Indy vs. Baltimore
A warning to start this is the one game that will sound like is being written by a homer because, well, it is. There are a few reasons why I am taking Indy in this game, the first one being the match-up of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne vs. the Baltimore DB's and Safeties. Reggie Wayne will line-up against Rolle who has been terrible this season and has virtually no chance of covering Wayne 1-on-1. This means he is going to need safety help, which could leave Mcallister 1-on-1 against Marvin Harrison on the other side. This would be another mismatch as Mcallister is very good but can'y cover Marvin alone. If he gets safety help as well, this limits the Ravens blitzing abilities as they would need to keep from blitzing their safeties. This would give Peyton Manning a better opportunity to bick up the Ravens' blitzes as they would only come from the linebacker level, and even that can be exploited by splitting Dallas Clark wide in a 3-wide set and letting him work underneath like he did against KC.
Joseph Addai will need to have a very good day setting up the play-action by getting the stetch-play going. If he can get some solid runs cutting-back or finding holes, he could make the Ravens use their safeties in the run game, which as stated above, would create mismatches with Indy's WR.
The Ravens offence in this game will likely need to come from Steve McNair, Jamaal Lewis is well past his prime and really has no cut-back ability anymore, meaning that Indy's defence will be able to play at top-speed which is to their benefit. One of the key match-ups for Indy on defence will be Dwight Freeney against Baltimore's pro-bowl LT Jonathen Ogden. Ogden is one of the great LT's in the league, andhas the ability to deal with Freeney's speed, however Ogden didn't play in Baltimore's last two games and hasn't been able to practice for the last three weeks. It is a foot injury, which should effect his speed coming out of his stance, something Freeney can take advantage of. If Freeney can get to McNair, it could make him rush his throws, something you don't want to do into a cover-2 defence.
It is very evident that a lot of these things need to happen for the Colts' to win this game. They are definitely underdogs, but seem to have relished that role this season, as it is the first in a while they have not been the SB favourites in the AFC. The Colts send a message they are still relevant with a 30-27 win on a Vinitieri field goal with the clock winding down in the 4th quarter in a game people will be talking about for the next week.
Philly vs. NO
This should be another great game on a great weekend of football. Expect this game to be a barn-burner as the Saints really have no defence and rely on their offence to win games, whereas the Eagles are injured all over the place, especially in the defensive backfield with Lito sheppard being out. One of the great things to watch in this game will be Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook as receivers out of the backfield. They are likely the two best in the league in this regard and can be gam-breakers being matched against an LB out of the backfield. Another reason these teams are so close is if you had to give an advantage on offence, it would be to the Saints who have Brees at QB and Deuce to pund the ball if they get the leave. With that being said, if there is an advantage on defence it owuld be to Philly, who even though injured, they are a better all-around defence than NO is and could create some problems for the Saints playmakers.
I look for Reggie Bush to do something special in this gaem. Prime-time, playoffs, I think he looks to make his mark. Not sure whetehr it will be from a big run, or a punt-return, but this kid is exciting with the ball in his hands and he has off-the-charts speed burst which many fans haven't seen yet.
For the Saints to win they need a big game out of #3 (#2 with Horn out) receiver Devery Henderson. Teams have started to try and completely take Colston and Bush out of the game receiving-wise and have left Henderson with single coverage and no saftey help. If Henderson can get himself open, Brees will get him the ball, and the Eagles won't be able to concentrate as much on Colston or Bush, and if you give those two rookies some room, look out. For the Eagles to win, it will be about Jeff Garcia making smart decisions like has has the past 5 or so weeks. With Brian Westbrook finally being allowed to run the ball, and doing so quite well, teams haven't been able to key as much on defending the pass, which has given Garcia a litle rrom to find guys with underneath routes and short patterns. Look for the Saints to dare Garcia to beat them deep with his noodle arm, then play centre field when he tries. The Saints win this one 34-17 with Garcia throwing 2 picks, one of which gets returned for a TD.
Look for Sunday's picks tomorrow morning.