Last Week -- 4-0
Overall -- 154-106 (59%)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last Week -- 3-1
Overall -- 134-116-10 (54%)
Last Week -- none
Overall -- 16-11-2 (59%)
So far, from my perspective, the NFL playoffs are going
to form. However, the truly fascinating aspect of last
week's wild-card results is that all four losing coaches
have previously won Super Bowls, while the four victorious
bench bosses -- Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, Carolina's John
Fox, Indy's Tony Dungy and Green Bay's Mike Sherman haven't...
If that forms holds this week, there will be a pair of
upsets in the AFC... but I wouldn't count on that.
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
TENNESSEE at NEW ENGLAND - Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST
Records: Titans 13-4, Wild-card, No. 5 seed; Patriots
14-2, East Division champs, No. 1 seed
Line: Patriots favored by 6 points
Key Injuries: Titans: RB Eddie George (prob);
Fantasy Take: Make no mistake about it -- despite
the 38-30 score of New England's victory earlier this season,
defenses will rule the day at Foxboro. Although both teams
sport effective fantasy QBs, neither is an ideal play.
It can be argued that because Steve McNair is an elite
quarterback, and that Tom Brady isn't far behind, and that
both have to be played regardless of the circumstances.
And that's okay... but don't expect Peyton Manning-type
numbers. Ditto for the ground games. Each team's top receiver,
Derrick Mason for Tennessee and Troy Brown or maybe David
Givens for the Patriots, might come through with a decent
day because top-notch possession wideouts often shine against
elite defenses that are effective in taking away big plays.
Summary: New England has been on a legendary role
-- 12 straight victories going in. Much has been made of
their 8-0 home record as well as their Super Bowl title
from just two years ago. And head coach Bill Bellichick
is a genius, to boot. How can the Pats be beaten? Well,
they'll go down if McNair comes up with enough big plays.
He's really banged up, however, and I just don't believe
the Titans can rely on Eddie George or even their stout
defense to win at Foxboro if McNair is merely average.
The pointspread is too many, but I like the Patriots to
scratch out a low-scoring victory, probably with a late
field goal by Adam Vinatieri being the difference.
Prediction: PATRIOTS, 13-10
INDIANAPOLIS at KANSAS CITY - Sunday, 1 p.m.
Records: Colts 13-4, South Division champs, No.
3 seed; Chiefs 13-3, West Division champs, No. 2 seed
Line: Chiefs favored by 3
Key Injuries: none.
Fantasy Take: Shootouts in the postseason are
uncommon, so before you start planning out a 45-41 type
of game, bear that in mind. And beyond that, both these
defenses get somewhat of a bad rap. The Colts' D is vastly
improved under head coach Tony Dungy, and KC's may be statistically
inferior to other elite units, but especially at home the
Chiefs get it done by forcing turnovers and increasing
their resiliency in their own red zone. With all that said,
however, this is still the most anticipated of the four
divisional playoff games from a fantasy standpoint. The
main weapons for both clubs should put up solid numbers.
In fact, second-tier guys like Indy TE Marcus Pollard and
KC wideout Eddie Kennison are good to go as well.
Summary: As indicated, I fully expect both defenses
to rise to the occasion... but while the Colts are all
the rage after their dismantling of Denver last week at
home, it's a whole other game to go to Kansas City and
have success. I like the rested Chiefs at home, because
head coach Dick Vermeil has been here before. In fact,
Vermeil beat Dungy in the NFC Title Game of 1999, a St.
Louis 11-5 victory over Tampa Bay. Undoubtedly, this game
will feature more scoring... and the majority of it will
be done by the Chiefs.
Prediction: CHIEFS, 27-17 *(premium pick)
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
CAROLINA at ST. LOUIS - Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Records: Panthers, 12-5, South Division champs,
No. 3 seed; Rams 12-4, West Division champs, No. 2 seed
Line: Rams favored by 7
Key Injuries: none.
Fantasy Take: Carolina's defense is first-rate,
but the Panthers lack the speed to slow the Rams significantly.
Unless St. Louis' pass protection breaks down badly, the
Rams will score with enough frequency to be valuable. All
the key offensive personnel are strong plays, including
WR Isaac Bruce. The Rams defense is a solid play as well
-- this group is significantly better than the 2001 cast
that lost to New England in the Super Bowl. For the Panthers,
RB Stephen Davis will get his yards, but don't expect as
much from the passing game as Carolina managed against
Dallas -- when both Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad had
more than 100 receiving yards each. It wouldn't surprise
me, however, to see veteran Ricky Proehl score on his former
Summary: I like the Rams decidedly, but not because
of the "fastest show on turf" mentality. Instead,
I simply believe their defense will shut the Panthers down.
St. Louis will strike for just enough big plays on offense
to turn a relatively close game for three quarters or so
into a decisive triumph by the gun.
Prediction: RAMS, 31-16
GREEN BAY at PHILADELPHIA - Sunday, 4:45 p.m.
Records: Packers 11-6, North Division champs,
No. 4 seed; Eagles 12-4, East Division champs, No. 1 seed
Line: Eagles favored by 5 1/2
Key Injuries: Packers: DL Gilbert Brown (prob);
Eagles: RB Brian Westbrook (out)
Fantasy Take: With Westbrook sidelined, Eagles
RBs Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter will be forced to
share less. Of the two, I like the veteran Staley to get
the bulk of the workload. Philly QB Donovan McNabb will
put up typical numbers, and the defense will be solid as
usual. Green Bay RB Ahman Green can be expected to enjoy
a solid day, but the passing game's success will determine
the contest's outcome. At home, I like Philly's D to win
the battle with Brett Favre and the Packers' talented but
mostly inexperienced receivers.
Summary: I bought in to the team of destiny thing
for Green Bay going into last week, and I suppose that
winning a game during which you're outplayed would be more
fodder for that thinking. Seattle, after all, sort of deserved
to win considering the game was played at Lambeau Field.
And remember, Green Bay was my preseason Super Bowl pick.
But what I saw last week was a troubled pass defense that,
except for a single, huge, game-winning play was handled
by the Seahawks' air game. Philadelphia has been giving
up lots of rushing yards all season, but nevertheless have
won 12 of 16... so I don't believe Green's inevitable 150
yards and a TD are big concerns. Green Bay is the "en
vogue" choice for the upset. But my gut says Philly
-- the home teams make it a clean sweep as the Eagles'
fourth quarter defense is too tough.
Prediction: EAGLES, 20-13