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NFL playoffs down to four

January 16, 2007|by ROBERT KELLER

Commentary

The second round of the playoffs is over, and I'm not a happy person. My favorite team - the Baltimore Ravens - got knocked out. I'll do the best I can to not blather on about the Ravens, but I'll go ahead and start with the recap.

I was 2-2 in my predictions in this round. The four teams going to conference playoffs are the predicted Chicago and New Orleans and surprising teams Indianapolis and New England.

The biggest game this week, for this fan, was the Indianapolis at Baltimore game. Indy came in as the underdog, while Baltimore was the team expected to win. But Indianapolis played that defense they used the week before against Kansas City and beat Baltimore.

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Both quarterbacks, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning and Baltimore's Steve McNair, had bad days, and neither threw for a touchdown. McNair had a passer rating of 49.9. Manning had a low rating of 39.6. For comparison, Manning's overall rating was 101 during the regular season, and McNair's was 82.5.

In the end, the score was 15-6 Indianapolis - or five field goals to two.

I think the team likeliest to go to the Super Bowl is the New Orleans Saints. This is the franchise's first divisional championship, and the Saints are looking stronger than ever. While rookie running back Reggie Bush has been a big spark to the team, you can't forget first-year head coach Sean Payton, who coached rookie Reggie Bush, free-agent signing Drew Brees and a last-place team into first place. The Saints also have running back Deuce McAllister, who made his presence known with 143 yards rushing on Saturday. The Saints can defeat Chicago.

How about the San Diego Chargers? You'd think that a team that was the best in the NFL this year would win against the Patriots. Instead, San Diego lost to New England, 24-21. Chargers running back LaDainian "L.T." Tomlinson, the league MVP, carried 23 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. The game could have gone into overtime if the Chargers had made a last-minute, 54-yard field goal. It was a rough night for the Chargers, but they might have a chance next year.

For the two games this week - New Orleans at Chicago and New England at Indianapolis - I predict the winners will be New Orleans and New England. New Orleans has an exceptional offense and the Patriots are the team that has been there before. (But then again, I said that about the Ravens and Chargers and look what happened to them.) Both matchups are going to be brutal, and two good teams will suffer defeat.

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