Divisional Playoff Round Preview

The playoffs are the time when teams with defenses and running games shine. Defenses tend to kick-it-up-a-notch, and marquee players tend to shine. So what can be expected this weekend?

Rams 27, Panthers 23 (STL -7/45)

Carolina is a somewhat overrated team this season. Their success within that division was refreshing, but they played four regular season games against playoff teams this season and emerged 1-3 from them with only a win over Indy early in the season. Over those four games the Panthers averaged only 19 ppg. Last week they beat offensively challenged Dallas but will not have that luxury this week on the road in St. Louis. In ten of the Panthers' 17 games thus far, they have failed to eclipse the 20 point mark and have failed to pass the 24 point mark in 14 of 17 of those contests. So I am going to write off the big week last week and assume that their season long trend continues.

The question then becomes whether or not the Rams can put up much more than 20 points in this contest. The Rams have hit 27 or more points in 10 of their 16 contests this season. The strength of the Carolina attack is their rushing game whereas the strength of the Ram attack is their passing game. Carolina possesses the 9th ranked passing D and the Rams possess the 20th ranked rushing D. The Rams lead the league in takeaways but also lead the league in giveaways. So this promises to be interesting. The Rams have played four games vs. playoff teams this season and are 3-1 in those contests although three of those teams (Sea. twice, Balt.) have already been eliminated and were not the strongest playoff teams to begin with. The Rams would not have covered 7 in the two Seattle games. Therefore I'm going with Carolina to cover and the game to go over as Carolina does some damage offensively against the league's 17th ranked scoring defense.

Panthers cover, game goes over.

Patriots 27, Titans 13 (NE -6/37)

Since week one where the disheartened Patriots were in a state of mourning after losing friend and teammate Lawyer Milloy in a debacle of a game where they allowed 31 points and scored none, they have allowed a league low 207 points over the remaining 15 weeks for a per game average of 13.8 points-per-game. At present, the Patriots running game is performing better than the Titans'. They have a better coach. They have a week of rest and preparation. Giving Belichick a week of preparation is tantamount to giving a bullfighter a handgun. Both teams boast excellent defenses led by their rushing Ds.

Both teams have QBs capable of coming up with big plays and dominating a game. But the Titans rely far too much on their passing game and the Patriot passing D is simply too good for the Titans to rely on it to win the game. As well, if the Titans have a weakness, it is their passing D which is not a good weakness to have when playing the Patriots. Look for the Titans to struggle to run the ball with a well-past-prime Eddie George and rookie Chris Brown and to struggle to put points on the board overall. This game may very well be over sometime in the third quarter if the Titans are not creative in their play calling. Sixteen points may also be generous given the circumstances. Patriots will win easily and the game should go over if the Titans are able to generate at least one offensive touchdown. With McNair and George both banged up however, do not be surprised if the Pats shut out the Titans altogether or if they hold them to no touchdowns dependent upon McNair's status at game time.

Patriots cover easily, game goes over.

Chiefs 37, Colts 27 (KC -3/50)

The only playoff teams that the Colts have beaten this season are Denver last week and the Titans in two regular season games. The only other three playoff teams that the Colts faced in during the season were Denver, New England, and Carolina resulting in three Colt losses. The Chiefs played four games vs. playoff teams this season going 3-1 in them also sharing a split with Denver. The Chiefs are 8-0 at home while the Colts are 7-1 on the road. The Chiefs however are averaging over 34 points-per-game at home while the Colts are averaging nearly 27 points-per-game on the road. Neither team has a solid rushing defense. (Ind 20th, KC 30th) The Colts boast a much better pass D. (5th vs. 20th) Both teams rank amongst the top 3 teams in the league in passing offense, yardage offense, and scoring offense and both have average rushing games ranked 15th and 19th.

We have two very similar teams whose strengths are offense and whose defenses are average. Neither will represent the AFC in the Superbowl due to the fact that the winner will travel to Foxborough to face the Patriots next week. In this game however, look for the score to easily hurdle the 50 mark and for the Chiefs to come out on top with a week of rest and with the game being played before a substantial 12th man at Arrowhead. If the Colts are to emerge victorious, they'll need a solid day from Edgerin James. Otherwise this could be a walkover. A week's rest, Priest Holmes, and a home crowd figure to be the key differences in this one. As well, the colts have been on a season long streak of 2 wins followed by a loss. Ergo, they haven't won more than two games in a row all season either. They have won their last two games again in the fifth cycle, therefore I'm goin' with the Chiefs to cover and the game to go over and for the Colts to finish out a perfect string of five sets of two wins followed by a loss.

Chiefs cover, game goes over.

Packers 31, Eagles 24 (PHI - 5/42)

The cold weather, predicted to be around freezing at game time with no inclemency due, will not be a factor for either team. What will be a factor is Green Bay's 3rd ranked rushing game vs. the Eagles' 22nd ranked rushing defense allowing nearly 130 yards-per-game on the season. Not a good matchup for the playoffs. Green Bay possesses the more versatile offense with both QBs being amongst the best in the league. There are plusses and minuses on defense but both defenses are comparable overall with the edge going to the Pack. Look for Ahman Green to have a huge day and for Favre to capitalize off of that to lead the Packers to a win here.

The Packers will win what will end up being a very entertaining game and perhaps "the" matchup in the NFC in what would have been a good NFC championship game. But look for the incentivized Favre and the Pack led by the rushing of Green to take this one from the home fans in Philly. A running back the caliber of Green going up against a rushing defense the likes of the Eagles simply is not a good recipe for success for the Eagles. The Eagles playing without injury absent Westbrook will not help either. The Packers are on a five game winning streak and have averaged over 35 ppg over the past five weeks. The only thing that can spoil this for the Packers is a bad day for interception prone Favre this season. If Favre keeps his cool and plays the way he has over past weeks, it will be an easy win for the Pack.

Packers cover, game goes over.

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