Now We're Getting Serious: Cincinnati, Minnesota and Indianapolis, all wild card teams, are out of the way. Seattle, my second seed, is still alive with a comeback win over the Redskins. (I'll get to the RGIII controversy a little later.) So now we get down to the nitty gritty. Denver, New England, San Francisco and Atlanta now enter the game. Home field generally makes a difference in the NFL and it probably will this time as well. But there's at least one game where I think the visitor will prevail.
Baltimore at Denver: The Ravens used a lot of emotion to overcome the surprising Colts last week. However, they face a much tougher task this week as they travel to Denver to take on a Broncos team that has won eleven games in a row. Most of the talk is about the Peyton Manning-led offense, but Denver also led the AFC in fewest points allowed. The Ravens offense is not clicking on all cylinders, the Broncos are at home and Baltimore's aging defense will be stretched by the Broncos. I'd be very suprised to see Baltimore challenge in this one. Denver 27 Baltimore 17
Green Bay at San Francisco: The 'Niners are at home, they're second in the league in scoring defense and are averaging almost 25 points a game. That's a potent playoff combination. So what's the issue? San Francisco in a slam dunk, right? Well, maybe not so fast. There is a guy on the other side of the ball that may have something to say about that. His name is Aaron Rodgers and he's only one of the top three, maybe the best, quarterback in the league. He has a Super Bowl ring and is playing at a high level. His counterpart, Colin Kaepernick, is starting his first playoff game for a team that everyone had on their short list for a Super Bowl appearance this season. This should be the game of the weekend. If it comes down to a late drive, who do you like better? I'll take Rodgers. Green Bay 28 San Francisco 27
Seattle at Atlanta: I have the Seahawks ranked second in the league. They came back and stuffed the Redskins last week. The've won six games in a row. They lead the league in scoring defense. Russell Wison makes very few mistakes. They rush the ball well and have big, strong defensive backs. This is a very good football team that matches up extremely well against the Falcons. Atlanta would have been far more fortunate had the 'Skins pulled the upset last week. Instead, it looks like their playoff frustration will continue.
Seattle 24 Atlanta 21
Houston at New England: Let's see, it hasn't been that long ago that the Texans rolled into Gillette Stadium and limped out, 42-14 victims of the Patriots. That game was in the regular season. Now the stakes ratchet up considerably, and I just don't believe the Texans have what it takes to change the outcome very much. Okay, maybe it will be closer than twenty-eight points. But these are still the same two teams, same stadium...same result. New England 31 Houston 20
RGIII: As a Redskin fan, the results of Sunday's game were disappointing, to say the least. Not just the loss of course, but the injury to rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. There was a lot of finger pointing early in the week about who was responsible for RGIII still being in the game, when he should have come out, etc. I felt that Cousins would have given Washington a better chance in the second half, especially when it became apparent RGIII really couldn't run due to his knee. The play that sealed the game, however, had little to do with his injury. It was a bad snap by the long snapper. Now we have to hope the young phenom will be able to recover to the point where he'll be able to continue what has begun as a very promising career.
Roll Tide: Big and Fast vs. Big and Slow. Speed was the big difference in this game. As much as I respect what Notre Dame accomplished this season, the Oregon Ducks really should have been playing in the national championship game. It was obvious all year that they were one of the top two teams in the nation and I will welcome the four team playoff system so one close loss to a very good team won't eliminate an otherwise deserving squad from getting their shot at the championship. My congratulations to Alabama for dismantling the Irish. I would just have preferred to see a more competitive match-up!