NFL football playoffs - Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis - 01-16-10

Jan 16, 2010 7:48 PM


NFL playoffs:

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints -7 (total 56½): The Cardinals come into this match-up flying high after their dramatic, shoot-out win over Green Bay, while the Saints strive to play a meaningful game after finishing the regular season with three straight losses plus two games they looked vulnerable in. Arizona with Kurt Warner at quarterback have been solid on the road this season (6-2) and they’re experienced – they shut down Carolina last season in the post season en route to the Super Bowl. Despite the likely loss of Anquan Boldin for today’s game, the Cards have a deep receiving corps as Steve Breaston and Early Doucet stepped in admirably last week for Boldin, to augment the stellar play of All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards should also move the ball effectively, at least enough to take some pressure off Warner, with Chris "Beanie" Wells and Tim Hightower running the ball. New Orleans hasn’t looked really sharp since late November. They should have lost to the Redskins and were miserable against Tampa Bay in their home dome. Their offense, just like Green Bay’s last week, should be able to score, but their secondary has been vulnerable to good passing attacks, which Arizona certainly has with Warner and company. The Saints’ hope of stopping Arizona probably hinges on its defense creating turnovers, which they’ve feasted on all season. But Arizona has been in this spot before and they somehow come up with whatever they need – in this case, an effective running attack and bend-but-don’t-break defense – to win the game. Arizona +7 and OVER the total of 56½


Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts -6½ (total 44): The Ravens are brimming with confidence after their dismantling of New England last week, while the Colts will find out whether sitting their starters extensively has taken some of their edge away. It’s not likely with Peyton Manning running the offense, and the team is definitely rested for the hard-hitting Ravens defense. A huge question mark in this contest is the physical condition of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw just 10 passes last week against the Patriots. They didn’t really need any more, since Ray Rice and Willis


McGahee were shredding the Patriots defense and the Ravens defense was forcing turnovers. Nonetheless, Flacco was nursing a hip injury that might hamper his mobility, which is not good versus a Colts defense that will apply much more pressure than the Patriots’ defense. Both defenses, in fact, will make it hard on their opponents, probably keeping scoring to a minimum. If there’s an area of vulnerability for the Ravens, it’s on the corners, so it’s crucial for the pass rush to force Manning to make quick reads and decisions. If not, expect a lot of short, hand-off like passes, which should chew up a lot of clock. Without a slew of big plays, this game should be relatively tight. Ravens +6½ and UNDER 44.