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NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview - A Peek Into the "Other" Games This Weekend (Part 2/2)

Arizona at New Orleans:

Date/Location: Saturday, 4:30 PM  -  Superdome  - New Orleans, LA.

Line: Opening Line (Saints -7) / Current Line (Saints- 7)

Stat of the Game:

  • The Cardinals forced only one punt last weekend in their game against the Packers.


  • Despite all of the criticism towards the Saints defense, they rank #1 in takeaways in the NFL with 2.4/game. Arizona plays right into that, as they rank 30th with 2.1 giveaways/game.

Key Matchup(s):

  • Drew Brees's Passing Attack vs Arizona's 28th-ranked Pass Defense.
  • Arizona DL vs New Orleans OL : New Orleans has been great in pass protection and they rank 4th as they have allowed only 1.3 sacks/game. On the other side of the ball, Arizona's defense is predicated on getting pressure on the opposing QB and they rank #3 in total sacks @ 2.8/game. They will have to protect Brees and give him a window to throw the ball out of.


On gameday, it will mark 33 days since the previously 12-0 Saints have won a football game. Analysts are referring to them as the coldest team heading into the playoffs, as they started out red-hot but come into Saturday's matchup as losers of their last three regular season games.

The Saints face the benefit of facing a team that just participated in the highest scoring game in NFL postseason history, and on top of that is coming off a short week. The game was 3.5 hours in duration, and may take a toll on Arizona's defense as the game rolls on.

Gregg William's defense will be throwing a lot of different looks at Arizona , but veteran Kurt Warner will try to counter with getting the football out of his hands quickly (which he has excelled in). Williams has been saving a lot of these blitzes for awhile, and he will now be able to unleash some exotic ones as he finally has starting CB's Greer and Porter back healthy (something he hasn't had since week 8). You can't blitz if you don't trust your secondary in man-coverage.

The Saints rank #1 offensively in both points/game, and yards/game. They also rank #3 in passing yards/game. I respect Warner and Arizona's passing attack, but I worry about the consistency of the young RB's Wells and Hightower. To beat the Saints, opponents need a strong power running game to punch them in the mouth and keep Brees off the field.

The SuperDome is an extremely tough venue for teams to come into and win, and I don't think they can trade scores with New Orleans who has a more balanced attack and too many weapons.

Saints 34, Cards 26.

Baltimore at Indianapolis:

Date/Location:  Saturday, 8:15 PM  -  Lucas Oil Stadium  - Indianapolis, Ohio.

Opening Line/Current Line: Opening Line (Colts -7) / Current Line (Colts -6)

Stat of the game:

  • In the Ravens win last week, QB Joe Flacco had less completions (4) than Kurt Warner had TD's against Green Bay (5)


  • Peyton Manning has never lost to the Ravens (7-0 career).
  • Ravens are 8-4 all-time in playoffs, 6-2 on Road.

Key Matchup:

  • Peyton Manning and his pass-balanced offense that throws 37.6 times/game (#2 in NFL) vs Ravens #7-ranked pass defense (202 ypg).


 This game features Indy's prolific, #6-ranked offense (26.0 PPG) and the AP's Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning  vs the Ravens #3-ranked defense (16.2 PPG).

Indy has  one of the best pass-blocking O-Lines and they  are ranked #1 in pass protection- allowing only 13 sacks and 36 hits on their QBs all season. When Peyton Manning has time to sit in the pocket, he is dangerous and picks secondaries apart.

I respect the Baltimore duo of RB's Rice/McGahee and think the Ravens will be able to run the football effectively, but QB Flacco's hip injury has limited both his mobility and performance in their passing game.

And for Indy, how will rookie WR's Garcon and Collie fare? Both of them have had exceptional seasons, but are young and playing in the biggest game of their careers coming off a layoff. The Ravens have been a benefactor of a lot of tipped balls leading to INT's, which is why they rank #5 in takeaways at 2.1/game. These youngins have to rise above the pressure and hold onto the football.

While the Ravens run-game and defense will keep them in the game, I think the Colts have something to prove this year, and will look to their MVP/4th quarter specialist to seal this victory late.

Colts 26, Ravens 20

Dallas at Minnesota:

Date/Location:  Sunday, 1 PM  -  Metrodome  - Minneapolis, Minn.

Opening Line/Current Line: Opening Line (Vikings -2.5) / Current Line (Vikings -3)


  • Last weekend against the Eagles, Dallas won their first playoff game since 1996.

Stat/Trend of the game:

  • In Brett Favre's last 7 road games (including playoff games) when the game-time temperature is 37 degrees or below, Favre's team has lost. Good thing he has the benefit of playing in his dome on Sunday.

Key Matchup:

  • Minny's efficient, #4-ranked red zone offense (62.3%) against Dallas's poor, 25th-ranked red zone defense (57.6%). All 11 of Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe's TD receptions have come in the red zone.


These teams are so evenly matched it's not even funny, and this game should be competitive from start to finish.  This matchup pits Minnesota's #2 rush defense in the NFL vs the NFC's #2 best power-rushing attack (Carolina being #1).

Dallas is red-hot and has had the benefit of a +6 turnover margin over their Last 4 games (4-0 record), and Adrian Peterson has had issues with ball security and leads the league's RB this years with 7 fumbles lost. The Cowboys will be looking to strip him whenever possible.

Dallas K Sean Suisham has been awful under pressure this year and will be in a tough environment in the MetroDome with 60,000+ screaming Vikings fans, and I look for him to shank a big kick and continue Dallas's tendency to choke in the playoffs.

Favre and the Vikings are very tough to beat in their dome where they are 8-0 this year, and a Longwell FG wins this one late. While Favre is 0-3 career against the Cowboys, he bucks the trend and gets the W on Sunday.

Vikes 23, Dallas 21

For the Jets matchup... Please view my post earlier in the week HERE