I like the home teams in this one. Just like in the last round, I think the home field is an advantage and I see that playing out.
New Orleans at Minnesota
The Vikings had a week off that allowed QB Daunte Culpepper's ankle to heal. I like them over the Saints. The Saints' season highlight may have been beating the Rams last weekend. I think the Vikings will get it done even though that defense isn't very good. Their offense is good enough to overcome the defensive shortcomings and beat the Saints and get them into the NFC title game. As Chris Carter said, "Defense doesn't necessarily win championships."
|Randy Moss' speed will kill the Saints.|
Saints head coach Jim Haslett is playing the cards dealt to him. The Saints have played through what should have been devastating injuries on offense and defense. Haslett had a good defense when he took over that team. He just made it a better defense. According to Carter, the Vikings spent their free agency money on their offense. That's the difference between the two -- it's offense against defense coming up this weekend. So, I like the Vikings, provided Culpepper is healthy.
Philadelphia at New York
All-for-one beats one-for-all. The Giants, as a team, are better than Eagles' QB Donovan McNabb. Philadelphia has a great defense and Mr. McNabb. But the Giants are probably the most balanced team in the NFC. They're not flashy, fancy or scary but you look up and they've won. I believe that will happen against the Eagles. Yep, the NFC title game will be played at the Meadowlands. If you say you saw that one coming in August, you're a football genius.
Baltimore at Tennessee
Titans vs. Ravens may be a game that you actually get bruised while watching on TV. These two will beat each other up. I've been on the Ravens' bandwagon the entire season and it wouldn't be to fair to jump off now. But I do view the Titans as the most balanced team in the AFC. As Marshall Faulk said, "It's tougher to beat that team the second time around." That's why he viewed the Titans as a better team -- as a team who can beat the Ravens. If they played in Baltimore, I would take the Ravens but they're playing in Tennessee. It's hard to go against the Ravens but that's how evenly matched these two teams are. I think they match up better than any other two teams in the playoffs right now as far as special teams, running backs, wide receivers, coaches, everything about them. The difference is Air-McNair and Trent Dilfer. McNair can win a game and the Ravens just ask Dilfer not to lose a game. So, I like the Titans to advance to the AFC title game.
Miami at Oakland
I think the Raiders will win at home. Sure the Dolphins are coming off an emotional win but they have to cross the country and face a rested and hungry Raiders team. Oakland will do what the Colts couldn't and that is concentrate on shutting down Lamar Smith. They'll at least try to contain him and make Jay Fiedler rise up. I don't think Fiedler and that Miami wide receiving corps is good enough. The Dolphins defense will keep them in the game but I think that John Gruden will find a way to win this game. Or Rich Gannon will find a way to win this game. It won't be pretty but I think the Raiders will win and play the Titans for the Super Bowl.