Wild Card Weekend Picks
Time to step it up, step it up its playoff time!-Chuck D on Janet Jackson’s song “New Agenda”
Chuck D pretty much says it all. It is indeed time to step it up. For 12 teams the dream lives on and the game gets stepped up. Have a bad one, and it’s all over. Have a good one and you take another step to Indy. The Patriots, Ravens 49ers and Packers are sacked out on their respective couches or barcoloungers watching this week’s proceedings with detached interest. They have earned the coveted playoff bye weeks as their conferences top two seeds With at least 12 wins per team they have earned that distinction and privilege. For the remaining 8 teams the road to Indy starts on Wild Card Weekend and though it is tougher, getting to and winning the Super Bowl from the Wild Card spot is not the impossible dream. Last year Green Bay became the 2nd #6 seed to win the Super Bowl, so the possibility is there. The road to Super Bowl 46 starts here. All odds are provided courtesy of bodog.net and are for entertainment and comparison purposes only.
NFL Wild Card Weekend
Saturday, January 7
#6 Bengals (9-7) AFC #2 Wild Card @ #3 Texans (10-6) AFC South Champ
Reliant Stadium, Houston 4:30 (NBC)
Favorite Texans by 3
First Playoff Meeting.
Last Playoff Appearance- Bengals lost to Jets in 2009 Wild Card round, Texans make first playoff appearance in franchise history
Fast Facts: CIN: Bengals last playoff win was 1990 Wild Card round against the Houston Oilers who now are the Tennessee Titans. HOU-City hosting first playoff game since 1993 AFC Wild Card round
An unlikely pair of teams clash to kickoff the playoffs, The Bengals were pretty much written off before the start of the season, breaking in a new QB with the old one wanting out, new offensive scheme and more drama and turmoil than a soap opera. Ignoring the Naysayers, the Bengals started 1-2 and then ripped off a 5 game win streak. Sputtering down the back half of the schedule, they won just enough to be the ones left standing after a host of teams fell apart late. The Texans roared out to an impressive 10-3 start but after beating the Bengals and clinching the division, have yet to win again. The Bengals have depended on the young but steady hand of Andy Dalton and the spectacular play of AJ Green on offense and a no name defense that has played well enough to get close wins. The Texans have the irrepressible running of Arian Foster and a rowdy defense that gets turnovers. I just have a feeling that though the Bengals are young in some areas there is just enough playoff experience to keep them grounded. The Texans will likely be amped for their first ever playoff game and the atmosphere at Reliant Stadium will be electric. I think the Bengals will grind out an ugly win and steal the Texans thunder.
#6 Lions (10-6) NFC #2 Wild Card @ #3 Saints (13-3) NFC South Champ
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans 8:00 (NBC)
Favorite Saints by 11
Last Week Lions lost to Packers 45-41, Saints beat Panthers 45-17
First Playoff Meeting.
Last Playoff Appearance- Lions lost to Redskins in 1999 Wild Card Round, Saints lost to Seahawks in 2010 Wild Card round
Fast Facts DET: Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw for a team record 5038 yards NO: Made playoff for the third straight year for the first time in franchise history.
This is the first playoff game that features two 5000 yard passers, so expect lots of throws in this primetime playoff tilt. The Saints are the playoff tested team and Drew Brees has been running a high powered high speed offense. The Lions can put the yards and points up but unlike the Saints have a defense that can fall asleep at the switch Ndomakung Suh will cause his share of havoc here and there, but betting against Drew Brees at home isn’t smart in this instance. The Saints might not drop another 40 point performance but they will put enough up to outgun the Lions who wont be another 12 years before they’re playing meaningful January games.
Sunday, January 8
#5 Falcons (11-5) NFC #1 Wild Card @ #4 Giants (9-7) NFC East Champs
MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Giants by 3
Last Week Falcons beat Buccaneers 45-24 Giants beat Cowboys 31-14
First Playoff Meeting.
Last Playoff Appearance- Falcons lost to Packers in 2010 Divisional Round, Giants lost to Eagles in 2008 Divisional Round
Fast Facts: ATL: Makes the playoff in back to back years for the first time and is on their longest run of winning seasons in franchise history NYG: QB Eli Manning threw an NFL record 15 touchdown passes in the 4th quarter
These playoff tested squads face each other in postseason for the first time, but they are already sniping at one another like arch rivals. G-Men defensive lineman Justin Tuck has openly accusing the Falcons offensive line of dirty tactics. Both teams have QB’s who are studies in cool. The unflappable Eli Manning quietly threw for 67 yards shy of 5000 yards and is getting a rep of being big in the clutch. Matt Ryan has a well earned nickname of Matty Ice and can throw the ball all day. I'm looking at both teams and this game on the surface to be a draw but I like the Falcons better running game and their ability to pick on the G-Men’s often suspect secondary while holding off their pass rush led by Tuck and the precocious Jason Pierre-Paul. In a game I think will be a lot better than advertised, the Falcons get the lead and hang on despite a Manning led late rush.
Steelers (12-4) #1 AFC Wild Card @ #4 Broncos (8-8) AFC West Champs
Sports Authority Field @ Mile High 4:30 (CBS)
Favorite Steelers by 9
Last Playoff Meeting: Steelers beat Broncos 34-17 in 2005 AFC Championship (7th Meeting series tied 3-3.
Last Playoff Appearance- Steelers lost to Packers in Super Bowl 45, Broncos lost to Steelers 2005 AFC Championship
Last Week Steelers beat Browns 13-9, Broncos lost to Chiefs 7-3
Fast Facts: PIT: DEN: First playoff appearance since 2005 breaks franchises longest playoff drought since going 17 years from their creation to make their inital playoff appearance.
The Broncos had their division title handed to them as the Raiders came apart at the finish line. Making the playoffs in spite of their much maligned QB the AFC West champs are making their first playoff appearance in 6 years. The Steelers are the defending AFC champs and are not pleased with their 12 wins not getting them a home game. The Steelers offense is hobbled with Rashard Mendenhall out with a blown knee and Ben Roethlisberger being hobbled. Nevertheless, the Steelers can grind out an ugly win with their defense way better than the young Broncos can. Look for the Steelers to force Tebow into a few mistakes and cash them into points. That will be enough to get the win and move on to a grudge match in Baltimore.
Last Week: 12-4 (Lock Correct, Upset Incorrect)