Agganis Lives

   I don't feel as smart as I did a few days ago, now that the oddsmakers have annointed all four road teams as favorites. Sharing my contrarian ways is bor-ing!

   But let's take a look at each of these games:

   FALCONS 27, CARDINALS 20: Arizona won the NFC West for two reasons. One, it does one thing very well, pass (even if the rest of the team isn't much better than mediocre, even when it's not snowing). Two, the University of Utah would have a pretty good shot at winning among that bunch.

   Atlants gets the nod on merit. What's not to like? Matt Ryan, Offensive Rookie of the Year, loves big road games, whether at Virginia Tech in his college days or Minnesota as a pro. Michael Turner has gotten some MVP love after emerging from LaDanian Tomlinson's shadow. The defense is capable of picking Kurt Warner two or three times.

   COLTS 34, CHARGERS 23: These guys have grown accustomed to ecah other - their fourth meeting in two seasons. San Diego is to be applauded for closing the season with four straight wins and absolutely crushing Denver to cap its rally from a three-game deficit, but a fifth elimination game may be its one too many.

   Indy's the hottest team in football, riding not only a nine-game winning streak but the vengeance express after last year's inexplicable loss in the playoffs at home to a San Diego team decimated by injuries (getting beat by the immortal Billy Volek?). Yielding the spotlight early in the season worked wonders for Peyton Manning.

   RAVENS 17, DOLPHINS 13: Baltimore is a very live sixth seed. They play defense like the 2000 world champions, and didn't go four games without an offensive touchdown, either. They've got a deeper backfield now, all Joe Flacco does is win, and I've become a Derrick Mason fan after watching his game at Dallas two weeks ago - he had to leave the game several times to slam his bum shoulder into place like Mel Gibson after escaping the straitjacket in "Lethal Weapon 2."

   Yes, Miami got the job done on the road last week, and Chad Pennington successfully stuckn it to his old team. The Dolphin offense still makes too many mistakes, though, and Brett Favre will not be compensating for them this week.

   EAGLES 31, VIKINGS 21: When Philly's on, nobody beats them. The Eagles aren't consistent enough to put together the four games necessary for Philly's first Super Bowl victory, but they've got all the weapons on offense and are capable of hanging another one like they did on Dallas.

   Minnesota was so-so at best in a must-win against the Falcons and needed a last-second field goal to beat a Giants team that played a glorified exhibition game. And Vikings fans, if you can't fill the Metrodome for a playoff game, well, there's not enough water in Lake Minnetonka to purfiy that stink.




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