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NFL Conference Playoffs Picks

January 18, 2007

The selections in this column are purely the opinion of the writer, and are not being endorsed by any parties.

New Orleans (+2.5) at Chicago:

This game doesnít have the excitement of the AFC match-up, but donít tell that to the fans in Chicago and New Orleans. Bearsí quarterback, Rex Grossman played just well enough to win last week against Seattle. He hit some big plays down the field, but also had some costly turnovers.

The bottom line with Grossman is that you never feel comfortable when he releases the ball and the Bears would love to play a conservative, grind it out type of game on Sunday. The ideal score for Chicago would be in the 20-17 range.

Unfortunately for the Bears, that means they would need to hold New Orleans to under three touchdowns, which is not likely to happen. The Saints have the best balance between running and passing the ball of any playoff team. That includes New England and Indianapolis.

Chicagoís defense is not playing anywhere near the level that they were earlier in the season. If Seattleís Matt Hasselbeck could throw on them in Chicago, then surely Drew Brees can as well.

The weather forecast for this game is a high of 35 degrees. That is not too bad. The Saints have played well in recent big road games at Atlanta, Dallas, and the NY Giants, and they can pull off the upset here.

Pick: New Orleans

New England (+3) at Indianapolis:

Will the real Peyton Manning please stand up? We can say all we want about the Indianapolis defense in this game and the running attack led by Joseph Addai, but there is no way that the Colts win this game if Manning continues to play like horse-blank. Itís just not going to happen.

Colts fans have to be happy that they are at home versus the Patriots, as opposed to on the road at San Diego. I say that statement fully knowing the legacy of New England and how mentally and physically tough their football team is.

Manning played very well versus New England in their last two regular season games against them. This year, he threw for 326 yards and had a 93 quarterback rating. Last year, he threw for 321 yards and had a 117 rating. Manning has a certain level of confidence against the Patriots, now he has to avoid more playoff jitters.

Turning to New England, Iím still not sure how they won that San Diego game even though I watched every second of it. The Patriots are playing with great confidence right now, although they are going to have to establish the run much better, even against this Indy run defense that has turned things around for the moment.

I see both offenses having success in this game in what appears to be the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. What I mean by that is Indy is 9-0 at home this year, but Tom Brady and the Patriots are 23-1 all-time on artificial turf.

This has all the makings of a field goal game, and the Colts could win it on the leg on former Patriotsí legend, Adam Vinatieri. However, the more likely scenario is New England frustrating Manning just enough in the fourth quarter to pull out a close victory.

Pick: New England

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