Well, four games on tap this weekend as we are getting closer to determining who will challenge for the Lombardi Trophy. All road teams this weekend are tagged "underdogs" as they should be. Fatigue, road travel, and playing an extra game can inevitably play a factor while teams having a first round bye not to mention playing at home has certainly earned the advantage. Dallas, Green Bay, New England, and Indianapolis not only earned, but deserve such luxury. It is their reward as a result of the hard work and consistency that they have displayed all season long. Let's look at the games for this saturday, shall we...
Seattle @ GREEN BAY
Line: GREEN BAY minus 8
The first matchup of the Divisional Playoffs looks to be a battle between two prolific offenses as Favre and Hasselbeck look to air it out for much of the game. Favre is playing like it was 1997 as he has revived his career. Hasselbeck looks to spark his team in hopes of returning to the Super Bowl. A lot of playmakers between the two clubs, not only on the offense but on the defense as well where there is a plethora of talent amongst the linebackers. I give the edge to Green Bay's offense because they seem to have better balance with Grant as their premier back. Look for Grant to be involved early and often to open up the passing attack against a very good Seahawks secondary that includes playmakers such as Trufant and Babineaux. Both were able to return key interceptions for a score last week which sealed the game for Holmgren. This week, they will have their hands full trying to contain the league's second rank offense, but they will more than welcome the challenge. If Favre should throw an interception, will it be an omen of things to come? Maybe, but if such a picked off pass is returned for a TD will certainly be detrimental for the Packers. Even though Favre loves to let loose at times and test defensive backs, he must be careful and limit his mistakes against a Seattle secondary that can make you pay.
If Seattle's running game remains ineffective once again, they will likely be playing from behind so look for Hasselbeck to carry the offensive load on his shoulders by utilizing the passing attack. If he gets sufficient time in the pocket, he much like Favre, can dissect defenses and pick them apart. With Hasselbeck's heroics and with their talented defense who can turn around games for Holmgren, I look for Seattle to keep this game close. But a lack of balance in the offense will be Seattle's achilles heel, and that Lambeau mystique will once again shine. Favre moves on with his magical season. Packers 27 Seahawks 23
Best Bet: Seattle +8, OVER the total
Jacksonville @ NEW ENGLAND
Line: NEW ENGLAND minus 13
The question everyone is asking: Can the Jags actually win his game? Can their defense finally stop a juggernaut such as the Patriots? Has Brady and company met their match? Will the Jags give New England a run for their money? Well, I really don't know what will happen in the game, as it remains to be seen as to how these two teams will match up. But if I had to answer those questions, I would have to say No, maybe, maybe, and definitely. For Jacksonville to win this matchup, they would almost have to play a perfect game and that's a very tall order. Although they were able to win last week's wild card game, Jacksonville's defensive weakness was exposed as the Steelers were able to move the ball on them in the second half en route to 3 straight touchdowns, 2 of which were courtesy of Big Ben's arm. If not for Garrard's scamper setting up Scobee's game winning field goal, the Jags' season would have been done. If the Steelers 17th rank offense can find the ability to move the ball and score 4 touchdowns against such a talented Jacksonville D, I would hate to see what the NFL's number one offense can do at home. Garrard has to play smart, and the running attack must be effective for Del Rio's club to have a chance. He knows that in order for his team to win, not only will it entail a lot of scoring from his offense, but also for his defense to make the crucial plays. Wether it's negating Brady's ability to sustain a drive, forcing turnovers, or interceptions, Jacksonville must make their presence felt. If this game should turn into a shootout, I like Brady's chances to come out on top. Del Rio's club not only has to have a balanced attack offensively, but his defense cannot afford to slack or make mental mistakes as Brady will exploit any weakness of a defense. Jaguars secondary has to play smart as well as move with alacrity, while the tenacious frontline must continue to play aggressive in order to put pressure on the QB. The Patriots just have too many weapons, and although Del Rio's defense might be able to make some plays hindering the relentless Patriot's passing attack, it is almost impossible to keep it up throughtout the whole game.. I look for Jacksonville to keep it close for much of the contest, but fatigue will begin to set in and victimize them in the latter stages of the game. Brady's squad will start to pull away late in the game and in the process, Jacksonvilles terrific season come to an end. Belichick should have his squad well prepared, and focused towards his march for yet another Super Bowl Championship. Patriots 31 Jaguars 20
Best Bet: too unpredictable, stay away