They say week two of the NFL playoffs is the time when the home team wins.
The stats back it up, and it makes a lot of sense. The best teams have had a bye week, which gives them more rest. And they’re obviously the better teams (hence the reason for the bye).
Normally, I agree with this. And I think the majority of the home teams will win this weekend. But I think most of the road teams will cover the spread.
Sounds crazy, I know. But I think all of the road teams have a good shot at winning their games, or at least keeping it close.
So on to the picks:
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints, Saints favoured by 6 1/2
If someone predicted a final score of 72-68, would you really doubt that person that much? These are two teams that score often, and score quickly. Look at the Cardinals time of possessions last week that led to touchdowns: 3:38, 0:48, 4:30, 3:45, 1:27 and 6:02. In fact, they only had the ball twice where it took longer than five minutes. You just don’t see a lot of 10-minute drives where they wear down the defence.
However, the Cardinals will probably do that a couple of times this week. The Saints allowed 122.2 rushing yards per game this year and 19 touchdowns total. Those numbers would probably be worse except for the fact in the first half of the season, they had such big leads on teams, their opponents had to throw more in an effort to catch up. I expect the Cardinals to run a little more, which would be unexpected by the Saints defence.
The other factor in my pick is the Saints record in the second half of the season. They lost their last three games (one of them to the 2-12 Tampa Bay, and another to 7-8 Carolina). They struggled against teams such as Washington and Atlanta. They just haven’t looked good lately, and that’s not a good sign.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, seem to kick it up a notch in the playoffs.
Arizona to cover (if not outright win).
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts, Colts favoured by 6 1/2
For Baltimore to win this game, Joe Flacco needs to be a better quarterback. He only went four-for-ten against the Patriots last week.
But the key to the game is in the running. The Ravens were fifth in the league in rushing yards per game, and tied for first in rushing touchdowns. The Colts, on the other hand, were in the bottom ten in the league in rushing yards allowed. They’re going to do their best to stop the run, and make Flacco beat them.
I think the Colts are going to win, but I don’t think it will be by a touchdown. Ravens to cover.
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings, Vikings favoured by 2 1/2
All right, all right. I’m a believer now. The Cowboys can win in December and January.
The Vikings have an old quarterback, and a team that peaked early in the season. They struggled in the last month, losing games to teams with sub-.500 records. Not a good sign.
They’re also a mediocre team when it comes to pass defence (10th worst in the league in passing touchdowns allowed), but are great at rush defence (second in rushing yards allowed, and tied for first in rushing touchdowns allowed).
The Cowboys are one of those rare teams that has both a solid running game and a passing games. If they can keep the Vikings defence guessing, that should put them in a key position to win.
Plus, I keep waiting for the Brett Favre meltdown, where he decides to not hand off the ball, and end up throwing three straight interceptions on three straight series.
Cowboys to win.
New York Jets at San Diego Chargers, Chargers favoured by 7 1/2
The largest spread of the week, and this has to be the game where I think the favourites will win. The Chargers were the best team down the stretch, winning 11 straight games (although that is a little deceptive: only five of those games were against teams with better than .500 records).
But as the other playoff teams show, the better teams don’t always win against the underdogs (see Saints, New Orleans).
Don’t believe all the hype about the Jets great streak (running the football, strong defence, etc.). Look at the Jets last seven games:
* Nov. 29: A win against a 4-6 Panthers team
* Dec. 3: A win against a 4-7 Buffalo team
* Dec. 13: A win against a 1-11 Tampa Bay team
* Dec. 20: A loss to a 6-7 Atlanta team
* Dec. 27: A win against a 14-0 Indianapolis team that rested all its starters
* Jan. 3: A win against a 10-5 Cincinnati team that rested its starters
* Jan. 9: A win against the Bengals in the playoffs
So in those seven games, they played one tough team for a full 60 minutes, and that was in the playoffs last week against a team that has an emotional season.
So the Jets stats aren’t enough to convince me yet. They still have to beat a good team for me to want to choose them.
Chargers to win.