Picking NFL playoff games | NevadaAppeal.com

Picking NFL playoff games

Joe Ellison
Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist

This weekend things get real serious for the National Football League and its fans. All eight remaining teams are battling to determine who will play in next week’s Conference Championship games.

If you love pro football this should be a great weekend, so you might as well just drop everything else and soak in all the action.

Predictions – Rested home teams are 49-11 straight up in the Divisional Playoff round. In 2005 all four home favorites won, and three of them covered the point spread. This year all four games are rematches from earlier in the season.

Washington at Seattle – Last week Washington set a record in futility for the lowest yardage gained by a winning playoff team, with 120. The Redskin defense accounted for both touchdowns in their 17-10 win at Tampa Bay.

Seattle led the NFL in sacks which should help make life even more difficult for the aged ‘Skin quarterback Mark Brunell, who threw for only 41 yards in that game against the Buccs. The Seahawks scored more points this year than any other team in the league, and some Seattle rain will add to the home-field advantage. The bet here is on Seattle -9 1/2 points.

New England at Denver – When the Broncos beat New England last October 16, one-third of the Patriots’ starters were injured. Denver took off to a 28-3 lead before hanging on for a 28-20 victory.

The three-out-of-four-time Super Bowl champion Pats are fairly healthy now, as evidenced by their 28-3 dismantling of Jacksonville last week. Quarterback Tom Brady is a perfect 10-0 in the postseason, while Denver has failed to win a playoff game since some QB named John Elway retired. It goes against the home trend, but the pick is Brady and New England +3.

Pittsburgh at Indianapolis – As predicted here weeks ago, Indianapolis did not finish the season undefeated, and ever since that first loss the Colts have been resting players. The keys to the game should be the timing of Indy’s offense due to the layoffs, and whether or not the recent death of head coach Tony Dungy’s son may have negatively affected them.

Pittsburgh has been a solid road team all year, except when terrible Tommy Maddox was quarterback, and when Ben Roethlisberger came back too early from an injury to play against the Colts in a 26-7 Monday night loss. Chances are Indy will somehow win again to continue the trend, but the gut feeling here is that this game will be much closer. Going with Pittsburgh + 9 1/2.

Carolina at Chicago – Last Sunday Carolina stuffed the New York Giants, holding the NFL’s third-highest scoring team to 132 yards, 5 turnovers and 17 minutes of possession in a 23-0 victory. Chicago allowed a minuscule 61 points at home, including a 13-3 win over Carolina that featured eight Bear sacks and two interceptions. This should be a defensive struggle.

The difference could be at quarterback since last weekend all four of the less experienced ones lost, which would put Chicago’s Rex Grossman at a disadvantage. The Panthers’ Jake Delhomme is 4-1 in the playoffs, and two years ago he led them to the Super Bowl.

Also, this week the Bears have been doing an awful lot of trash talking, displaying their overall lack of playoff experience. Against the trend again, the choices are Carolina +3 and Under 30 1/2.