SI.com's NFL writers forecast the divisional playoffs
Posted: Wednesday January 10, 2007 2:34PM; Updated: Wednesday January 10, 2007 6:57PM
IND @ BAL
PHI @ NO
SEA @ CHI
NE @ SD
Flawed as the Colts may be, I can't desert my Super Bowl pick now. Peyton Manning gets hot and finds a way to beat a great Ravens defense. Colts 27, Ravens 24
The Cinderella stories in this year's playoffs meet, and stage a back-and-forth affair that won't be settled until midnight approaches (in the East). Saints 31, Eagles 27
The stout Bears defense will take charge of the game, and Rex Grossman will do just enough to quiet the critics and keep his job for another week. Bears 23, Seahawks 13
On paper, the Patriots shouldn't be able to stay on the field with the Chargers. But this is where Bill Belichick and Tom Brady make the difference. Patriots 34, Chargers 31
If the Chiefs defense can stifle Peyton Manning at home, imagine what the Ravens defense can do with him on the road. Ravens 21, Colts 10
The Superdome was raucous for the Saints' first regular season game since Hurricane Katrina. It will be even louder for their first postseason game since 2001. Saints 24, Eagles 20
The Bears still have a bitter taste in their mouths after last season's early playoff exit. They won't let that happen two years in a row. Bears 31, Seahawks 20
Bill Belichick has a gift for rattling young quarterbacks making their first playoff appearances. Remember Ben Roethlisberger in 2005 and Byron Leftwich last season?
Patriots 21, Chargers 20
Before the season, I predicted that Steve McNair's Ravens would land in the Super Bowl. But I can't pick against an Indy offense bent on redemption. Plus, Baltimore's nifty record masks offensive issues that will surface against a suddenly confident Colts defense. Colts 30, Ravens 20
The magical ride must end for one of the two teams. A hint came last week when Jeff Garcia looked more like the Detroit/Cleveland version. Expect Drew Brees's Saints, with the snubbed ROY Marques Colston, to exploit the Lito Sheppard-less Eagles. Saints 27, Eagles 17
The disparity won't be as wide as Chicago's 37-6 spanking in Week 4. Nonetheless, against a sturdy defense, Seattle won't come close enough to exploit another hit-the-lottery-like choke job by an opponent. Bears 24, Seahawks 10
Although the focus is understandably on Belichick's defense vs. LT., look for Antonio Gates to give an emphatic reminder that he's the game's premier tight end. Containing LT AND Gates won't be quite the same as stopping Chris Baker and Leon Washington.
Chargers 21, Patriots 13
Classic game. Bart Scott becomes
unblockable enemy number one for the Colts. I guarantee you by 7
o'clock Saturday night we'll all be singing the praises of Ravens
defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Ravens 23, Colts 20
I'm sure Drew Brees is no
injury-wisher, but the loss of cornerback Lito Sheppard to a dislocated
elbow is a huge one for the Eagles. Rod Hood and
Joselio Hanson, get ready for your closeups. Brees will find you. Saints 27, Eagles 16
Repeat after me, Bears Nation: Grossman's
fine, Grossman's fine. Don't believe it, do you? Neither do I.
He'll be on a short leash. If Brian Griese were playing well, Lovie
Smith would have quite a decision.
Bears 20, Seahawks 10
Tom Brady's just got that look about
him right now. The Pats might not be dominating the way they did two or three years ago, but remember this: They won their three Super Bowls by three points apiece. Patriots 16, Chargers 14
Larry Johnson couldn't run on Indy. But Jamal Lewis -- remember him? --
will move the chains amid more moving-van references than anyone can
Ravens 23, Colts 21
Disquietingly subdued all year, Joe Horn has been waiting for a moment
like this to remind people he's still a big-time player. Watch out,
Chicago: The Saints are coming... and they're not messing around.
Saints 30, Eagles 27
After battling gamely to survive what may forever be known as the Romo
Bowl, the defending NFC champs have their flaws exposed by the Bears'
defense, and Rex Grossman has a decent game (as he does every other
week).Bears 24, Seahawks 13
Quietly, the Pats had the league's second stingiest scoring defense. Bill Belichick will confuse Philip Rivers and dare
Marty Schottenheimer to take his shots (not one of Marty's strong suits). In the end, it is all about Brady. Patriots 20, Chargers 19
Will the Colts' pinching defense be able to control Steve McNair and Jamal Lewis the way it did the Chiefs? No, but I think Indy will outscore them.
Colts 31, Ravens 27
Courage runs strong in this Eagles team, and they might effect a miraculous regeneration by next Saturday, but I think the Saints will pull ahead in the late going.
Saints 27, Eagles 20
The Bears will run the ball and throw downfield, as they've done all season, and their defense will be a little too much for Hasselbeck and Alexander.
Bears 26, Seahawks 17
When the playoffs come around, some sort of mysticism surrounds the Patriots and Tom Brady and Belichick, but I'll go the dull route and play the over.
Chargers 34, Patriots 31
The Ravens' defense is the best in football, which means Peyton Manning is
a playoff underdog after all those years as a failed favorite. He'll like the new role
and skillfully manage the upset.
Colts 28, Ravens 27
The Saints have played in only six postseason games in their 40-year history.
They have won just one. But behind Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and Sean Payton, they
will double that total against the battle-weary Eagles. Saints 31, Eagles 20
All of Chicago wonders whether they will get the Good Rex or the Bad Rex on
Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. Fortunately, they are only playing the
Seahawks, so even the Mediocre Rex will advance the Bears.Bears 20, Seahawks 10
It's popular this week to line up behind the surging and Super Bowl-tested Patriots and to take Belichick against Schottenheimer, who has never been at
his best in the playoffs. No matter. The Chargers are better. Chargers 27, Patriots 16