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Saturday, January 08, 2005 

Wild Card Weekend

Four games in two days on three networks. Should be a wild weekend.

St. Louis at Seattle
Saturday 4:30PM EST ABC

The first of two matchups between divisional rivals this weekend. Neither of these teams has been impressive this year, with St. Louis needing overtime last week just to get into the playoffs. Some folks are making a big deal out of St. Louis winning both meetings this year, but they haven't played since November 14, and a lot can change in nearly two months. Both games featured plenty of offense, with St. Louis winning the yardage battle 441-391 in Week 5 and 462-372 in Week 10. St. Louis won the first game in Seattle 33-27 in overtime after trailing 27-10 with 8:42 left in the fourth quarter. Marc Bulger's three late TDs helped them overcome his 3 interceptions. In the second game, the Rams scored the first 17 points of the contest and won 23-12. Shaun Alexander had two big games in losing efforts, 23-150 in the first game and 22-176 in the second. As you might expect, Marshall Faulk didn't do much in game 1 as the Rams spent most of the day throwing (15-51) but came up big in game 2 to help run out the clock (18-139). Look for Seattle to keep the ball on the ground and away from the St. Louis offense.

Both of these teams were bounced out of the playoffs in overtime games last season; Seattle lost their wild card game to Green Bay 33-27, and St. Louis lost their divisional game (at home) to Carolina 29-23 in a wild double-overtime game that they should have won. We'll see if this game is as competitive.

New York Jets at San Diego
Saturday 8PM EST ABC

I cannot wait to watch this game. We do not see San Diego much in the Northeast, but we get force-fed the Jets who have not been impressive lately. The loss to St. Louis doesn't bother me nearly as much as their poor effort against New England, who is beatable (as much it pains me to say). Unless San Diego starts turning the ball over, they should be able to outscore a fairly pedestrian New York offense. The Jets won their meeting in Week 2 34-28, but that was so early on that you cannot use that as a reason to pick the Jets today.

Denver at Indianapolis
Sunday 1PM EST CBS

Now these two teams play for real after their shadow-boxing exhibition last week. Denver has been preparing for this game since last January, when they were embarrassed 41-10. Why do you think they traded for Champ Bailey and signed John Lynch? But Peyton Manning and the Colts should win again unless they get caught in the trap of looking ahead to the Patriots (without Ty Law).

Minnesota at Green Bay
Sunday 4:30PM EST FOX

Another shootout anyone? Brett Favre has already burned the Vikings twice this year, and he has to like his chances at home in early January. These teams met in Weeks 10 and 16, so those results are useful to look at. Green Bay won the first game with a 33 yard field goal by Ryan Longwell at the final whistle. Randy Moss did not play, which opened the door for Nate Burleson to have a huge game (11-141 and a TD). The Packers had a 24-10 lead at the half, and 31-17 late in the fourth, but 2 Culpepper TD throws tied the game.

On Christmas Eve, Favre overcame his own mistakes and drove the Packers down the field late for another 34-31 win, this time in the Metrodome. Not only was the final score the same, but so was the tempo - fast, with a lot more offense than defense. Look for more of the same this time.

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