5. New York Jets (9-7) at 4. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Paul Brown Stadium, 3:30 p.m. CST, NBC
Tony Tix Pick: Bengals 21 Jets 13
Asking a rookie QB, Mark Sanchez, to win his first playoff game on the road is a tough task, even with the Jets owning the league's #1 rushing team and overall defense. I am counting on veteran Carson Palmer to lead his team to their first playoff win since 1991 in an ugly, low scoring battle. Bears fans will not be happy watching this match-up that features our two former running backs, Cedric Benson (CIN) and Thomas Jones (NYJ). Both RBs had 1,000+ yd rushing seasons and made multiple trips to the end zone while leading their teams to the post-season (Benson, 6 & Jones, 14).
6. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) at 3. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
Cowboys Stadium, 7 p.m. CST, NBC
Tony Tix Pick: Eagles 31 Cowboys 27
The Cowboys demolished the Eagles in week 17 to capture the NFC East crown, but I see Philadelphia exacting revenge as they travel back to Cowboy Stadium. The Eagles are 7-0 in opening round playoff games under Coach Andy Reid and they will find a way to advance to the next round yet again. Tony Romo needs to be a playmaker or else the Cowboys post-season disappointments will continue.
SUNDAY, JAN. 10
6. Baltimore Ravens (9-7) at 3. New England Patriots (10-6)
Gillette Stadium, 12 p.m. CST, CBS
Tony Tix Pick: Patriots 24 Ravens 13
This is the must-see match up of the weekend featuring two experienced playoff teams. Tom Brady and the Patriots will be forced to go without their speed receiver Wes Welker, who suffered a season ending injury in the last game of the regular season. Look for WRs Julian Edelman and Sam Aiken to step up and replace Welker’s production. The Ravens will count on second year players QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice to keep them close.
5. Green Bay Packers (11-5) at 4. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, 3:40 p.m. CST, FOX
Tony Tix Pick: Cardinals 38 Packers 31
This game is the most unpredictable on the weekend slate. Cardinal game-changers, WR Anquan Boldin and CB Dominique Rodger-Cromartie, suffered injuries in week 17 and their play making ability is in question. Kurt Warner and the Cardinals need to find the same post-season magic they had last year to get past the Packers and reach the Super Bowl again. If the Packers young and talented defense can’t slow down Warner and Larry Fitzgerald they will be in for a long afternoon.
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