Last Week -- 2-2
Overall -- 156-108 (59%)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last Week -- 1-3
Overall -- 135-119-10 (53%)
Last Week -- 0-1
Overall -- 16-12-2 (57%)
So much for sticking with the home teams.
Last week's results were the polar opposite to the wild-card
week, at least when it comes to my ability to prognosticate.
Truth is, Carolina's upset at St. Louis really isn't all
that shocking -- I should have seen it coming -- but it
is somewhat of a surprise that all four underdogs covered
against the pointspread last week.
For the conference championships, I'm predicting one home
favorite and one road 'dog to come away victorious. Check
out which game is which below.
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
INDIANAPOLIS at NEW ENGLAND - 3 p.m. EST
Records: Colts 14-4, South Division champs, No.
3 seed; Patriots 15-2, East Division champs, No. 1 seed
Line: Patriots favored by 3 1/2 points
Key Injuries: None.
Fantasy Take: The first meeting between these
two, in late November at Indianapolis, was a high-scoring
affair played indoors. This rematch, on the other hand,
will be played at frigid Foxboro Stadium. The defenses
should have the advantage, but Colts QB Peyton Manning
has been so hot it's tough to bet against him. And remember
that Manning had a big day against the Pats' vaunted D
in that first contest, won by New England 38-34 aided by
a last-minute goal-line stand. I'm guessing RB Edgerrin
James is an even bigger factor, however, and that his results
will directly correlate with who prevails. For New England,
QB Tom Brady has performed well against the Colts in the
past and unquestionably, he's a big game player. The running
game continues to be iffy, and it's always unclear which
receiver (if any) will step up for the Patriots. I still
like the score to stay relatively low.
Summary: For all the talk that Brett Favre was
this year's darling of destiny, it seems to me like Manning
can claim that honor now. Not only has he quieted his doubters
by winning in the playoffs for the first time in his career,
he's done so twice in most impressive fashion. But against
the New England defense, things won't come as easy. Something
has to give here... and while I admit the intangibles would
favor the Patriots, I like the Colts to get the upset because
the stage has been set for Manning to etch his name alongside
the greats. He's not just a fine passer, he's the best
on-field leader in the league. And, he has plenty of support.
Yes, the Patriots are 9-0 at home. But Indy is 8-1 on the
road. After several previous failures, Manning has gotten
over the hump. He'll be the hero in a close Indy victory.
Prediction: COLTS, 24-17 (premium ATS pick)
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
CAROLINA at PHILADELPHIA, 6:30 p.m. EST
Records: Panthers, 13-5, South Division champs,
No. 3 seed; Eagles 13-4, East Division champs, No. 1 seed
Line: Eagles favored by 4 1/2
Key Injuries: Panthers: RB Stephen Davis (ques),
Eagles: DB Troy Vincent (ques)
Fantasy Take: Let's hope my outlook on this game
is better than my take on the Panthers-Rams last week.
While DeShaun Foster is a decent runner, the Panthers need
Stephen Davis to fully exploit Philly's suspect run defense.
I'm impressed with QB Jake Delhomme's decision-making --
he stays calm under pressure and finds open receivers that
aren't there at the play's earliest stages. Philly's pass
defense is first-rate, especially at home and especially
if veteran Troy Vincent returns. The Eagles were burned
by a couple of big plays against Green Bay, but I don't
expect them to have as much difficulty with the Panthers.
On offense, QB Donovan McNabb re-discovered his running
ability which is a key to his fantasy production. Philly
will be balanced, so there aren't likely to be any individual
Summary: After losing the last two NFC Title Games
-- at St. Louis in January of 2002 and at home to Tampa
Bay last year -- coach Andy Reid's troops are due to get
it right this time. A letdown isn't usually applicable
in the playoffs, because of what's at stake, but how can
Carolina hope to get back all the way up emotionally after
such a roller-coaster victory last week? Also, the Eagles
have the added confidence of having handled Carolina earlier
this season, scoring a 25-16 win at Carolina last Nov.
30. Philadelphia's defense has persevered all season, McNabb
has done likewise, and as I indicated the Eagles have been
here twice before. The third time is the charm for Philly.
Prediction: EAGLES, 19-13