| Mark Maske's Divisional Playoff Picks |
Web Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2004; 3:33 p.m. EST
Jets at Steelers
It was a struggle for the Steelers to beat the Jets when these clubs played at Heinz Field during the regular season. Pittsburgh needed to resort to a trick play, a halfback option pass by Jerome Bettis that went for a touchdown, to break open a tight game. The Jets have to feel better about quarterback Chad Pennington's shoulder after last weekend's win in San Diego. But the Steelers are healthy and rested, and they can win many ways. They won't admit it, but they're undoubtedly happy not to have to face the Chargers this weekend.
Rams at Falcons
The Rams won their final two regular-season games to sneak into the playoffs, and continued their resurgence with Saturday's playoff triumph at Seattle. Their offense is gaining depth and balance with the contributions of rookie tailback Steven Jackson and second-tier wideouts Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald. But they simply don't have the defense to deal with Michael Vick. If they could go on the road and win consistently against playoff-caliber teams, they wouldn't have been 8-8 during the regular season.
Vikings at Eagles
Minnesota gave Philadelphia a tough early-season test at Lincoln Financial Field, losing largely because of quarterback Daunte Culpepper's fumble at the goal line and Coach Mike Tice's failure to challenge a touchdown catch by Terrell Owens that probably should have been ruled out of bounds and incomplete. The Eagles are vulnerable, with Owens's ankle injury and Coach Andy Reid's failure to give his offense time late in the regular season to adjust to playing without Owens. The Eagles lost all momentum when they dropped their final two regular-season games while Reid was resting his front-line players, and they last played like a Super Bowl team-in-the-making on Dec. 5. The Vikings should make this interesting, and it wouldn't be shocking to see them win. Any club with a quarterback like Culpepper, having the sort of season that Culpepper is having, has a shot. But there was a reason why they, too, were an 8-8 regular-season team, and wide receiver Randy Moss probably needs to be healthier than he was last weekend in Green Bay if they're going to have a truly legitimate chance.
Colts at Patriots
It's tough to go against Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady at this time of the year. It's just as tough to go with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in Foxboro, Mass., at this time of the year. But if not now for the Colts, then when? They have the illegal-contact rules working in their favor. They have the Patriots' injuries-with cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole on the injured reserve list and defensive lineman Richard Seymour slowed or sidelined by an ailing knee-working in their favor. Brady and the Patriots showed in last year's Super Bowl that they're capable of winning a big game that becomes an offensive duel, but you'd have to like the Colts under those circumstances. As long as bad weather doesn't intervene, Indy seems to have the slight advantage in this highly anticipated tossup. It's the game of the year, at least until next weekend's AFC championship.
Last Week: 2-2
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