Atlanta (-2) vs. Arizona
The Arizona Cardinals may have the best wide receiving core ever assembled. Fitzgerald, Breaston, and Boldin make up the most dangerous trio in years if not ever. The problem for the Cardinals lies in their inconsistent running game. The Cardinals are dead last in rushing yards per game at only 73 yards per game. The Falcons do not share the same problem. Michael Turner and the rest of the Falcons average 152 rushing yards per game, which is 2nd overall in the NFL. The surprising Falcons have been led by Michael Turner, rookie QB Matt Ryan, and Pro Bowl wide receiver Roddy White. The Cardinals are 16th in rushing defense and will need a fantastic performance to stop the Falcons rushing attack.
Prediction: Even in Arizona, the Falcons balanced attack will outlast the Cardinals one sided offense. Since the Falcons don’t need to worry about the running attack, they will focus on Kurt Warner and be able to create pressure in the pocket. Expect the Falcons to play an overall solid game and defeat the Arizona Cardinals. Atlanta 31, Arizona 24.
Philadelphia(-3) vs. Minnesota
The Eagles against the Vikings may be the hardest matchup to judge in the entire playoffs. Either team can beat any team in the league, and lose to any team in the league (except the Lions). The Vikings struggled in both games against the Detroit Lions winning both games by a combined 6 points. The Eagles on the other hand tied the 4-11-1 Bengals. Both teams finished week 17 strong with huge wins. Both teams have future hall of fame running backs in Westbrook and Peterson. What both of these teams do not have is a consistent passing attack. The Eagles seem more explosive with McNabb, but Tavaris Jackson has looked solid over the last few weeks going 3-1.
Prediction: The Eagles defense was able to shake up Romo and the Dallas passing attack and should have less problems from the Vikings. Tavaris Jackson will have a hard time performing in the playoffs against a hot Philadelphia team. Look for McNabb to stay precise and for Westbrook to use the outside for big gains. The Eagles will stay away from the Williams’ in the middle of the defensive line and work the lines. Philadelphia 28 Minnesota 14.
Indianapolis (-1) vs. San Diego Chargers
This seems like a lock but I am not going to underestimate the Chargers. LT has not looked like LT this season, but did rush for 96 yards and 3 TD’s over the Broncos in week 17. Rivers has been heating up for the Chargers as well completing over 67% of his passes in each of the last two contests. On the other side we have the Colts and possible MVP Peyton Manning. The Colts have won 9 straight games and have held 3 of the last 5 opponents under 7 points! Addai is back from injury and will be able to contribute against the Chargers.
Prediction: I cannot see the Chargers winning this game even in San Diego. The Colts are the hottest team in the NFL and will take care of business against the Chargers. Colts 35 Chargers 27
Baltimore Ravens (-3) vs. Miami Dolphins
With an 11-5 record that was unexpected by all, Miami still gets no respect. The Dolphins did lose their only matchup against the Ravens this season (13-27), but this was before they went on a 9-1 run to finish the season. Both teams are hot going a combined 17-3 in the last 10 weeks. The Ravens have three running backs with more than 400 yards rushing and rookie QB Joe Flacco is only 30 yards away from passing for 3000 yards this season. The Dolphins have an array of wide receivers, 5 of which have 450 yards receiving or more and two running backs with more than 600 yards rushing. Chad Pennington has been reborn and has thrown for over 3600 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Prediction: The Ravens have a defense that can contain the Dolphins rushing attack. The air game is a different story as the Dolphins don’t focus on any particular receiver. The Ravens have a three headed beast at running back that can wear any defense down but the Dolphins are in the top ten in rushing defense. The Dolphins will be able to squeeze out a victory over the Ravens in Miami. Miami 24 Ravens 21