What a wild finish to the regular season last week, as a series of unlikely events resulted in the Kansas City Chiefs gaining the final AFC playoff spot, the Lions went into Texas Stadium and shocked the Cowboys into a lower seed, and Bill Cowher went out with an OT touchdown to knock out the Bengals. Now, it's on to the second season, and here are the picks for the opening slate of games.
Kansas City 27 Indianapolis 24
It's obvious, for anyone who has been reading this blog, that I'm going with KC, right? Personal loyalty aside, the Chiefs can win this one. The obvious matchup in their favor is Larry Johnson against the league's worst rushing defense, and that will no doubt be a factor. The Chiefs will look to limit the number of posessions for Peyton Manning and Co., and hope it will put pressure on the star QB to rush things, causing more mistakes. Overlooked a bit here is the KC defense, which is far better than the unit from the last playoff matchup between these teams in early 2004. They don't have to be the '85 Bears here, just do enough to get some pass pressure, and hold their own in what they hope will be a very short amount of time spent on the field. The pick here is KC, in a close one, to extend the ongoing post-season frustration for Indy.
Seattle 37 Dallas 31
Home team choice here, and that is the only reason I picked the Seahawks. Banged up on defense, with an offense that has been woefully inconsistent all season, the Hawks have nevertheless broken the jinx of Super Bowl losers missing the playoffs the following year. The Cowboys have looked awful since the Saints spanked them a few weeks back, and it appears everyone is using Sean Payton's game plan to stomp them. Seattle has enough weapons to do the same, and can prevail at home in a high scoring affair. Hope they enjoy it, because the run will be a short one.
New England 23 N.Y. Jets 14
Ah, the student against the Master, Round Three. Everyone knows how tough the Pats are at home in the playoffs, and despite the Jet victory here in November, I can't buck that trend. Jets have had problems running the ball on offense, and stopping the run on defense, which could spell disaster here. The weather will not be typical January New England fare, with the temps in the 50's. Tom Brady seems to finally be comfortable with his ragtag receiving corps, and the double barreled ground attack of Maroney and Dillon will wear down the Jet front seven. As was the case last year, I just can;t pick against the Pats at home, at least not this year.
Philadelphia 27 N.Y. Giants 24
G-Men have had two distinctly separate seasons, going 6-2 through the first eight games, than crashing to a 2-6 finish, but despite all the turmoil, they're here as the six seed. The Eagles are the unlikely division champs, owing that to both a late season resurgence by Jeff Garcia coupled with the crashing to Earth of the Cowboys. No result will surprise me in this one, given the unpredictability of the two teams. That said, I do expect a relatively high scoring affair, and let's give the edge to Philly due to the hot team factor, as well as the home field advantage.
Last Week: 11-5
Regular Season Total: 151-105 (58.9%)