I love this weekend. 4 games. Great opponents, winter football. It's the best. Even better than the Super Bowl. There are more games and it lasts the entire weekend.
Last weekend, I went 4-0 on my picks. I know, I know, I didn't blog it so I can't prove it, so I guess I'll just have to go 4-0 this weekend to prove it. So, here goes.
Let's start with Seattle at Green Bay. Everything in my gut tells me Seattle should win this, but the stats don't. Green Bay has better yards per play, better third down ratings and better yards per pass play. Also, Green Bay has only given up 19 sacks this year, while Seattle has given up 36 (which I'm sure Aaron Kampman likes to hear). Also Ryan Grant has picked up the running game for Green Bay in the second half of the season.
The forecast for Green Bay is 24 degrees with a chance of snow. That would likely effect Hasselbeck's sore wrist and the Seattle passing game. Can Seattle catch the ball—they had a lot of drops last week. And lastly, Green Bay is rested, at home and with a running game, playing against a team who can't run, while only giving up 3.8 yds per carry. All this adds up to Matt H. having to do it himself, which I don't think he can. Green Bay wins.
Jacksonville at New England
A couple of months ago, I said that if anyone could beat the Patriots, it was Jacksonville. I don't believe anyone can do it, but I still think Jacksonville is going to be tough. The Jags had an astonishing 4.58 yds per carry and held that up last week against the Steelers by running for 135 yards. They need to keep doing that this week, by running effectively and keeping the ball out of Tom Brady's hands. What's more, the last five weeks, the Patriots are giving up 4.89 yds per carry.
That said, the Patriots are going to come off the bus passing. If they can get up a couple of touchdowns and force Jacksonville to start passing, they are going to tee off on David Garrard. Look for Wes Welker to catch pass after pass for 8 yards or so in the flat. All in all, a lot is going to depend on John Henderson. If he plays and he is effective, the Jaguars can handle the Patriots spreading them out a little better. But if he's unable to play, the Pats can spread out the Jags as well as run effectively to keep them off-balance. All in all, the Pats win.
San Diego at Indianapolis
Frankly, this is all Peyton Manning. If he is given time and his receivers run the routes he tells them, they win. If he gets pressured and/or Harrison can't play effectively, they lose.
A lot of people were more impressed with the Chargers the second half of the season. In my opinion, they beat nobody. The Lions? Chiefs? Raiders? And now, they face the AFC top passer, at home, with his weapons all back (Clark and Harrison were out in their earlier meeting) and rested. Also, with Antonio Gates out, the Colts can focus more on Tomlinson, which Norv Turner is sure to lean on heavily. Which is not good. Also, Indy is getting back Robert Mathis and Raheem Brock back on the defensive line. uh oh. For all the bad press Indy's rush defense gets, they were 6th in the league only giving up 3.77 yds per carry. Overall, I think Indy wins in a walk.
New York at Dallas
A great many people see this game as the potential upset of the week. No doubt, T.O.'s gimpy ankle the reason for that, I just don't see it. What I see is Eli being harassed all day by Ware, Ellis and Co. and throwing a few ill-timed interceptions. With Shockey sidelined and Boss dinged up, New York will try to run the ball—except, Dallas had the 6th best run defense this year. Yes, New York ran for over 100 yds both times this year, but they lost both games. I also see the fact, that New York has the lowest passing yds per attempt out of all the playoff teams (and just behind Chicago...ouch!) a measly 5.51 yds per pass play. The Giants were also 1-5 against quality opponents this year.
In short, Dallas can weather the Giant's rushing attack, because they feel Eli can't beat them. New York will try to grind the clock on the ground and keep Eli to short timed passes, thus eliminating mistakes.
But it won't be enough. Dallas will use Witten and Marion Barber to keep the Giant front 4 on their toes and wait for the big play that Eli is bound to give them. Dallas wins.