By: Steve Balestrieri
My friend and partner all year in doing weekly NFL picks, Steve the Cat (STC) and I have had fun doing this for the past few years and it’s hard to believe that the regular season is already over. Playoff time is always bittersweet in that although the games all mean something now, it also signifies that football season is almost over and then fans have the long wait until the April draft to contend with.
Feel free to chime in with your own picks below:
NFL WildCard Weekend-
Bengals Vs Texans :
SB- The Texans are playing their first playoff game and are at home with an outstanding running game with Arian Foster, although Cincinnati held him to just 41 yards on 15 rushes in the game on Dec. 11. The Bengals have a good solid defense that will keep this game close. Andy Dalton has played well all season and the Bengals have some weapons of their own on offense.
But I think the Texans will control the flow with Foster and the running game and with their stout defense at home, they will hold on to fight another week. Texans 21-17
STC- Against my better judgment I am going with the Texans in their first post-season appearance. Kubiak has again made some questionable calls in the fourth quarter, but the Texans defense is holding on tight. Andy Dalton has impressed me this year a rookie year play-off bid is a lot of pressure. The same thing goes for TJ Yates, but he had some time on the pine and if Kubiak allows him to play his game the Texans will be around next week. Both defenses seem to evenly matched and strong. Texans 20-17
Lions Vs Saints :
SB- This one should be interesting if you like to watch the passing game and there should be plenty of that. Drew Brees set the NFL record for passing this season and he has so many weapons at his disposal. The Saints are awfully tough to beat at home and the place will be rocking. Stafford will put up plenty of yards and points himself, but there is no way, I’d bet against New Orleans this week. Saints 42-31
STC- Not that Drew Brees needs the extra time in the pocket, but having Suh out of will be a factor in the game. Stafford 5038 regular season yards, wow! Who saw that coming? The Saints are undefeated at home and the faithful fans will be there to represent and lift the team to 9 straight wins at home. Better luck next year Lions, hopefully Schwartz will see that allowing your team to play like thugs loses you credibility and game. Saints 35-28
Falcons Vs Giants:
SB- The Giants defensive line is starting to look eerily like the one in 2007, they don’t have to blitz to get a lot of pressure. I think the Falcons will keep in the extra bodies to try to keep them at bay so that Matt Ryan can find Roddy White and Julio Jones downfield.
But the Giants offense has Victor Cruz and a pounding running game, most people forget that Eli Manning nearly passed for 5000 (4933) yards himself this season, lost in the hoopla of Brees, Brady and Stafford doing it. Giants 30-24
STC- The Falcons are too tough on defense for even Eli to overcome. Yes, they are called the Dirty Birds for a reason, but when you back it up on both sides of the ball this wins games. We will have to see how Ryan leads the offense vs. Eli and if Eli can get the ball to his own teammates this game. Could be time to put the closed for season sign up in the Meadowlands. Falcons 24-21
Steelers Vs Broncos:
SB- The Broncos enter having lost three straight, not exactly the way to enter the playoffs and draw the Steelers who are without Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Clark who can’t play in the altitude because of a medical condition related to sickle cell. Ben Roethlisberger “suffered a setback” with his ankle injury, complete with him limping through the locker room this week as it was opened up for the media. Don’t buy it… He’ll be just fine and so will the Steelers.
They’ll stop the Denver option running game and put points up to where that won’t even be an option in the second half. The Pittsburgh passing game is potent and the Broncos have holes in their secondary. I think Pittsburgh’s offensive line will keep Von Miller and Elvis Dummerville at bay and they will hit plays down the field. Steelers 31-3
STC- It was a good “run” for the Broncos, but as the running yards when down so did the wins. Tebow has looked shackled the last few weeks and areas were improvement is needed has been obvious. That also goes for improvements in coaching and management, far too many poor decisions. Speaking of shackled is there anything that stops Big Ben? There are numerous injuries on each team, but it’s tough to beat the Steelers in the red zone and by stopping Tebow from playing his red zone offense game it could be a very long game for Bronco fans. The only possible scenario that I can see benefiting the Broncos is to use Brady Quinn and shift Tim to Fullback and TE to confuse the defense, but I do not think Fox is a good enough coach to call these plays. Steelers 35-20
Check back next week as we’ll pick all the divisional playoff games and we’ll know who will be playing in the conference championship games soon.
Listen in to our radio podcast Patriots 4th & 2 on Tuesday night as host Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, Damien Jarrett and I will be going on all the latest and greatest with the Pats as they prepare for the playoffs