Atlanta 33, Arizona 17. Obviously, it's hard to not sing the praises of Matt Ryan, the Offensive Player of the Year. Let's look at how Ryan performed on the road in the most hostile of environments, in games at 2008 playoffs teams: lost at Carolina and Philly, won at San Diego and Minnesota. Total interceptions: two. Total time sacked: six. Ben Roethlisberger on the road against playoff teams this year: 1-2, two picks, 11 sacks. My point is, I don't think Ryan flew cross-country Thursday night thinking to himself: "Gee, this game's going to be too big for me.''
Indianapolis 29, San Diego 23. The Chargers have the best shot of any home 'dog to win this weekend. Peyton Manning is on a ridiculous late-season run, but Philip Rivers might be individually hotter (11 touchdowns, one interception in San Diego's 4-0 December). While I don't think the Colts will go into this game thinking it might be the swan song for Tony Dungy, who is expected to ride off into the real-world sunset after the season, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the trusted defensive vets like Dwight Freeney goes around to his guys when things get hot late in the game and says we're not letting our guy go down like this again, in the first game of the playoffs.
Baltimore 16, Miami 6. They played in Week 7, at Miami, and Baltimore won 27-13. Lesson from that game: Chad Pennington was an efficient 68-percent passer, and the Wildcat gave the Fish nothing. They ran it five times, for minus-one, five, zero, minus-three and three yards. Pennington will try to test Baltimore's corners a few times downfield, and his success or failure will determine the outcome. My view, obviously, is that the Comeback Player of the Year will not have one final comeback in him Sunday. Too much front-seven pressure from the unpredictable Ravens.
Philadelphia 20, Minnesota 13. You put Brad Childress on sodium pentathol, and he'll tell you he wishes he didn't have to run Adrian Peterson so much this year (363 times), helping him to a bad ankle entering the second season. He'll admit it was about right to have Peterson and Chester Taylor combine for 464 carries, but Peterson running it 78 percent of those carries was just too much. Well, forget that now. The Vikes have to get on Peterson's back one more time to have a good chance here, and I say the Eagles -- better than you think against the run, 3.5 yards per opposing carry -- will hold the gimpy Peterson under 80.
No more acceptance of mediocrity!!!! EVER!