Saturday, January 9, 2010

NFL picks wildcard round

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. In the regular season, we each posted our three strongest plays. Here are the standings to this point:

DAVE ADAMS: 25-26 overall, 2-1 last week
RICK MORRIS: 24-27 overall, 3-0 last week (also 9-8 on my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for each week, 1-0 last week)
STEVE CIRVELLO: 24-27 overall, 1-2 last week
RYAN ISLEY: 21-29-1 overall, 0-3 last week
SEAN TRENCH: 20-29-2 overall, 2-1 last week

We will each pick every playoff game. Each of our picks will be listed, in addition to the FDH "consensus" pick based on who has the most votes in each game (interestingly, all five of us differed on at least one game):

NY Jets (+2 1/2) at Cincinnati
DAVE: Cincinnati
SEAN: Cincinnati

Philadelphia +3 1/2 at Dallas
DAVE: Dallas
RICK: Dallas
STEVE: Philadelphia
RYAN: Philadelphia
SEAN: Philadelphia
FDH CONSENSUS: Philadelphia, 3-2

Baltimore +3 1/2 at New England
DAVE: New England
RICK: New England
STEVE: Baltimore
RYAN: Baltimore
SEAN: New England
FDH CONSENSUS: New England, 3-2

Green Bay (-1) at Arizona
DAVE: Green Bay
RICK: Arizona
STEVE: Green Bay
RYAN: Green Bay
SEAN: Arizona
FDH CONSENSUS: Green Bay, 3-2

Additionally, here are my extended thoughts on each game and my predictions for subsequent rounds:

So much for the rematches inherently favoring the teams who didn’t have to go all-out last weekend. The Jets dominated the Bengals on both the offensive and defensive lines and considering that Cincinnati has recast itself as a power-running team, that has to be a strong concern – regardless of the number of players who sat out last week. Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez has a tall order in front of him with a road playoff game against a stout D, but the coaching staff seems to have shed at least some of their foolish hubris about turning him loose as they did more often around midseason. This is a great matchup for New York, because they can afford to stay in game management mode against the Bengals, a team highly unlikely to pull away minus the big turnovers that the aforementioned game management mode should prevent. Jets 22, Bengals 16.

“Now or never” is such a cliché, but if Tony Romo and Wade Phillips can’t take advantage of this moment to earn the team’s first postseason playoff win in 13 years, both will deservedly – irreversably – go down in history as big chokers. The fact is that they are playing as well as anyone right now after having reversed their awful December play of recent years. The Eagles just seem to have a ghastly pale look to them right now: a matchup against a team that has played them very well this year, youth in many key places (as Donovan McNabb, always looking for the excuse in advance, has pointed out so eloquently), a key injury at center and tough times in the linebacker core. This game answers the question once and for all about whether or not Dallas can ever be taken seriously as greater than the sum of their talented parts. Cowboys 27, Eagles 17.

Wes Welker is a huge loss for New England. Having Tom Brady come into this game at well less than 100% is a fairly significant loss also. But in a game featuring two teams who have posted some of the best defenses of the decade but who have seen better times on that side of the ball, it is Baltimore who will miss their dominating D more and that note will be the key difference. The secondary, fairly vulnerable during the season, is banged-up and the front seven seems unlikely to be in Brady’s face often enough during the course of the game. Ray Rice, as always, is a large X-factor and Joe Flacco proved last year that he is extremely unflappable in January for such a young QB. But while the Hoodie’s squad is not what it was a few years ago, it still has enough in the tank to scratch out a win at home. Patriots 23, Ravens 13.

Who is the Arizona of this postseason? It may well be none other than Arizona! If the Cards don’t successfully defend their NFC title, the irony will be that they are certainly better than they were a year ago, thanks to Beanie Wells replacing the corpse of Edgerrin James in the running game and a wonderful job by new defensive coordinator Bill Davis of installing a great blitz package – and tightening up the run defense considerably. They will be facing a well-balanced offense and a defense that is much-improved over a year ago. The Packers are a very hot team, and in that respect potentially poised for an underdog NFC playoff run ala Arizona last year, but their banged-up secondary is a target that is way too inviting for Kurt Warner. Notwithstanding the defenses being much better than they were 12 months ago, this is the game most ripe for a shootout because of not only the explosive offenses, but the balance (with an above-average run game for both teams) that should keep the defenses honest. Cardinals 34, Packers 27.

Colts 26, Jets 13
Chargers 34, Patriots 27
Cowboys 24, Vikings 16
Saints 38, Cardinals 34

Chargers 34, Colts 24
Cowboys 27, Saints 24

Cowboys 30, Chargers 23

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