Ratings and Recommendations

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Here's the story on the playoff matchups

Thursday, May 5, 2011

• Can't wait to see the reception Ravens fans — once faithful Baltimore Colts fans — have for Indianapolis. Is the curse of Johnny Unitas for real? We'll see Saturday. More tangible, can the Colts' No. 1 offense score enough on the Ravens' No. 1 defense? This marks the ninth time since 1970 that the NFL's top-ranked offense faces the league's top-ranked defense in the divisional round. The No. 1 offense is 6-2, by the way.


• Two coaches – Indianapolis' Tony Dungy and San Diego's Marty Schottenheimer – have their postseason coaching reputations at stake. Dungy is 6-8 in the playoffs, including a 0-2 record in conference championship games. Schottenheimer is 5-12 in the postseason, including a 0-3 mark in conference championship games.


• New England puts its impressive 11-1 playoff record under Bill Belichick on the line against the Chargers.


• Peyton Manning is close to becoming this era's version of Dan Marino — great QB, no Super Bowl title. At least Marino sniffed a Super Bowl championship with Miami's appearance in Super Bowl XIX. Manning is 4-6 in the playoffs with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, hardly comparable to his regular-season TD-INT ratio.


• Philadelphia and New Orleans bring high-flying offenses to the table. Both teams are feel-good stories for different reasons – New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina and Philadelphia because Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to six consecutive wins to finish the season.


• In the Bears-Seahawks game, it all comes down to Rex Grossman. The Bears win or lose on his time.


***


New England (+4½) at San Diego


Everybody likes to talk about Tom Brady's 11-1 playoff record. But this is the challenge San Diego faces: In those 12 playoff games, New England's defense has forced 29 turnovers, including 20 interceptions and has not allowed a 100-yard rusher. The Chargers need QB Phillip Rivers and MVP running back LaDainian Tomlinson to perform like they have all season, and Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer can't afford to revert to his ineffective "Marty Ball."


Chargers 24, Patriots 20


***


Indianapolis (+4) at Baltimore


Here are the million dollar questions: Was Indy's solid defensive performance against Kansas City an aberration? Was Peyton Manning's substandard outing against the Chiefs an anomaly? If the answer to A is no and the answer to B yes, the Colts are in good shape against the Ravens. If the answers are yes and no (Manning doesn't have a great playoff reputation), then the Colts are in trouble. This Colts Kool-Aid better not turn out to be poisonous.


Colts 21, Ravens 17


***


Philadelphia (+5) at New Orleans


The Eagles seem to be the darling team right now. The Saints might argue. However, since we don't know what destiny is until it happens, let's look at this from a football perspective. It reminds me of a bunch of fellas playing pickup football on a Saturday morning: First team to score 10 touchdowns wins. It will almost be a like a pickup game because the two teams are tied for first in the NFL in pass plays of 25 yards or more – New Orleans and Philadelphia each have 43. They finished fifth and sixth in scoring and first and second in total offense. Of course, pointing out all those offensive numbers probably guarantees a 17-14 game.


Saints 31, Eagles 24


***


Seattle (+8½) at Chicago


Despite a 13-3 record, the Bears have been less than impressive too many times this season. I was going to say they are the worst 13-3 team in the history of the NFL, then realized the 2001 Bears were also 13-3. Because the NFC is so weak, the Bears get a break with a mediocre Seahawks team coming to town. Seattle just isn't the team it was last season and shows no signs of getting there this season. Chicago's offensive shortcomings shouldn't be a problem this week.


Bears 27, Seahawks 16


***


Last week: 4-0 straight up; 2-2 ATS


Overall: 160-100; 118-138-4


2005: 190-77; 143-105-12


2004:167-100; 119-134-8


***


E-mail Jeff Zillgitt at jzillgitt@usatoday.com.





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