Friday, January 15, 2010

Divisional Weekend - Saturday Games

Cards at Saints: (Saturday Afternoon)

Right now, Warner and his offense are playing at an exceptionally high level, reminiscent of last year's monster run. He's throwing the ball all over hell and I don't actually see the Saints being able to stop them consistently. The run game is also looking tough, and Wells looks like a developing big-timer. The return of Boldin will help them somewhat if he can play, although he'll clearly be limited if he's out there at all.

That being said, Arizona's defense really is pretty shaky, and this should be what turns this in favor of an explosive Saint offense. Going to overtime with 45 on the board is never a good sign, especially when you're playing at home. The Saints have looked a little erratic but I'm thinking they'll be a little too much for the Arizona defense to stop. They seem like a team that can get a little sloppy against mediocre teams, but gets up for big games. Brees should be able to throw for a solid 300 yards and a couple of TDs. I'm actually expecting a very good game from the New Orleans running backs because you know Arizona's going to have to play a lot of nickel and dime sets. Pierre Thomas should be able to rip off a few big runs.

I think in the end Brees and his guys are able to get a lead and pull away. Warner should be very sharp, so I don't expect many turnovers from either side, although if New Orleans gets up they'll be able to start bringing heavy pressure. I'm guessing it's a pretty high scoring affair, but New Orleans wins it by about a touchdown.

The Pick: New Orleans, 38-30.

Ravens at Colts: (Saturday Night)

Maybe I'm putting too much weight on the Pats/Ravens game from last week, but I really like the chances of the Ravens to pull this out. I see it like this: if you're going to beat the Colts, you need to be able to (1) run the ball (check); (2) bring pressure without blitzing (check); and (3) put touchdowns on the board, not field goals (check).

It's pretty clear that the Ravens are going to try to just run it right at the Colts and try to both break a long one and wear them down. The Colt front 7 is fast, but they aren't a big group and Baltimore is going to be able to wear them down just banging away at them. Teams that have done this have, in general, had pretty good success against the Colts, even if they didn't win. My guess is that this game will be similar to what we saw in the first match-up with these teams, except Baltimore will be able to punch it in a couple of times. Remember, when they played earlier in the season, Baltimore was didn't get a single touchdown in four red zone trips when a single one would have won it. I think Rice and McGahee combine tomorrow for 180 yards and 2 TDs.

People are making a lot about Flacco struggling last week, but it's important to note that he never really had a chance to get into a rhythm because of the big lead. I don't foresee him having a huge game, but he'll be fine and make a few plays on pass action. Probably a final line like 14-20, 185 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.

On the other side, Manning is of course fantastic. The only shortcoming here is that I don't see them being able to run it on the Ravens front 7, a big, strong crew. Wayne's tough, but the other WRs are pretty average and won't draw double teams. Moreover, Baltimore will be able to bring pressure against Manning without blitzing as much as they did last week. Keep in mind that since it's the 3-4, they can rush a linebacker without losing much in the way of coverage because they only have 3 linemen.

Overall, I'm guessing Baltimore comes out early and gets a lead. The Colts haven't played a serious game in about a month, and the Ravens are a team that's riding high with confidence and extremely physical. I'm saying the Ravens lead it 17-10 at the half and hold on for a 27-24 win.

The Pick: Ravens, 27-24.

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