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- K Dawg's Divisional Playoff Preview

Kevin Figgers January 13, 2007
Kevin Figgers
NFL Columnist

Tell Kevin your opinion.

Yes, after a long (and seemingly complicated)hiatus, your favorite and ever so positive prognosticator is back. And just in time for the best part of the NFL season. But just because I haven't been around doesn't mean that I haven't been keeping up the league. Lets take a look at some of the events that have transpired since we last convened:

- The Philadelphia Eagles got hot and are in the midst of a serious playoff run.

- The New York Giants tanked and backed into the playoffs, only to be ousted by the aforementioned birds.

- The Oakland Raiders finally won something! The first pick in the draft! Yay!

- Nick Saban said he was staying in Miami and left for Alabama

- Jim Mora Jr. exclaims that he would love to coach at the University of Washington, then says he was just joking, then his team missed the playoffs (PLAYOFFS?!!), and then he was fired.

Now that the regular season and the warm-up (i.e. wild card) round is over, the real games begin. And we are going to break it all down for you right now. Starting with the NFC:

We will start down in the "dirty-dirty" (as the kids say) in the great city of New Orleans. The Saints welcome in the surprisingly hot Philadelphia Eagles under the wing of veteran, left-for-dead- QB Jeff Garcia. The Saints started the home schedule on a strong note, winning their first three. However they really struggled down the stretch losing four of their last five in the dome. While the Eagles, after a .500 start to the season at 4-4, have since reeled off a 7-2 mark (including the wild card victory over the Giants) and are the hottest team in the NFC.

Although the Eagles are playing extremely well, they will have to enter a very hostile environment without one of their best defensive players in cornerback Lito Sheppard. Not a situation you’d like to be in when facing the leagues best offense on the road. Saints head coach Sean Payton was the offensive coordinator in the NFC East for 5 years and knows the Eagles defense inside and out. The Eagles offense has been very solid and efficient throughout this run, but they won’t be able to score enough points to keep up with the high-flying Saints.

My pick: New Orleans Saints

Next we we’ll jet up to the windy city where the Chicago Bears try to stave off the happy-to-be-alive Seattle Seahawks. Of course, when you talk about the Chicago Bears one name comes up: Rex Grossman. Seemingly everyone has already determined in their mind that if the Bears lose, it will be on his head (and rightfully so). The erratic one will be the key to the Bears success in this game. Seattle comes in still with a banged up secondary and an oft non-existent pass rush (lest they blitz). If Seattle is to win this game, they must keep the Bears defense on of the field. If Seattle can get into a rhythm with a short, efficient passing game, they can score some points on the Bears defense. I’m not talking 3o to 40 points, but possibly in the mid 20’s. And then the pressure is put right on the shoulders of Grossman. The banged up Seahawks defense did a more than admirable job against one of the top scoring offenses in the NFL last week in the Dallas Cowboys. And if they can muster up that kind of effort again, it could be an upset in the making. And of course, there’s the aspect of the game that no one ever mentions, and that’s special teams. I think the performance of the Seahawks coverage units will go a long way in determining their fate in this game. The Seahawks will find a way to move the ball on that defense, score some points and make Rex beat them, which we know he won’t

My pick: Seattle Seahawks

Over to the AFC now and a battle of the former Baltimore team versus the newest edition, the Colts versus the Ravens. The Indianapolis Colts posted probably the most disappointing 12-4 record in NFL history. They were the only team to win 12 games and allow over 100 yards rushing in every win. The defense came up big in the wild card round as Peyton Manning and the offense trudged along until putting it away in the 4th quarter. The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the most consistent teams all season long, yet a lot of people don’t talk about them. They boast the leagues best defense, with impact players like Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Chris McAllister, while sporting a very efficient offense, led by former NFL MVP Steve McNair. The Colts were able to survive an abysmal offensive performance from the Chiefs in the wild card round and get a win. I don’t see it happening this week. The Colts defense was able to feed off the energy of the crowd and come up with a Herculean performance last week. But on the road, in the cold in Baltimore, with a physical offensive line, I see Jamal Lewis having a big day. Peyton Manning looked terrible against an average Kansas City defense last week. I don’t expect it to get much better for him, playing against the leagues best defense. I like Baltimore…BIG.

My pick: Baltimore Ravens in a rout

And that brings us to the game of the week. To sunny San Diego we go as the best team in the NFL (record wise) the San Diego Chargers, host the New England Patriots. The Chargers have been the best team in the NFL this season bar none. They have been met with every kind of challenge imaginable and have answered the bell every time. The New England Patriots (like the Ravens) spent most of the regular season just playing along, under the radar. And then all of a sudden, people look up and say “Wow, the Pats are 12-4?” How fans can still turn a blind eye to the Patriots after 3 Superbowl victories is beyond me. But after a convincing win against the Jets last week, the Pats are faced with their toughest challenge of the season. Last season when these two teams met, NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and his runner up Drew Brees embarrassed the Pats on their own home field. But that was last year, in the regular season, with a veteran quarterback. Now the Chargers are playing the Patriots in the playoffs, with a first year starter who has struggled since the end of November. This is a very tough game to call but I am going to say that Marty Schottenheimer wins his first playoff game in his last 6 tries. Riding on the shoulders of the league’s most valuable player and a young and fast defense, I think the Chargers will defeat the veteran New England Patriots in a close game.

My pick: San Diego Chargers

I’ll be back next week with my AFC and NFC Championship game predictions.

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