Well, now that all the prelude is out of the way, we here at the Sandlot can say we're not really all that surprised about the playoff matchups. No one is surprised that Dallas and Indy, both with absolutely nothing to play for except a crippling pre-playoff injury, played preseason-level games against Washington and Tennessee, thus punching their tickets for a wild-card berth.
To be fair, Cleveland probably deserved a shot at the playoffs, but they also should have beaten the repugnant Cincinnati Bungles two weeks ago, so you get what you get. The Vikings, of course, need a real-life NFL quarterback, not some guy whose first name is "Tarvaris." Sounds like the new four-door sedan, doesn't it? "For 2008, the new Ford Tarvaris." Guh. Trade for McNabb; heck, trade with Cleveland for Brady Quinn or draft Matt Ryan, I don't care, just get the running game some help!
Okay, now that I've gotten than out of my system, here's how The Sandlot's preview system works. I will make my predictions now for the entire playoffs, but from week-to-week, I'll adjust my picks based on actual wins. When it's all said and done, I'll tally up my overall record.
Wild Card Weekend
Washington at Seattle—I absolutely hate the Seahawks. Mike Holmgren is the most overrated coach in the league, Matt Hasselbeck isn't nearly as good as the "experts" want you to think, and Shawn Alexander's shelf life as a pro RB is set to expire. Add to that the fact that Washington has just won three "playoff-style" (i.e., win or go home) games in a row, not to mention the inspirational factor of playing for their recently deceased teammate, this whole game smells of a road win for the 'Skins.
Redskins 27, Seahawks 20
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh—I'm so sick of hearing the "experts" gush and goo about Jax like a junior high school girl with a crush on the varsity quarterback. They may have one on Pittsburgh in the regular season, but there's no freaking way they roll into Heinz on a cold day in January and beat the Steelers at home. Nope, not even going there.
Steelers 24, Jag-wires 21
NY Giants at Tampa Bay—OK, which Eli Manning do we get? Last week's "almost beat the Patriots" Eli who reminds you of the power of DNA, or QB rating 33 Eli, who makes you wonder if Peyton rubs that Superbowl ring in little brother's face when they gather at Mom & Dad's in the offseason. Given that, plus Tampa's defense at home, I have to give a slight edge to the Bucs, though if I were a gambler, this would be a "pick-em" that I would avoid like the plague.
Bucs 21, Giants 20
Tennessee at San Diego—Two good defenses, two shaky quarterbacks, one great coach (Fisher) against a less-than-average coach (Turner); what's the difference. LaDanian Tomlinson, of course. I'm not picking against LT at home. As long as Turner doesn't do anything stupid—like put the game in Philip Rivers' hands instead of LT's—San Diego simply has far more offensive weaponry, even against a good Tennessee defense. The truth, however, is that if Sunday night's game had been meaningful for the Colts, they could have beaten the Titans by three TDs, at least.
Chargers 31, Titans 17
Divisional Playoff Predictions
Dallas over Washington
Green Bay over Tampa Bay
New England over Pittsburgh
Indianapolis over San Diego
Dallas over Green Bay
Indianapolis over New England
Indianapolis over Dallas
Oh, come on, did you really expect me to pick differently?