IND-KCI. Chiefs over Colts. Larry Johnson has already suffered a career-ending injury (416 carries means it’s over, forever, goodbye Hall of Fame), but he may still be able to eke out another 30 carries before disintegration. I hope he has one last good game left, and an “ok” game against the Colts is 20 carries for 220 yards including 15 first downs. This one will be high-scoring - remember the 2003 playoff matchup where neither side punted?
NWE-JET. Jets over Patriots. The Patriots’ defense is depleted, and Tom Brady is hurt. The Jets are set on the offensive line for years and should be able to get past the excellent Pats’ D-line and attack the awful linebackers and secondary. This one will be close.
BAL-JET. Ravens over Jets. The Ravens are capable of stopping the Jets with ease as well as plowing right through them. Steve McNair has always been good in the playoffs, and the Jets won’t get to him enough to take him out. The Baltimore defense is as good as any right now; Ray Lewis is still a star because the defensive tackles have played very well. This won’t be close; the spread will be at least 6 and the Ravens will still cover it anyway.
SDI-KCI. Chargers over Chiefs. The Chiefs don’t match up well against San Diego - they’re not built to stop Tomlinson, and if they stack the line Rivers can beat them anyway. The Chargers’ D should pound Trent Green a bit while stopping Larry Johnson. This one won’t be close either.
SDI-BAL. Chargers over Ravens. This is the real Super Bowl, and will probably be the best game of the year. Both teams are built to win NOW - and they have. They are the best two teams in the league and it isn’t close, with all deficiencies covered well and some very capable playmakers on both sides of the ball. It will come down to the wire, but Brian Billick will learn that Martyball isn’t being played anymore.
The first two rounds are, like the AFC, just a warmup to a thrilling conference championship game.
PHI-GIA. Eagles over Giants. Jeff Garcia didn’t look to have much left when he played for the Browns and Lions. That is because the Browns and Lions cannot “block” or “get open”. With the Eagles, he doesn’t have to carry a piano uphill, and the rest of the team will blow apart the disintegrating Giants.
SEA-DAL. Cowboys over Seahawks. The Seahawks broke the Super Bowl Losers’ curse, but they also broke their entire secondary in the past three weeks and will get torched by Owens, Glenn, and Witten. This one won’t be close, either.
CHI-DAL. Bears over Cowboys. One if by Grossman, three if by Griese. The best pass defense in the league should stop the Cowpokes, but Rex Grossman has been as bad as Craig Krenzel and Kyle Orton recently, and could lose the game by himself. If he is benched for Brian Griese this is a complete team with a scary defense.
NOR-PHI. Saints over Eagles. The first three rules of playing cornerback are “1. Don’t get beat deep. 2. Don’t get beat deep. 3. Don’t get beat deep”. Drew Brees leads a complex and high-flying offense into the playoffs, and they should pour forty points over the Eagles and beat them. The Eagles cannot stop all of their receivers at once - and if they try Reggie Bush will beat them.
CHI-NOR. Bears over Saints. This will be almost as spectacular as the Ravens-Chargers game; watching Chicago stop the Saints’ air game will be a treat. The biggest problem with the Bears is that they aren’t very consistent offensively, and “stopping” the Saints still means you need 21-28 points to beat them. Either way, the winner goes to the slaughterhouse.
SDI-CHI on neutral field. Chargers over Bears. The Bears can keep the Chargers’ offense from running up the score; the problem here is that if the Chargers score 21 they win, and it may even be a shutout - and what a way would that be for Marty Schottenheimer to go out.