Friday, January 9, 2009

NFL Divisional Round preview and prognostications

After last week's merely adequate effort, I'm going to give this one more shot. I'm even going to try to forecast the scores again, which is simply stupid.

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans - Saturday, 4:30pm ET, CBS
I've been gushing about Ed Reed so much this week that it's getting crazy. Not Thom Brenneman-gushing-over-Tim Tebow crazy, but crazy nonetheless. The reason I've been going "nutso" is because he is an incredible defensive player. While Ray Lewis gets all the glory, Ed Reed is the real catalyst of the Ravens' tough defense. After his performance last week I'm sure Kerry Collins will pay more attention to Reed. He'll have to, since Baltimore will invite the Titans to beat them through the air. If the Ravens can shut down the "Dine-And-Dash" tandem of Lendale White and Chris Johnson, Reed will be lurking to capitalize on any Collins mistake.

Tennessee isn't some lousy team, though. They are the number one seed in the AFC. The Titans' defense is one of the best in the league and will have no trouble containing the Ravens. But I think Baltimore's "D" is a little better than Tennessee's and the same could be said about the offense.
Prognostication: Ravens 13, Titans 7

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers - Saturday, 8:15pm ET, FOX
Almost no one is giving the Cardinals a chance in this one. The Panthers have two very good running backs and if you can stop them there's still Steve Smith on the end doing his thing. But Jake Delhomme scares me. There were games this year where he looked awful and games where he looked great. The one thing about Delhomme, though, is that when he's bad, he still "manages the game" well enough to lead the team to victory.

The Panthers haven't lost at home this season, while Arizona hasn't won in the east. In fact, this Kurt Warner-led Cardinals team has looked more like the Kurt Warner-led Iowa Barnstormers on the right coast. Anquan Boldin is banged up and, even with Edgerrin James' big game last week, Arizona has running game issues.
Prognostication: Panthers 27, Cardinals 17

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants - Sunday, 1:00pm ET, FOX
This is one of those knock-down, drag-out playoff games between bitter rivals. Any time the Giants and Eagles mix it up in the postseason, all bets are off. New York beat Philly early in the season, then the Iggles knocked off the G-Men in New Jersey in Week 14.

The Eagles are the sexy pick right now because they're playing with house money. But after a Week 16 loss to the Redskins, Philly beat Dallas and Minnesota in consecutive weeks, with both of those teams proving to be not as good as advertised. The Giants are rested and have a healthy Brandon Jacobs, who was injured during New York's loss to Philly. As long as Steve Spagnuolo doesn't let Antonio Pierce cover Brian Westbrook by himself, the Giants will take this one.
Prognostication: Giants 26, Eagles 20

San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers - Sunday, 4:45pm ET, CBS
The Steelers have a guy that belongs in the same category as Ed Reed in Troy Polamalu. He's always lurking, looking to make a big play, and played a great game against Philip Rivers the last time these two met. That was the infamous 11-10 game, the only one in history, although it should have been 18-10, but I digress.

It's highly unlikely that Darren Sproles will be able to do to the Steelers what he did to the Colts. With a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh will play its typical grind-it-out game and slowly put the Chargers to sleep.
Prognostication: Steelers 17, Chargers 10

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