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The Oratory's NFL Picks Ė Wild Card Playoffs
by John Canton (NFL)
Posted on January 8, 2010, 9:48 AM

John: In my preseason preview I got 8 of the 12 playoff teams correct. I almost got Houston and Pittsburgh, both of whom came oh so close. The biggest AFC surprise to me were the Bengals. I did not see a playoff team in them, so kudos to them for overachieving at least to me. In the NFC I went for a bit of the reach in picking the Seahawks to win the NFC West, which wasn't even close. On the plus side, at least I was right in predicting that 3 of last year's 4 top seeds (Giants, Titans, Panthers) would all miss the playoffs. I remember getting criticized for that one. Turns out all four of them missed out, including the Steelers. If somebody would have said that before the year they'd be ripped for it. This league is crazy, people. By the way, my worst preseason pick? Picking my Rams to go 7-9. The team did play hard and they lost their share of close games, but I guess I was too optimistic, huh?

My preseason Super Bowl pick was Patriots over Packers. Both are in the playoffs now, but I'm not going to pick either to make it. Of the two, I really do like the Packers a lot and I think they can absolutely make the Super Bowl just as any of the six NFC teams can make it. The QB play in the NFC is fantastic. I'd say it's the best group of QBs in one conference in the history of the playoffs. There's no Grossman this year, that's for sure. Any one of those six can carry their team to a title with the way they're playing. In the AFC, I think it's either the Chargers or Colts. The other four seem a level below them to me. Considering the Chargers have the Colts number especially in the playoffs I'm going with San Diego out of the AFC. I think they're peaking at the right time, they've got an excellent QB in Rivers, two solid RBs in LT & Sproles, elite players at WR/TE with Jackson & Gates, a dominant OL and a defensive unit that is finally playing up to their standards because they're healthy. With Indy, can you really count on that defense? I don't think so. In the NFC I've thought about it a lot trying to decide between the Saints, Vikings, Cowboys and Packers. Ultimately, since the QB play is pretty similar for all teams, I tried looking more at the running games as well as the defenses. The Vikings stand out to me. My worry with them is that their star MLB EJ Henderson is out and their defense hasn't been great without him. They still have the best DL in the league, though. I also think come playoff time Adrian Peterson will be the difference maker.

This is my Super Bowl pick: Chargers over Vikings. I doubt I'll get both right, but if I get one I'm happy. If Dallas gets by Philly in round one like I think, whoever wins Cowboys/Vikings in round two is making it. I don't like the Saints. Sorry.

James: Well, weíve arrived at Wild Card Weekend. I donít think weíve ever seen anything like this where three of the matchups are rematches from Week 17 of the regular season. The NFL is just weird like that, it seems. Despite the Colts having the best record of all 12 playoff teams, I donít think there is one team amongst them all that is leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. The Saints have looked awful for three weeks, the Vikings have their own set of issues, and the Colts may not have any momentum heading into next week. When it all comes down to putting the chips on the table, my pick for Super Bowl Champions are the Chargers. Theyíre easily the hottest team in the postseason, and I trust Philip Rivers to deliver. The man is a born leader.

Matt: Iím a bit disappointed in my Steelers not getting a chance at the post season this year, but if you want to be in the playoffs, you have got to win the games. I feel like a Lions, Raiders, or Rams fan when I say this, but thereís always next year. Looking at the matchups for this week, I have got a feeling that all of the road teams have a strong chance of coming away with wins this week. The thing to keep in mind is that any team can lose any game any week of the year. Even the four top teams have losses to teams that arenít even playing in the post season. As tough as it is for me to feel good about picking Norv Turner to win much of anything, I think that the Chargers are playing some of the best football of anyone right now. If anything, I think that the bye week hurts their momentum. Iíve seen the Steelers lose from high seeds before to find myself taking comfort in the security of the week off can bring for any team. That aside, the way I see the road to the Super Bowl going for them, involves a win against a weak Jets team and a Colts team that hasnít seen a meaningful game in over a month. As for the NFC, I like the Vikings to walk into the playoffs now that they have ensured that they donít have to take the old Favre show on the road. The loss by Philly last week was huge for them as it guaranteed that the worst climate they would have to play in is another dome. Iím not too sure which team I like for this Super Bowl yet. Right now Iím leaning toward the Vikings based heavily on the big game experience of Favre. How the Chargers play coming off of the bye week is going to be a factor for me though and my opinion could change if both of these teams are still in the hunt after the conference semis.

John: So we all pick the Chargers? Stay classy, San Diego. We're sorry.

Last week's results:
John 13-3
Matt 11-5
James 11-5

The standings for the season:
James 175-81 (.684)
John 168-88 (.656)
Matt 164-92 (.641)

I think we should all be proud of those records. Any time you can hit close to 67% for the season is pretty good. James was over 70% for much of the year and he cooled off, but he had a really solid year.

NY Jets at Cincinnati 4:30 PM (SAT NBC)
James: The Jets did what they needed to do, but letís not sugarcoat itóthey were the luckiest team in the world for two weeks in a row. But do I think they can beat Cincinnati two weeks in a row? Absolutely. Cincinnati doesnít know what consistency is, and they are going to have their hands full with Darrelle Revis and the #1 defense in the league. The Bengals are still the Bengals and I just donít see them making it past the pumped-up Jets. Jets 28 Ė Bengals 17

Matt: The Jets backed into the playoffs on the luck of playing two teams with nothing to gain by winning in the last two weeks. I donít see them in the playoffs if the Colts game had been played in week 8 when there was something for Indy to play for. Those are the breaks though, a lucky break here and there and the Titans, Texans, Jaguars, Dolphins or Steelers are in this game. Meanwhile the Bengals have not won against a team with a winning record since week 10 where they defeated the then 6-2 Steelers. Following that win, the Bengals gained firm control of the AFC North and lost control of their season. Losses to the Raiders, Chargers, Vikings and the Jets followed. Even in victory, the Bengals looked weak narrowly escaping with wins against the likes of the Chiefs and Browns. The shut out showed how dominant this Jets defense can be. While I donít see the shut out happening again this week, I do see another Jets win. Jets 24-17

John: Make no mistake about it, the Bengals laid down last week. The only people that think otherwise are Jets fans, who should feel lucky that their team got to play two teams that didn't care the last week of the year. The Bengals would have played the Texans if they won this game. What happened against the Texans earlier in the year? They got smoked by them. The Jets pulled out all the stops to beat the Bengals, they celebrated the win like they won the Super Bowl while the Bengals sat there thinking, "we got you." And I think they do. The Jets aren't a good passing team and the Bengals know that, so they'll put eight in the box to make Mark Sanchez beat them. You think a rookie QB with over 20 picks is going to win a road playoff game in a tough environment? I don't. Yes, the Jets defense is very good and they can run the ball, but the Bengals too. The difference is when it comes to making plays you need the QB to do that. In Carson Palmer, the Bengals have somebody that did it all year, especially late in games. He won't even be the story, though. The Bengals unheralded defense (no Pro Bowlers?) will be. But hey, at least you celebrated last week, Jets. Bengals 24-10

Philadelphia at Dallas 8:00 PM (SAT NBC)
James: This is the game Iím most looking forward to simply because I think these are the two best teams in the Wild Card round. The Cowboys beat the Eagles soundly both times they played this year, and I donít see that trend being bucked here. Dallasí defense is simply more talented and all-around better than Phillyís. Plus, even Tony Romo has shredded the memo that says, ďGuess what? Itís the cold months!Ē and is playing some of the best football of his career. Iím taking Dallas here by a couple touchdowns. Dallas 35 Ė Philadelphia 21

Matt: There are quite a few people out there who are expecting Dallas to re-emerge as a threat in the NFC after being dormant for several seasons. I donít share that optimism. The shut out win from last week was impressive, but I think the Eagles have a few tricks in the play book that didnít make it onto the field yet this year. There is the potential that Michael Vick could be a bigger factor in the post season than he was in the regular season. Iím thinking that is a big part of the reason that he didnít play so much this year. Dallas has overcome the December slump, but I still donít see a January win from this team yet. Eagles 28-24

John: I'm writing this one Jon Gruden style: "You see, when THAT GUY Tony Romo has played in past playoffs he had this nervous energy about him. He's different now. Why? Because of THIS GUY Miles Austin at wide receiver being the target he needed. The entire offense opens up making THAT GUY Jason Witten more of a threat in the middle of the field and the backs are more dangerous because they're a pass first team. They like to run out of the shotgun a lot, making THAT GUY Felix Jones more explosive than in a regular formation. The Eagles have a tough time matching up with them. That's why they've lost to them twice already and the big question is can the Cowboys beat the Eagles three times in one season? If that Cowboys defense can frustrate Donovan McNabb like I think they can then THAT GUY McNabb is going to have a long day. I think THIS GUY Demarcus Ware and THAT GUY Jay Ratliff are going to wreak havoc in the Eagles backfield all day. One other thing: Is Brett Favre playing in this game? THAT GUY can play. THAT GUY loves football. And I love THAT GUY." No Gruden, he's not playing. Thanks for the preview, though. Cowboys 27-20

Baltimore at New England 1:00 PM (SUN CBS)
James: Neither of these two teams overly impress me. Baltimore because they had a knack all season of no-showing games, and New England because they no longer have Wes Welker due to a gruesome knee injury. Check Tom Bradyís stats in game with Welker and without him. The difference is night and day. Brady is outright mediocre without his slot guy. I wouldnít be surprised to see Baltimore pull the upset here, but Iím not picking against New England at Foxboro. No matter who wins here, I donít see that team making it past next week. Patriots 24 Ė Baltimore 10

Matt: The only game this week that is not a rematch from week 17 is a re match from week 4. During that game, Mark Clayton dropped a potential game tying pass on fourth down that allowed the Patriots to run out the clock for the win. This game also looks to be close as the Patriots will be out there without playmaker Wes Welker. While I donít think that it is ever a good idea to count out the Patriots, I do think that the Ravens are better than the 9-7 mark that they carry into this game. Baltimore is healthy and ready to re-stake their claim as one of the top teams in the AFC. A win here would go a long way toward making that statement. Ravens 21-20

John: If Wes Welker was playing in this game I would be taking the Pats. He's the guy that makes that offense go. Without him their drives will stall, they will have problems finding Moss deep and despite what they say you simply can't replace a Pro Bowler with a guy like Julian Edelman that barely plays. You can't. The Ravens have the experience of winning road playoff games last year (two of them) while also having the kind of defensive toughness that intimidates people. I like the makeup of that team. On offense, I think their RB combo of Rice & McGahee are really thriving. They're going to give the Pats defense some problems. I'm calling the upset here although I wouldn't that surprised if the Pats beat them by 20 points either. I think it'll be close, though. Very close. Ravens 24-23

Green Bay at Arizona 4:40 PM (SUN FOX)
James: This is an intriguing game. Arizona should and will look much better than the team that received that thrashing last week at the hands of these same Packers. However, they also have to deal with the very real possibility of not having Anquan Boldin for the game. I know Kurt Warner is a postseason legend of sorts, but I think Aaron Rodgers is going to start showing people just how great a quarterback he is. It amazes me that there are still people who denigrate him or just outright ignore him. The guy is a top 7 quarterback in the NFL at the very least. Arizona is too banged up to win here. Iím picking Green Bay. Green Bay 30 Ė Arizona 21

Matt: I find this game easier to call than the rest. The Packers are clearly the better football team. The Cardinals have underperformed at home all season. Green Bay is healthy, while several key Cardinals come into the game with nagging injuries. Last year the Cardinals were the underdogs in every post season game and still made it to the Superbowl. I donít figure that they can manage to duplicate that feat this season, although if they somehow get by the Packers this week, I would be very tempted to pick them the rest of the way. Packers 30-21

John: I've been on the Pack all year and I will be this week too. I'm a little nervous about it, though. Last week's game didn't matter that much, but what matters were the injuries to key Cards players like WR Anquan Boldin and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They're two of their best players. If both play they'll be limited. If that happens then the Packers defense can focus in on Larry Fitzgerald even more while the offense can try to expose the backups playing CB trying to replace DRC. The key for the Packers in the last two months has been their defense, which has been phenomenal aside from the Pittsburgh game. They can stop the run, they can pressure the QB and they can cover in the secondary. They are a complete team. At least they're more complete than the Cards. Give me the road team here in a shootout. Packers 33-24

JC's Money Picks
Every week I'll pick four games against the spread or using the over/under. I was 2-1-1 last week. I'll keep doing it through the playoffs even though I don't love betting on playoff games as much. These odds come from pinnaclesports.com as always.

Season: 38-28-2 (.576)

Packers PK over CARDINALS. There's no favorite. Lots of people picking the Pack all week because the Cards opened up as the favorites.
BENGALS -2Ĺ over Jets. People overrate week 17 too much.
Cowboys/Eagles OVER 45. I have it barely over at 47, but I think it might be even higher.
Ravens +3 over PATRIOTS. Toughest one to pick.

Thanks for reading. See you next week for the conference semis, which is my favorite week because the top eight teams in the league (we think) are left.

Enjoy the games.

Contact James at xenomaster_17@yahoo.com
Contact Matt at Kane_matthews@hotmail.com
Contact John at oratoryjohn@gmail.com

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