San Diego @ INDIANAPOLIS
Line: INDIANAPOLIS minus 8.5 pts.
This game is a rematch of 2 AFC powerhouse teams who squared off back in week 10 in what I believe was one of the more unusual games this season. That game had all sorts of oddities, from Sproles returning a kickoff and a punt for a TD, from the Chargers leading big at the half(23-0) and just barely holding on long enough to sneak out a victory, and not to mention the valiant comeback Peyton has orchestrated amidst all the pouring rain only to come up in vain. Despite the 6 intercepions Manning has registered, the Colts still had a chance to win in the end, but Vinatieri missed a cheapshot field goal after an illegal formation penaltyon the offense. It was a game Peyton knew they had, but somehow managed to slip off their hands. How often do you see a QB throw 6 picks, his FG kicker miss 2 FG's, trail 23-0 at the half, and still has a chance to atone for all the miscues by positioning his team for a chance to win? That's just how good Peyton Manning has become as a developed field general during his tenure in the NFL.
Now let's focus on the present, the Colts are a huge favorite to win this game and you have to take in the revenge factor for what has transpired during their past matchup with San Diego. But the voltage is running high for San Diego as they have won 7 straight, and has all the momentum riding on their side. Norv Turner's surging defense has allowed a respectable 260 yards a game, and an outstanding average of 11.5 pts to opponents during that winning stretch. But the one discenable problem is that only one of those teams is considered elite, which is Tennessee. They played the Titans twice with their last matchup being last week's wild card game. Indianapolis is a much better team the Tennessee, and Dungy should have them well prepared and healthy.
The Chargers defense should have a priority of trying to disrupt Manning in hopes of hindering that dangerous passing attack that has been a trademark of Indy's offense. That's easier said than done, but the key to the Colts offense will rest on Addai who has made himself a dangerous component of Dungy's scheme. He provides consistency as well as versatility to the running game with his ability to catch short route passes into respectable gains. This balanced attack of the pass and rush will be more than the San Diego defense can handle, and I believe Peyton will have a successful day throwing against their 14th ranked pass defense. Receivers such as Wayne, Gonzalez, Clark, and even Harrison who is set to return, will likely have their way with the secondary. This is a factor of Addai's effectiveness rushing the ball which will sustain integrity of a balanced offense. Dungy will resort to the run frequently in hopes of opening up the passing game for Peyton who will certainly have a much better game than the last time he faced San Diego. No 6 int's here, but it's only fair to say that Manning is not all that invincible, as it cannot be ruled out that he can make his share of mistakes by throwing int's. Nonetheless, it should be minimal.
On the Charger side of the ball, it's obvious that Indy's 2nd ranked defense will focus primarily on keeping the rushing attack at bay. DPY Bob Sanders and company should be up to the task of negating any breakaway TD scamper that has been a trademark of LT. Should LT become less than effective, it should spell trouble for Phillip Rivers who should be in for a long day. With the pesky pass rush of the Colts breathing down his neck, and with the sure handed safety valve Gates out with an injury..it does not bode well for the visitors. I like the Colts to win comfortably despite my notion that LT will still have a respectable performance. You cannot suppress such a talented RB out of the game for long. Manning gets his revenge, and once again the Chargers splendid season ends on a disappointing note via playoffs. It's payback time! Colts 27 Chargers 17
Best Bet: UNDER the total
NY Giants @ DALLAS:
Line: DALLAS minus 7.5 pts.
NFC East rivals are set to square off for a third time this season with the Cowboys winning the previous two, both of which were surprisingly high scoring affairs. Eli Manning has emerged as he is playing like his brother Peyton during the last few games. It has instilled a much needed confidence as he prepares to battle the ninth ranked defense in the league, who can play very well at home. Manning is complemented by an exceptional rushing attack guided by Jacobs and rekindled by the catalystic play of Bradshaw. It is imperative that Coughlin's rushing attack become effective in the first 15 minutes of the game otherwise they become one dimensional by resorting to Eli's arm. As great as Eli has been, I can't help but think he is due for a horrid game against a very skilled Cowboys secondary. Jacobs must bring balance to the offense if Eli is to be successful. DB's Henry and Newman are swift defenders who love making their presence felt with their ability to frustrate wideouts. With Roy Williams and Hamlin, this secondary possess a lot of agility and hard hitting impact.
There seems to be a lot of conformity that the Gmen are primed for the upset due the remarkable success of Eli, a relentless running attack, and their disruptive defense . Factor in the questionable status of Owens along with Jessica Simpson potentially distracting the mindset of her man Tony Romo, and you have to ask if this is the downfall of America's team? Why not root against them and instead cheer for the underdog Giants? Well, don't be fooled by what you see or hear. Romo, despite the off field distraction, should play well and atone for last year's fiasco in Seattle. He can't afford to give a lackluster performance knowing this could be the season for his team to go to the next level. Another reason why I believe Dallas will prevail is because Owens is more than likely to play on Sunday. His sprained left ankle has progressed, and he knows the magnitude of this game is too big for him to miss. T.O. is the key to Romo's passing attack as the notorious wideout has scorched the Giants for 4 touchdowns in their two previous meetings. I look for Owens to have similar success again, as he should make a major impact. As if the daunting task of thwarting Owens wasn't difficult enough for the Giants, Romo has other options to utilize in Crayton along with his safety outlet Witten. As for the rushing game, Barber will find it tough to scamper against a rugged Giants frontline. But he is the type of back who relentlessly finds a way to be a force usually in the latter stages of the game. He loves to wear down defenders with his smashmouth style of running along with his ability to utilize the stiff arm to separate himself.
Eli has found success in consecutive games, will he be poised to have a third? Or is he due for a lackluster performance? These two teams know each other very well being bitter division rivals, and I believe Eli will have a satisfactory game at best as he will be forced into making some ill-advised decisions courtesy of a formidable pass rush. Defenders like Ware, Ellis, and the likes of Canty will be licking their chops as they will be like sharks that smell blood in water. Eli will unlikely find sufficient time to throw minimizing his success, and Jacobs just won't be effective enough against the Cowboy's 6th ranked rush D. The Giants should find themselves playing from behind because I surmise the Dallas offense should come out aggressive to begin the game. The Giant's resiliency should bring them back, but it won't be enough to claim victory. Eli and company will dig themselves too deep of a hole for any kind of comeback to be successful. Overall, the Giants have bewildered a lot of their fans but unfortunately they won't have enough left in their tanks. They have expended too much energy and I like my chances with a healthy, energized Dallas team at their house. Look for Dallas to give Coughlin's squad a much better challenge than that of Tampa bay, and in the process a reality check of who's the top dog in the NFC East. Sorry to say, an upset just isn't in the cards people. Cowboys 24 Giants 20
Best Bet: Giants +7.5, but not to win