Divisional picks: Vikings, Saints, Chargers and Colts will advance

By Doug Halberstadt

Sports Columnist

Despite tying the game in the final minutes of regulation, despite scoring 45 points and despite winning the coin toss to secure possession of the ball in the overtime period, the Green Bay Packers still managed to lose their Wild Card game against the Arizona Cardinals 51-45 last Sunday (Jan. 10).

The Packers can now join the Bears and the Lions in watching their NFC North Division rivals the Minnesota Vikings host the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday (Jan. 17) in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

A big part of the Vikings’ success this season is the result of the resurgence of former Packers quarterback Brett Favre. When he wasn’t handing off to running back Adrian Peterson, he was throwing to wide receiver Sidney Rice, both bound for this year’s Pro Bowl. The other big reason the Vikings won the NFC North title and earned the No. 2 seed in the playoffs is a huge defensive line anchored by another Pro Bowl-bound player, defensive end Jared Allen. The Vikings are undefeated at home this season.

I think Favre, Peterson, Rice, Allen and the rest of the Vikings and their home-field advantage will prove too much for the Cowboys. I predict Favre will throw for three touchdowns, Peterson will run for another, and the defense will score another. That should equate to a 35-24 win for Minnesota.

In the other NFC Divisional game, the Arizona Cardinals travel to the Big Easy to face Pro Bowl-bound quarterback Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints. The Saints lost their final three games of the regular season. The Cardinals are fresh from their overtime win last Sunday against the Packers.

I think the Cardinals proved their defense is suspect during last Sunday’s Wild Card game. Brees no doubt saw the exact same thing. He’ll exploit those weaknesses while leading his team to a big win.

In the AFC games, I’m going with both home teams. The Chargers host the Jets. San Diego finished the regular season by winning 11 straight games. They are the hottest team in the league. The Jets limped into the playoffs by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in the final week of the regular season. They managed to upset the Bengals in the Wild Card game. I think their luck will run out this week against the Chargers. I say San Diego by two touchdowns.

In the other AFC game, the Indianapolis Colts host the Baltimore Ravens. The Colts have 2009 NFL MVP Peyton Manning leading them against the Ravens. For that reason alone, I like the Colts. He’ll have his favorite targets, tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Reggie Wayne, to try to outsmart the Ravens’ secondary. I think the Colts have the upper hand and will win 34-21.

In week one of the playoffs, I picked three of the four games correctly. The Packers kept me from having a perfect record. People wonder why I hate that team.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

From the Jan. 13-19, 2010 issue.

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