Wildcard Playoff Picks

All right, time for me to make my official picks for this weekend’s AFC and NFC wildcard games. Not that I’m contractually obligated to do so, but I just like to be on record about how wrong I can be.

Let’s take ’em in chronological order:

Saturday at 3:30 PM: Washington at Seattle. As much as I hate to pick against Seattle at home, Washington is just playing so much better right now. Seattle’s run game has fizzled heavily this year, and Washington’s 4th-ranked run defense is not the unit to give it any momentum. On the other hand, the Redskins should be able to run the ball effectively and Todd Collins should be able to do just enough to give them the offensive balance that the Seahawks won’t have. The only downside: Washington has been running on emotion since the death of Sean Taylor, and talent, not emotion, is what wins playoff games. But fortunately for the Redskins, their talent is simply more impressive now. Redskins 24, Seahawks 14.

Saturday at 7 PM: Jacksonville at Pittsburgh. Nobody seems to be giving Pittsburgh — at home, no less — a chance to win this game. Even the oddsmakers like the Jaguars to win this game. So I’m very tempted to take Pittsburgh. But there’s little reason to. The most logical argument is the Steelers‘ playoff experience, but that’s not as meaningful as the fact that Jacksonville just beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field three weeks ago, and that was before the Steelers lost Willie Parker to a leg injury. It wouldn’t stun me if the Steelers pulled it together to win this game, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. Jaguars 20, Steelers 13.

Sunday at 12 noon: New York Giants at Tampa Bay. If Eli Manning can play as well as he played last week against New England, the Giants will win this game. But I don’t anticipate that happening, especially since the Bucs have the best pass defense in the NFL. Also Jeff Garcia has owned the Giants recently in the playoffs, and I don’t see any reason why that dominance should stop now. The biggest reason to pick the Giants: The Bucs won the lousy NFC South with just a 9-7 record. But the Bucs are the better (i.e., less dysfunctional) team and should persevere. Plus the home team has to win some of these games. Bucs 20, Giants 10.

Sunday at 3:30 PM: Tennessee at San Diego. Remember all that bitching about how crappy a job Norv Turner was doing with the Chargers? No? Well, that’s probably because San Diego is riding a six-game winning streak into the playoffs. Remember all those Tennessee Titans games you watched this year? No? Probably you didn’t watch any. The Titans are short on playmakers and may be without their biggest, quarterback Vince Young. While I have lots of respect for Jeff Fisher’s defense, I’m not sure the Chargers will. This game appears to be the easiest to pick of the four. But you’ll watch it because you’ll want to stay tuned for Roger Clemens’s 60 Minutes interview right after. Chargers 35, Titans 17.

Enjoy the games and come back next week to see how badly I predicted them. Have a great weekend.

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