins thanks to 247 passing yards and a late TD pass to the rookie DeSean Jackson--who broke out for five catches, 102 yards and the TD catch. But, the Eagles pulled off the miraculous 14-point comeback thanks to four kicks booted through the uprights by veteran David Akers. Eli Manning and the G-Men took the 14-0 lead after a McNabb fumble was returned for a TD and Ahmad Bradshaw ran the ball in from two yards out. Akers hit three of his four FG's in the second half as McNabb's Eagles outscored New York 12-0 in the fourth quarter and 15-3 in the second half. Philly can thank Manning's two second-half INT's, which were both intercepted by Philly's Quintin Mikell. Brandon Jacobs' 133 rushing yards ended up making little impact on the outcome.
WIS: PHI 23, NYG 21
Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' D proved me wrong as Philly pulled off a two-point upset. Eli Manning was nothing compared to the red-hot Eagle defense. In fact, Manning went just 14 for 25 for 172 yards (0 TD, 0 INT). It was New York's running game that kept the Giants' hopes alive with 214 yards on 28 carries, scoring all three of the team's TD's (2 Ward, 1 Jacobs). Head coach Andy Reid did, in fact, get the running game going early and often for Philadelphia as Brian Westbrook scored his lone TD from 20-yards out just five minutes into the game. Westbrook finished with 129 yards on the ground and 46 through the air en route to a 23-21 win.
Overall: PHI (2-1)
Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 4:45 PM ET
ME: SD 10, PIT 24
All bias aside, Pittsburgh will win this football game. The only thing I'm real worried about, at this point, is how Ben Roethlisberger will react after sustaining a concussion against the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago. The guy is a warrior and has been hit plenty before. If he can just manage the game--he really doesn't have to do anything special--Pittsburgh will be fine. Mike Tomlin will most likely get the run game going early and often. If Willie Parker can be affective on the ground, it's smooth sailing from there. On defense, they will need to stop the little man, Darren Sproles, since the 'Bolts will most likely be without Ladainian Tomlinson for a majority of the game, anyway. Score some points on the ground, limit mistakes and force a few turnovers is what Pittsburgh must--and will--do against the Chargers' on Sunday.
Madden '09: SD 17, PIT 24
Ben Roethlisberger played a real solid game, completing 18 of his 25 passes for 198 yards and two TD's. But, the talk of the night was Willie Parker and his 132 rushing yards and two TD runs. Pittsburgh lost two fumbles on offense, but Pittsburgh's two INT's and five sacks of Philip Rivers (three recorded by James Harrison) made up for the offensive turnovers. Tomlinson and Sproles combined for just 73 rushing yards as Pittsburgh held the ball for 36 of the possible 60 minutes.
WIS: SD 10, PIT 20
Again, Ben Roethlisberger had a solid game, going 15 for 22, 249 yards and a fourth quarter TD pass to Hines Ward. Darren Sproles and Ladainian Tomlinson combined for 101 of the Chargers' 122 yards on the ground, but a couple James Harrison sacks and a Troy Polamalu INT proved costly for Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers offense. Pittsburgh played typical Steeler defense and dominated the time of possession with their 338 total yards and zero turnovers on offense. Pittsburgh advances to play Tennessee in the Conference Championship, according to me and WIS.
Overall: PIT (3-0)
In Conference Championships (January 18th):
**Based on overall Divisional round winners**