NFL Divisional playoff round preview

Matt Lichtenstadter ('12)/Eastside Staff

Last week I was 3-1 in my picks, and pretty dead on right as well. So, can I keep my momentum going?

NFC Divisional Round: 4 Arizona Cardinals @ 1 New Orleans Saints 4:30 PM EST SAT on FOX

New Orleans hasn’t won a game in a month, and Arizona is coming off a very tough game on a short week against Green Bay. Which will affect their respective teams less?

Arizona Offense vs. New Orleans Defense:

Arizona’s offense is playing very well, considering when they do score 51 points, even without Anquan Boldin. New Orleans’ D is very opportunistic, but has been an average unit all year. With the fact that Kurt Warner is playing well with Steve Breaston and Early Doucet as the wideouts along Larry Fitzgerald. The Saints D is well rested, but injured. The key here is will Kurt Warner have a game like he did in week 14, when he had 5 turnovers? If he does, the Saints will score many points off those turnovers. But, the Saints D overall isn’t as good as we may have thought, and with Arizona’s offense playing very well, ‘Zona has the advantage.

Advantage: Arizona

New Orleans Offense vs. Arizona Defense:

It’s hard to not give New Orleans the advantage here after Arizona’s D got shredded last week and you have Drew Brees. New Orleans offense is rested, and after the ‘Zona D got shredded; I wonder how they will recover. The only way this changes is if Arizona gets a substantial pass rush, which as Dallas proves, can ruffle Drew Brees’ feathers, which I don’t think Arizona can do. So, New Orleans rested and all has a better matchup.

Advantage: New Orleans

Intangibles: New Orleans is playing in the Superdome, in which they are very good, but have lost 2 in a row. Arizona is playing with momentum, but I still think the rest will help the Saints out overall.

Advantage: New Orleans

X-Factor: QB Turnovers

Which QB will turn the ball over more? Kurt Warner has been inconsistent in the past, and Drew Brees has played a meaningful game in 3 weeks. Which will affect the QB’s more, rust or inconsistency? I make a vote for the rust, as resting in the past has adversely affected the resting team.

Pick: Arizona

Why? I think momentum is huge, considering what we saw last week from Dallas and Cincinnati, proving both sides of the argument.

AFC Divisional Playoff: 6 Baltimore Ravens @ 1 Indianapolis Colts 8:15 PM EST SAT on CBS

Here is the ultimate momentum vs. rest argument. Which plays better here?

Baltimore Offense vs. Indianapolis Defense:

Last week Joe Flacco threw only 10 passes because the Ravens ran the ball so well. This will be the strategy again this week, as it has been proven that this works against the Colts well. The Colts D overall isn’t very good, but they have to stop the run. If they don’t, Peyton Manning will be on the sidelines more than he will be on the field, and the Colts can’t win the game that way. The Ravens run the ball well, the Colts don’t stop the run very well, and the edge goes to the Ravens.

Advantage: Baltimore

Indianapolis Offense vs. Baltimore Defense:

Even though the Ravens defense completely shut down the Patriots offense, I don’t think lightning can strike twice. Peyton Manning played only OK in week 11 when these 2 teams played, but with the Ravens secondary playing progressively worse since then, I believe Peyton Manning will have a great game against a Ravens D also coming off a short week, so the Colts get the edge here.

Advantage: Indianapolis

Intangibles: Again, here is the momentum vs. rest argument. Will the rest hurt the Colts here? I believe so, and the Ravens while tired, are still on a roll.

Advantage: Baltimore

X-Factor: Ravens Secondary

If the Ravens secondary is torched, then the Colts can move up and down the field on them, and the Ravens can’t compete drive-for-drive with the Colts high powered offense. If the Ravens do stop Peyton, then the game will be very close. However, I think Peyton Manning will play well enough to give the Colts the point’s advantage they need.

Pick: Indianapolis (Very Close)

NFC Divisional Playoff: 3 Dallas Cowboys @ 2 Minnesota Vikings 1 PM EST SUN on FOX

The team that hadn’t won a playoff game in 13 years finally won one, and is red hot. How will Brett Favre matchup?

Dallas Offense vs. Minny Defense:

Tony Romo is playing some of the best football of his career since the game in New Orleans, and last week was no different. With the 3 running backs (though injured), he has not had to throw it all over the map to win the game. The Vikings defense, once the most feared defense, is now just average. The pass defense is an issue, and if they struggle, then Tony Romo will have a big game. The only way the Vikings can stop it is with their pass rush. Dallas is playing too well for Minnesota to keep up.

Advantage: Dallas

Minny Offense vs. Dallas Defense:

Brett Favre hasn’t lost a game in the Metrodome since he was a member of the Pack, and he has been playing very well at home this year. Dallas’ defense has allowed in their last 4 games a total of 31 points, and you never know which Brett Favre will show up. Dallas’ pass rush lead by Demarcus Ware, can get after Brett Favre, and if he makes mistakes, the Vikings are in trouble. I think Dallas’ D is better than the Vikes O, and that plays into the game here.

Advantage: Dallas

Intangibles: The Vikings haven’t lost a game at home since the playoff home game last year. Dallas’ has all the momentum entering this game. Here though, I like the home team, even though they have struggled in the past couple of years.

Advantage: Minnesota

X-Factor: All Day AP

If Adrian Peterson has a big game, then the pressure will be taken off of Brett Favre, and the Vikings would love to also loosen up the Dallas D, which would then send fewer blitzes. I think even though Dallas only allows 90 rush yards a game, the All Day will have a big game.

Pick: Minnesota

No rhyme or reason, I just think this is Brett Favre’s time to shine.

AFC Divisional Playoff: 5 New York Jets @ 2 San Diego Chargers 4:40 PM EST SUN on CBS

The supposed favorites to make the super bowl according to Rex Ryan, faces the team that has won 11 straight.

Jets offense vs. Chargers D:

What will the Jets do? Run the ball until they can’t anymore. The Chargers will have to expect this. They will load the box, and Mark Sanchez will be forced to win the game. He did only throw 15 passes last Saturday, but was efficient on those throws. He will have to throw more than he did, and hopefully for the Jets, Sanchez doesn’t make mistakes. The Chargers don’t defend the pass horribly, and because they will stuff the box and Mark Sanchez is a rookie, the Bolts have the advantage.

Advantage: San Diego

Bolts O vs. Jets D:

We all know that the Jets have a great D, best in the league in fact. The Chargers used to be a running team, but now they focus on the vertical passing game. With Vincent Jackson likely to be taken away by the man of Velcro, Darrelle Revis, Phillip Rivers needs to find other options, which he has. Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates, and Darren Sproles are going to be used and targeted frequently. I think the Bolts have too many weapons for the Jets D, even though they are amazing.

Advantage: San Diego

Intangibles: The Chargers have won 11 games in a row, and the Jets are playing extremely well. The Bolts haven’t lost a home game since week 6, and with Mark Sanchez playing another tough road game, the Bolts have it here.

Advantage: San Diego

X-Factor: Mark Sanchez

If he can throw the ball very well, the Chargers will be pinned back on their heels, and the Chargers will have to play in a score fest against the best D in the NFL, and I don’t think the Chargers can do that. But Mark Sanchez has to throw the ball well before that happens, and I don’t think that it will.

Pick: San Diego  Chargers

Enjoy the games and see you for championship weekend!