The Wild Card picks will be coming in fast and furious tomorrow, but before that I thought we’d look at all the games quickly (with special attention for the Birds). Then tomorrow, everyone will be ready for the Dave Kreig and Barry Word jokes. I think we’ve been blessed with a pretty good line up of games. As long as you can survive Saturday afternoon, it should be a good show. And who knows, maybe the Saints and Seahawks can engage in an entertaining stinkfest.
Saints @ Seahawks. Line, Saints (-10.5)
Seattle isn’t going to win this game. So the question becomes, what do we get out of it? Well, I would think that if the Saints have any kind of trouble with Seattle, you can go ahead and write them off as a Super Bowl candidate. I understand Seattle is a slightly less atrocious team at home, but what aspect of football are they going to use to contend in this game? They can’t run it. They can’t throw it. They can’t stop anyone. These are the things that add up to Seattle’s historically bad point differential. The Saints have only shown flickers of their form from last year, and eventually I think that flicker is going to die out, but it certainly won’t happen this weekend.
Jets @ Colts. Line, Colts (-3).
This game might be Peyton Manning’s ultimate test. This is unquestionably the worst Colts team we’ve seen in recent years. Their defense is a huge problem, and they are so banged up at the skill positions on offense that Peyton had to improvise his way to a 91 QB rating, which is about as low as it gets for him. There is plenty of history here, and Rex Ryan made sure to remind everyone of that early in the week. The Jets were on the doorstep of beating the Colts last year, but didn’t quite pull it off. Now, both teams have a much different feel about them. I feel like the Jets need this game more than Indy. The Colts will have the excuses ready, but I think Jets fans want another taste. I don’t want to single out Pey-Pey too much, but really this game comes down to do you think he can do to the Jets what Brady did? Or anything remotely similar should be a win. If he can’t, the Colts will really struggle.
Ravens @ Chiefs. Line, Ravens (-3).
This is the game that jumps out at you as the one that looks too easy. The Chiefs? They stink. The Ravens? They’re perennial contenders. This should be a no-brainer. Ravens give the boys from K.C. a harsh dose of reality, and we move onto the 2nd round. That could happen, but it will depend on the almost impossible to predict Ravens offense. I think the Ravens outburst in the playoffs in New England last year was one of the most unexpected results I’ve seen watching football. It was like, whoa, what was that? Then as soon as it came about, it was gone. The Ravens go back to fumbling and bumbling away. There is talent there, but for whatever reason it doesn’t always add up to points. As has been the case historically, it will probably come down to the Ravens defense, which at this point, has become slightly overrated. They are going to have to line up and stop the run, and also contain Dwayne Bowe, which was only done a couple of times this year by elite, shutdown corners. Does Baltimore have the man for the job?
Packers @ Eagles. Line, Eagles (-3).
I’ll admit in the waning moments of the Eagles/Vikings game I sent a message to Big Dub and it said, Packers 35/Eagles 17. I was referring to this game, and it wasn’t the typical reactionary response of an Eagles fan. It was an honest prediction. The way the Eagles just played, the strengths of Green Bay… It didn’t add up, and in the week or two that has followed it seems like a lot people agree with my original gut reaction. The match-up looks like a nightmare. Green Bay rushes the passer and throws it. The Eagles weaknesses are pass protection and pass coverage. Green Bay plays the kind of defense that has given Vick trouble, and the Eagles can’t stop anyone (especially in the Red Zone.) Confidence in Philadelphia is not high. It has one of the city’s sports talk guys asking for wild theories on a possible win, and claiming that the only way he can pick the Eagles is by playing a hunch. It’s tough to argue, but here’s a few things that wouldn’t immediately pop into your mind that might favor the Eagles.
1. No Jerry Mike Finley. The Packers tight end didn’t exactly tear up the Eagles in week one, but the Packers as a team only threw for 188 yards that day. The fact is, he was one of the most dangerous tight ends in the league and his replacements don’t approach his talent level. For a team that has trouble finding a linebacker that can cover, this is pretty good news. Since Finley was hurt it’s been all WRs doing the damage for Green Bay. This could slightly narrow the Eagles’ focus on defense.
2. The Packers don’t score 35 every week. I think the game stuck in people’s minds right now is Green Bay’s thrashing of New York. It was impressive, but on multiple occasions this year the Packers haven’t gotten it clicking. Now some of those games were against better defenses than the Eagles bring to the table, but there was also the Lions game, for example where they rattled off 3 points. And, Aaron Rodgers was ready and able for most of the first half and they did nothing against a terrible Lions defense. In other games this year they’ve racked up 9, 10, 13 and a couple 17 point efforts. They hit the 30s on five occasions. The Eagles made it six times.
3. LeSean McCoy is by far the best running back in the game. McCoy wasn’t given much of a chance in week one. The Eagles were down 20-3, and after Kolb left the offense turned into throwing the ball and Vick running wild. But, on just 12 touches, McCoy had 82 yards and a TD. That’s pretty good production against a solid defense, and if you can bump those touches up into the 20 range, it projects out to a really nice game for LeSean. On the other side, Green Bay’s running backs are serviceable at best. The big play threat from Green Bay is all through the air.
4. Mike McCarthy can out Reid, Andy Reid. Google “Mike McCarthy Clock Management.” It’s a real treasure trove. I think one of the worst parts of being an Eagles fan in this era has to be the lack of trust in Andy Reid when things get tight during a game. He’ll always be out coached, or out maneuvered. That shouldn’t be the case this weekend. McCarthy causes the same kind of dumbfounded reactions amongst the Packers fan base. This is an even playing field, for once.
So, there you go, I’m not going to say if I backed off my 35-17 prediction until tomorrow, but for the time being maybe you Eagles fans can talk yourself into a positive result. That’s what it’s all about, right? Monday seems a little early to be having the, “what was it all for,” conversations.