Indy fans are nervous—and they should be
Hear that sound of an entire midwestern city bracing for the worst? It's the collective shallow breathing of Colts Nation (which, near as I can tell, is otherwise known as "Indianapolis").
If I'm a Colts fan, I'm about as nervous as Paula Abdul when her bottle of elephant tranquilizers starts to dwindle. Indy fans have seen it before all too often: their seemingly unstoppable Colts offense starts to stall in the face of a good defensive scheme and pressure up the middle on Peyton Manning.
The San Diego Chargers have had the blueprint for success against Manning & Co. recently. This weekend, it could be the Baltimore Ravens' turn. The Nastybirds were a team on a mission in their shellacking—O, how sweet is was—of the Patriots Sunday, running it like a wrecking b-all and playing defense like infected 28 Days Later zombies.
If they can duplicate that kind of effort this weekend, they'll be the latest team to prematurely crash the Colts' Super Bowl party. It'll be the second time Baltimore is seeing them this season, having lost only 17-15 in the regular-season matchup. Following last weekend's mega-statement in Foxborough, I like the Ravens, 24-21. Would it be really that big an upset?
Here are the rest of my picks for the weekend's divisional playoff matchups, with all the know-how and accuracy of the execs who greenlighted Leno's 10 p.m. show ...
• N.Y. Jets at San Diego. Yup, I paid little respect to the Jets in picking against them last week, but how was I to know the Bengals would play with all the disclipline and focus of a puppy labrador? This weekend, the absolute ruse of the Jets being a playoff-claiber team ends when they have to match up with football's hottest team. Chargers in a laugher, 27-10.
• Dallas at Minnesota. Where is the Brett Favre of recent memory who loses control and tosses five picks on the big stage? Don't be shocked if he shows up against the Cowboys, who are playing their finest football of the season at the perfect time. The Vikings' playoff curse is a heavy burden to carry, but I think they can win in spite of Favre's missteps by using a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. As impressive as the Boys were last weekend, it's too much to ask a Wade Phillips-led team to beat a superior team on the road in the playoffs. Vikings, 28-17.
• Arizona at New Orleans. Wouldn't it be fun to see these two offensive juggernauts duplicate last week's unforgettable Cards-Packers Wildcard scoring-fest? The recipe seems right. I'd have more confidence in the Cards if their defense--save their "Look-what-I-found-mom" overtime score--didn't repeatedly give the "Ole!" to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. On the other hand, the Saints haven't been themselves in awhile and backed into the playoffs with three straight losses to inferior teams. It says here they rediscover their scoring touch against a dreadful Arizona defense. New Orleans, 30-26.
(Chris Schobert here, with my feeble picks—I'm piggybacking onto John's post:
* Colts and Ravens: Indy, 23-20
• Jets and Chargers: Jets, 27-21
• Cowboys and Vikings: Vikes, 30-13
• Cardinals and Saints: Saints, 38-31
FYI—Last week was I was one-for-four ... )