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Divisional Round Picks

January 10th, 2009

You know how I know the Eagles are winning on Sunday? Because I’m picking the Ravens to win on Saturday. Wait. I know that doesn’t make sense. But here’s the deal: One of the four road teams (all of which go into the weekend as underdogs by at least one score) is gonna find a way to win. That’s about what you get in the divisional playoffs round; the home teams, coming off a bye, go 3-1 or 4-0. This year, it’s gonna be 3-1. The Cardinals certainly aren’t winning; they’ve already lasted a week longer than they should have. And the Chargers almost certainly aren’t beating the Steelers. That leaves the Eagles and the Ravens. And I can’t bring myself to pick the Eagles even though they’re in a game that could go either way. But I can find plenty of reasons to pick the Ravens. That means just one thing: the Ravens will lose and the Eagles will win. Because if there’s one thing you can reliably bet on, it’s me picking wrong. So there you go. Bet Philly. Bet ’em big. And expect none of the following to actually occur.

Baltimore (+3) at Tennessee
I need Baltimore to lose this game. Because although I’m absolutely filled (overflowing even) with respect and admiration for Ed Reed, and although I love to watch the man play, I simply cannot stand to read or hear his name one more goddamned time. Seriously. OK, yeah, he’s a great, great, great safety. I get it. Now, shut up, already. It’s getting to be like that fucking “Bad Day” song (except for how that “Bad Day” song is horrible and was completely insufferable from the get-go, unless you’re the kind of dolt who enjoys really weak songwriting — which, as it turns out, just about everyone is) where it doesn’t matter what’s going on someone just suddenly decides, “You know what would be great? If I were to simply shove Ed Reed’s name into this … business meeting, conversation about collecting used milk jugs, prostate exam … . ” And it isn’t, great. Really. And it has to stop before I completely lose my mind. So, OK, maybe I’d be cool with the Ravens winning if they could do it on the strength of a great performance by Joe Flacco. But I think we all know that ain’t happening. Not in the face of Tennessee’s defense, a unit that gave up just six yards per attempt this season, picked off 20 balls and allowed just 12 passing TDs all year (that’s three quarters of a passing touchdown per game). No, if the Ravens are winning this game, they’re winning it on defense. And that’s gonna mean a big contribution from Ed Reed. Of course, the same goes for Tennessee (the winning on defense part, not the big contribution from Ed Reed part; the Titans don’t want to see Reed do much at all). And the question becomes which quarterback do you trust more to have a bad day, the rookie Flacco or the traditionally inept Kerry Collins. In the end, I’ve gotta look to Collins, not so much because I expect great things from Flacco (in fact it’s always safe to bet against rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs), but because I expect Collins to get more opportunities to screw up. Flacco won’t be asked to win this game. Collins might. And that’s as likely as not to translate to six points for Ed Reed, which means a) another week of listening to incessant talk about him and b) a Baltimore win. Let’s say by three.

Arizona (+10) at Carolina
Another thing I don’t need to hear another damned word about: how Arizona can’t travel east and win. OK, yeah, the Cardinals haven’t won a game in an Eastern time zone city all season. That’s great. But the Cardinals aren’t losing this game to geography. They’re losing this game to the Panthers, who are quite simply better than them in all three phases of the game. They’re losing to a defense that does an excellent job of bringing pressure on quarterbacks. They’re losing to a balanced offense led by a veteran quarterback who’s incredibly unlikely to use the same snap count on down after down. The Cardinals would lose this game in Arizona just as surely as they’ll lose it in Carolina. The only difference is that if the Cardinals were at home, they might have a shot of keeping the difference to less than 10, whereas in Carolina they don’t. Panthers by two touchdowns.

Philadelphia (+4) at NY Giants
Yeah, it’s true: This should work out to be a great game between two teams that know each other very well and that should be poised to trade punches all afternoon long. And, honestly, the only outcome that could possibly surprise me is a blowout — in either team’s favor. So what does one find to hook a pick on? I’m not sure. But if I’ve gotta pick something, it’s Donovan McNabb. I like McNabb. I respect McNabb. But in the end I don’t trust McNabb. He’s as likely to lose a game for his team as he is to win it for them. And that’s not only a less than desirable quality in a quarterback, but as close to a formula for losing in the post-season as you’re likely to find. I’m taking the Giants straight up and the Eagles with the points, but I’ll be neither shocked nor disappointed if McNabb and the Eagles prove me wrong.

San Diego (+6) at Pittsburgh
You think Darren Sproles is good for 160 yards and two touchdown’s against Pittsburgh’s defense? That’s it. That’s the only question I’m gonna ask and the only one you need to answer in relation to this game. My answer, for the record, is “Hell, no.” The Chargers’ defense will ensure that it goes down to the fourth quarter (and maybe to the last possession), but in the end, the Steelers win it by four.

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