Seahawks' ground game an edge

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:48 AM ET

St. Louis (8-8) at Seattle (9-7)

The line: Seahawks by 4

The skinny: Tomorrow, 4:30 p.m. (ABC). NFC wild-card playoff. The Seahawks are 8-4 and the Rams 5-7 this season against common opponent, but -- and it's a doozy -- St. Louis won both regular-season meeting against Seattle (23-12 at St. Louis on Nov. 14 and 33-27 in overtime after the Seahawks led 27-16 deep into the fourth quarter). Also, it won't be of much comfort to the Seahawks to know that since the 16-game schedule was introduced in 1978, no team finishing 8-8 has won a playoff game. Critical matchup? Of course, there's always Rams wide receivers Torry Holt and Issac Bruce vs. Seahawks corners Ken Lucas and Marcus Trufant. Holt, with 1,372 receiving yards, and Bruce, with 1,292, ranked fourth and fifth in the NFL. While Holt scored 10 TDs and Bruce six, it was Bruce who burned the Seahawks in both meetings this season. He had 78 yards in the OT win in October and 104 at home in November. Lucas led Seattle with six interceptions; Trufant had five. Still, despite the fact the Seahawks had 23 interceptions on the season (third most), they struggled to defend the pass, allowing 224.4 yards a game. The Rams' deficiency is its 29th-ranked run D. Enter Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, second in the NFL this season with 1,696 rushing yards and 16 rushing TDs. He has run for 452 yards in his last three games vs. the Rams, all losses.

Cody's call: Seahawks 30-27

N.Y. Jets (10-6) at San Diego (12-4)

The line: Chargers by 6 1/2

The skinny: Tomorrow, 8 p.m. (ABC). AFC wild-card playoff. This collision features a pair of Pro Bowl running backs: LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers, who rushed for 1,335 yards and led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns vs. Curtis Martin of the Jets, the NFL's rushing champion with 1,697 yards (and a dozen TDs). Still, Associated Press football writer David Mordkoff says this matchup is more likely to turn on the ability of the Jets' secondary to control Chargers QB Drew Brees. Last time out (a 34-28 Jets' win in San Diego on Sept. 19), Brees sustained a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet dustup with Jets safety Jon McGraw. Jets rookie safety Erik Coleman collected an interception and fumble recovery and Brees completed just eight of 19 pass attempts for 124 yards before being hooked in favour of seemingly ageless Doug Flutie (who's 42 actually). Brees has been brilliant ever since, finishing third in the NFL with a 104.8 passer rating and the third lowest interception percentage (1.8). The Jets' 14th-ranked pass D surrenders 207 passing yards per game while the Chargers offence averages 210.4. With their pass attack picking up (although it still ranked 16th), the Chargers will give the Jets' seventh-ranked defence a lot to think about. The Jets are a plus-17 in turnover differential, third best in the league. The Chargers are next at plus-16.

Cody's call: Chargers 28-21

Minnesota (8-8) at Green Bay (10-6)

The line: Packers by 6

The skinny: Sunday, 4:30 p.m. (Fox). NFC wild-card playoff. The Packers won both meetings vs. the Viking this season, both by 34-31. Both times, Ryan Longwell hit the game-winning field goal with no time remaining. Vikes defensive tackle Kevin Williams will have his hands full trying to stop Packers running back Ahman Green, who punctured the Vikings' 21st-ranked run defence for 209 yards and a TD in their two meetings this season. Overall, Green rambled for 1,163 yards and seven TDs, his fifth straight 1,000-yard rushing campaign (which ties him with '60s thumper Jim Taylor for most in Pack history). Williams is a force in his own right, making the Pro Bowl in only his second season. Mini surrenders 125.4 rushing yards per game. Can't overlook the QBs in this one. Daunte Culpepper of the Vikings led the NFL with 4,717 yards passing and was second with 39 TDs and a 110.9 passer rating. Without question, Green Bay's 25th-ranked pass defence is vulnerable to a talent like Culpepper. Packers QB Brett Favre was second in the NFC with 4,088 passing yards and third in the conference with 30 TD tosses. The Lambeau mystique may not be what it once was but it's still there. The Packers won nine of their final 11 games; the Vikings lost seven of their last 10, the second straight season they've done that. Just for variety, I'm calling . . .

Cody's call: Packers 34-30

Denver (10-6) at Indianapolis (12-4)

The line: Colts by 10

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. AFC wild-card playoff. This game marks the 13th time in NFL history the teams have met in the postseason the week after they ended the regular season against one another. In an eminently forgettable game Sunday, the Broncos gained the playoffs by bouncing the Jim Sorgi-led Colts 33-14 at home. In an AFC wild-card matchup last season, the Colts, with Peyton Manning at the helm, ran away from the Broncos 41-10. Manning will be the Broncos' biggest problem this time around, too. Manning just completed one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history, setting single-season records with his 49 TD tosses and 121.1 passer rating. Because he played only one series last week, completing one of two passes, Manning finished just third in passing yards with 4,557. Daunte Culpepper led with 4,717, followed by K.C.'s Trent Green with 4,591. Manning was sacked only 13 times all season and the Colts allowed only 14 as a team, tied for fewest in the league. The Broncos will have to turn up the heat on Manning. Good luck! Others have tried and failed miserably. As the Broncos' sack leader with 10 1/2 , defensive end Reggie Hayward will need to have a big game. Broncos QB Jake Plummer passed for a Broncos' record 4,089 yards this season. Only the Chiefs allowed more gross yards passing per game than the Colts' 29th-ranked pass D, which allowed 264.5 a game.

Cody's call: Colts 37-23

Final regular-season record

Straight up Last week: 9-7. Overall: 167-89

Spread Last week: 5-8. Overall: 111-110


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