- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

If Tony Romo wasn’t required to handle a football that looked like it had 14 coats of wax or 10 coats of margarine on it, the Cowboys would be playing at Chicago and I would have finished the first week of the NFL playoffs with a sterling 4-0 record.

But, no, Romo couldn’t hold on to the snap and then Martin “Not So Automatica Anymore” Gramatica threw a phantom block, which allowed Seattle’s Jordan Babineaux to catch Romo before he could reach the first-down marker.

This week features two great AFC matchups and one great NFC matchup. The only game without cache is Seattle-Chicago.

My travels this weekend take me to New Orleans for Saturday’s game against Philadelphia and then up to Chicago for Seahawks-Bears. The atmosphere in the Superdome should be at a fever pitch — the place was deafening last month … for a game against the Redskins … at noon local time. This game is at 7 p.m. and is for a trip to the NFC title game. It should be rocking.

On to the picks …

Indianapolis at Baltimore: Put the Colts O and the Ravens D on the same team and they wouldn’t lose very often. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen them enough, but Baltimore being promoted as a Super Bowl contender is beyond my comprehension at this point. When I’m picking the Colts, I think back to John Elway’s first Super Bowl run in Denver. The year before, the Broncos had home field and blew it. The next year, they had to win a home Wild Card game and then two road games (KC, Pittsburgh) to reach the Super Bowl. The underdog Colts could pull off a similiar trick. Colts 30-24.

Philadelphia at New Orleans: Last week, I tabbed the Eagles as the team that would win the NFC. I based this on seeing them in person in early December against the Redskins and the fact they entered the postseason having won five straight games. But the team I saw barely beat the Giants last week isn’t a team capable of making a Super Bowl run. They simply leave too many plays on the field offensively and had trouble defensively accounting for Plaxico Burress. I expect the Saints to air it out early and they should; they led the NFL in passing yards this season. Saints 34-30.

Seattle at Chicago: You know Rex Grossman has been bad when Brian Griese — a very ordinary quarterback who has made a lot of money for being just very ordinary — is suddenly the People’s Choice in Chicago. One would think playing at home would help Grossman but some of his worst games this season have come at Solider Field. But here’s the rub: Grossman doesn’t have to win the game. The Bears should establish the run early and then rely on the defense and special teams to set up short fields. Going in Seattle’s favor is that the last two times Chicago had a first-round bye, it lost in the Division round. Second, Matt Hasselbeck could have a 2005-type game. But I grudingly take the Bears. Chicago 16-13.

New England at San Diego: Game of the weekend. The Patriots have history on their side. Bill Belichick has three Super Bowls, Tom Brady has only one playoff defeat and they can win on the road. San Diego QB Philip Rivers is making his first playoff start and everybody and their brother has been on ESPN this week chatting about Marty Schottenheimer’s pathetic playoff record (5-12). If New England had two weeks to prepare, the Pats would win in a rout because Belichick would be able to cook up a scheme to go against Rivers. But Brady will be the difference and Marty could be heading to Miami as the new Dolphins head coach. Patriots 27-23.

Last week: 3-1

Season: 147-105

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