I didn't plan to make my picks post so late, but the Seton Hall game delayed it and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords kept me from writing over the last hour. Before I start, allow me to offer condolences to those who were injured or killed and their families. I don't usually have politics on this blog, but in this instance, I will make an exception. Don't comment about it unless you're echoing my sentiment or it will be removed (of course, any comments about the games will be encouraged).
Anyway, let's move on to football where the first game today is the Saints and the Seahawks which the 7-9 team is hosting the game (this needs to change). The Saints were dealt a blow when both Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas were lost for the playoffs, leaving both Julius Jones and Reggie Bush as their only source of running. Which puts more on the shoulders of Drew Brees and the passing game. Seattle has a puncher's chance with Matt Hasselbeck, but he's more of a sitting duck for Gregg Williams pressure defense. I would have had no confidence if Charlie Whitehurst was under center.
Saints win if: They show up. In reality, the Saints need to take the early lead and get the crowd out of it. Best way to do that is to exploit the pourous Seahawks secondary and if Julius Jones has revenge on his mind against the Seahawks, then let him run.
Seahawks win if: They take the early lead and let the 12th man disrupt the Saints offense. Force Drew Brees to throw interceptions (and he threw 22 INT's this year) and shutdown the depleted Saints running game. Also, mistake-free football by the Seahawks offense and a couple plays by Leon Washington on special teams which could lead to points.
My pick: I see more and more people are talking themselves into either taking the 10.5 or picking the Seahawks outright and I'm thinking, why fool around. If you take the Saints and they lose, then you're just wrong and if you're like me, you can live with it. If you take the Seahawks and they get destroyed, then you just wasted your time. I'd rather be wrong than foolish. And I spent way too much time explaining, so Saints win 34-10.
The nightcap pits an AFC Championship Game rematch between the Jets and the Colts. Spread is the Colts favored by 2.5 and this is a split on who thinks who's going to win. The Jets are better this year and the Colts are worse, especially with the injuries to Dallas Clark and Austin Collie. The key of course is that Peyton Manning isn't hurt and carried the Colts to this playoff game. The Jets for the most part slumped to the end and while I said the Jets are better, it's because they can score more than last year. Their defense isn't as good and still can't pass rush without a blitz. That is dangerous when playing Manning, who not only can figure blitzes out, he's done so to Rex Ryan-coached teams for many years.
Jets win if: Their ground and pound lasts longer than 3 plays a series. Mark Sanchez needs to be efficient and they can put some points up. Meanwhile, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie must handle Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne and the front seven have to get to Manning and force turnovers.
Colts win if: Peyton solves the Jets defense and puts up points. The Colts running game needs to be good enough for Manning's play action plays will work. Meanwhile, the Colts defense needs to make a couple stops. A bad Sanchez wouldn't hurt if you're Indianapolis.
My pick: I originally was thinking the Colts, but I've kind of waffled because I think more "experts" are taking the Jets. Also, the Jets built their team for this game, adding Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson for more offensive punch and Cromartie to strengthen the secondary. However, no Jim Leonhard hurts and I think Blair White and Jacob Tamme will make a play over the middle for Manning. I have the Colts winning 31-21.
Come back tomorrow for the Sunday playoff picks.