Well, that was impressive. Both well-rested after first-round byes, the Saints and Colts took care of business on Saturday. The Saints dominated the Cardinals, overwhelming Arizona with 35 first-half points and winning 45-14. The Saints defense was also effective and held Kurt Warner to a mediocre game -- not to mention knocking him out of the game at one point with a huge hit before halftime.
And the Colts shut down the Ravens, 20-3, in another game that seemed decided at halftime (when the Colts led 17-3). Peyton Manning had a solid game (30-44 for 246 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), but the Colts defense was phenomenal, not only holding the Ravens to just three points, but also forcing turnovers, flying around the field, and making solid tackles. The defense forced three turnovers (another was forced by receiver Pierre Garcon on an amazing hustle play to force an Ed Reed fumble after an interception) and held the Ravens to 270 total yards and only 12 first downs. If the Colts defense keeps playing this well, there's no question that they possess strong Super Bowl Odds going forward in the playoffs.
As for my picks yesterday, I went 1-1 (not too bad). I didn't think the Cardinals would get destroyed like that, but I must have underestimated the power of the Superdome.
Here are my picks for the two games today:
Cowboys (+3) over VIKINGS
Which Brett Favre shows up today for the Vikings? And can they get Adrian Peterson going on the ground? I'm not so sure, especially with how well the Cowboys are playing on defense. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I have no idea what's going to happen in this game.
Jets (+8) over CHARGERS
So which team is better? The Chargers, right? They've won 11 games in a row, they have the better quarterback, and they had a first-round bye. Let's compare some regular season statistics:
Points per game scored: Chargers 28.4 (4th); Jets 21.8 (17th)
Passing yards per game: Chargers 271.1 (5th); Jets 148.8 (31st)
Rushing yards per game: Chargers 88.9 (31st); Jets 172.3 (1st)
Points per game allowed: Chargers 20.0 (11th); Jets 14.8 (1st)
Passing yards per game allowed: Chargers 209.3 (11th); Jets 153.7 (1st)
Rushing yards per game allowed: Chargers 117.6 (20th); Jets 98.6 (8th)
Now, after looking at all that, who's the better team? You at least have to think a little bit harder about it. Obviously, stats aren't everything, but it's certainly impressive that the Jets are very good at running the ball and allow the fewest points on defense. The Chargers, on the other hand, score more points, throw the ball more -- and much more effectively -- and are still decent on defense (allowing 20 points per game isn't bad at all).
So what do we have in this game? The Chargers have a great quarterback and, as they should, love to throw the ball and keep the ball in his hands. But they don't particularly run the ball well. They also have a decent defense and led the AFC in turnover differential (+10). The Jets, on the other hand, have a rookie quarterback who threw 20 interceptions during the regular season, but they have an outstanding offensive line and have no problem pounding the ball until the opposing defense breaks. They also have arguably the best defense in the NFL and the best cornerback as well, who will certainly affect the Chargers' passing attack in some way.
I still like the Chargers, but the Jets might be a little better than many people give them credit for (including me). If Mark Sanchez doesn't turn the ball over and the Jets can force a few turnovers, the Jets certainly have a chance. I think the Chargers win at home, but I'm expecting a close game.
Regular season: 132-116-8
Overall record: 134-120-8