Ed: I may have lost the regular-season contest, but at least I got off to a good start in the playoffs … barely, at 1-1. Houston staged a comeback from a sixteen-point deficit to beat Buffalo in OT, 22-19, which handed me the rights to today’s post. Both Jazz and I picked the Patriots to win at home, though, and the Tennessee Titans stunned them in a 20-13 upset. Will Tom Brady come back next year — or will his last play with New England really be a pick-six? Naaaaah.
Jazz: I picked one favorite and one upset yesterday and that’s just what happened. Sadly, I had them flipped the wrong way. So after a strong finish in the regular season, my post-season started out with a complete, 0-2 whiff. But on the bright side, at least the Patriots lost. That draws the curtain on the AFC East this year, since the Bills also lost and the Jets and the Dolphins were never in it. But as it should probably say over the entryway to the stadium where the Jets and Giants play, there’s always next year.
Ed: So let’s get started with what might be an exciting game in the Big Easy, Vikings at Saints (1:05 pm ET, Fox). I’ll be rooting for Minnesota, naturally, but … it’s tough to pick them to win on the road, especially in New Orleans. Minnesota only went 4-4 away from the Twin Cities and only one of the wins came against a non-losing team (the Cowboys). The Vikes lost their last two games, both home games, but they didn’t play their starters last week either. The Saints are on a three-game win streak, won six of their last seven, and even that loss was to the #1 seed 49ers in a 48-46 nailbiter. Minnesota has a strong defense, but New Orleans’ D actually gives up slightly less yardage per game. Dalvin Cook will keep Minnesota in it, but Drew Brees wants another shot after The Call, and New Orleans is just too hot. Saints 33-20 over the Vikes.
Next up we have Seahawks at Eagles (4:40 ET, NBC), with the Eagles being the sole survivors of the NFC East disaster. Philly is riding a four-game win streak, while Seattle dropped their final two games at home. Losing to the 49ers is one thing, but to the Arizona Cardinals? They also lost to the Rams on the road two weeks prior to that, so Seattle’s limping into the playoffs while the Eagles seem to be peaking. Marshawn Lynch rejoined the team before the 49ers game but only got less than three yards per carry, and Philly has the third-best rushing defense in the league. I have to go with the home team here, Eagles 27-23 over the Seahawks.
Jazz: The Vikings have played well this year and definitely earned their spot in the post-season. They also have the second stingiest defense in the NFC, which is generally a big factor in the playoffs. But the Saints are the favorites by at least a touchdown for a reason. Remember that even when facing some of the best defenses in the NFL, New Orleans put more points on the board this season than anyone except for the Ravens and 49ers. I’m expecting this one to be a fast-paced match with a lot of aerial attacks on display, but New Orleans will have too much firepower for Minnesota to overcome. Saints over Vikings 34-27.
As for the second game, while I understand what Ed is saying about momentum, a deeper look at Philadelphia shows that they’re a really great team… when they’re playing against someone else in the craptastic NFC East. They haven’t beaten a team from outside their division in literally more than two months. Of course, the Seahawks are still dealing with some injuries at key positions. They’ve now lost their starting left tackle, making an already questionable defense against the pass rush look even shakier. But even for all of that, I think the Eagles aren’t ready to take on any of the significantly less crappy teams in the conference, including Seattle. I’ll go with the Seahawks over the Beagles 24-14.