Wild Card Weekend is upon us and it’s time to give some predictions for those games and more. This year’s wild card games are particularly interesting because three of the four games are rematches from games in Week 17. With that, let’s look at the games:
New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals – Saturday 4:30
The Jets had a big victory last week when they beat Cincinnati in New York to secure their playoff spot. The Jets were dominant last week, but Cincinnati didn’t exactly put out its top players. Cedric Benson will be back this weekend after missing last week and he is the main component of the Bengals’ offense. Carson Palmer had an abysmal week in New York, but a lot of that was due to the injury to Chad Ochocinco which occurred during warmups. A combination of exceptional coverage by Jets’ cornerback Darrelle Revis and the injury made Ochocinco useless. He got open rarely and when he did, dropped the passes. Jets QB Mark Sanchez will be making his playoff debut, which could prove costly if his inexperience shows. I think Revis will be the difference in the game. He shutdown the opponent’s top receiver week in and week out and the playoffs will be no different. This will allow the Jets to focus on stopping Benson and packing the line. The Jets offense won’t light up the board, but RB Laveranues Coles will push the Jets to a 21-10 victory.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots – Sunday 1:00
This is the only matchup that isn’t a rematch from Week 17. New England has a lot of injuries to deal with after losing Wes Welker for the season in a loss to the Houston Texans last week. The Ravens on the other hand held the Raiders to just 13 points last week in an eight point victory. Tom Brady has three broken ribs, a hand injury, and a shoulder injury, but will certainly be on the field come game time Sunday. The Pats are expected to get nose tackle Vince Wilfork back which will significantly upgrade their run defense. While QB Joe Flacco has struggled throwing the ball this year, RB Ray Rice has lead the offense on the ground. With Wilfork back, I expect Rice to struggle and Flacco doesn’t have the arm to carry his team to victory. New England also possesses homefield advantage which will lead the Pats to a 24-17 victory.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys – Saturday 8:00
Here may be the best game of Wild Card Weekend (that’s probably why the NFL made it the Saturday night game). The ‘Boys destroyed the Eagles last week, 24-0. In a game that determined the NFC East champion, Dallas proved that it deserves the title. QB Tony Romo threw for over 300 yards and the dual attack of RBs Marion Barber and Felix Jones each had 91 yards in the Cowboys’ win. The Eagles struggled mightily as the running attack produced just 37 yards of offense and QB Donovan McNabb threw for 223 yards. Unlike the Bengals and Jets, the Cowboys, who were home last week, are also home this week. Yet, these are two division rivals and the Eagles will certainly be looking for revenge after the drubbing last week. Even with the extra emotion though, the Cowboys are too good and the running attack will prove too much for Philly as Dallas wins 20-7.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals – Sunday 4:40
The final game of Wild Card Weekend sees Green Bay face Arizona in Glendale. The Packers blew out the Cardinals 33-7 last week in a game where Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin suffered a knee injury. Boldin looks doubtful to play Sunday, but the Cardinals will still have Larry Fitzgerald available for the game. Arizona will be home for the second week in a row, but that homefield advantage didn’t do anything to help Arizona last week. However, Arizona played mostly a reserve team and the lineup taking the field Sunday will look much different than the one that finished the game in the loss. Fitzgerald and QB Matt Leinart saw limited action while the defense had several starters sit as well. Green Bay, on the other hand, played its whole team with QB Aaron Rodgers and RBs Ryan Grant and Ahman Green each having solid games. Arizona had a great run last year, but Green Bay demolished the Cardinals in Arizona last week and will do so again this week as the Pack win 27-17.
There you have my predictions. Jets, Patriots, Cowboys, and Packers all win. That would leave the following matchups for next week:
As for those games, I see the Chargers and Colts both being too much for the AFC East teams while the Saints pick off the Packers, but the Cowboys pull an upset and defeat the Vikings. That would leave the following matchups for the conference finals:
In those games, I see the Chargers defeating the Colts in a tight game while the Saints overwhelm the ‘Boys.
In the Super Bowl, the Saints will cap off a fantastic season with a tight victory to win the title.