Is there a better definition of “Man Up” than someone taking all four road teams in Round 1? On paper, the idea seems more doomed than “Season of the Witch” with Nic Cage. But just hear me out …
Saints (-10.5) over SEAHAWKS
Once Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas were scratched, that left the Saints with Reggie Bush and Julius Jones … which would be fine if it were 2006. Can they protect a double-digit lead without a quality running game? And can you really lay double digits with a banged-up southern dome team playing outdoors, on the West Coast, in the league’s loudest football stadium? Actually, you can. Covering a double-digit line isn’t THAT daunting. The 12 2010 playoff teams won 131 games; a whopping 55 of them (42 percent) came by 11-plus points. If you’re worried about laying 10½, imagine backing this lousy Seattle team, then being stuck with Matt Hasselbeck trailing by 14 and getting blitzed to smithereens … with Drew Brees standing on the other sideline. No thanks. Besides, Playoff Manifesto rules say that you can’t pick a playoff team to cover unless you also believe it can win. I don’t think Seattle can win.
The pick: Saints 30, Seahawks 13
Jets (+2.5) over COLTS
This reminds me of the Ravens-Patriots blowout last January: Some picked the Patriots solely because of Brady and Belichick, and unfortunately, reputations don’t win playoff games. As we found out. Saying “you can’t bet against Manning at night” isn’t good enough anymore. His team stinks. They have two ends who can rush the passer, two receivers who can get deep and that’s about it. Meanwhile, the Jets spent the offseason building their roster for this game specifically — if they blow it, they’d be remembered as the biggest collection of frauds and posers in recent New York sports history. And this is a city that has the Mets.
The pick: Jets 34, Colts 20
Ravens (-3) over CHIEFS
Because Baltimore looks so damned obvious in this one, I may have drifted toward the Chiefs if not for (A) coaching dissension (I hate distractions come playoff time); (B) Dwayne Bowe’s health (by all accounts, iffy); (C) the way Oakland’s front seven manhandled them last Sunday (a thorough whupping); and (D) their 2010 schedule of creampuffs, which is mindboggling if you stare at it long enough. Do you realize they played Carolina seven times? Fine, it just seemed like it. I can’t see the Chiefs hanging unless it’s one of those goofy “Flacco throws a red-zone pick, McGahee coughs up a goal-line fumble, McCluster breaks a kickoff, Charles breaks a 75-yard run”-type games. Besides, doesn’t a Round 2 with Jets-Patriots and Ravens-Steelers feel almost preordained?
The pick: Ravens 24, Chiefs 10
Packers (+2.5) over EAGLES
I like Rodgers a little more than Vick. That’s really it. Everything else feels like a crapshoot: two banged-up teams, two explosive passing offenses, two teams that wear green and love to commit dumb penalties, two coaches capable of a perplexing decision at any given time. That brings me to my one bold prediction for the weekend: Who better to break our virginity with the new overtime rules than Andy Reid and Mike McCarthy? Doesn’t it have to play out that way? Throwing those semi-confusing overtime rules at Reid and McCarthy is going to be like cramming a hunk of peanut butter on the roof of a dog’s mouth. I can’t wait.
The pick: Packers 40, Eagles 34 (OT)
Last Week: 6-10
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com and the author of the recent New York Times No. 1 best-seller “The Book of Basketball,” now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, check out Sports Guy’s World or the BS Report page. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33.