We're did we leave off last time? That's right, now that we've established that we need to give the TiVo/DVR just enough of a head start this weekend so that we can watch the playoff games without commercial interruption, here's a look at the action, Manly House-style:
Seahawks at Packers
Consensus: In case you haven't noticed, the Pack have played the entire season like this is their year. Every time I thought they were due to come back down to earth, they came out fast and punched me in the mouth -- and now that Ryan Grant is blowing up between the tackles, they truly have the total playoff package. Truth be told, I find them a more exciting NFC Super Bowl candidate than the Cowboys, who seem to be everyone's stone-cold lock.
Contrarian: That being said, the Seahawks looked damn good last weekend -- so good I am shocked they greeted the new week as a touchdown-plus underdog. There is no question that home-field tilts downhill for Seattle like no other team in the league, but the defense was awesome and Matt Hasselbeck avoided the big play yips that have haunted him in pressure situations in the past. Shaun Alexander is a ghost of his former self, but Maurice Morris at least keeps the RB position on the plus-ish side. Then there's Mike Holmgren -- there was a time when he was the mayor of Green Bay, so not only is he ready to hit the ground running, as Brett Favre's former mentor there is no man more qualified to get inside the legend's skull. Face it -- Favre also has had his sporadic, epic meltdowns in big games, and that relentless Seattle pass rush could be a factor here.
Man-Tangible: One word: Lambeau. Not only are the Seahawks a dicey road team, there is just too much magic in the tundra this year. Green Bay's defense is a terrific unit, and it says here they have plenty up their sleeves to give Hasselbeck fits when it counts ...
The Pick: Green Bay, 24-20
Jaguars at Patriots
Consensus: Jacksonville is another team that won last weekend in a most impressive fashion, yet here they are installed as a double-digit road dog. This is what happens when you have to get on the bus and go face-to-face with history. Oh, and when you beat a team missing its starting running back, left tackle and best defensive lineman, you get what you paid for.
Contrarian: Even if the Pats stack the box and commit to shutting down Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, I don't think they will be entirely successful. Jacksonville is crazy-physical and they own that good old, country run-the-ball-down-their-throats mentality. Special tip o' the hat to blocking schemologist Mike Tice, because this team just gets it done, and I can't shake the vision of all those fly-weight New England linebackers getting shoved into a meat-grinder. No breathless Suzy Kolber odes to Tedy Bruschi this time around -- he's gonna find his nose where his ear used to be…
... and you wanna know something? It doesn't matter, because anytime you give Bill Belichick two weeks to game plan, your ass is grass. Are we kids or what? It's pretty academic -- David Garrard is a nice-looking young QB, but his receiving corps puts the "me" in mediocre. Stack that up against New England's wildly productive combo of Tom Brady to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, and this one could be a runaway train. The Pats' biggest concern is staying healthy, because no matter what the final score may be, the Jags will put a hurt on you.
Man-Tangible: Belichick's sweat-hoody. Jack Del Rio has been known to wear one of those Reebok suits also popularized by Mike Nolan in San Francisco, but it doesn't stand a chance against the raw funk of a faded sweatshirt that speaks of all-night film sessions, the crazy alchemy of a visionary, and the very real possibility that New England has been playing possum with their game plans for at least four weeks now.
The Pick: Patriots, 31-20
Chargers at Colts
Consensus: Indy is deservedly set up as the fave here. Thanks to New England's drama-filled campaign, the defending world champs are once again flying way under the radar. Despite the fact that San Diego finally won a playoff game last week, you mix in a dollop of Philip Rivers and you have a significant Colts upside. Rivers may have mastered the art of calling out his teammates on the sidelines, but it rings hollow until he does a little more in the postseason than beating a Titans team that was massively depleted via injury.
Contrarian: Simple -- San Diego may have more sheer talent than anyone in the league, across the board. The defense is balanced and rugged, and they sport the best RB and TE in the game (although Antonio Gates is hurting). Now that they have finally shaken off the Marty-ball playoff hoodoo, they might actually come into this game loose ...
Giants at Cowboys
Consensus: I was back East leading up to the Giant-Tampa Bay game and I listened to WFAN long enough to hear at least 4,000 callers decry Eli Manning and the Giants' chances. Then the kid goes out and delivers, and now everyone's head is spinning, yet the world is so Cowboys crazy that Dallas is yet another TD-plus favorite.
Contrarian: T.O. is a game-time decision, and Tony Romo seems to once again be dealing with a nasty bout of the late-season vapors. Add in the fact that these are division rivals, and there is no reason not to believe the Jints at least keep this one respectable if not downright tight.
Man-Tangible:Wade Phillips -- a hugely underrated coach and a defensive guru, it says here that he finds a ton of ways to make Eli look like the guy who tossed 20 interceptions this year.
The Pick: Dallas, 28-20