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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Danny's Conference Championship Selections

Green Bay Packers (-3.5) @ Chicago Bears

The Bears have not received respect all season. The Packers had to fight their way into the playoffs. Dealing with adversity is not a challenge for either of these NFC-North foes. These two teams don't like each other, they are physical, and they both play different styles on both sides of the ball.

Offense: Advantage goes to Green Bay. Led by Aaron Rodgers, who is coming off one of the most impressive playoff performances of all time last week vs Atlanta, the Green Bay offense can put up points in a hurry. But, to the dismay of Philadelphia Eagles fans, the Packers have found a talented running back on the roster; James Starks. Starks' ability to have some success against the Bears defensive front will be huge for the passing attack. The Packers will force the issue with the run in order to keep the Bears defense honest, but if Starks is able to have success and pick up chunks of yardage the Packers will be in a good situation.
For the Bears, Jay Cutler played very well against the Seahawks last week. A few questionable throws (but they did not hurt him), but Matt Forte will be the key for the Bears. Forcing the issue with Forte will open up the passing game for Chicago, but it will also protect the Bears "sub-par" offensive line. It will be very interesting what type of third down's both teams will face, but the advantage clearly goes to the Packers on offense.

Defense: This is a tough call for me as the Bears were able to limit Rodgers to only 10 points during week 17, but I have to go Green Bay here. The Packers go into Philly and shutdown Vick, then they go into Atlanta and have a more impressive performance against Matt Ryan who was 20-2 in his career when playing at home. Clay Matthews and BJ Raji have been excellent on the d-line, but Charles Woodson has played a pivotal role for the Packers defense. For the Bears, holding Rodgers to 10 points in week 17 was a brilliant performance, and last week they shutdown the Seahawks for 45 minutes. The key for the Bears will be their pass rush. Can they get pressure on Rodgers without bringing an extra guy on the rush. Playing a Tampa-2 defense requires the defensive line to get to the quarterback without bringing an extra rusher. Look for Julius Peppers to rise to the occasion and make his presence felt early. Urlacher and Briggs will be ferocious on the second level, but can this Bears defense play all 60 minutes of shutdown football, create turnovers, and dominate the battle in the trenches. I say no, and edge goes to Green Bay.

Special Teams: HUGE ADVANTAGE to the Bears. Devin Hester, I repeat, Devin Hester should not get a chance for a return. By doing that, the Packers will be punting the ball out of bounds and that is always a difficult thing to do successfully. The opportunity for the Bears to have great field position is largely due to the fact the Packers won't allow Hester to get his hands on a return.

Prediction: The Packers have the edge here. Hotter defense and a red hot quarterback. It is so hard to win on the road in the playoffs, but the way Rodgers is playing it won't matter. Close game throughout, Packers by a touchdown late.

GREEN BAY PACKERS 24 - Chicago Bears 17


New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)

I love this matchup for the Steelers. The Jets are coming off their Super Bowl. They put everything they had in that game against the Patriots. I truly believe they will come out flat against the Steelers and Sanchez will struggle with all of the pressure.

The quarterback mathcup here is a clear advantage for the Steelers. 9-2 is Big Ben's career playoff record, but Sanchez has gotten his team to the AFC Championship two years in a row winning 4 road games in the process. Very impressive, but Big Ben is so dangerous here.

The defensive matchup that I am looking forward to seeing the the Jets pass rush against the Steelers offensive line. The Jets have to get to Big Ben. And the Steelers offensive line has not played well all season. It will be very interesting to see how often the Jets bring an extra rusher, and how the Steelers are able to handle it. If the Jets have success blitzing early, they will bring the pain all game long. That would be a big issue for the Steelers as they do not want to be in a situation where they need to keep Heath Miller in for extra protection. Mwelde Moore is a good pash rush running back, but keeping Miller in for protection would hurt the Steelers game plan.

Special teams is always big in playoff games. Brad Smith will be back for the Jets and he is explosive returning kicks. The cold weather and some wind will force the kickers and punters to adjust a little bit, but expect both teams to be very caution kicking long field goals. Both coaches trust their defenses so don't be surprised if these two teams are punting from the 30-35 yard line trying to pin the opposing teams deep in their own field.

Prediction: I really like the home team in this matchup. I love Big Ben in these situation's, I love Polamalu to have a big game defensively against a young quarterback. I see the Steelers up 7-10 and the Jets driving late, but its a Polamalu big play then ends the drive and the Steelers are on their way to Dallas.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23 - New York Jets 13

Eric's AFC/NFC Championship Picks

Green Bay Packers (-3.5) @ Chicago Bears

Since the demise of the Patriots, the public appears to have jumped on the Packers bandwagon. If the Packers do in fact go on to win the Super Bowl, we will remember the 2010 playoffs as the year Aaron Rodgers established himself as one finest quarterbacks in the game alongside Manning, Brees, an Brady. If the Pack does in fact win, Rodgers will also have as many Super Bowls as Brett Farve. Perhaps no one benefited more than Aaron Rodgers from Brett Farve’s choice to come back to the Vikings for one more year (except for maybe Joe Webb). Farve twice beat Rodgers convincingly last season and took his team to the conference championship. Had Farve ridden off in to the sunset, Rodgers would never had the chance to beat him and perhaps his lecherous behavior would have gone relatively unnoticed (or he could have simply bought them off). Regardless, Packers GM Ted Thompson made a ballsy but terrific move going with Rodgers and dealing Farve to the Jets.

In a similar vein, the Bears knew they couldn’t win the big one without a QB. Even if you have one of the all time great defenses and spectacular special teams, championships require at least a competent quarterback (Trent Dilfer was better than people like to give him credit for). The Bears brass rolled the dice and brought in the enormously talented Jay Cutler. Cutler’s potential is unlimited. I love watching the guy throw ropes all over the place. However, he’s a narcissistic semi-jerk who dates reality TV stars. The gamble paid off. The Broncos have the #2 overall pick in the draft and the Bears grabbed the #2 seed in the playoffs. I do not feel Cutler is as responsible for his team’s success as Aaron Rodgers is for the Pack. However, as Jay goes, so go the Bears. He could single-handedly lose the game for them by forcing throws, holding the ball too long, or giving the Pack turnovers. Conversely, he can make throws no one else can. He makes the Bears’ mediocre (and that’s a generous adjective) receiving corps appear adequate. Cutler has Rodgers in the raw talent department but I would take Rodgers any day of the week.

Both of these teams have defenses. I’m well aware of this fact despite what the above paragraphs lead you to believe. We all know the Bears’ D. They established their brand in the Super Bowl run a few years back. Julius Peppers was the perfect addition. Peppers infused youth, speed, and power into the aging Chicago defense. Perhaps most important, Peppers must be accounted for. He consistently draws the attention of the offense in the form of double teams. He takes the burden off guys like Urlacher who need the relief. Green Bay’s offensive line and their running attack are the only thing I foresee stalling a Super Bowl run. I do not feel the Packers will find much of anything on the ground. Aaron Rodgers leads them in rushing yards and makes at least two big first down runs in the game. Unfortunately for the Bears, Rodgers will also lead them in passing yards. Danieal Manning will play a prominent role in this one for the Packers. Can you see him containing James Jones or Donald Driver? Me neither.

This Mike Martz offense isn’t exactly a clone of the ’99 Rams. They rank 28th in the league in passing and 22nd in rushing. Cutler has the ability to have a huge game, but I just can’t see him getting over on this Dom Capers’ defense. Clay Matthews emerged into a premier pass rusher this season. He will give Cutler a fit and force him into at least 1 interception perhaps more.

I would like to see the Bears win, I really would. 2 weeks of Cutler and Rex Ryan mouthing off-maybe Mark Sanchez could start dating LC- but I just don’t see it. The Packers are peaking at the perfect time.

Lock it up, PACKERS -3.5





New York Jets (+3.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers

This Jets team reminds me somewhat of the ’85 Bears in terms of brashness. That Bears team had a right to be. They were perhaps the best defensive unit ever and had the NFL’s number 2 all time rusher. That was supposed to be the Jets this season- stellar defense, great rushing attack, pretty boy QB that manages the game well *and* a couple of receivers to stretch the field). They have accomplished all of those things in a way, but not in an overly convincing fashion. Last week, I don’t know if I was more impressed with the Jets or more disappointed in the Patriots. I wrote that the Jets primary advantage was their speed and talent at receiver. That proved to be true, but I was shocked at how the Jet’s D handled the Patriots. The Pats appeared poorly prepared for the game and I cannot recall seeing Brady more rattled in a big game.

Just when I think you can stick a fork in Tomlinson, he proves me wrong. I can’t see him playing a big factor on the ground in this one. This kind of game is Shonne Green’s turf. Green runs low with power. That’s what it will take to move the chains against the Steelers. Even still, I do not foresee more than 60 yards for Green. The Jets ability to pull off the upset will lie with their receiving corps. Braylon Edwards flashed some of his potential in that big TD catch and run last week and Santonio Holmes, as Steelers fans know, has an ability to make insane catches in big moments. If Joe Namath were under center (or even Ken O’Brien) I’d like the Jets’ chances for an upset a whole lot more. Sanchez has certainly had his moments, but I don’t know if I can trust him with my money.

Roethlisberger will not go down as easily as Brady. Big Ben not have the ability to read defenses like Brady but he’s a more imposing figure in the pocket. He has a great knack for extending plays, which places a more stress upon the Jets’ secondary. Darrelle Revis will have his hands full with Mike Wallace. Wallace is an underrated emerging star and I think Pittsburgh will find creative ways to get him away from Revis. Rashard Mendenhall is much better than the Green-Ellis/Woodhead combo of the Patriots. He’s a big physical runner and a much more difficult match up for the Jets. One big plus for the Jets, the Steelers offensive line has been decimated by injury. If the Jets get rolling with the pass rush, I feel the secondary will shut down the Steelers passing game.

I like the Jets, but can you trust Sanchez? Can you bet against Big Ben? I’d love to see Flozell Adams get a ring but also love the idea of a Jets-Bears Super Bowl. This is a Pittsburgh team that held the Ravens to under 150 yards of offense last week. However, the Ravens lacked any real speed on the outside allowing the Steelers to focus on shutting down Ray Rice. The Jets have the talent to prevent a clamp down. It’s a tough call, but my gut says the Jets cover and may just eek out a win.


AFC PICK: JETS +3.5

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Information to be posted tonight regarding the NFC and AFC championship games on Sunday.

Terrific matchups taking place, should be some good football

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Danny's Divisional Selections

Green Bay Packers +3 @ Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan is 20-2 when playing at home in Atlanta. How do you pick against that? I see a few reasons why I believe the Packers can win this game on the road.

1. Aaron Rodgers has played exceptional all season, winning big games and coming up with big plays. Winning in Philly last week against a terrific young Eagles teams was very impressive. Rodgers is efficient, accurate, and head smart. He can control a game and remain poised in all situations. All of his players trust and believe in him, and that is pivotal to any teams success.

2. Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers have come up with terrific game plans all season. Capers has transformed this Green Bay defense and has successfully turned them into a 3-4 D. Utilizing Clay Matthews on every down is crucial to this defense. Woodson coming off the corner on a 3rd down blitz or a run blitz has caused serious issues for opposing teams. And lets take our hats off to BJ Raji on the d-line. The kid has performed.

Fact of the matter is this: If the Falcons run the ball successfully they win the game. Turnovers are crucial for both teams, but the ground game is huge for Atlanta. Green Bay can win being 1-dimensional, Atlanta cannot.

Packers shut down the run of the Falcons and win this game in Atlanta.

PICK: GREEN BAY 27 - Atlanta 23



Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers -3

The yellow towels will be going crazy in Steel City. And the players will battle all 60 minutes.

What a great game this will be as two of the best teams in the NFL will battle to reach the AFC-Championship game next weekend.

Advantage goes to the home team. Big Ben is 6-0 since 2007 (reg season and playoffs) against the Ravens. He just flat out plays good football in BIG GAMES.

The defenses will shut the offenses down, which team can make a big play in the fourth quarter to set up a winning drive. I like Big Ben in this situation as the Steelers come from behind in the fourth quarter to win.

PICK: Steelers 20 - Ravens 16


Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears -10

The Cinderella Story for Pete Carroll is over. The Seahawks will not have enough to beat the Chicago Bears on Soldier Field.

Clear edge goes to the rested defensive line of the Chicago Bears. The reason the Seahawks won last week was due to the fact that New Orleans did not put any pressure on Hasselbeck. With Peppers forcing him out of the pocket all game, the Bears sending Briggs on blitz's and Tillman creating havoc in the secondary, this is a no-brainer.

Cutler will have a solid performance and will manage the game very well. Forte having success on the ground, setting up play-action passes will play dividends come the third and fourth quarter for the Bears to put this game away.

I don't see the Seahawks keeping up in this game. Bears win.

PICK: CHICAGO 24 - Seattle 9



New York Jets @ New England Patriots -9

All the talk from Rex Ryan better payoff for him and the Jets because they will be in for a tough game against the Patriots.
New England will be ready to play as this was like a bye week for them. This is exactly the type of matchup I love Tom Brady to have success in. The Jets are talking trash on him all week, meanwhile, the Jets barely escape out of Indianapolis last week.

Talk is cheap from the Jets this week, I don't even like them keeping it close. If the Patriots are able to slow the Jets run game, which I expect them to do, the Jets will be forced to put the game on the shoulders of Mark Sanchez. Now would you rather have Sanchez or Brady? Exactly.

If the Jets had a top 15 quarterback behind center, I would have my money on them to win the Super Bowl. They have a great defense and a great running game, but the lack of talent and experience at quarterback will significantly hurt the Jets once again and this year they will fall one game short of where they were last year.

PICK: Patriots 34 - Jets 17

Eric's Divisional Round Locks

Green Bay Packers (+3) @ Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan’s record at home is nothing short of stellar. An impressive regular season winning percentage means little in the playoffs.

Aaron Rodgers thrived in his first few playoff appearances. Last year Rodger’s defense failed him against Arizona. I felt this season, his running game would subvert a Packers playoff run. James Starks likely ran his way into a contract next season regardless of the outcome in Atlanta. If this guy is for real, the Packers are my favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. However, it's likely Starks caught lightening in a bottle. Starks ran his way onto the scouting report Sunday and the Falcons will not be caught off guard.

Against the Packers last week, the Eagles only gave McCoy 16 carries. The Falcons will have a much stronger commitment to the run game. Michael Turner may not set the world on fire, but he’ll keep Green Bay honest, but keeping them honest will not be enough. They’ll need an effective running game to help put points on the board.

Atlanta has been the most consistent team in the NFC. However, the Packers are peaking at the right time. Pack wins by at least a field goal.

PICK: PACKERS +3


Seattle Seahawks (+10) @ Chicago Bears

Matt Hasselbeck once took the Seahawks all the way to a Super Bowl. In the years since, he’s worn down with age and injury. He found a little of his former self last weekend. If he stays upright, gets protection, and gets a little support from Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks might just get to .500 on the year.

Unfortunately, it's not likely Matt survives the day. Peppers had a renaissance in Chicago this season and the Pro Bowler will face a rookie left tackle. Hasselbeck will not play the entire game. Either due to injury or due to ineffective play, we will have a Charlie Whitehurst sighting. Whitehurst can’t be leaned upon for big wins. He’s a career backup Seattle hopes will suddenly morph into Hasselbeck’s successor.

I don’t trust Jay Cutler at all. His arm is electric but he’s stubborn and has developed very little as a player (mentally) over his tenure in the NFL. However, I love Forte against the Seahawks and feel the Bears ground game runs all over Seattle. The Bears win and move on but Cutler’s erratic play keeps the Bears from running away with it and Seattle gets a back door cover with Chuck Whitehurst at the helm.

PICK: SEATTLE +10


New York Jets (+9) @ New England Patriots

The Jets took a beating the last time they went into Foxboro and the Patriots look like the class of the league. Revis can’t focus on just one receiver. If he takes Wes Welker or Deion Branch out of the game, it means little to the Patriots. Their emergence as an unstoppable offense hinges on their ability to go anywhere with the ball. Unlike the Eagles, who have some of the best athletes in the NFL who can engulf a defense with their speed, the Patriots have adequate athletes who play smarter than you do. They have no weak spots on offense. For the first time since Corey Dillon’s first season with the team, the Patriots have a ground game. The combination of Green-Ellis and Woodhead combined for almost 1600 rushing yards this season. Antonio Cromartie ran his mouth all week about hating Tom Brady. Cromartie may find himself feeling something worse than hate after Sunday because he’s likely to be on the wrong end of many of Tom Brady passes. Can the Jets’ pass rush get to Brady and throw him off his game? Doubtful. The Jets need to blitz to generate an effective pass rush, which means letting Brady’s receivers work in man coverage. The rookie tight end tandem of Gronkowski and Hernandez are poised for a big day against the Jet’s safeties and their nickel corner.

The Pats have invested heavily through the draft in their secondary. While they have shown promise, New England finished 30th in the NFL against the pass. If Sanchez can find a rhythm the Jets’ receivers could overwhelm the young New England secondary. However, Sanchez is far from a reliable quarterback at this point in his career. I also feel confident the Patriots will find a way to keep him guessing. Sanchez threw 3 picks in the Monday night debacle the last time these two teams met. In games where the temperature was 40 degrees or below at kickoff, Sanchez has thrown 5 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Maybe the AFC East isn’t the best place for a guy who loves playing in warm weather. With all that said, I like Holmes in this game. I don’t think the Pats can find a way to bottle him up for four quarters. No way the Jets win, the question is “Can they cover?”

I say yes. The Jets have too much confidence and speed to get run over again. They lose the game but find a way to cover.

PICK: JETS +9

Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers

I have trouble coming up with anything original to say for this game. Two tough teams, good running games, great defenses, big quarterbacks, a few criminals and a million football clich├ęs. Instead rambling on lets try something different:

Keys for the Steelers:

Mike Wallace. Hines Ward is the name but Wallace is actually the best receiver on this team. He’s scary fast and runs great routes. Ward is little more than a possession receiver and great blocker. Wallace should put the fear of God in the Ravens secondary.

Contain Ray Rice. The Ravens have 3 very good possession receivers but lack any real speed. If the Ravens struggle to get Rice going the offense will move at a snail’s pace. Flacco went into KC and won a big playoff game but can he do it in Pittsburg?

Keys For the Ravens:

Ed Reed. The Ravens secondary is not good. However, with Ed Reed is a ball-hawk that keeps teams from abusing them deep. He’ll often find a way to make at least one game changing play. If he loses focus due to the fateful loss of his brother, the Ravens will surely suffer.

Joe Flacco. I’ve written several times this year about Flacco. Say what you will about Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata but as Joe Flacco goes so goes the Ravens. He threw for two TD’s and over 250 yards against KC last week. However, he was also sacked 4 times. Can Flacco endure and throw accurately in the face of the Steeler’s pressure? All the kids at Ropewalk sure hope so.

Lock of the Week: Against all of my intuition, I am taking Joe Flacco to pull off an improbable upset win in Pittsburgh. Anquan Boldin earns some of that fat contract and Ray Rice breaks a few big ones. Joe gets hit all day but avoids the big mistakes and finds those big possession receivers moving not a snails pace but a turtles. Slow and steady wins this race.

PICK: RAVENS +3 in an outright win

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Packers @ Eagles (-2.5)

This isn't just a game for Vick, this is for all the marbles. Must win for Vick and the Birds. And they barely get it.

Eagles 27-23

Ravens -3 @ Chiefs

The Ravens ground game will be the difference. Flacco will need to make only a few plave to win this one.

PICK: Ravens 27 - Chiefs 17

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Danny's Wild Card Saturday Selection

New Orleans Sains -11 @ Seattle Seahawks

Sean Payton will use his experience from last season and fully dismantle the youth and inexperience of the Seahawks. The Seahawks won't be able to get to Brees for sacks as Brees will use the 3-step drop quick passing game and pick apart Seattle's secondary. Even without Thomas and Ivory, I fully expect Jones and Bush to get 20-25 touches out of the backfield and put this game away. Takeaways will be key in this game, I give the edge to the Saints.

PICK - NEW ORLEANS 27 - Seattle 10


New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts -3

I love this matchup. This is a great chance for Peyton Manning to show the country that he is better than "the just: the best regular season quarterback in history." His time is now. He has plenty enough weapons with Tamme, Garcon, Wayne, White, and his two backs. His defense stepped up huge last week and shutdown Chris Johnson, and if they can limit big plays from the Jets backfield and force Sanchez to make throws they will be victorious. Sanchez still has issues with his shoulder injury, and I fully anticipate it affecting his accuracy. The Jets have a very tough matchup against the Colts in this game. It will be close, last team with the ball wins.

PICK: INDIANAPOLIS 24 - New York 20

Eric's Locks of Wild-Card Saturday

New Orleans Saints (-11) @ Seattle Seahawks

Pierre Thomas isn’t that good, Chris Ivory is worse and they’re both on IR for the Saints. Reggie Bush and Julius Jones will attempt to hold down the running game for the Saints. Jones is a smoker (or at least he was as a rookie with Dallas), sure so was the Golden Boy Paul Horning, but that was a different day. Fortunately, the Saints are playing the Seahawks. Most NFL fans are aghast (rightfully so) that Seattle is 7-9 and hosting the defending champs. The Saints are going to win. They’re better in all facets of the game. Hasselbeck’s been a liability for two years but he’s a much safer option than Chuck Whitehurst. Chuck will play in this game, and it won’t be pretty. Seattle makes the thing interesting for the first 2 quarters with good defense and a time eating offense (but gets little more than a field goal or 2). The Saints will win. The running back issue makes this and interesting play. Seattle’s defense looked great shutting down the Rams and most are discounting the fact the NFC West was terrible. I refuse to take an underdog unless I think there’s at least a 10% chance they’ll win outright. Sean Peyton comes out in the second half and gets frisky. This thing ends in a blow out and the Saints win in a route and cover.

PICK- SAINTS -11


New York Jets (+3) @ Indianapolis Colts

ESPN’s Bill Simmons used a bad Colts team and good Pats team as an opportunity to proclaim Brady’s greatness with a level of passive aggressiveness the likes of which sports writers have never seen. I love Simmons, but he constantly references the Pats receiving corps like their autistic. Look Simmons, you have 2 great prospects at tight end, Deion Branch floundered in Seattle (see every other Seahawks receiver since a young Joey Galloway), and “the little white guy that could” Wes Welker. Manning makes decent receivers great and practice team guys pro bowlers. When he had a solid route runner (Harrison) he set records and when he had undersized white guys (Collie) he put up 4,000 yard seasons. They’re both great and both transcendent. It’s just the passive aggressive crap that drives me up the wall. Manning will play well. He’s got home field, the dome, the turf, and the reputation. However, there’s little else you can count on with the Colts. The Jets, on the other hand, have a handful of sure things -not to play great, but to play well. Essentially, playing the Colts to cover in the game is an affirmation of Manning’s greatness and playing the Jets is an assertion of the preseason hype. I don’t buy into the Jets but I also feel there’s a much better than 10% chance the Jets win this thing and Manning has a mini-meltdown. Take the Jets to cover and likely pull the upset. Any Given Sunday, it’s a game of inches but for Rex Ryan, its feet that are all around him. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.

PICK- JETS +3

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Danny's Week 17 Selections

WEEK 17 PICKS:

Kansas City Chiefs -5
Miami Dolphins +5.5
Indianapolis Colts -9
Houston Texans -5
Pittsburgh Steelers -6.5
Baltimore Ravens -9.5
Detroit Lions -3.5
New York Giants -4.5
Chicago Bears +10.5
Philadelphia Eagles +1
New York Jets PK
Carolina Panthers +14.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7
San Francisco 49ers -6
San Diego Chargers -3.5
St. Louis Rams -3

Eric's Locks of Week 17

St Louis (-3) @ Seattle

I hate watching the Seahawks. The fact that they’re even in contention for a playoff bid annoys me to know end. Matt Hasselbeck had his moment in the sun, but those days are done. Charlie Whitehurst will likely be under center tomorrow taking calls from Pete Caroll. Doesn’t exactly sound like playoff football. The Rams, on the other hand , have a budding star in Sam Bradford, an all pro running back with Steven Jackson and a nice defensive fire thanks to Steve Spagnulo. I’m betting on the Rams not because I think they’ll win as much as I need them to win. The thought of watching the Seahawks taking a 46-3 drubbing in the first round is depressing. The Rams represent everything fun about being an NFL fan. Your team hits rock-bottom, makes a coaching move, releases a few past-their-prime vets, drafts well, gets a watered down schedule and gets a few wins. The Rams did it the old fashioned way and there’s a lot to be said for that.

Beyond the conceptual stuff, the Rams are simply better. They took a beating early in the year from the Lions, but aside from that loss, they’ve been a competitive group. The team ranks in the middle of the league in most statistical categories but this is the NFC West. Winning the west is a lot like being the hottest waitress at Denny’s, it doesn’t take much. Danny Amendola is a poor man’s Wes Welker, but between he and Brandon Gibson, Bradford has two quick agile options. Steven Jackson has put together a 1200 yard season despite a variety of nagging injuries. They’re not going to set the world on fire but they’re a better bunch than Seatlle. I see coach Spags putting the pressure on Charlie Whitehurst forcing him to throw at least 2 picks. Seattle loses big and keeps the NFL from having to defend a system that allows a losing team to host a playoff game.

PICK: St. Louis Rams -3