By Nick Ferraro
The regular season in the NFC seemed a lot like a demolition derby.Â For seventeen laps the cars slammed into each other with reckless abandon.Â There are only six still running all of which have varying degrees of damage.Â Itâ€™s that damage, however, that gives the NFC playoffs an increased appeal.Â The flawed nature of this bunch lends an uncertainty to the NFC side of the house.Â It gives the NFC playoffs an NCAA tournament type of feel.Â The Bears enter the postseason as the favorite, but there are few outside the windy city that feel they are unbeatable.Â The Saints were the story of year in the NFL, and Drew Brees was the acquisition of the year, but the Redskins gave the league a blueprint on handling their explosive offense.Â Injuries hampered the defending NFC champion Seahawks all season and they continue to do so into the first week of the playoffs.Â The NFC East was supposed to experience a return to its dominant form, but all it produced is mediocrity as the Cowboys and Giants limp into the wildcard weekend.Â The Eagles enter the playoffs on a high inspired by the play of backup quarterback Jeff Garcia.Â His play has been outstanding, but few backups have been successful in leading their team to the Super Bowl.
The AFC has been the better of the two conferences by far, but the drama of the playoffs seems predestined to end with a matchup of the conferenceâ€™s top two seeds.Â The Chargers have not lost a game since October while the Ravens dropped just one game in the last ten weeks of the season.Â Itâ€™s hard to imagine any AFC team preventing a meeting between Baltimore and San Diego, and most will agree that, given the AFCâ€™s dominance, it would be the Super Bowl before the Super Bowl.Â The Patriots find themselves meeting the Jets for a third time.Â Itâ€™s a difficult matchup to call since neither team has many quality wins to their credit.Â Other than winning once against each other, the Patriots beat just one team that finished with a winning record, and the Jets didnâ€™t beat any.Â The Colts played enough defense to again win their division.Â They drew a nightmare matchup, however, in the Chiefs who have the type of monster ground game that has plagued the Colts all season.Â In all, the four wild card week players will likely serve as no more than a speed bump on the way to Baltimore vs. San Diego.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts (-7)
The Chiefs are feeling good about their ability to run on the Colts, but while they will certainly have success on the ground, can they stop Manning?Â The Chiefs are just 3-5 away from Arrowhead while Indy is perfect at home.Â They will need extra light bulbs for the scoreboard, and the Colts will advance in the end.
Colts 35 Chiefs 30
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks (-2.5)
The Cowboys are coming off their worst performance of the season.Â After setting themselves up as the NFCâ€™s second favorite to Chicago, the Cowboys dropped three of their last four.Â The good news for Dallas is they drew a team that also dropped three of four to close the year.Â The Seahawks were never able to establish any type of consistency during the season.Â After opening the year 3-0, they werenâ€™t able to string three wins together again, and they won back-to back games only twice.Â Unlike Dallas however, the Seahawks can blame some of their poor play on injuries.Â Shaun Alexander is getting healthy, and the Seahawks will ride him past the Cowboys.
Seahawks 24 Cowboys 20
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-9)
The Jets have been a great story this season, but they are just not good enough to win twice in Foxborough.Â Ironically, they would have a better chance of sneaking by had they not won there earlier in the season.Â As it stands, there is no way the Patriots take them lightly.Â The Pats are lucky they drew New York.Â The Jets are the only playoff team they can handle.
Patriots 21 Jets 13
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-7)
This is the classic example of two teams heading in different directions.Â The Eagles are heading to New Orleans.Â The dysfunctional Giants are heading home.
Philadelphia 30 New York 13
Chicago Bears 23 Seattle Seahawks 13
The Bears throttle the Seahawk ground attack, and ride their own running game to the win.
Philadelphia Eagles 31 New Orleans Saints 20
The ball drops on the Cinderella Saints as the Eagles front four harasses Brees all day long.
San Diego Chargers 27 New England Patriots 7
The Chargers expose every Patriot weakness and batter Brady into the offseason.
Baltimore Ravens 31 Indianapolis 16
The Ravens grind up the Colts front four dominating the ball and the clock as Manning falls short again.
Philadelphia Eagles 17 Chicago Bears 7
The Bears get bounced by the one NFC team they canâ€™t bully.Â The Eagleâ€™s pass rush turns the Bears over and out of the playoffs.
San Diego Chargers 20 Baltimore Ravens 9
A bruising affair is decided by Tomlinsonâ€™s receiving rather than running.Â Baltimoreâ€™s offense is frustrated by the San Diego defense.
Super Bowl XLI
San Diego Chargers 37 Philadelphia Eagles 17
Schottenheimer finally has his playoff payoff while the Chargers make quick work of the overmatched Eagles.