Friday, January 08, 2010

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard weekend

Jets (+3) at Bengals: Fresh off a 37-0 beating at the hands of the Jets in the regular season finale, the AFC North champion Bengals will attempt to win their first playoff game since 1990. Back then they beat the Houston Oilers (who are now the Tennessee Titans) in the wildcard round but then lost to the Los Angeles Raiders in the divisional playoff contest (Bo Jackson's last game as an NFL player). Both teams feature solid defenses with potent rushing attacks. The Jets' Thomas Jones finished with 1,402 yards rushing (third best in the NFL) while the Bengals' Cedric Benson finished eighth in the NFL with 1,251 yards. Say, aren't both those guys former Bears? Ah, but who needs running backs of that caliber when you have Matt Forte running for 3.6 yards per carry.

But I digress.

Bengals 17 Jets 13

Eagles (+4) at Cowboys: With this being the third matchup of these two teams this season, the Cowboys will look to complete a three game sweep of Philly. Naturally, we're going to hear the tired old cliche of how difficult it is to beat a team three times in a season. But the fact of the matter is it happens more often than not. In the past ten postseasons, teams have met for a third time on six occasions. In those six games, the team who swept the regular season matchups went 4-2 in the playoff games. And right now the Cowboys seem to be the most complete team entering this year's postseason. Not only have they shutout their last two opponents (including the Eagles last week), they dealt the New Orleans Saints their first defeat in week 15. In fact, the high octane Saints offense didn't even score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. Dallas QB Tony Romo put together a solid December for the first time in his career and WR Miles Austin has successfully replaced T.O. as the Cowboys #1 receiver.

Cowboys 27 Eagles 17

Ravens (+3 1/2) at Patriots: Pats QB Tom Brady apparently has three broken ribs and a fractured finger on his throwing hand. WR Wes Welker is out due to torn knee ligaments. And to top it all off, New England also has nary a star on defense. Ah, but Randy Moss is still in the fold after a nice regular season with 83 catches (13 for TDs) and 1,264 yards. Meanwhile, the Ravens seem to be finding a little mojo on offense with the emergence of Ray Rice, who can gash a defense via the run or pass. And QB Joe Flacco has piled up better offensive numbers than his rookie year last season when he led Baltimore all the way to the AFC Championship. Who would have guessed that this game has the potential to be an offensive shootout, given the Ravens have the reputation as a top-tier defense? I give the Patriots the edge simply because they are at home, where they finished 8-0 during the regular season

Patriots 31 Ravens 27

Packers (+1 1/2) at Cardinals: To me, the Packers not only enter the playoffs as the NFL's hottest team, but they are by far the most resilient. After losing at home to Brett Favre and the Vikings in week 8 and then falling to the 0-7 Buccaneers the following game, the Pack found themselves reeling at 4-4. Since then, they were a miracle Ben Roethlisberger TD pass away from running the table the second half of the season. In fact, they went 5-1 the final six weeks without defensive stalwarts Aaron Kampman and Al Harris, both lost for the season with knee injuries. Meanwhile, the Cards have bucked the recent trend of the Super Bowl runner-up missing the playoffs the following season. Of course, playing in the same division as the Seahawks and Rams doesn't hurt. But what does hurt is stud WR Anquan Boldin being hampered by a high ankle sprain. That means there will be an extra burden placed upon Larry Fitzgerald's shoulders, and I'm sure he's up for the task. In fact, the thought of Packers CB Charles Woodson on Fitzgerald makes for the most intriguing one-on-one matchup of the weekend.

Packers 31 Cardinals 21

The previous prognostications are for recreational purposes only and not to be used as a basis for a cash wager


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