Good afternoon everyone. It's playoff time once again in the NFL and the bowl season is almost over - thank goodness! I am now 48-45 overall on my bowl picks (can you say 'Average'?). I am now 18-13 picking the games straight up, 17-14 picking them against the spread, and 13-18 on picking the overs and unders... I have decided that next Wednesday I will be doing a bowl recap entry where I will be going back and reviewing my bowl predictions against the actual scores - it ought to be a lot of fun..., for you... :) As last Sunday's NFL schedule played out, it became obvious that I should have been predicting scores for the games all along, as I went a SHOCKING 7-3 on my selections. I finished the regular season with a 32-37-1 record on my NFL picks against the spread and taking overs and unders. Cincinnati and Denver, two teams that I had winning last week, both managed to lose and both still made the playoffs - go figure... Now it's time to hope that I don't start 0-8 as I make my picks on what look like 4 tricky playoff games this weekend.
Cincinnati (9-7) @ Houston (10-6): Texans (- 3 1/2) Over/Under 38 1/2
To lead off the weekend, we have the Texans, who are playing in their first-ever playoff game. It almost seems as if you can feel Houston's heartbeat in San Marcos, America as Texans' fans get ready for this game. The Texans beat the Bengals 20-19 in Cincinnati on December 11th. This was the last time that Houston won a game. In the Super Bowl era, this is the first time that two rookie quarterbacks have met in a playoff game (thanks ESPN). The Bengals have played admirably this year with Andy Dalton, although they haven't been able to beat teams with winning records. The Texans have had ALL KINDS of injuries. Reliant Stadium should be ELECTRIC for this one. Which rookie quarterback wins?
My Prediction: Houston 27 Cincinnati 20 ----- Houston (- 3 1/2) Over 38 1/2
Detroit (10-6) @ New Orleans (13-3): Saints (- 10 1/2) Over/Under 59 1/2
In Saturday's nightcap we have the resurgent Detroit Lions visiting the 13-win Saints, the squad sporting the best regular-season record of the 8 teams who are playing this weekend. The Saints won the earlier meeting between these two teams 31-17 on December 4th. Matthew Stafford managed to stay healthy for a whole season and Drew Brees managed to break the record for passing yards in a single season. Both teams are 'dome teams', so that shouldn't be a big factor. The Lions have the weaker running game without Jahvid Best, but they also have the more dangerous defense. Upstart quarterback or experienced veteran?
My Prediction: New Orleans 31 Detroit 27 ----- Detroit (+ 10 1/2) Under 59 1/2
Atlanta (10-6) @ New York Giants (9-7): Giants (- 3) Over/Under 47 1/2
Extremely close matchup on paper. The Falcons won one more game than the Giants, but have to travel and will have who-knows-what kind of weather awaiting them. The Giants are looking as formidable as they have all year with their running-back tandem back in place. This should be the first of two hard-hitting games in store for us on Sunday. Don't expect to see these quarterbacks camped-out in the pocket during this game. Who do you like in crunchtime?
My Prediction: New York 27 Atlanta 23 ----- New York (-3) Over 47 1/2
Pittsburgh (12-4) @ Denver (8-8): Steelers (- 8 1/2) Over/Under 34
This is the second Sunday matchup where the better record visits the worse record. The Steelers visit Tebow-Mania with an injured squad but a still very-loaded defense. The Broncos have trouble scoring on anyone. What makes this tricky is that Pittsburgh has not been blowing-out a lot of teams this year and Roethlisberger is still hobbled. Two punishing defenses and a hysterical crowd in Colorado. Tebow's magic or the Steel-Curtain?
My Prediction: Pittsburgh 20 Denver 10 ----- Pittsburgh (- 8 1/2) Under 34
There you have it. This should be a really interesting group of games for an opening weekend. I hope that you have an outstanding weekend and that the games are as competitive as I expect them to be (although I wouldn't be hurt if the Steelers cruised to victory)... ;) See ya on Monday!