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The Oratory's NFL Picks - Conference Semifinals
by John Canton (NFL)
Posted on January 15, 2010, 9:37 AM

John Welcome to the Oratory's NFL Picks. I'm joined as always by James Deaux and Matt Henry as we get down to the final eight teams left in the NFL season. The interesting thing about round two in the playoffs is that in the 90s a lot of the time the home teams won these games. This past decade, though, it didn't happen. Just last year we saw three of the four teams that had byes lost (Titans, Giants, Panthers) while only one of the teams (Steelers) won. Home field doesn't mean as much anymore. Before I get started I should say that this is my favorite weekend to be a fan of the NFL. You've got the top eight teams (at least we think so) playing double headers in back to back nights. These games are usually very good. I'm excited.

Matt: Two of four last week wasnít too bad, but I really should have known better than to count on the Eagles to do anything more than disappoint. The Cardinals are playing some of the best offensive football in the league at the best time to be doing so. Last week wasnít some run up the score on a weak opponent deal, it was 51 points against one of the top defensive units in the NFL. I said last week that if they got by the Packers it would be tough not to pick them going forward, and Iím going to be standing by that for this week. Moving onto the teams I got right, I expected the Ravens win last week, but I donít know if anyone expected it to come about in that fashion. The Patriots were dominated in every aspect of the game for four quarters. No reason to feel guilty, I enjoyed it too. The Jets exposed and exploited the weak points of the Bengals in two straight games, now watch the Chargers do unto them. Should be another fun week with big numbers for the stat freaks out there.

Last week:
James 2-2
John 2-2
Matt 2-2

Regular Season
James 175-81 (.684)
John 168-88 (.656)
Matt 164-92 (.641)

All game times are Eastern.

Arizona @ New Orleans - Saturday 4:30pm
James: Cardinals at Saints: Wow. After that insane game last week, who knows what we'll be in store for this time? I think roughly 600 points will be put up here and eventually the defenses will just say "to hell with it" and stand on the sidelines. The Saints have absolutely no momentum, but I think they can win here on their way to losing the NFC Championship next week to the team that ended their pursuit of perfection. Saints 48-45

Matt: Last week the Packers and the Cardinals put on an offensive showcase that resulted in the highest scoring game in the history of the playoffs. This week, the Cardinals and Saints are going to take a shot at breaking that record. The Packers had one of the top defenses in the league this year and the Cardinals shredded them for 51 points. The Saints have had quite a few underwhelming performances this year, and the defense is without a doubt the weak point of this team. The Cardinals have been playing better on the road all year, and this is a team that has proven their ability to outshine expectations in the playoffs. The seven point line shows the respect that people are developing for how strong this team is, but you need to consider that the Cardinals can be just as unreliable as the Saints. As far as I can see, the only reliable prediction that can be made about this game is that there is going to be a pile of points and yardage racked up. Cardinals 48-42

John This should be a fun game to watch due to each team having explosive offenses. The Cardinals showed last week, just as they did last year, that they can turn it up come playoff time. Kurt Warner looked phenomenal while all of his receivers did a great job in getting open. Defensively they stunk, though. There's no other way to say it. If you blow a 31-10 lead like they did you have to be worried. The Saints, meanwhile, haven't been great for over a month. Who knows what we'll get from them? My thinking is they might come out slow for the first one or two drives, but once they get in that groove they will be very hard to stop. I really think Drew Brees is going to have a huge game here. They had to have watched how the Packers threw on the Cards the last two weeks. Considering he's got plenty of weapons to go to, both at WR and RB, the Saints are going to put up a lot of points. The question is whose defense will be better? I like New Orleans. It's a tough building to play in and they're the fresher team. The key is getting pressure on Warner. You need to get in his face or he's going to hurt you. As advertised, it's going to be an offensive game. Not as many points as last week's Packers/Cardinals game, but still plenty to go around. Saints win and cover. Saints 37-27

Baltimore @ Indianapolis - Saturday 8:15pm
James: I'm going with the Colts here. If Baltimore thinks they can win with Joe Flacco throwing the ball only 10 times for 34 yards again, then they are insane. Flacco absolutely must throw the ball more in this game, or they will not win. Simple as that. The Colts' offense has so many weapons that I doubt they will have the problems New England did last week. Colts 24-17

Matt: The difference between this Ravens club and the one that last went deep into the post season is that they can score enough points that they donít have to be overly reliant on defense. Manning hasnít fared well in the post season in the past, and I think a lot of that has to do with the time off. The Ravens are going to be riding a pretty big high coming off of their thrashing of the Patriots last week, while the Colts starters havenít seen much action since December 17. Overall, this matchup should favor the Colts, but I just canít see all of that time off doing much good for them. People make too much of the differences between Manning and Flacco. Manning is going to have the better numbers for sure, but there are more people on the field besides the QBs. Ravens 32-28

John I think if you're a Colts fan this is a matchup that should worry you. The Ravens play the kind of physical style defensively that the Colts have had trouble with in the past. Offensively they're built to run. The Ravens OLine is dominating lately while the tandem of Rice & McGahee have been giving defenses fits. We know Indy's defense against the pass is very good thanks to the pressure they get from DE's Freeney & Mathis, but can they slow down the running game? To me, this is a bigger story than Manning against that defense. I think it's more important for the Colts defense to have a big game then it is for the offense. That's because it's hard for me to see the Colts putting up 30+ on the Ravens. If they do, they probably win the game. I know Baltimore has had some shootouts this year, but they're peaking right now. It's tough to score on them. Indy needs to minimize turnovers, force Flacco to make some mistakes and capitalize on the short fields if they get them. Ultimately, I like Indy to win because of Peyton Manning having a really strong game. I think the middle of the field will be open, so look for Dallas Clark to have a big night while Wayne might be seeing double teams all game. I don't think the Colts will be hurt that much by not having a meaningful game for four weeks. With Peyton Manning leading the team, they should be fine. Colts win, but the Ravens cover the 6.5 points they're getting. Colts 28-23

Dallas @ Minnesota - Sunday 1:00pm
James: Probably the Game of the Weekend here, I honestly have no idea who to pick. If this was in Dallas, I'd probably roll with the Cowboys confidently. Being in the Metrodome, though, it's a little tougher. I picked Dallas to make it to the Super Bowl, so I'm going to stand by that and say that they overcome Minnesota here. I expect this to be a close one wire-to-wire. Cowboys 28-27

Matt: The Cowboys are looking like the Cowboys again as they travel into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1996. In 1996, the Green Bay Packers were led to a Super Bowl victory by five season veteran QB Bret Farve. Iím concerned about the Vikings chances here because there is going to be huge pressure on that 40 year old arm due to the strength of the Cowboys run defense. If a heavy dose of AP isnít successful early on, look for Farve to start getting reckless with the football. I think that, similar to the other NFC game, this is going to be a shootout. A shootout favors the unbeaten Vikings at home. Vikings 36-30

John I have to say that this has been the hardest game for me to pick all week. For the other three, I made up my mind as soon as I saw the matchups. For this game I've gone back and forth all week. On the one hand, the Vikings were the team I picked to make the Super Bowl just last week. On the other hand, I think Dallas is the most complete team in the NFL with the most momentum as well. It's hard to go against that. I'd rather go against my own prediction because frankly I wasn't even sure of myself last week when I made it. I said then as I do now that whoever wins this game is going to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. I think they're the most complete teams. The Vikes have an elite QB, RB, OL, a very good WR group and a strong defensive line that shuts down the run. Pass defense? I'm a little leery. The Cowboys have an elite QB, an excellent trio of RBs especially with Felix Jones emerging, a strong OL, very good WRs, strong run defense and probably the best pass rush in the NFL right now. Both secondary's worry me a little bit although the Vikings secondary worries me a bit more. That's the difference, to me. I had to find an edge. I found one. The Vikings top corner, Antoine Winfield, is still banged up while the rest of that group is just average. With the way Tony Romo is finding people I really think he's going to expose them. Yes, the Vikings pass rush can be very good thanks to Jared Allen, but Romo's one of the best QBs at throwing on the run. He's played excellent football over the last six weeks. Does the fact that the Vikings are 8-0 at home this year matter? Not really. The Pats were 8-0 last week too and they got hammered by the Ravens. The better team is going to win. To me, in this game, the Cowboys are the better team because of their defense more than anything. I think DeMarcus Ware is going to wreak havoc on old man Favre leading to the mistakes that Dallas will capitalize on. Should be a classic game. Cowboys 27-20

NY Jets @ San Diego - Sunday 4:40pm
James: Chargers are my pick for Super Bowl Champions, so that means I'm picking them here, obviously. The San Diego receiving core has a distinct advantage over the Jets because they are all so tall. Philip Rivers can hurl it downfield and the secondary will be in mismatches with guys like Vincent Jackson. Mark Sanchez is going to be asked to do a lot more and that's when he gets into trouble turning the ball over. Chargers 31-17

Matt: The Jets had one of their typical schizophrenic seasons this year going from ďthis might be a top tier teamĒ, to ďwhat do you expect with a rookie QBĒ, to ďmaybe they get inĒ, to ďnot a chance in hellĒ, and ended up with a playoff win. The Chargers meanwhile are stacked with talent and were expected to be the top team that they grew into being after a slow start that saw them get to week seven before getting above .500 to stay. As tough as it is to pick Turner to not blow it, it is even tougher to pick the Jets to travel cross country and win against this powerhouse Chargers team. Chargers 27-18

John Congrats to the Jets on continuing to surprise me. I didn't see much of the game last week, but their running game was dominant last week against a good Bengals defense. Defensively they did a phenomenal job against the pass although their run defense was suspect. I think the Chargers present a big problem to them because they're so diverse on offense. They can beat you with Tomlinson slashing up the middle, Sproles on the outside, Rivers throwing it deep or looking for Gates over the middle. In the past couple of years the Chargers have had injury concerns in the playoffs. Teams were able to expose them. Not this year. The defense has looked very good during this incredible streak they've been on for the past three months. I know Mark Sanchez was sharp last week. This week's a different challenge. I think most of the games of the weekend will be close except this one. I like the Chargers comfortably. They're better then the Jets in too many different areas. The player of the game? Darren Sproles. I can feel it. Chargers 23-10

JC's Money Picks
Every week I'll pick four games against the spread or using the over/under. I was 2-2 last week. These odds come from pinnaclesports.com as always.

Season: 40-30-2 (.571)

SAINTS -7 over Cardinals. I think they can win by more than one TD.
CHARGERS -7 over Jets. Same as above.
Colts/Ravens OVER 44. Not sure why, just feels like there'll be lots of points.
Cowboys +2.5 over Vikings. Very leery of this.

Thanks for reading. See you next week for the conference finals.

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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