As the countdown to kickoff winds down, I would be remiss if I failed to go on the record with selections for this round.
So, let’s make it short and sweet.
CIN at HOU: Houston sputtered down the stretch. I expect Gary Kubiak to get back to basics and run, run, run Arian Foster and Ben Tate time and again. Wade Phillips will have the defense dialed up to make things difficult for Andy Dalton. I’ll take the home team.
DET at NO: I picked New Orleans to crash the party in Indianapolis before the season. I see no reason to abandon that selection now. Brees and company are clicking on all cylinders, with Darren Sproles playing the role of “Firestarter.” Go ahead and make the video mix to his highlights – just give me a little nod for planting the idea. My gut says that Gregg Williams’ secondary gets active today to frustrate Stafford. New Orleans advances.
ATL at NYG: I hear all of the chatter about the 2007 playoff run for the Giants and a possible repeat scenario. Two things have to happen in this game to get that road started. First, the Giants can’t leave balls on the carpet as they did for much of the season (drops played a huge role). Second, the Giants will need to get pressure on Matt Ryan from the front four. If they need to bring extra bodies to try and disrupt the passing game, the depleted secondary will be abused as it was for much of the season. I fear the sight of Julio Jones sprinting free and clear in the secondary, but expect the salsa-dancing Victor Cruz (burn some calories during the game and win the ladies’ hearts by practicing) will match him. Giants advance.
PIT at DEN: Most people I’ve talked to this week have given the Broncos little to no chance of defending their home turf as heavy underdogs. The absences of Maurkice Pouncey, Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Clark shouldn’t be dismissed altogether, and lest we forget, Ben Roethlisberger is still hobbled. My thoughts go out to Pittsburgh running back coach Kirby Wilson, who was injured in fire in his home.
For the Broncos to win this game, it is incumbent upon Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil to get pressure on Roethlisberger and try to force the action. The myriad speed options available to Roethlisberger will be too much for the Denver secondary.
Offensively, I do believe that the Broncos will need to push downfield more, as John Elway suggested earlier in the week. Unless the Broncos mix it up early (maybe some play-action), it could be a long day. The master, Dick LeBeau, will crush the Broncos if they follow the predictable formula.