- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

Not to brag or anything, but I’m on fire with my playoff picks. The wild card weekend record of 3-1 was followed by a perfect 4-0 divisional round record - yes, I picked both AFC road teams to win.

I went with gut feelings on New England and Indianapolis. I’ve never trusted Marty or the Ravens offense in the playoffs and they showed why. Marty made some boneheaded decisions and the Ravens were inept offensively.

Suffice to say, I had an interesting weekend to New Orleans and Chicago. The four-day extravaganza began harmlessly enough with a seamless Dulles-Atlanta-New Orleans trip on Friday afternoon. The trouble began Sunday morning. I was supposed to take off at 7:30 a.m. but as we were loading the plane, a mechanical problem was discovered. We were moved to another gate. As we were boarding that plane, they discovered they had the wrong plane. So we moved to a third gate and a third plane. The pilot announces we’ll land at O’Hare at 10:30 a.m., 90 minutes before kickoff. And we do. But we sit on the tarmac for 45 minutes because we don’t have a gate. By the time I get to Solider Field, there were seven minutes left in the first quarter.

I’ll be back in Chicago this weekend with columnist Dan Daly for the Saints-Bears game.

Here are my picks:

New Orleans at Chicago: The first game pits one team that has never been to a conference title game (Saints) and one team that hasn’t been this far since I was in junior high (the Bears). I saw both teams last weekend in person and came away more impressed with the Saints’ offense than I did with Chicago’s defense, which are the team’s respective strengths. New Orleans did whatever it wanted against a respectable Philadelphia defense and simply wore them down up front. My concern about the Saints is that Sean Payton tends to get too cute with his play calling instead of sticking with what works. His call to have Drew Brees pitch to Reggie Bush - instead of simply handing it off - resulted in a late turnover that the Eagles couldn’t cash in on. Chicago’s defense seems susceptible to the run - a gimpy Shaun Alexander had several excellent carries. The Bears like to run the ball but they should make a point of challenging Saints corner Fred Thomas, who was burned a bunch by the Eagles. Weather won’t be a factor because the Saints won’t allow it to be, and New Orleans will reach its first Super Bowl. Saints 17-13.

New England at Indianapolis: Most people are calling this the Super Bowl and that might be true - the winner will go to Miami as the favorite to win the whole thing. But San Diego and Baltimore were thought to be the class of the AFC until both teams laid eggs on their home field. The AFC is the deeper of the two conferences but the absence of especially the Chargers will make the Super Bowl a more up-in-the-air pick. As for the latest Patriots-Colts brawl, I’m torn. My limited football knowledge leans toward the Patriots because of Brady and Belichick. The Pats were on their way to getting routed by San Diego until a late first-half touchdown. They always seem to find a way. My heart says the Colts because the stars have aligned for them. Home field. Defense actually playing well. Just like last year was Pittsburgh’s time and the late 1990s was John Elway’s time, maybe this is Peyton Manning’s time. So I’ll go with the Colts. Indianapolis 24-20.

Last week: 4-0

Season: 151-105

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