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News » The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind., Reggie Hayes column: Perfect playoff pick? Manning vs. Manning


The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind., Reggie Hayes column: Perfect playoff pick? Manning vs. Manning


The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind., Reggie Hayes column: Perfect playoff pick? Manning vs. Manning
Jan. 1--I have one rock-solid prediction about this year's NFL playoffs: My preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, the Dallas Cowboys, will come up short.


Other than that, it's probably futile to try to figure out who'll beat who, who'll win Super Bowl XLIII and which player will go from Tampa to Disney World in less than 90 minutes, depending on traffic. So I'll just say this is how it ought to shake out, if sweet storylines are served:

Wild-card weekend

AFC

Colts at Chargers: Much has been made about how difficult it is for the Colts to play San Diego, especially for those who remember the day Billy Volek morphed into Joe Montana to ruin the final game at the RCA Dome. However, the best thing about the Chargers is they will bring focus to the Colts.

Peyton Manning is beyond on-fire: He has completed 90 of his last 110 passes (81.8 percent) for 1,054 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the last four games. The weather will be conducive to passing and the short passing game (formerly known as the running game) with Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes will set up some big plays. Colts win a close, but not-too-close one.

Ravens at Dolphins: Does anyone believe Chad Pennington will survive a visit from Ray Lewis and Ed Reed? Does anyone believe Reed won't come up with a pick or two? Ravens take this one, in a low-scoring but painful affair.

NFC

Falcons at Cardinals: Atlanta should be able to take its A-game on the road and beat the Cardinals, who won their division because everyone else was rebuilding for 2010. Matt Ryan could be at the front of the next wave of great young quarterbacks. (Did we say that about Derek Anderson last year?) Falcons win.

Eagles at Vikings: All things being equal, how can anyone not pick the Eagles? They thrashed the Cowboys. They have a healthy Brian Westbrook and a determined Donovan McNabb. The Vikings still aren't quite sure who should be their quarterback. Stopping Adrian Peterson will be an issue. But the Eagles revive their early-season swagger and win.

Divisional round

AFC

Colts at Steelers: This is the hardest of all games to pick. My brain says the Colts can't go to Pittsburgh and win twice in a season. But I've also seen Ben Roethlisberger's brain freeze. If the Steelers run the ball, control the clock and pester Manning with a variety of blitz packages, no sensible person would pick against Pittsburgh. But this game defies logic, much like the Colts' season. Colts by six.

Ravens at Titans: Titans coach Jeff Fisher is about to find out the downside of locking up a No.1 seed, letting your key players take the week off and facing a hungry, experienced and defiant wild-card team.

This is the game where Kerry Collins shows his age. This is the game that gives Colts coach Tony Dungy one last stand in Lucas Oil Stadium. Ravens by three.

NFC

Eagles at Giants: There are no secrets left in this familiar game. It'll come down to the fact that the Giants are better and more disciplined. New York's pass rush will force Donovan McNabb into mistakes. The Giants' offense delivers when needed. Giants by seven.

Falcons at Panthers: Rest will help the Panthers, especially their defensive front and pass rush. The Falcons' Ryan learns how much pressure mounts the closer you get to the Super Bowl. Carolina's offense will be controlled but efficient, using the clock as its ally. Home field doesn't guarantee anything, but it helps. Panthers by one.

Conference championships

AFC

Ravens at Colts: The Colts won this game 31-3 in the regular season. That won't happen again. The Ravens will score at least 10. But Manning and company have the Ravens' number. They'll take advantage of a quick lead and force Baltimore into catch-up mode. That's not the Ravens' preferred mode. Colts' improbable rise from early-season mediocrity continues. Colts by six.

NFC

Panthers at Giants: A rematch of the game that determined NFC home-field advantage. The emotional edge goes to the Panthers. But emotion only goes so far, and the Giants have the experience of a year ago, the wisdom of coach Tom Coughlin and one of the Manning brothers. It's fast becoming Archie Manning's dream season. Also, his nightmare season.

SUPER BOWL XLIII

Colts vs. Giants: NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will have to hire an extra accountant for all the money to be made with a "Manning Bowl."

Fortunately, the brothers won't actually play face-to-face. Peyton will (and won't) want to look when Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis get Eli in their sights. Eli won't escape their grasps the way he did against the Patriots a year ago, and Bob Sanders will be downfield to prevent miracle catches. Peyton had a so-so playoff performance the year the Colts won the Super Bowl. He makes up for that by dominating en route to his second ring and the MVP.

The photo of the year comes when Dungy raises the trophy in his hometown of Tampa, and walks away as one of the best ever.

And if all this doesn't happen, I'll take the Steelers over the Panthers.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com

To see more of The News-Sentinel, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.FortWayne.com. Copyright (c) 2009, The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 2, 2009

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