Wild Card Weekend Wrap-Up:
Saturday started off with the Jets winning, but as previously stated I wasn’t sure which Bengals team showed up, and the bad one did. The Bengals looked very flat at times and had some errors that can’t be made during the postseason. Not enough gas in the tank. They had some very good outings early in the season but looked flat in a lot of later games, so I can’t totally say I was surprised at this one.
Mark Sanchez looked OK, the Jets run the ball a lot, so he doesn’t have to do a lot. Although I’m not sure Jericho Cotchery is their number one receiver anymore. Dustin Keller made an excellent touchdown reception and came just a yard shy of 100. And they shut Cincinnati’s defense off completely. As for the Jets’, their defense is the main reason they are in the playoffs. Nothing flashy, not a lot to see here but they are alive for at least another week.
I can’t believe how sold I was on the Eagles just a few weeks ago. In this game they seemed to do everything wrong and McNabb was running for his life. (and backwards) In the end, penalties and a general inability to set the pace ended up being their worst enemies. I guess I’m also shocked their defense got ran like that. On offense, 56 yards rushing is not going to be good enough to win at any point in the season. Eagles lost 3 fumbles on the night.
Dallas won a playoff game so we can all stop giving them grief about that. And they did beat a team that I had said were one of the four toughest teams in the NFL, and they did it two weeks in a row. They have a very solid receiving corps, and no matter what you can say about their quarterback, he has earned a lot of respect now. Most importantly, he didn’t throw an interception in the game. Julius Jones had the majority of the stat sheet, it only took him 16 carries to rack up 148 yards.
Sunday brought two more upsets and began with the Ravens destroying the Patriots. Baltimore was sticking to the “defense wins championships” mantra and Ed Reed played like the top-tier player we have seen for the last decade. The Ravens are sort of a dark horse team that not a lot of people have given a lot of credit to (myself included) because of the goings on in that division this year. As soon as Cincy came out of the box I thought for sure Pittsburgh would finish second, and they didn’t even end up making the playoffs. Baltimore snuck in with some noble performances and went on the road and dominated the Patriots. Their ground game was phenomenal as Ray Rice rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Speaking of the Patriots, their “dynasty” might be over. They looked awfully gassed and were never able to swing the control of the speed of the game in their favor. That team is slowly getting old, and another example of a team I thought was for real weeks 8-12. The bio on the Patriots always seemed to dictate: “Well, they can still do it…” But I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore. Bruschi goes, running game flutters, in the end what you’re left with is just a Hall of Fame quarterback who doesn’t have as many options as he used to. And of course the Wes Welker injury is huge. They wouldn’t have won the game, but they would have put up more than 14.
The Green Bay – Arizona game was a mess because the Packers turned the ball over twice on their first tow possessions and then Arizona got out to a hearty lead only to let them comeback and (kind of) send it into overtime. For future reference, Neil Rackers HAS to hit those kicks in the playoffs and it sucked to see a guy who is usually a pretty good kicker just shank one like that. Aaron Rogers had a pretty decent game after halftime, but it was much too late. Any time you score 45 points and lose it’s probably because it took you too long to hit your stride.
NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF WEEK:
The Saints-Cardinals game is on Saturday, and within the next couple of days I could see the spread being around eight. I really think this could go either way but the Saints have to play much better than they have been as of late. If they came out the way they came out against Dallas they might get swatted. I look for them to come out strong and win. If they do they’re going to need some big stops on the defense side of the ball and figure out if they are going to double team Larry Fitzgerald. And it should go without saying that Drew Brees has to have a Drew Brees-like game.
New Orleans Saints 29, Arizona Cardinals 24
I can’t really foresee a situation where a lot of the higher seeded teams don’t make it through this round, save the Vikings. I don’t see the Vikings winning because their secondary is going to have their hands full in every way. I actually trust Tony Romo to win this one. The Vikes have (in my opinion) the defensive player of the year in Jared Allen but he can only be himself. If the Vikings want a shot in this one they have to be impeccable on defense. Meanwhile Dallas seems to have kicked the post-November jitters, so I have to roll with the Cowboys by 11.
Dallas Cowboys 31, Minnesota Vikings 20
The San Diego Chargers will really come out strong and pound the ball at first and then go to Vincent Jackson who has been such an explosive playmaker all year long. Look for him to become a main target the first possession of the second quarter. The only reason this sentence is here is so that it makes this section look as large as the others and for the most part, it worked out nicely. I actually don’t expect the Jets to be much of a serious threat. If Rivers is truly a Super Bowl ready quarterback, than they shouldn’t be. This will be the next step in what should be a great career. Chargers at home by two touchdowns.
San Diego Chargers 30, New York Jets 16
It should be a challenge for Peyton Manning to have to face a red hot Ravens defense that held New England to 14 points at home during the playoffs. The Colts aren’t going to have it easy by any means: If they can sneak by Baltimore they probably have to play San Diego or a Jets team that could beat San Diego. I don’t pick usually ever pick against Peyton Manning and this is no exception. Colts usually play well at home but play on almost the exact same surface that the Ravens do.
Indianapolis Colts 34, Baltimore Ravens 21
But then again, I was 0-4 on all of my picks last week, so don’t take any of this too seriously. Enjoy the games.