Given the explosiveness of this week's playoff action, I decided to take a similarly detonative approach to my picks this week. The motto is C-4....four teams with a nickname that starts with C, and four winners. Keep in mind that these picks are merely for entertainment purposes and shouldn't be construed as proper gambling advice. I was 0-4 last week, for god's sake. So don't trust these unless, that is, you want to blow up your bank account.
Chargers over Jets
Let's start with what, on paper, is the most obvious game of the week. The Jets, in spite of their win over the now-revealed-as-terrible Bengals, are still riding the 'lucky to be here' train. San Diego, conversely, is on an 11-game winning streak. Now, the Jets' run defense should nullify the corpse of LaDainian Tomlinson and Vincent Jackson will be stranded on Revis Island, but in spite of these matchup advantages, I just think the Chargers are still on too much of a roll to be stopped now. I had them pegged for a Super Bowl appearance by mid-December and there's no reason to change that now. Some are pointing to how similar this is to the scenario in 2005, when the Jets faced the on-a-bye Chargers in the playoffs and upset them in San Diego, but that Chargers team was coached by Marty Schottenheimer. He was a notorious playoff choker, and certainly not as reliable a coach as.....uh, Norv Turner? Okay, well, maybe the Jets will cover. But the Chargers win.
Cardinals over Saints
Well, it looks like I was right to be scared of the Cardinals last week. Goddamn, what a game that was. Of course, I would've much preferred to a boring Green Bay blowout to a narrow Packers loss in an exciting game, but still, I'm oddly calm about the Pack's defeat. After catching the breaks of Neil Rackers' missing game-winning kick and winning the coin toss, that Aaron Rodgers overthrow of Greg Jennings on the first play of OT was just too much. The karma gods can only give a team so much before they finally just decide to turn against them. Also, I'm pretty encouraged that Green Bay was able to come back and make such a game of it after having as bad a first quarter as a (non-New England) team could have.
So that all leads into Arizona going into the Superdome this week and if you think I'm picking against Kurt Warner at this point, you're nuts. It's time to acknowledge that this man turns into some type of Gozer-esque demigod in the postseason. Did you know that Warner has the three highest passing yardage games in Super Bowl history? Had the Cards lost last week, I would've busted out a traditional Chief Wiggum, "Ehyah, where's your Messiah now, Warner?" but maybe Warner actually is the messiah. That would explain a lot, in fact. Compare Arizona's momentum to that of the Saints, who looked like such garbage over their last four games (a 1-3 record) that even a bye week isn't enough to wash off that stink. As great as it would be to see the Saints win a title for New Orleans, it's just too hard to pick against the Cardinal machine indoors with Larry Fitzgerald still catching everything known to man.
Cowboys over Vikings
If I had to rank the NFL playoff teams in order of how much I'd like to see them win a Super Bowl, I'd put the Saints, Cardinals and Chargers all in the pro-group, I'm pretty neutral on the Jets, and I'm heavily anti the other four teams in the tournament. On the bright side, two of my haties will be knocked out after the weekend, but two are also guaranteed to advance. This Dallas-Minnesota game is particularly hard since all season long, I've wanted nothing more than to see Brett Favre fail on a big stage. But, if he has one of his patented three-INT games, that'll lead to a Cowboys victory, and few things are harder to stomach than a successful Dallas Cowboys franchise. That camera shot of Jerry Jones and George W. Bush shaking hands after a Dallas TD last week should be immediately reproduced in every Oxford dictionary as the definition of 'obnoxious.' So since my emotions can't be swayed due to my equal hatred of both teams, I'll just pick Dallas because they seem like the obviously hotter team at the moment. They seem to be peaking, whereas the Vikes still have the spectre of Favre blowing up or Adrian "Next Jim Brown My Ass" Peterson losing a fumble or two. If the Cowboys score an early touchdown or two to take the Minneapolis crowd out of it, this game could look a lot like that Dallas-Philly game last Saturday.
Colts over Ravens
The worst part of Green Bay's defeat was, unquestionably, Baltimore's victory over New England. This meant that I've had to put up with a week of my Ravens-loving brother spouting off about how much better his team is than mine. And now, even more frustratingly, I find myself semi-rooting for Baltimore this week since I'd still prefer to hear just my brother crow rather than listen to every sportswriter in America crow about Peyton Manning's unflappable leadership. This has been an especially tough year for my long-stated "Peyton Manning is overrated" theory but (another) playoff choke would go a long way towards making me seem less crazy. However, with all of that in mind, I'm still picking Indianapolis for the simple fact that they completely own the Ravens. They're 7-0 against them since 2002 and haven't even allowed a touchdown to Bodymore in their last two meetings. As much as I'd love to see Indy have their overrated record stuffed down their throats, I just don't think the Ravens are capable of doing it.