Reality Check (Divisional Picks)

On January 12th, Haiti was ravaged by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. The country, which has been long ignored, is now in panic and in need of support from anyone who can give it.

Pierre Garçon is a Haitian-American. Both of his parents were born in Haiti before emigrating to America, but the majority of his family still lives there. Earlier this week, Garçon heard from some of his extended family, but not everyone is accounted for. Pierre has been very vocal on his twitter account this week, urging people to donate any way they can. At his website he is raising money for a trip to Haiti with a Christian Ministry. Garçon is not a millionaire athlete, being a sixth-round pick he makes just above league minimum. His salary is of course much more than that of an average American, but his ability to give is miniscule compared to the LeBron James’ and Tiger Woods’ of the world.

Garçon is not the only Haitian-American athlete affected by this tragedy.

Jozy Altidore, a striker on the national soccer team, was born to Haitian parents as well. In 2006, Altidore joined fellow Haitian-American Wyclef Jean on a six-day service trip to Haiti. Unlike Garçon, Altidore has yet to hear anything from his friends and family in the Caribbean. Jozy is currently a member of the English Premier League team Hull City, so he is even further from his native people. Altidore is asking everyone for support.

“Put yourself there and imagine how scared and torn you would be,” he said on his twitter. “Please do anything you can to help them. I beg of you.”

Samuel Dalembert of the Philadelphia 76ers was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti before emigrating to Montreal, Quebec. This week Dalembert pledged $100,000 to UNICEF and is going to charter a plane to Haiti as soon as possible to distribute goods and to bring his brother and sister to America. He wanted to go sooner, but the Haitian government is only allowing select planes to land right now.

Dalembert pledged to match any donation made during Friday’s Sixers-Kings game in Philadelphia. The fans donated a total of $30,000.

The situation is tragic, and I echo the pleas of these three men. If you can donate anything, please do so. We Americans are so immeasurably fortunate it’s incredible, the least we can do is show support.

Despite the horrendous events in Haiti, there are still four exciting games on tap this weekend.

ARI (+7) @NO

OK, new playoff rule: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever bet against Kurt Warner and the Cardinals in the playoffs. I am riding the Arizona gravy train until it runs dry. Yes, I know I said last week that “It’s about the here and now.” But the Cardinals are undefeated (5-0) against the spread in the playoffs with Kurt Warner.

The only thing I’m scared of is Deuce McAllister.

How can I be afraid of an inactive running back that was signed yesterday and hasn’t played a snap all season you say? New Orleans needed a spark. All Saints players have heard is negativity since they lost to Dallas at home, and for good reason. This is a team, like Indianapolis, that was flirting with history. Unlike the Colts though, they were all in favor of going for it. Unfortunately they ran into a hot Cowboys team and followed that up with an embarrassing loss at home against Tampa Bay.

Still Drew Brees is Drew Brees, and the Saints can move the ball at will. This game will come down to who plays better defense. Easier said than done, and we all saw how terrible the Cardinals played last week. Still I think that motivates them to step up and play better this week. Jonathan Vilma is the best defensive player on New Orleans. Say what you want about Darren Sharper, but he was often lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to make key interceptions. Vilma flies around the field and tackles everything that moves. Unfortunately for him and the Saints, the Cardinals will force him to be in coverage by sending Steve Breaston and last week’s hero Early Doucet over the middle early and often.

Overall, in a game where both offenses are capable of putting up crazy numbers, I’m going to take a touchdown whenever I get it. Give me the points.

Cardinals 28 Saints 24

Sidenote: The over/under is 57 in this game…the largest NFL over/under in 20 years (before then, records weren’t kept). Please take the under

@IND (-6.5) v BAL

It’s funny how important a point, or even a half of a point is. If this game were seven-points or more, I’d be tempted to take the Ravens. However, Peyton Manning is worth seven himself.

The Ravens do match up well with the Colts. They play physical and will not allow Dallas Clark and Austin Collie to freelance over the middle without having their heads on a swivel. Ray Rice may have finally become a household name after his 83-yard touchdown run to open up last week’s game against New England. But the hip injury Joe Flacco is battling is very worrisome. Adam Schefter reported today that Flacco had to stand the entire flight home from Oakland in Week 17 because his hip was so enflamed. He almost didn’t play last week against the Patriots, and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are light-years better than any pass rusher New England sent at him then. I doubt he’ll walk away today unscathed.

Many will point back to Week 11 and say the Ravens are a lock to cover. Don’t forget that game was played outdoors in Baltimore, not inside in Indianapolis. The NFL’s MVP is surely excited to play a full 60-minutes, and it’s hard for me to see him losing this one.

Colts 31 Ravens 10

DAL (+3) @MIN

I just picked the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl last week, and I won’t renege now.

Dallas’ front seven continued their dominance last week against Philadelphia. DeMarcus Ware (2 sacks), Anthony Spencer (1 sack) and Bradie James (1 sack) all pressured McNabb continuously. The running game was superb as well, even though Marion Barber’s time was limited. Felix Jones (148 yd) and Tashard Choice (42 yd) both scored, and these two younger, fresher backs are much more explosive than Barber anyway.

Roy E. Williams was…wait for it…reliable throughout the game too. Miles Austin and Jason Witten draw coverage away from the 6′-3″ Texas native and if he musters the ability to catch the football he can then effectively move the chains. Offensive efficiency has been key to the Cowboys success in the second half of the season. Tony Romo has thrown only two interceptions since Thanksgiving.

More importantly, Romo finally has a playoff win.

Brett Favre has a few of those, and the only reason the Vikings sent head coach Brad Childress to pick him up at the airport was to win some more. The Favre-Childress marriage became rocky when the two butted heads after a loss to the Carolina Panthers in December though, and Minnesota finished the season 2-3. Adrian Peterson hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards since November 15th either. That’s two months.

To win the Vikings will have to score, score and score some more. If the game goes over (46) Minnesota will win more times than not, but the Dallas defense shouldn’t let that happen. I have a feeling Favre will finally throw that big interception too, followed by Joe Buck hitting us with the, “He just loves to have fun!” line.

I’m not bitter or anything, I promise.

Cowboys 17 Vikings 14

Rich Ryan

WSOE Sports


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