#5 Saints @ #4 Seahawks (1/8/11, 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Keys to the Game
- Reggie Bush – with Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory both out for the playoffs, Bush will have to step up and finally show that he can run the ball between the tackles. If he can, the Saints can go a long way. If not, they will be lucky to get past the lowly Seahawks.
- Saints Secondary – Matt Hasselbeck is prone to throwing interceptions and the Saints’ secondary has to channel their magic from last year’s postseason in order to take advantage. Last year’s Super Bowl team was 3rd in the NFL with 26 interceptions while this year’s Saints squad is dead last in picks with only 9.
- Limit the Turnovers – obviously the team who commits the fewest turnovers is more than likely going to win the game, but this applies more to the Seahawks then any other team. The Seahawks are 1-4 when Hasselbeck throws 2 or more picks and 5-3 when he throws 1 or none.
- Special Teams – the Seahawks are in the top 10 in kickoff return yards and average, punt return yards and average, and rank 1st in kickoff return TDs with 3.
Prediction - the Seahawks struggle, to say the least, against high-powered offenses and the Saints definitely qualify as that. The Seahawks have given up 30 or more points in 8 of their 9 losses including 34 points to the Saints in their week 11 loss. They’ll give up 30 plus once again as the Saints will pull away in the second half and beat the Seahawks by a score of 31 - 13.
#6 Packers @ #3 Eagles (1/9/11, 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Keys to the Game
- Hit Vick – Clay Matthews and the blitzing Packer defense have to get to Vick early and often. They have to make Vick uncomfortable in the pocket and force him to roll to his right.
- Stay Away from Samuel – the only danger in the Eagles secondary is Asante Samuel. The Eagles have rookies all over the secondary including the cornerback position opposite Samuels and at the safety position.
- Get to Rodgers – order to account for their inexperienced and depleted secondary, the Eagles must use various blitz packages to get to Rodgers. The Packers have a suspect O-line and Rodgers tends to hold on to the ball just a tad too long.
- Run the Ball – the Eagles have to be able to run the ball with Shady McCoy in order to counter the many blitzes they’ll see from the Packers. Plus, Charles Woodson has a knack for making big plays in the playoffs and linebackers Desmond Bishop and Nick Barnett and very good in pass coverage.
Prediction - the Eagles have been fluttering of late, losing to rookie QB Joe Webb and the Vikings and Stephen McGee and the Cowboys in the previous two weeks, and needing big second half performances in order to get the W against the Giants and Cowboys in the weeks prior. I like Rodgers to get his first career playoff victory as the Packers beat the Eagles by a score of 33 – 23.