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NFL Picks for Wild Card Weekend
by John Canton (NFL)
Posted on January 6, 2007, 11:36 AM

John: Playoffs? Yes, we're talking about the playoffs. I ended the regular season in my predictions with an 8-8 record to go along with 5-11 against the spread. What a horrible last week of the year. It was made all the more painful when I saw my Rams destroy another bad team for the second straight year as they played their best ball of the year despite missing the playoffs based on a stupid tiebreaker. So frustrating.

Now it's playoff time. I have no favorite team. I root for whoever I bet on (thatís to come later). To this point I haven't made any bets on the entire playoffs because I'm still unsure about my picks for that. My preseason pick was Giants over Pats, but that's not what I'm going with now. I'm leaning towards a Chargers/Saints Super Bowl with San Diego coming out on top because I think whoever wins the AFC is winning the big one. I think the best four teams in the entire NFL are the four AFC teams that will be playing eachother next week, who I believe will be the top four seeds. The NFC is like the junior varsity. Of course anybody can win any one game against any team in this league, so predictions are never easy. That's why they play the games. And that's why we watch. Oh, how I love to watch. I love this league, man. Especially the playoffs. Nothing in sports is better than this. Cannot wait. Now here's the Q man with his thoughts.

drq: Well, it's finally come down to the wire. It's the first weekend of 2007, the playoff matchups have been decided and for the twelve lucky teams to qualify for the big tournament, the race is truly on. I love the playoffs. I love the atmosphere, the unpredictability, the knowledge that one mistake could curtail an otherwise-fantastic season. I love the way every team starts over at square one, an 0-0 record. I love the way there's only one game on at a time, with no more Sunday afternoon feeding frenzies. I love watching the players perform in a continuous high-pressure situation, and how that environment separates the legends from the also-rans. I especially love the one-game-and-done setup of the NFL's post-season, where any team still playing, no matter how tough the odds against, can conceivably run through all of the top contenders on their way to a championship. I also love the way the best team always seems to emerge victorious at the end of the battle. It may not be the most talented team, or the most hyped team, but there's no denying that they're the best come Super Bowl Sunday.

This year's playoff brackets are almost laughably misbalanced in favor of the AFC. Of the twelve teams in the post-season, I'd rank three AFC teams in the top four, with New Orleans being the only NFC squad I'd consider to be a legitimate Super Bowl threat. Chicago, New York, Seattle and Dallas have big problems, but again, part of what I love about this system is that any of them could catch fire at the right time and ride all the way to a title. Even with LaDainian Tomlinson's crazy season in San Diego, I don't think there's a really firm front-runner for this year's playoffs. It should be a wild ride, and it all starts right here.

Brett: I apologize about being unavailable for the last few weeks. Personal stuff (work mostly) came in between me and this column and I'm sorry. Next week will be my full return.

Week 16 results: (10-6)
Week 17 results: (10-6)

Last Week:
Brett Berliner: 10-6
drqshadow: 8-8
John Canton: 8-8

Brett Berliner: 161-95 (.629)
John Canton: 155-101 (.605)
drqshadow: 145-111 (.566)

After picking all 256 games the regular season is over with Brett Berliner being crowned the champion of regular season picks. Next week we'll have the playoff records posted here. Congrats to Brett on the win. Too bad the Browns suck! Sorry, I had to. I'm bitter.

Kansas City @ Indianapolis 4:30pm (Saturday)
drq: I love the media. I think I've heard the same story about a dozen times in the last week - something along the lines of "Nobody expects anything out of the Chiefs in this game, but there's no way the Colts are stopping Larry Johnson." Which is funny, because that looks an awful lot like somebody expecting something out of the Chiefs. Whatever. I don't think Kansas City is nearly the underdog that everybody imagines they are in this game. Indeed, the Colts' run defense has been terrible at best this season, and Larry Johnson is in fact a very able running back. Johnson will keep the Chiefs in the game for as long as he's allowed to, which could very well be the entire sixty minutes. However, I'm sticking with the Colts here, and I have a short list of reasons why. First and foremost, the game's being played in Indianapolis, where the Colts were not only undefeated in 2006, but impressively so. This is where they decimated the Redskins, Eagles, Bengals and Dolphins so thoroughly in the past season. They're a different team under the Dome, one that plays with fire, and one that also happens to have an extremely vocal fanbase. Take a look at the Chiefs' road record and you'll begin to recognize what I'm getting at here.

They'll also be welcoming Bob Sanders back to the defense, an addition that provided enough spark to lift the squad over a very good New England Patriots team earlier this year. Sanders isn't a one-man-fix, but he is a huge part of the defense, rushing to fill holes and generally holding onto the tackles that his teammates have been missing all season. I think the Chiefs will be game, and will provide an excellent opportunity for the Colts to put on their game faces for the post-season, but eventually LJ's going to wear out and they'll be left with an aging Trent Green, an unproven Damon Huard and a sagging defense against the brightest offensive squad in the league. I think the Chiefs are game for three quarters, but Indy pulls away in the fourth and marches on the Baltimore. Indianapolis: 34 - Kansas City - 24

Brett: I believe the much discussed run advantage the Chiefs have, combined with Indianapolis' terrible run D, will make the difference here. I know Peyton can keep the Colts in a shootout, but this won't get there. If the Colts come out, score a TD in two plays, and the Chiefs run for one and take about 15 minutes, it's going to be back breaking for that Colts D. I see KC winning a late one with a Larry Johnson TD. Kansas City 24, Indianapolis 21

John: Forget the "Colt's can't stop the run" point that every talking head on NFL shows will tell you a million times. The key stat is the Colts are 8-0 at home while the Chiefs are 3-5 on the road. A few years ago these teams had a playoff game in Kansas City when Priest Holmes was tearing it up, my boy Dick Vermeil was coaching his ass off and Trent Green could actually throw. This Chiefs team isn't as good as that Chiefs team although they might be better defensively. The reason I bring up this game is because the Colts scored at will on that team. Their personnel is too good for a team like the Chiefs to match up with and I see the same sort of thing to happen again. Lost in all the Drew Brees hype this year is the fact that Peyton Manning once again led his team to a 12-4 record and in his last three games he's got nine TDs to go along with zero picks. You think he doesn't know his defense sucks? He knows better than anybody .That's why he's going to put in one of those four TD types of games to remind everybody that he's still as good as any player in this league right now. The Chiefs may keep it close for a half, but I think Indy's going to ultimately pull away by the time the game is over. By the way Trent Green, it's over, man. You look done. Colts 41-27

Dallas @ Seattle 8pm (Saturday)
drq: Seattle's in serious trouble this week. They've looked far from intimidating this season, even after Hasselbeck and Alexander's returns, and they're about to meet up with an energetic, explosive Cowboys roster that could easily dismantle them. The Dallas offense is outstanding when they're in sync with one another, while the Seahawks have suffered so many injuries on defense that they were adding fresh faces to their game day roster late into the week. If Owens and Glenn can hang onto the ball, and the suspect Cowboy O-Line can buy Tony Romo any time at all, this one could get ugly fast. Home field just doesn't mean the same thing to the Seahawks this year, where they lost their last two, and I think they're hopelessly outmatched against this Cowboy team. Really, it depends which Dallas Cowboys team comes out to play this Saturday. If they're the team that bested Indianapolis, Atlanta and the Giants, this will be a blowout. If they're the team that rolled over against the Lions, Eagles and Saints... it'll be a much more narrow margin of victory. I won't even give the Seahawks a chance. Dallas: 21 - Seattle - 10

Brett: I don't know. Tony Romo had a decent 'rookie' year and I think he'll be a fine QB for the 'Boys for many years, but the 'Hawks are a veteran team who have their #1 back rolling and a veteran QB. Many say it took Hasselbeck's INT in OT against Green Bay to turn him into the man he is today, and I see Romo choking in this one. He will have a good game, but he'll make a key mistake and he'll dwell on it, hopefully realizing the extra-curricular stuff is bad for his game. Seattle 20, Dallas 17

John: This game sucks. Both teams are 1-3 in their last four after giving up way too many points to some really bad teams in those games. All this talk about Seattle being so good at home has become a moot point because of the fact that they lost their last two on their home field. I admit I was sucked in by the Seahawks about five or six weeks ago when I wrote in this space that they were my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Oops. I guess I wasn't informed that Matt Hasselbeck looks shaky as hell and Shaun Alexander's not as healthy as he may want you to think. Throw in the fact that they've got way too many injuries in the secondary and I've officially labeled them as a team I cannot pick. That means I guess I have to pick Dallas. Ugh. I don't understand how they give up 39 points to the Lions in a game they wanted to actually win. Their defense was supposed to be good. It's not. The offense is better than Seattle's at this point because they do have weapons. The key will be the poise of Tony Romo. He might make his mistakes, but as long as they don't lead to touchdowns directly they should be able to sustain them. I'm thinking the Cowboys do just enough to win a close game that won't be as good as the score indicates because these aren't good teams. Cowboys 24-20

NY Jets @ New England 1pm (Sunday)
drq: Probably the toughest game to predict this week. Both of these teams marched into the other guy's house and scratched out a one-score victory earlier this season. The Patriots have looked very mortal this season, and the Jets are in the midst of an upswing. Even worse for New England, key safety Rodney Harrison has been ruled out of the game and nobody seems to know how good a shape rookie RB Laurence Maroney is in. This game could really go either way, with something as simple as the bounce of the ball on a punt, or the direction of the wind factoring heavily into the final score.

The weather report is calling for early rains in Foxborough, but unusually high temperatures, which means this will be anything but the typical Patriots playoff atmosphere. It's easy to imagine high winds, heavy snow, a murky field and last-second Adam Vinatieri field goals, when in actuality we'll likely just be watching an ugly game played on a mudpatch. Hauntingly similar circumstances to the last time these teams met, and the Jets stood tall, right? One thing about that game struck me as odd - a late Tom Brady drive ended in disaster, and ultimately cost the Pats a chance at overtime and / or victory. That's rare to see just once, and just about impossible to witness twice. Brady's still got some magic to show off, and I think he'll work it late in this game. Pats by less than a TD. New England: 14 - New York Jets - 10

Brett: This one is interesting - Mangini against his former boss. I think it's a situation like 'I'll teach you everything you know, but not everything I know'. I think Bill's team is too talented, too veteran and too good to lose to the Jets, who are on their way up but are not ready to be moving on to the second round just yet, especially with Dillon and Maroney against that run D. New England 30, N.Y. Jets 17

John: I'm rooting for the Jets. Big time. I don't like the Pats, I'll never like the Pats and the Jets have the best underdog story of any team in the playoffs. However, I just don't see how the Jets are going to win this game unless Tom Brady gets injured very early in this game. There are two things I see happening in this game. The first thing I see is either a Patriots blowout from start to finish because the team that throttled the Titans last week looked like a team that might roll all the way to another Super Bowl title. The second thing is the one I'm going to boldly predict. That's a scrappy dogfight between two smart defensive minded coaches who will do whatever they can to outsmart the other because of their personal history with one another. Should be a good defensive game that I see the Pats winning. I'm not picking against that team at home with Tom Brady at QB. I just don't see it happening, but the Jets will keep it tight. Pats 24-17

NY Giants @ Philadelphia 4:30pm (Sunday)
drq: The Eagles are a changed team. Just as all seemed to be lost for the team, following some tough losses, McNabb's injury and a few more tough losses, they turned the corner. It was interesting to see AJ Feeley come in and have the game he did against the once-proud Falcons defense last week, which leads me to believe it's not necessarily Jeff Garcia's magic touch that's saved this team's season, but the play of his offensive line and the team's playcalling. They're an easy team to overlook this post-season, and one I think could make a lot of noise.

The Giants, on the other hand, are tumbling. Their locker room's in disarray, their quarterback is having the worst stretch of his career, and their pass rushing duo has been sliced in half. It's that last factor that I think will ultimately be this team's undoing. They're going to need big plays from their men up front against a solid Eagles line, and without Michael Strahan I don't think they can do it. Tiki Barber's about to play his ass off, but it won't be enough. I've got the Eagles comfortably. Philadelphia: 34 - New York Giants - 24

Brett: Boy, did the Giants back into the playoffs or what? Their only chance is if Tiki runs wild, but with Philly on such a roll and so jacked up, plus with such a good run D and home field advantage, I don't see this one being all that close. I think Garcia (sadly) has a big day. Philadelphia 21, N.Y. Giants 7

John: I'm amazed at the coaching job that Andy Reid has done this year. This team lost its best player in Donovan McNabb and arguably its best defensive player in Jevon Kearse yet they're playing as well as any NFC team right now. The Giants are a mess. Injuries have killed the team as well as what appears to be an obvious dislike for coach Tom Coughlin. I think this is Tiki Barber's last game and it will be a tough one because I think the Eagles defense is going to key on him forcing Eli Manning to pass on them. I don't see him having a lot of success doing that. Because of that I like the Eagles to win comfortably. Eagles 23-10

JC vs. The Spread
Here's how I finished up the regular season:

Last week: 1-3 - Bad way to end the year as I finish just one measly game over .500 for the season. Was hoping for better. Maybe next year.
Season: 33-32-3

This week I like the Colts, Cowboys, Jets (to cover, but not win the game) and Eagles.

Until next week when we preview the divisional playoffs, for Drqshadow and Brett Berliner this is John Canton saying enjoy the games. You know we will.

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