Friday, January 9, 2009

At the sports desk: NFL weekend playoff picks

I was only 1-3 last weekend, unfortunately. I'm 133-118-7 for the year.

Baltimore 2 over TENNESSEE. PICK: RAVENS. On the surface, the lead-up to this game is kind of remarkable. Here you have Tennessee, 13-3, dominating the AFC all year, with home field advantage throughout the playoffs (and thus for this game, too). Baltimore, meanwhile, is the lowest playoff seed remaining in the AFC. Yet the Ravens are favored here. Thing is--it's hard to argue with them being the favorite. Tennessee lost 3 games at the end of the year. The Ravens are coming on strong and, frankly, given the way that defense of theirs is playing, it's hard to see the Titans denting it much. These two teams played earlier this season; the Titans won narrowly, a game Baltimore should have won. My guess is, the Ravens WILL win this one, by a field goal or more.

CAROLINA 5.5 over Arizona. PICK: PANTHERS. Good for the Cardinals last week, for coming up big at home, playing very solid, showing everyone that they were no joke. And a team with playoff-savvy vets like Edgerrin James and Kurt Warner indeed is not a joke. But I see the mountain this week for the Big Red being too much to climb--they're on the road against a tough Carolina squad, with key receiver Anquan Boldin's health questionable, with the Cards not being a good road team. Gotta go with the Panthers.

NY GIANTS 2 over Philadelphia. PICK: GIANTS. The easy thing here might be to go with Philly--they're a hot team, winning 3 in a row; the Giants might be rusty. But--remember this is basically the third Philly playoff game in a row, with the final regular season win over Dallas being a win-and-in game. The Giants meanwhile are rested and, by all accounts, healthy for the first time in weeks, especially at running back. And they're at home. I say, go with the G-men.

PITTSBURGH 4 over San Diego. PICK: STEELERS. I see some of the same things here as in the Philly/Giants game. Yes, San Diego has been hot. But LaDainian Tomlinson is banged up; this is basically the Chargers' third playoff game in a row; the Steelers are rested; and the Californian Chargers will be playing in the cold and snow of Pittsburgh. Remember, the weather ws tough for their game late in the season, and the elements contributed to holding the Chargers to just 10 points (along with the tough Steeler D). I see the Steelers prevailing again here.