Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wild Card Sunday

Before getting into Sunday's picks, here's my recap of Saturday's terrible day for me which both my picks lost. The Seahawks are living a charmed life right now, but let's be fair, Stanford would have beat the Saints defense yesterday. They were awful after taking the 10-0 lead. Drew Brees did all he could, but he couldn't play defense and they couldn't stop Seattle when they needed to. It was pretty much punctuated by Marshawn Lynch's epic run which is one of those runs you see on NFL Films when Jim Brown or Earl Campbell make one of their all-time runs. It was physical and overpowering and might be the best playoff run in history. As far as biggest upset, I'll hold off and still go with Jacksonville trotting into Denver and beating Elway and Co. 30-27 in the 1996 Playoffs, in terms of a non-Super Bowl upset (thus Jets, Pats and Giants don't count). We can get into writing off the Seahawks next week and the discussion on whether 7-9 teams should host playoff games can be tabled for the future, but for now, Seattle's on top of the world.

The Seahawks would need to share a spot with Rex Ryan, who finally gets his win over Peyton Manning and his Colts. Of course, he was given this win on a timeout call by Jim Caldwell that was Chris Webber-level bad. The Jets were going to take their chances on a 50 yard field goal. I don't have to remind Jets fans on how Herm Edwards did the exact same thing against the Steelers in the 2004 Playoffs and Doug Brien proceeded to miss the winning field goal. Caldwell gave the Jets a chance to reconsider and Mark Sanchez found Braylon Edwards at the 15, setting up a 32 yard winner for Nick Folk. Sanchez deserves credit for making that throw, because he was awful yesterday. He overthrew receiver after receiver and cost the Jets points at halftime with his interception. The Jets, smartly, ran much of the second half and dominated the line of scrimmage. As for the Colts, Peyton was able to move the ball but couldn't get into the end zone except the long TD to Pierre Garcon. The Jets defense deserves credit for daring Manning to run the ball and Manning obliged for the most part. Still, Manning in a tough game put the Colts in a position to win and maybe they do if the Colts can stop Cromartie's return or if Caldwell lets the Jets take the field goal from 50 yards.

Onto the picks with the first game in Kansas City with the Chiefs hosting the Ravens. I thought the Chiefs had a better than punchers chance to win and the Seahawks winning makes a Chiefs win more possible. The Ravens are capable of beating anyone in the AFC, might be the best team on paper in the AFC. The problem is the Ravens all year when playing a big game seem to come small in a close game.

Ravens will win if: They do exactly what they did to the Dolphins in this playoff game two years ago, and to a lesser extent last year to New England, which is control tempo on the road against an inferior team (I go lesser with the Pats because I didn't find them inferior). The Chiefs running game would have to be stopped and Matt Cassel needs to be blitzed. Flacco just needs to control the offense, not turn the ball over and not panic late.

Chiefs will win if: They can run with Jamaal Charles and the crowd can disrupt the Ravens. Cassel would need to be upright and make a couple of plays. The Chiefs defense would also need to control the line of scrimmage and not allow big days from Flacco or Ray Rice.

My pick: I picked the Chiefs to make the playoffs back in start of the year. I would love to pick them today and I probably would if the game started at 4:30. The Ravens tend to play great on the 1pm Wild Card game. Plus, the only time the Ravens lost in the Wild Card round, the memorable Anthony Wright was the starting QB. So the Ravens (-3.5) will win today 20-10.

Now to the main event of the weekend, the Packers and the Eagles. The Packers soared in the last two games, while the Eagles slumped. Both teams have great QB play, with Aaron Rodgers appearing conventional but can break a run when necessary and Michael Vick ready to run, but more willing to throw in the pocket than in the past. Both teams have great receivers, Eagles are more likely to go deep, Packers can do both intermediate and deep very well. The Packers defense is better (the best one left in the NFC), while the Eagles run the ball better. Something's gotta give.

Packers will win if: They can blitz Vick for the full game and make him uncomfortable. This is a huge game for Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and the Packers defense. They have to stop LeSean McCoy and not let Vick find DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin deep. Offensively, Rodgers needs to thrive against an average Eagles defense, but at the very least to avoid killer interceptions.

Eagles will win if: Vick can run wild and Jackson makes two or three big plays. Also, if Rodgers can turn the ball over (likely meaning a big day for Asante Samuel) and can't throw in the wind today, the Eagles should win. McCoy running for over 100 yards would help as well.

My pick: Forget about the collapse, the Giants showed everyone how to contain Michael Vick, with a strong pass rush and avoid leaving contain. The Bears, Cowboys and Vikings all did the same. The Packers have the athletes to do the same, forget the first matchup as the Packers didn't gameplan Vick. Rodgers will make enough plays and I find a lower scoring game than most people think. Packers win 27-20.

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