NFL Picks: Wild Card Weekend
NFL Picks: Wild Card Weekend
The playoffs are here and they start with four games on Wild Card Weekend. In the past, if your team was playing on that opening weekend then there was not much hope of winning the Super Bowl. That is no longer the case; the eventual champion could easily be one of the teams playing on Saturday or Sunday.
Two seasons ago the Green Bay Packers had to win their final two regular season games just to claim the last spot in the NFC. Because they had to win down the stretch; the Packers were playoff ready and rolled to a Super Bowl Victory. Their run included three road wins featuring a blowout win over the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons.
Last season, the New York Giants did not make the playoffs until the last game of the season and many thought they would be one and done. Their win over the Dallas Cowboys to get them in to the tournament sent them on their way, and they rode that wave all the way to a World Championship. Along the way; the Giants knocked off a 15-1 Packers team and a very good San Francisco 49ers team, both on the road. Then in the Super Bowl; they beat the Patriots for the second time in four years.
The best example though has to be the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers; they barely got into the playoffs and then beat three very good teams on the road. The highlight of their run was a win over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were the top seed and everyone’s favorite to win the Super Bowl. After winning that game; the Steelers rolled over the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship and then beat the Seattle Seahawks to win it all.
So if your team in playing this weekend, don’t be discouraged. If they get hot, anything can happen.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Bengals have a very good front seven and that has the potential to bother the Texans. They want to run the ball and take the pressure off of Matt Schaub, who is not playing well. If the Bengals take away the running game and pressure Schaub, then the Texans could be one and done. The once heralded defense for the Texans has been very leaky lately but do the Bengals have enough weapons to exploit it?
The Texans went from the number one-seed to playing on Wild Card Weekend; the Bengals had to play well down the stretch to get into the tournament. I’ll take the team that is playing better over the team that everyone thought was the best in the AFC for most of the season. The Bengals pull the upset, 23-17.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
The Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers in the last week of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs and now they meet in the first-round, this time in Green Bay. Adrian Peterson has had his way with the Packers defense in two games this season and that won’t change this week; the Vikings will move the ball. If they are going to score enough points to beat the Packers though, Christian Ponder will have to make some plays in the passing game.
The defense for the Packers is not great but they do play better at home; especially if they get an early lead. For the Vikings to win this game, they have to stay close because Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will try to blow them out in the first-half. If the Packers do get a big lead, the Adrian Peterson will not be as effective because the Vikings will have to throw to get back into the game. They beat the Packers at home last week but the Vikings are not ready to win a playoff game in Green Bay. The Packers win, 31-20.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
Can the story of the Colts continue with an upset win over the Baltimore Ravens? It’s true that these are not the Ravens we are all used to but they are at home, and they should have Ray Lewis back in the middle of their defense. As good as the Colts have been this season; their defense has been awful versus the run and the Ravens have Ray Rice. Since they do not trust quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens will feed the ball to Rice who should have a huge day on Sunday.
Andrew Luck has had a great rookie season for the Colts and he will make some plays against a suspect Ravens secondary, but he will also make one or two big mistakes. A fun individual matchup to watch will be Luck versus Ravens safety, Ed Reed. Reed is the master at baiting quarterbacks into mistakes. The winner of that matchup is a huge key in this game. The Ravens will feed off of Lewis’s energy and they will ride that to a win. Ravens, 24-16.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
The best game of Wild Card Weekend has the Washington Redskins hosting the Seattle Seahawks. Both teams come into the game on winning streaks and playing as well as anyone in the league. The game also features two rookie quarterbacks who are fun to watch, so this one should be a blast. Robert Griffin III and the Redskins have won seven games in a row and are playing better on defense as well. The Seahawks are also rolling behind the play of quarterback, Russell Wilson and a defense that creates more turnovers than a bakery.
Both teams also feature great running games and both will try to establish a running game to take pressure off of their young quarterbacks. The difference in this one probably boils down to which team has the better defense, and that’s the Seahawks. It will be close, however, and it will be a great game. The Hawks pull it out with a late field-goal, 23-20.
There are not as many games in the playoffs but that are all great matchups, and all should be a lot of fun to watch. So get whatever you need to get done on Saturday morning, grab your favorite beverage, sit back and enjoy some playoff football.
Last week’s record-13-3 Final regular season record-99-42-1
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