Even in the playoffs, it’s rare we’re treated to four incredible match-ups in the same weekend, but starting Jan. 16, this year will be a welcome exception. The Ravens, exploding with confidence and hungry for more, take their purple show to Indianapolis, where the Colts weren’t impressing the league even before they gave up the last two games of the regular season. And that’s just game 1.
Colts are a 6.5-point favorite, a very carefully studied and chosen line that requires some closer analyzation. The previous meeting between these two saw Indy barely escape from Baltimore with a 17-15 victory. That was toward the beginning of the time the Ravens got serious about their season and started playing like they weren’t guaranteed a playoff spot. Still, though, they couldn’t handle the Colts’ defensive pressure, and although the box score looked like a mirror between the two teams, the Ravens were unable to put up anything but a series of field goals…at home. This was also a game Manning had one TD and 2 picks, a performance not many people expect to be repeated. So it comes down to whether the Colts can win by a touchdown at home. Believe it or not, both defenses will have their work cut out for them – in a game where it’ll likely take 30 points or more to get the win. The Ravens handled that last week, but against a shell of what the Patriots defense used to be. Will Peyton play like an MVP? You better believe it. No Ray Rice is keeping the Colts from advancing, nor will it be as close as many might think. Colts cover.
And how about Saints hosting the soon-to-be-Warnerless Cardinals. A similar line in this one with the Saints enjoying a 7-point advantage. They two will get a fresh look at each other, as they didn’t play at all during the regular season. That’s always a dangerous proposition for a gambler, but with the makeup of these two teams, I feel confident in making a football bet knowing more or less what we’ll see.
And that will be offense and more offense. No surprise. Arizona took it to Green Bay in an OT shootout, and to the Packers credit, Rodgers has been one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the league this year, finding ways to scramble and score despite being sacked 25,000 times. (Green Bay, pick up an O line during the winter, OK?) But the Saints are not the Packers, and you can’t play the shootout game with Drew Brees. If it’s not Colston on a deep threat, it’s Henderson on the other side (only 2 TDs this year but nearly as many yards as Colston with 804). Reggie Bush, when/if healthy, must get defensive attention, as well. And then you’ve got Pierre Thomas establishing himself nicely as a first option to keep the defense honest. And if that weren’t enough, Jeremy Shockey can’t be ignored, either.
I wouldn’t expect another insane performance from the non-name receivers after LJ, and you can bet New Orleans is watching much Warner on tape this week to avoid the same defensive embarrassment Green Bay just suffered. So the Saints need to win this more or less by two scores, which I expect them to do. Saints cover.