After an exciting regular season and the Wildcard Round we've reachedthe Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Even though my favorite team,the Dolphins, have been eliminated, I plan on enjoying the rest ofseason. That means analyzing the match-ups and making predictions.
*Disclaimer* I picked the Eagles to win the Super Bowl in the pre-season.
Let's start with the AFC...
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans- I look for this game to be a low scoring, defensive struggle. Bothteams are fairly evenly matched. The Ravens defense appears to be asgood as the unit that carried them to a Super Bowl XXV victory.However, last week against the Dolphins, the Ravens allowed Miami tomove the ball, especially in the fourth quarter. Tennessee should beable to as well. They just need to avoid the turnovers that plaguedMiami last week. Attention Kerry Collins, avoid Ed Reed. The Titansdefense is just as good. As long as Albert Haynesworth can play and beeffective, the Titans should be able to rattle Flacco.. On offense,both teams like to run the ball. I like White and Johnson slighty morethan McGahee and Rice. Whichever quarterback makes the fewest mistakeswill lead his team to victory. And sorry Joe Flacco, I'll take theveteran Collins to do that. In a previous match-up the Titans won13-10. I expect a similar outcome. Titans 16 Ravens 13
San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers- The Chargers have gone from Pre-Season Super Bowl contender to midseason disappointment to the hottest team in the NFL. The Steelers havebeen, well, the Steelers. They play tough, physical defense and run thefootball. San Diego will likely be without LT for this game. That willleave the workload for Darren Sproles who had a great game last weekagainst the Colts. That won't happen at Pittsburgh. The Charger offensewill struggle like they did in a 11-10 loss at Pittsburgh on November16. I don't expect the Steelers to have much of an easier time againstthe Charger defense either. The Steeler offensive line has struggled toprotect Ben Roethlisberger all season. They'll need to a better job,especially after the concussion Ben suffered in the season finaleagainst Cleveland. Look for poor weather conditions and a lousy playingsurface to play a role in this one causing a couple missed field goals.Steelers 17 Chargers 14
And now, on to the NFC...
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers- This is probably the game I would almost consider a lock. Arizonawill again travel to an east coast that has been not been kind. Theywere blown out by the Jets, Patriots and Eagles. They played wellthough, earlier this season at Carolina, in a 27-23 loss on October 26.However, this is a different Panther team. They are running the ballmuch better now. The tandem of Williams/Stewart have accounted for over2,300 yards this season. And even though the Cardinal run defense hasbeen better, I expect them to have a good game. Arizona should be ableto have some success through the air against a suspect Panthersecondary. Having a healthy Boldin in the line-up would help Arizona'schances but it doesn't look like that is going to happen. Arizona is agreat home team. Too bad this game is in Charlotte. Look for Delhomme,Smith and co. to put this away late in the third or early fourthquarter. Panthers 34 Cardinals 20
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants- Ahh, the game of the week. The Eagles have been on a bit of a rollrecently. And thanks to an Oakland miracle, they squeaked into theplayoffs. The Giants struggled a bit down the stretch but won againstCarolina when they had to. In this match-up of division rivals, recordsgo out the window. These are two teams that know each other well andthere should be no surprises between the two. Despite the retirement ofMichael Strahan and loss of Osi Umenyiora due to injury, the Giantsdefense has been great. Justin Tuck and Antonio Pierce have picked upthe slack and performed well. The Eagle defense has also been playingwell thanks to coordinator Jim Johnson. This game is going to come downto the running backs. Andy Reid needs to commit to running thefootball. It's no secret, when the Eagles balance their attack, theylook really good. Westbrook is a dangerous weapon. The more he touchesthe ball, the better. For the Giants, they need to get Brandon Jacobsgoing early. The offensive line and other backs seem to feed off whatJacobs can do early in the game. They split their season series, eachwinning in the other's building. Expect a good game that comes down tothe wire. Eagles 31 Giants 27
We'll be back next week, Simian permitting, with previews and predictions for the Championship games.