January 2, 2009

The playoffs are here

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

It used to go without saying that the NFL had the best post-season system out of any of the major sports. Now, the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals have made a mockery of it by qualifying for post-season play with a combined record of one game over .500. The New England Patriots didn’t make the playoffs and were four games over .500. How does this make any sense? Division winners in the NFL are given far too much credit – the same with Baseball – where an average team in a putrid division can make the playoff simply by beating its inferior rivals several times because of a weighted schedule. NFL, it’s time to change: Make the playoffs a seeded system.

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting (a whole paragraph) for, the Wild Card weekend picks. As always, the lines are straight from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS.

ARIZONA (+2) over Atlanta
What does it say about your team and your fan base when you can’t sell out a playoff game? Even worse, it’s the first time the Cardinals have hosted a playoff game in 40 years! If your crowd can’t get up for that, what is there? I know a lot of people love the Falcons here but there’s one thing that nobody seems to bring up: The Falcons defence gave up the fourth most yards in the league. Would you really want your money riding on that fact plus a rookie QB, or a former MVP and three 1,000 yard receivers?

Indianapolis (pick) over SAN DIEGO
Two of the hottest teams in the league meet. The Chargers, though, needed a lot of help from Denver to make it here though while Indy did it with some superb leadership and play from the league MVP. But with LDT and Gates both missing time at practice and knowing they’re not 100%, I can’t back San Diego against a superior foe.  When these two teams meet, it’s always a great match and I expect no less from this game. I can see the Colts winning this one on a late field goal, similar to their game earlier this season.

Baltimore (-3) over MIAMI
This could turn out to be the blow out of the week. Could you not completely picture the Ravens getting the ball, pounding it away and rushing one in to go up 7-0. Then, Chad Pennington leaves one hanging for Ed Reed to pick off? A completely plausible scenario, right? From the weak armed QB to the no-name defence to the fact that Baltimore can crush the wildcat, there’s no reason to pick against the favourite here.

 Philadelphia (-3) over MINNESOTA
Remember when everyone was picking Minnesota as a Super Bowl contender, even with Tarvaris Jackson leading the offence? Now, will anyone actually pick them to beat a team that tied Cincinnati this season? The one thing that Minnesota does well, rush the ball, might even be a non-factor in this game because this isn’t the porous Philly rush defence from the years past – in fact, they were the fourth best in the league. This one could be a romp.

Last week: 8-5-2
This season: 126-101-8
And a happy new year to everyone too.

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