Saturday, January 15, 2011

NFL divisional round preview

By Rick Morris

In our weekly FDH Dignitaries NFL Picks Contest here on the site during the season, at 24-25-2, I barely outlasted FDH Senior Producer Steve Cirvello at 22-29. My picks in every game were 122-128-8 and 9-6-2 in my “1,000-Star Gold Plated Lock of the Millennium” selections. My picks will continue through the playoffs. Last week’s ones were 2-2. By the way, a 13-21-2 bowl season caused my college picks for the year to tick in at 67-68-2.

For more analysis about the playoff teams, check out our top three factors for each team.

Pittsburgh -3 over Baltimore. This classic matchup between two mirror squads has become one of the rivalries in the league over the past dozen years. While Joe Flacco has had something of a breakout year with more weapons and more confidence from the coaching staff, he has yet to post a win of this consequence over Pittsburgh and now he has to do it in hostile territory. In the end, the Steeler core that has done it together before in recent years should have enough to hold off the Ravens. Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 17.

Atlanta -1 over Green Bay. What do the Falcons have to do to get some respect? A #1 seed that would be regarded as a slight underdog on a neutral field against the #6 seed? Ridiculous. Atlanta is extraordinarily tough at home and RB James Starks won’t be sneaking up on anyone tonight. The Pack will be stopped just enough times for “Matty Ice” to move the offense to victory. Atlanta 27, Green Bay 23.

Chicago -10 over Seattle. So our prediction of Seattle getting creamed came merely one week too early! Without fluking out as many good runs on first down, Matt Hasselbeck and the offense will revert to how they looked for much of the season while the Bears should have little problem keeping the Seahawk D on their heels. Chicago 31, Seattle 10.

New York Jets +9 over New England. This is our first “pick a dog to lose but cover” selection of the postseason. The burden of proof is on every other team in the postseason to stop the revived Patriot dynasty with their unstoppable play of late, but the Jets look to have enough steam to keep it close. They established a workable template last week against Indy by using the run game to work the clock and disrupt the opposing offensive rhythm. It won’t work well enough to win here, but it should be seen as a respectable effort to serve as a foundation for a more realistic Super Bowl run next year. New England 30, New York Jets 24.

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