Wild Card Weekend
5 Burning Questions goes picks crazy for the playoffs.
By: Braden Gall | 1/6/11, 11:15 AM EST
Can Rodgers win in Philly twice this season?
Athlon's Steven Lassan, Nathan Rush and Braden Gall discuss the matchups for Wildcard Weekend in the NFL:
1. New Orleans at Seattle
Steven Lassan: Winning in Seattle is never easy, but I can't see the Saints losing this one. Despite the loss of Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas, Drew Brees will find a way to win this game. The Seahawks simply won't have enough offense, regardless of who starts under center - Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst. Give the Seahawks credit for winning last week against St. Louis, but the defending champs aren't going out in Round 1.
Braden: The defending champions of the universe against the worst playoff team in NFL history? Hmm. Drew Brees, please!
Nathan: The Saints have an 8–2 record against teams that ended the season with a losing record, including a 34–19 win over the Seahawks in Week 11. But coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees need to act as if Seattle is a Super Bowl contender. An intensity lapse is the most likely stumbling block for New Orleans in this Wild Card matchup. But I expect the Saints to march to the first win of their title defense by handing the Hawks their 10th loss of the season.
2. Green Bay at Philadelphia
Steven: Tempted to pick the upset here, but going to take the Eagles. If Michael Vick and the Eagles offense struggle with blitz pickups like they did against Minnesota, then Green Bay will get the victory. However, giving Vick a week to get healthy should be just enough for the Eagles to move on to Round 2. Out of the first round games, I think this is the one that will be the most entertaining.
Braden: It is very difficult to beat a team twice in a season — especially on the road both times. Vick's quad injury is a concern, but in the second half of that game in Week 1, he was nearly unstoppable. Expect Dom Capers to design some seriously complex defensive schemes, using Charles Woodson near the line of scrimmage and as a spy on Vick. The difference is the Packers' inability to convert on third/fourth and short (or along the goalline). Even without Stewart Bradley, the Eagles should be able to get off the field on third down.
Nathan: Throwing for 423 yards and four TDs was not enough for Aaron Rodgers to win his first playoff game, as he fumbled away a 51–45 overtime loss at Arizona last year. And this week, A-Rod will have to avoid throwing the game away to Philly corner Asante Samuel —whose playoff production (6 INTs for 227 yards and 4 TDs) speaks for itself — while the Packers defense focuses on stopping Mike Vick, DeSean Jackson and Co. After sitting out Week 17, Vick should be close to 100 percent for this heavyweight fight. And a healthy Vick has been nearly unstoppable this season. I’m taking the Eagles.
Revis will be matched up against Reggie Wayne.
3. New York at Indianapolis
Steven: Intriguing rematch of last season's AFC Championship game. Either team is capable of putting together a run in the playoffs, but I'm taking the Colts at home. Even with injuries to its running back and wide receiving corps, the offense continues to find ways to win games. The Colts need to step up on defense, especially against the run. I suspect this is a close game deep into the fourth quarter, but once again, No. 18 finds a way to put the Colts on his back and advances to the second round.
Braden: I was all over the Jets when the matchups were set on Sunday, but I have pulled a 180 and am taking the Colts. Other than New England, the Colts have the longest winning streak going (4) and as long as you have #18 calling plays, you got a shot. Manning knows the Rex Ryan defense and has excelled against him. The Colts rushing defense has been a major question but came on strong at the end of the year. If this game is in New Jersey, I would take New York, but at the Oil Drum, I am taking Indy.
Nathan: Peyton Manning lit up the Jets defense for 377 yards, three TDs and zero INTs in a 30–17 win in last year’s AFC title game. But the Colts’ laser-rocket-armed quarterback struggled against 3-4 defenses this season — throwing eight TDs and 11 INTs while going 0–3 against the Patriots, Chargers and Cowboys in Weeks 11-13. Still, the real key will be Mark Sanchez; the Jets are 5–1 in games he doesn’t throw an INT but 1–3 when he commits multiple turnovers. I’ll roll the dice with the J-E-T-S on the road.
4. Baltimore at Kansas City
Steven: Kansas City did not look very good in the season finale against Oakland, but I suspect a raucous crowd at Arrowhead Stadium will have them motivated against the Ravens. There's also the distraction of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis leaving the team at the end of the season, but the team continues to insist it won't be a distraction. Although the Chiefs are at home, Baltimore is playoff tested and that will be the difference in this game. The Ravens made some noise with a win over New England last year and assuming they get past the Chiefs, will be a handful for New England or Pittsburgh in Round 2.
Braden: A quarterback who doesn't turn the ball over. The best rushing attack in the NFL. Wild, crazy home fans creating an electric home field advantage. First round talent all over the defense. But do the Chiefs have the experience to win in the playoffs for the first time since 1993? Because the one major advantage the Ravens own in this game is playoff experience. Reed, Lewis, Flacco, Ngata and Boldin have proven they can win on the road in the playoffs. I desperately want to take the upset, but I will play it safe and take Baltimore.
Nathan: The Chiefs’ top-ranked rushing offense (164.2 ypg) — led by Jamaal Charles (1,380 yards) and Thomas Jones (879 yards) — takes on the fifth-ranked Ravens rush defense (93.9 ypg). With 300-pound mauler Haloti Ngata and future first-ballot Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis leading the way, Baltimore has allowed just 83 rushing yards per game over its last eight contests. And if K.C. is forced to put the ball in the air, Ravens ball-hawk Ed Reed (8 INTs in 10 games) could have as many big plays as Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs are happy just to be AFC West champs; the Ravens are on a Super Bowl mission. I think Baltimore dominates an ugly game.
Most Popular Articles
Contests & Promotions
Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing!
Enter the Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing game. Just head over to athlon.myfantasyracing.com and register for your chance to win a chance to watch a 2014 race from the grandstands. You'll also have a chance to win other amazing prizes such as an autographed Kyle Busch helmet.