Saturday, January 9, 2010

NFL Wildcard Weekend

The march to Super Bowl 44 is beginning, the NFL Playoffs are here. Opening week of the playoffs is traditional called “Wildcard Weekend” but we decided to go with “Rematch Revenge.” Three of the four games are rematches from Week 17 and other a rematch from Week 4. Hence, “Rematch Revenge.” It has a sweet ring to it.

The playoffs begin on Saturday. The first game is a battle between the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals in “The Jungle”, Paul Brown Stadium. Last week the Jets pummeled the Bengals 37-0 in New York. Cincy had little to play for as they had a playoff spot wrapped up. The Bengals sat Cedric Benson but started the game with the rest of their first team and had pulled most starters, including Carson Palmer, during the early stages of the third quarters. The Jets still had a commanding 24-0 halftime lead against the Bengals starters and the Jets should be very confident coming into this game. Cincinnati is going to need a big game from Benson as they will probably get little production out of Chad Ochocinco. Ochocinco will surely be covered by the Jet’s Darrelle Revis. Revis has continuously shutdown the opponent’s top receiver all season long and is a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. The Jets will also look to run the ball well to win this game. Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene will be counted on to take some pressure off of rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has looked good, efficient, and very bad during the roller coaster ride this season. The key for Cincinnati is which team will show up to play. The Bengals have been very inconsistent this season and appears to play down to their opponent. The Jet’s key is can Sanchez avoid the costly rookie mistakes. Vegas has Cincy as a 2 ½ point favorite. I’m taking the Jets; their top ranked defense could be very dangerous in the playoffs. I guess Rex Ryan agrees, he says the Jets should be the favorites to win the whole enchilada. Let’s not get carried away Rex.

Saturday’s prime time match up pits the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. The game is at lavish Cowboys Stadium where Dallas is 6-2 on the year and the Cowboys are going for the season trifecta against Philly. The Eagles lost a close one at home 20-16 earlier in the season and got shelled 24-0 last week in Dallas. They always say its tough to beat a team three times in one season but recent history doesn’t support that claim. The Cowboys will go as Tony Romo goes. Romo has been pretty nails lately and is trying to shed his playoff inadequacies. The Cowboys are trying to avoid the annual late season choke. The Cowboys need to ride the two headed horse of Marian Barber and Felix Jones. If those guys can keep the chains moving, it will keep the explosive Eagles offense on the sidelines. Philadelphia’s offense spreads the ball all over the field. The running back tandem of McCoy and Westbrook are duel threats as they catch the ball well and Westbrook should see more playing time after coming back from two concussions. Brent Celek, the Eagles tight end, leads the team in receptions and seems to make a big play every game. Philly also has the deep threat in speedsters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Macklin. Jackson leads the team in Internet trash talking and his doing his best to fire up the Cowboys. These are two similarly matched teams and who ever can force some turnovers will win in an exciting game. The Cowboys are 4 point favorites in Vegas and I think the Cowboys will cover but it will come down to the end.

The NFL matinee on Sunday features the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots. The Patriots love playing in Foxboro and are unbeaten at home this season. Baltimore and New England faced off in week 4 of the NFL season. The Pats held off the Ravens and won by the score of 27-21. Tom Brady, who was just named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, leads the Patriot offense and will be missing its leading receiver, Wes Welker. The Pats really don’t have much of a running game so I expect Randy Moss to be the weapon of choice. The Ravens are lead by their physical defense. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs can be game changers. Baltimore’s offense can usually piece together enough points to eek out the victory. Here’s my key to the game…Ray Rice. Rice is a human bulldozer and plows through, over, and around tacklers. He’s a good target for Flacco out of the backfield also. If Rice can get on target, watch out. Obviously it will be cold and miserable in New England, it is January. I think Baltimore has a better ability to control the ball and ultimately the clock. The Patriot defense will get wore down over the course of the game and their offense isn’t as potent as years past. The spread from Vegas has the Patriots a 3 point favorite but the Ravens win in an upset on the road and advance to the next round.

That brings us to the final game of “Rematch Revenge,” Green Bay visits sunny Glendale for the second week in a row to face off with Arizona Cardinals. Fresh off a 33-7 beat down of the Cards, Green Bay is oozing confidence. It should be mentioned that Arizona pulled most of its stars quickly with nothing to gain in the playoff seeding. The Packers defense has been getting headlines this season. They lead the league in interceptions and turnover margin, both key stats. Woodson should be back from injury for the playoffs and he is another leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. The Packers front seven are one of the best units in the league. Matt Rodgers put together a fantastic year. He threw for over 4400 yards, 30 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions. On the other side of the field, are the Cardinals. They come into the game with some key people banged up, including Anquan Boldin. Kurt Warner has always been a miracle worker in the postseason and with his quick trigger, he’s able to avoid trouble. The Cards spread the ball around well and utilize many targets. They should be able to survive with a below 100% Boldin because Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers in the game. Fitzgerald catches everything that is close to him and the Fitz-Woodson matchup will be a great battle to watch during the game. The key for the Cardinals is to avoid turnovers from Warner, which he’s usually good for a couple. The Packer defense holds their key to victory. The defense line needs to get to Warner and make some sacks or knockdowns. Constant pressure on Warner will cause him to make poor decisions. The brains in Vegas have the Cardinals as a 1 point favorite. I’m going to disagree and take Green Bay. The Pack wins by eleven.

We seem to like the road teams in Rematch Revenge. All the home teams are favored so we are underdog lovers this week also. To wrap it up, we like the Jets, Ravens, and Packers in upsets and the Cowboys to cover at home. Enjoy the games everyone.

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