This is a boring week for us Patriots' fans, who are chomping at the bit for a week from Sunday, when the Boys in Blue most likely will host the Cincinnati Bengals. Folks...the Pats have now been made the prohibitive favorite to win the SB, now that Los Vegas has learned that Hulk Hogan is a Patriots' fan! As for the Broncos, Bengals, Colts, Chiefs, Chargers, 49ers, Packers, Seahawks, Panthers, Saints, Eagles, "What you gonna do, when the Hulkster and the Patriots run wild on you!!" Here are my picks, with the "Game of the Week" being:
1.) (11-5) New Orleans Saints (+2.5) @ (10-6) Philadelphia Eagles: Saturday night game could be the best, and most entertaining game of the weekend. The Eagles have the top running game in the NFL, with a solid stable of runners, led by the game's best all-around RB, LeSean McCoy. The man known as "Shady" led the NFL in rushing this season with 1607 yards, while averaging over 5 yards per carry. He also is a threat coming out of the backfield in the passing game, with 52 receptions, averaging over ten yards per reception. In the passing game, the dangerous Desean Jackson lurks, having hauled in 82 passes, and averaging over 16 yards per catch. On the other hand, the Eagles were last in the league in pass defense, giving up an average of more than 290 yards per game. That pass defense will be matched up against the second best passing attack in the league, led by the dynamic combo of Drew Brees and TE Jimmy Graham. Philly has compensated for their poor pass defense by finishing tied for third in the league in take-aways, with 31. Though the Saints "D" had been pretty good in this area as well, their offense has shown a propensity to turn the ball over when playing on the road. With temperatures in Philadelphia expected to be in the teens at game time, it will be interesting to see how the Saints' dome honed passing attack stands up. For the Saints to come out of freezing Philly with a win, they can't turn the ball over. Whatever happens, lets all hope that the officiating is dramatically improved over what we've seen throughout the regular season: PICK: Eagles;
2.) (11-5) Kansas City Chiefs (+2) @ (11-5) Indianapolis Colts: Could the bloom be off the rose, regarding Andy Reid's Chiefs? After winning their first nine games, they lost five of their last seven. One of those losses was to the Colts in Kansas City, 23-7, just a couple of weeks ago. Injuries to their dynamic pass rushing duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali have triggered the downslide...as the Chiefs have not been able to apply any consistent pressure on opposing QBs since. The Colts are an enigma. Statistically, they are a very average team. Yet, they have scored impressive wins over Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver early in the season. They have also won four of their last five games. But, three of those wins came at home against the three weak sister teams in their own division...Houston, Jacksonville, and Tennessee. Other than the win in Kansas City, they were blown out in Cincinnati by the Bengals, in their only other significant test. In a game that could go either way: PICK: Chiefs;
3.) (9-7) San Diego Chargers (+7) @ (11-5) Cincinnati Bengals: The Chargers lucked into a playoff birth, thanks to a missed 41 yard FG by Chiefs' PK, Ryan Succop. Had Succop not sucked, the Bengals would be facing a far sterner test, in the battle hardened Goths of Pittsburgh. Cincinnati may have the best all around talent of any team in the AFC. The only thing that's held them back previously has been some erratic play by QB Andy Dalton, and the mediocre coaching of Marvin Lewis: PICK: Bengals;
4.) (12-4) San Francisco 49ers @ (8-7-1) Green Bay Packers (+3): It's going to be cold. Not Ice Bowl cold, but nonetheless frigid, in the Land of Lombardi. The Packers are a different team with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. But, San Francisco has the better defense. As is usually the case in playoff competition, turnovers will decide this game. In what may be a surprisingly low scoring game: PICK: 49ers.
BEST BET: Bengals...all day long.
As always, your thoughts and predictions on these games are welcome.