Wild Card weekend gave us a humbled Tony Romo, the last of Tiki Barber and Mangini hugging Belichek. Now the fun begins.
One of the perks of being GT sports editor is that I have last shot at the line moves late Monday afternoon (aka deadline day). A 4:45 p.m. check produced some interesting changes for this weekend’s NFL Divisional round, often called the most exciting of the NFL season.
The MGM Mirage raised San Diego to a 5-point favorite over New England, up from the opening -4Â½. The Mirage also went with New Orleans at -5 over the visiting Philadelphia Eagles. The opening line was Saints -4.
The other divisional round matchups were Baltimore -4 hosting Indianapolis and Chicago -8Â½ hosting Seattle.
So, we advance to Round 2 attempting to wipe away a 1-3 slate that was highlighted by the Giants’ comeback cover as a 7-point dog at Philadelphia. We’ll no doubt hear every mindless take on why the Giants failed. The bottom line: Tied 20-20, the G-men defense could not get the ball back. David Akers boots the FG with :03 and Philly wins 23-20.
End of story. Now we continue, knowing teams off bye weeks usually win 80 percent of the time and cover well over 60.
Colts +4 at Ravens: Indy a rare underdog. It’s old Baltimore vs. new. A gift to a city that went berserk when old man Irsay packed an historic franchise into a moving van and shipped it to Indianapolis. Imagine what Unitas, Berry, Marchetti, Moore, Orr, Mackey must have thought. This is Baltimore chance at redemption. Woe be Peyton Manning when the Ravens defense unloads.
It’s an event Baltimore has waited two decades for. A chance to release the ghosts and deliver the groin shot to the Irsay family. Much the way Cleveland feels about Art Modell taking the Browns to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens. As for the game, it comes down Steve McNair showing why the Ravens spent millions for his services at QB. I say McNair comes up big and so does the D. Manning has been lukewarm and will come undone under constant pressure. Three picks last week not a good sign. RAVENS.
Eagles +5 at Saints: Many believe Drew Brees will have a field day against the Eagles secondary and the Saints innovative offensive will flourish. Not so fast. Garcia is on a six-game run and all the playoff experience is with Philly. I see the Eagles as a very live dog. After all, these are the Saints. EAGLES.
SUNDAYSeahawks +8Â½ at Bears: A big line, but it should be. Dallas should have been at Soldier Field, not Seattle. Chicago just has to take care of the football and allow the defense and special teams to win it. Whatever Grossman does to help will be a plus. The Bears will stuff Alexander and force Hasselbeck to throw 40 and a few picks. BEARS.
Patriots +5 at Chargers: The last time these old AFL rivals met in a playoff game was 1963. The days of Lincoln, Lowe and Parilli. I’m not prepared to get against Tom Brady against a playoff rookie in Rivers. The Pats have to find a way to contain LT, but Belichek against Marty is no contest. Chargers may win, but not by 5. PATS.