Saturday, January 8th
St. Louis at Seattle (-4)
Now, no team needs to apologize for making the playoffs and for playing in a division that’s weaker than a watered down coffee pot, but certainly the Rams and Seahawks might want to send a belated Christmas card to the rest of the NFC and the NFL for making it requirement that six teams from each conference get to advance to the postseason. The Rams swept the regular season series against the Seahawks but lost to powerhouses like Miami and Arizona, costing them the division title. Seattle, on the other hand, gave up big leads late against the Rams and Cowboys at home and have Shaun Alexander pouting about not winning the rushing title after his team had stopped the Falcons on the final play of the game at the goal line to win the NFC West. I know that those in the Midwest and the Northeast will be watching, but frankly, there might be better things to do on Saturday, like mowing the lawn. St. Louis completes the sweep of the Seahawks, 31-17.
N.Y. Jets at San Diego (-6)
The worst to first San Diego Chargers play their first playoff game in a decade when they host the New York Jets in a rematch of their week two meeting. The Jets won that game 34-28, but as it’s already been written elsewhere, this is a very different Charger team that they will be facing. Since then, the Chargers have won 11-of-14 games including eight in a row and became the NFL’s 3rd best run defense, allowing a mere 81.7 yards per game. The Jets lost three of their last four games, all against playoff bound teams, and Chad Pennington and his sore right shoulder have become fodder for the New York media. Add to that, an excruciating overtime loss on the road last Sunday, a short week this week, a rested and red hot opponent, and a six-plus hour road trip to the West Coast and you have a steep hill to climb if you’re a Jet. San Diego wins the game, 27-14.
Sunday, January 9th
Denver at Indianapolis (-10)
The Colts and Broncos meet again for the second time in a week, the 13th time in history that teams that played on the final weekend of the regular season square off in the first round of the postseason. But this time, they play under the dome where the Colts are an impressive 7-1 at home. Denver’s 33-14 win last week is hardly a sign of an advantage since the Colts rested nearly all of their starters for most of that game. What cannot be doubted is the dissection the Colts performed on the Broncos in last season’s opening round 41-10 and the prolific highs that the Colts offense has reached this season. You have Peyton Manning and his 4,557 yards and record 49 TD passes. You have Marvin Harrison, Brandon Stokley and Reggie Wayne who each had more than 1,000 receiving yards and 10 or more touchdowns. You have Edgerrin James and his 1,548 rushing yards. As valiant as their late season charge has been, the season ends for the Broncos this week. Indianapolis wins the game going away, 40-21.
Minnesota at Green Bay (-6)
When you talk about “backing into the playoffs” there has to be a giant picture of the Minnesota Vikings used for emphasis. The Vikings went 3-7 in their last ten games for the second year in a row after a 5-1 start. Randy Moss is irking his teammates once again with his disappearing act last week in Washington, Mike Tice’s player friendly style seems to be wearing thin in the Twin Cities, and to top it all off, Minnesota has won only two of their last 22 games outdoors. Is there any doubt as to who the choice is in this game? Green Bay will win the game in a shootout, 35-28.