#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.
1) Colts (9-0) – LW 2
Although they are still undefeated they have to work out their running problems in order to go deep into the playoffs.
2) Saints (9-0) – LW 1
Drew Brees has come down to earth in his past four games and so have the Saints.
3) Vikings (8-1) – LW 4
Favre and Sidney Rice look to be in sync on the deep ball.
4) Bengals (7-2) – LW 5
The good, they swept the Steelers. The bad, they lost Cedric Benson to injury for at least a week. The ugly, they signed Larry Johnson.
5) Steelers (6-3) – LW 3
They can get right back on track after a loss to the Bengals with a win next week against the struggling Chiefs.
6) Patriots (6-3) – LW 6
What was Belichick thinking?
7) Cardinals (6-3) – LW 8
The Cardinals are quietly putting together another potential playoff season, and they play the Rams next week for a chance to go 7-3.
8) Chargers (6-3) – LW 11
A win at Denver next week will put them in prime position to win the division.
9) Broncos (6-3) – LW 7
If Orton can’t play next week the Broncos are in big trouble.
10) Cowboys (6-3) – LW 9
The Cowboys looked like they were for real, but a bad performance against the Packers last week showed that they are just a middle of the pack team.
11) Eagles (5-4) – LW 12
With Brian Westbrook expected to be out for at least a couple of weeks, rookie LeSean McCoy has to fill in for the crucial playoff run.
12) Ravens (5-4) – LW 14
The offense isn’t playing up to their potential and the defense doesn’t look like the top 3 defense we are used to seeing.
13) Texans (5-4) – LW 13
They get a chance to show the world that they are much improved as they play on MNF next week against the Titans.
14) Packers (5-4) – LW 16
A much-needed win against the Cowboys after a disaster in Tampa last week.
15) Falcons (5-4) – LW 10
The defense is young and inexperienced and Matt Ryan and Michael Turner don’t look to be the same all-stars we saw last season.
16) Giants (5-4) – LW 15
They got lucky with the both the Eagles and Cowboys losing last week.
17) Jaguars (5-4) – LW 21
MJD ran all over the Bills. Watch out for the dangerous Jags.
18) Dolphins (4-5) – LW 17
They escaped with a win against the Bucs, but it came at a cost as Ronnie Brown was placed on the IR, ending his season.
19) Panthers (4-5) – LW 22
Is this the same team we saw in the beginning of the season?
20) 49ers (4-5) – LW 20
Their trying to build on a solid defensive performance and a win last week against the Bears.
21) Titans (3-6) – LW 23
Vince Young has played well, but Chris Johnson looks like a favorite for MVP this season.
22) Jets (4-5) – LW 18
A rematch against the Patriots next week in the Meadowlands, but I don’t expect the same result as earlier in the season.
23) Bears (4-5) – LW 19
They have lost four of their last five games, largely in part by turnovers by Cutler, especially in the red-zone.
24) Seahawks (3-6) – LW 24
Under-achieving on offense and their defense can’t rush the passer.
25) Redskins (3-6) – LW 26
They finally scored over 20 points and got an impressive win against a good Broncos team.
26) Bills (3-6) – LW 25
Head Coach Dick Jauron was fired and T.O. will certainly voice his opinions for the rest of the season.
27) Chiefs (2-7) – LW 27
Cutting Larry Johnson was the first step in their attempt to regain some respect.
28) Bucs (1-8) – LW 29
Josh Freeman has played extremely well in his first two games as a starter. He has the Bucs somewhat interesting again.
29) Raiders (2-7) – LW 28
They have no weapons on offense and they seemingly get worse and worse every week.
30) Lions (1-8) – LW 30
One positive piece of news for the Lions, they play the Browns next week.
31) Rams (1-8) – LW 31
The Rams have one of the best running backs in the league and a great defensive mind as their head coach so there is plenty of upside ahead.
32) Browns (1-8) – LW 32
I thought scoring zero points and not coming any where near field goal range against the Ravens was pretty bad, but Brady Quinn throwing two Hail Mary passes out of bounds is just pathetic.
1) Saints (6-0) – LW 3
Drew Brees torched the Giants secondary. The G-Men didn’t get any pressure on Brees and paid for their lackluster defensive performance to the tune of a 48-27 smack down.
2) Colts (5-0) – LW 1
They only dropped from #1 because of their bye week and the Saints beat up on the Giants.
3) Vikings (6-0) – LW 4
Another exciting win for the Vikings. Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson have shown that they are a lethal combination.
4) Broncos (6-0) – LW 5
Eddie Royal’s punt return and kickoff return touchdowns sparked a huge win against the rival Chargers. The Broncos have taken a strangle hold on the AFC West.
5) Falcons (4-1) – LW 7
The Falcon’s defense stepped up, especially in the red-zone.
6) Patriots (4-2) – LW 9
They absolutely obliterated the pathetic Titans, 59-0. The offense looks like it’s back on track. We could see a repeat performance next week against the Bucs.
7) Giants (5-1) – LW 2
The Giants secondary was non-existent against the best offense in the NFL. The G-Men have to fix the holes in the secondary or they will get torched again next week against the Cardinals.
8) Steelers (4-2) – LW 13
They dominate the Browns every year, but their real test is next week against the Vikings.
9) Bengals (4-2) – LW 6
The Bengal’s defense couldn’t stop Texans qb Matt Schaub, who threw for 392 yards and 4 tds.
10) Ravens (3-3) – LW 10
Ray Rice brought the Ravens back in the fourth quarter, but kicker Steven Hauschka missed the game winning field-goal and the Ravens lost their third game in a row.
11) Bears (3-2) – LW 12
Cutler’s interception and Forte’s fumbles in the red-zone killed the Bear’s chances of getting a nice win against the Falcons.
12) 49ers (3-2) – LW 14
Frank Gore should put them back on track.
13) Packers (3-2) – LW 16
They shut out the Lions last week and can do the same to the Browns next week.
14) Jets (3-3) – LW 11
Sanchez has to cut down on the interceptions if the Jets want to get back to their winning ways.
15) Cardinals (3-2) – LW 21
Big test against the Giants next week.
16) Eagles (3-2) – LW 8
They ran the ball only 14 times against the Raiders last week; what kind of play calling is that?
17) Cowboys (3-2) – LW 18
The Cowboys’s record is a little deceiving, considering all of their wins have been against teams with a losing record.
18) Chargers (2-3) – LW 15
It’s the same old talented but inconsistent Chargers.
19) Dolphins (2-3) – LW 17
If Henne can play with consistency then the Dolphins will be a very competitive team.
20) Texans (3-3) – LW 20
They haave the potential to put up 40 points at anytime, but they’re too inconsistent to be taken for real.
21) Seahawks (2-4) – LW 19
The injury bug has striked the Seahawks again.
22) Jaguars (3-3) – LW 22
The Jags barely beat the Rams after a blowout loss to the Seahawks the previous week.
23) Panthers (2-3) – LW 23
They’ve reeled off two wins against bad teams. Steve Smith isn’t happy with the way he’s being used in the offense and who could blame him.
24) Raiders (2-4) – LW 32
Surprising win against the Eagles last week.
25) Bills (2-4) – LW
Hard fought victory on the road without Trent Edwards against the Jets last week.
26) Chiefs (1-5) – LW 28
The Chiefs are playing hard. They were very competitive in their games versus the Cowboys and Ravens.
27) Redskins (2-4) – LW 24
Maybe taking the offense play calling duties away from Jim Zorn can revamp their offense.
28) Lions (1-5) – LW 25
Stafford and Culpepper are injured, their down to Drew Stanton at qb.
29) Browns (1-5) – LW 29
Their offense is dreadful, no qb and no wide receivers.
30) Rams (0-6) – LW 31
At least their somewhat competitive in their losses.
31) Titans (0-6) – LW 27
They have serious problems, hence their 59-0 defeat at the hand of the Patriots.
32) Buccaneers (0-6) – LW 30
They face the Patriots next week, that could be ugly.
1) Colts (5-0) – LW 2
Peyton Manning shredded the Titans defense to the tune of another 300+ yard game along with 3 tds. Look at their schedule, they can be undefeated for a while.
2) Giants (5-0) – LW 3
The Giants thoroughly dominated the Raiders on both sides of the ball. Their first real test comes next week against a strong Saints team.
3) Saints (4-0) – LW 1
The Saints face off against the G-Men next week. This will be an early measuring stick for both teams.
4) Vikings (5-0) – LW 4
Easy game against the Rams.
5) Broncos (5-0) – LW 10
Great come from behind victory against the Patriots. Their defense is among the elites and as long as Kyle Orton protects the ball they will keep winning.
6) Bengals (4-1) – LW 13
Cedric Benson ran for over 100 yards against the Ravens! The Bengals came from behind to win again, they’re legit.
7) Falcons (3-1) – LW 12
Atlanta absolutely destroyed the 49ers last week.
8) Eagles (3-1) – LW 14
Jeremy Maclin has emerged as another deep threat for the Eagles and McNabb.
9) Patriots (3-2) – LW 5
Brady should have a field day against a terrible Tennessee pass defense.
10) Ravens (3-2) – LW 6
Two tough losses in a row. They need a win against the undefeated Vikings.
11) Jets (3-2) – LW 7
Braylon Edwards has already shown that he is a difference maker.
12) Bears (3-1) – LW 11
They have weapons on offense and their defense has been solid, even without Urlacher.
13) Steelers (3-2) – LW 9
Mendenhall has played well, but the defense has been surprisingly disappointing so far.
14) 49ers (3-2) – LW 8
They desperately need Gore to return after the bye week.
15) Chargers (2-2) – LW 16
Big division game against the broncos at home this week.
16) Packers (2-2) – LW 18
Hopefully they fixed their offensive line problems over the bye week.
17) Dolphins (2-3) – LW 21
Chad Henne played like a veteran down the stretch in the fourth quarter on monday night. The Dolphins may have found their quarterback of the future.
18) Cowboys (3-2) – LW 20
The Cowboys have struggled so far this season, especially on offense.
19) Seahawks (2-3) – LW 22
Matt Hasselbeck came back from his injury and didn’t miss a beat, thumping the Jaguars. They have a big division game against the Cardinals this week.
20) Texans (2-3) – LW 17
Great potential, but too inconsistent at times.
21) Cardinals (2-2) – LW 19
They need a running game. That means you, Beanie Wells!
22) Jaguars (2-3) – LW 15
We’ll see if they can bounce back after a humiliating loss to Seattle.
23) Panthers (1-3) – LW 25
They got their first win last week, but it was against a bad Redskins team, so this doesn’t really show progression.
24) Redskins (2-3) – LW 27
The Redskins haven’t played a team with a win yet this season (when they played the Giants in the first game of the season they were obviously 0-0) and their record is 2-3, uh that’s not good.
25) Lions (1-4) – LW 26
I know they’re 1-4 but they have played better than that.
26) Bills (1-4) – LW 24
Their offense could only muster up 3 points against the Brown’s defense, that’s bad.
27) Titans (0-5) – LW 23
I think Vince Young would be a nice change of scenery at starting qb.
28) Chiefs (0-5) – LW 28
At least they seem to be progressing week by week. They gave the Cowboys all they could handle.
29) Browns (1-4) – LW 30
They scored 6 points against a Buffalo defense that was lacking 4 starters in the secondary and a run defense that allowed over 200 rushing yards last week. Really?
30) Buccaneers (0-5) – LW 29
Another horrendous performance by their defense.
31) Rams (0-5) – LW 32
Tough to watch them right now.
32) Raiders (1-4) – LW 31
Pathetic performance all around against the Giants. It keeps getting worse and worse for the Raiders.
1) New York Giants (2-0)
Plaxico Burress who? Mario Manningham and Steve Smith have played like pro-bowlers so far.
2) Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
Their offense has drastically improved and their defense is always stingey.
3) Atlanta Falcons (2-0)
“Matty Ice” has picked up where he left off last season and his new toy Tony Gonzalez has been a difference maker.
4) Minnesota Vikings (2-0)
Adrian Peterson is a straight beast and their defense is solid, but I want to see what happens when Brett Favre has to air it out.
5) Indianapolis Colts (2-0)
Vintage Peyton Manning against the Dolphins, but they have to find a way to sustain drives and get their defense off the field.
6) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
Parker and Mendenhall have to get back on track if the Steelers want to repeat.
7) New York Jets (2-0)
Their defense is for real and don’t sleep on Sanchez, he looks very comfortable early on in the season.
8) New Orleans Saints (2-0)
Drew Brees has the Saints’ offense looking virtually unstoppable. If the defense gets better, watch out for the Saints.
9) San Diego Chargers (1-1)
LT’s hurt and defense has key injuries, but Philip Rivers can chuck the pigskin.
10) San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
Mike Singletary has the 49ers playing smash-mouth football and say what you want about Shaun Hill, but he’s 9-3 as the starter.
11) New England Patriots (1-1)
Brady and Belichick don’t look to be on the same page so far and the defense has lost most of its leaders.
12) Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
They need McNabb to come back quickly if they want to compete for the top spot in the NFC East.
13) Chicago Bears (1-1)
Jay Cutler has to be more consistent in order for the Bears to make some noise.
14) Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
Their defense gives up too many big plays and Romo needs to limit the turnovers, especially in big spots.
15) Buffalo Bills (1-1)
Trent Edwards and Fred Jackson have been impressive so far and they could easily be 2-0.