Welcome back to the only NFL picks on Associated Content that took an eight and a half day break for Christmas. Sometimes, you just need the rest, kids. This is the NFL Wild Card edition of Zac’s Backs.
Before I get into the first round of the 2008 NFL Playoffs, I must, of course, bring up my football loves. There is currently no team in the NFL in worse shape than the Cleveland Browns (not even Detroit). No head coach. No GM. No direction. Now we know there will be no Cowher. I can honestly say that I have no idea who will be taking over either position in Cleveland in 2009. All I know is that those two guys can’t do a worse job than Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel.
Romeo: Good guy. Bad head coach.
As for my football Giants; there was never any doubt that we were going to lose Spags eventually. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t cause yet another distraction for Big Blue.
Neither the Giants nor the Browns are in action this week (it could be argued the Browns haven’t been in action since December of 2007) so it’s time to move on to the first four games of the playoffs. Here are my picks for the Wild Card round of the 2008 NFL Playoffs.
Atlanta at Arizona
Many people believed that the Cards would end up winning a very pitiful division this season. I have been more than willing to admit throughout 2008, though, that I had absolutely zero faith in the Falcons. Atlanta was in shambles and I didn’t see Matt Ryan as anything more than a possible work in progress quarterback. This is one of about a thousand reasons why I’m writing NFL picks on my couch instead of working for a professional football franchise.
Two things have to worry you about Arizona. One, they haven’t beaten a “good” NFL team since they took down the Cowboys on October 12. The Cardinals have also been sleepwalking since about mid-November and have lost four of their last six games. Teams that enter the playoffs half asleep rarely win a game.
The Falcons went 4-4 on the road in the regular season but they have been on a role, winning five of their last six contests. During that stretch, Atlanta defeated Carolina at home and San Diego and Minnesota on the road.
In the end, you have to look at which team is better right now. The answer is Atlanta. What a story the Falcons have been.
Indianapolis at San Diego
For the past seven weeks, I have been saying that the Colts are without question the best team in the AFC. Even better for Indy is the fact that nobody (and I mean nobody) has noticed. While everybody has been talking about Pittsburgh, the Dolphins and the collapse of the Jets, the Colts finished with a little nine game winning streak. Included in that streak are victories over New England, Pittsburgh, Houston, San Diego and Tennessee.
There are two very clear reasons why the Chargers are in the playoffs. After going 4-8 in their first twelve games, they were lucky enough to face Oakland, Kansas City and a Tampa Bay squad that completely fell apart (again) at the end of the season. San Diego was also fortunate that Denver quit playing football on December 8. All the Broncos had to do was finish the season 1-3 and they would have won the division. Instead, they choked it away and the Super Chargers now get to host a playoff game (change the system now, NFL).
Indy won’t run away with this game but I like the Colts to defeat the Chargers in San Diego for the second time in two months. The Colts are healthy, Peyton is finally playing like himself and San Diego just can’t keep up with Indy. When Indianapolis is playing for the AFC Title in a few weeks, remember who told you so first.
Baltimore at Miami
This is the most intriguing match-up (in my mind) of Wild Card weekend. The Dolphins haven’t really beaten anybody worth mentioning since Denver on November 2 (back when Denver was a real team). You can’t count the Jets game because
a: The Jets had Brett Favre as quarterback
b: The Jets were dead thanks to themselves and the Ravens
Regardless of schedule, it is always impressive when any NFL team wins nine out of ten games which is what the Dolphins have done since the end of October.
The Ravens, meanwhile, have been impressive against great teams throughout 2008. They defeated the Dolphins back in October, beat the Cowboys in Dallas just a few weeks ago and probably should have beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh the week before the Dallas game. Every team that beat Baltimore in 2008 will be playing in the playoffs. Don’t for one second believe that the Ravens are nothing more than a product of a crappy division.
Miami is going to be the underdog heading into this game all week and with good reason. This is nothing new for the Dolphins this season, though. That’s why I’m picking Miami. Will it really be a huge upset? I don’t think so.
Philadelphia at Minnesota
I’ve been going back and forth with this game since the Eagles ca-rushed the Cowboys on Sunday evening. Yeah, Minnesota looked bad against Atlanta and they almost lost to the Giants’ B-Team a few days ago. They’ve still won five of their last six and they have a player who can change the outcome of any game in Adrian Peterson.
The Eagles, along with the Panthers, scare the life out of me as a Giants fan. They’re playing great and they’re playing playoff football at the perfect time. McNabb is playing like a man possessed since being benched and Brian Westbrook is, well, Brian Westbrook.
I think playing in a dome is actually going to help McNabb and the Philly offense. Plenty of “experts” believe the Eagles will run away with this game. I don’t see that happening but I do think Philadelphia will win on the road. Sorry, Scotty.
That’s all for me. You’ve been great, as always. Enjoy the first weekend of the playoffs. Unless you’re a Jets fan, of course. Ouch.