« on: January 09, 2005, 10:49:08 AM »
Denver +10 over INDIANAPOLIS
Obviously, Ie must negate last week’s 33-14 win by Denver over Indianapolis as the Broncos were in dire need of a win while the Colts rested their stars in a meaningless game for them. Now the real fun begins and this one could be the most intriguing game of the weekend. Peyton Manning and his explosive offense will try to replicate last year’s 41-10 annihilation of these visiting Broncos. There is no doubting Indy’s ability to do so but I have my reservations. This is a lot of points. If you look at the top five teams in overall defense and offense, only one team appears. That would be the Broncos. If any defense can match up against this high-powered offense, it could this Denver bunch. With Champ Bailey and a strong core of linebackers, Manning will feel some pressure. Unlike other teams, the Broncs can come at you from all sides as 16 different players recorded sacks this season. Having DL Trevor Pryce back in the lineup after missing some games with a sore back, makes Denver that much stronger. Safety John Lynch brings the experience and leadership that may have been missing in years past. Let’s face it; trying to diminish the capabilities of this Colts offense is absurd. That said, I still subscribe to defense trumping over offense. The Colts four losses this season came against the Patriots, the Jaguars, a shootout with the Chiefs and last week’s meaningless game against Denver. Against Baltimore, Indy managed a win but was held to a demanding 20 points. If the Broncos are to win this one, their defense will be required to keep the Colts somewhere in the 20’s and then put the ball in the hands of Jake Plummer. That becomes the ‘X-factor’ here. Plummer can be efficient but can also make silly mistakes that hurt his team immensely. The key will be running the ball, controlling the clock and most importantly, not giving the Colts unnecessary breaks. Indianapolis ranked 29th on defense this season. While that ranking could be somewhat deceiving, it still represents a flaw with Tony Dungy’s team and one that Mike Shanahan’s crew should be able to take advantage of.
Minnesota +6 over GREEN BAY
This one excites me about as much as Rosie O’Donnell in lingerie. This being playoff time, I am supposed to see talented teams striving towards the Super Bowl. Neither of these two qualifies. The Vikings won only three of their final 10 games. They backed into the playoffs despite losing a must-win game at Washington last week. Minnesota defeated just one team with a winning record this season, a narrow victory in week 12 against the Jaguars. The Vikes rank down the list on defense, sitting in a not too impressive 28th. The coach appears lost, the team forgets to show up sometimes and they haven't won an important game since Fran Tarkenton was throwing for them. Not very encouraging, is it? When I look at the alternative, it just may be. The Packers almost mirror this opponent. In fact, they could be worse. Although Green Bay won both meetings this season, the wins were marginal with both coming by an identical 34-31 score. The first game produced controversy as Minnesota appeared to recover an onside kick that could have led to a tie or win and the second game was played without Minnesota’s star receiver, Randy Moss. It’s not like Green Bay is some dominant team. They’re not. While I pointed out Minnesota’s one win over a winning team, it is one more than the Packers. How can a team finish 25th in the league on defense having not defeated one winning team? The answer is simple. The defense is horrendous. That is the key here. The Packers can't stop anyone, particularly through the air where they gave up a league high 33 touchdowns. Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings offense has carved this team up like Zorro through a Butterball. In two games this season, Culpepper has thrown for 648 yards and seven touchdowns. Again, one was without Moss in the lineup. While both games resulted in Green Bay wins, both came on last second field goals. The Lambeau mystique is also gone as Green Bay dropped four of eight home games this year and split the past two playoff games played here. This line is out of whack and is predicated on the popularity of the Packers and the recent ineptitude of the Vikings. Don’t let it fool you.