Another NFL playoff season is upon us and the year featured a lot of interesting subplots including a future hall-of-fame QB coming out of retirement to almost lead an AFC team to the playoffs to and a team that went from 1-15 a year ago to winning their division this year. While the regular season was a good one, the post-season promises to be better. Here are my predictions for the opening weekend’s wild card game matchups.
Chargers at Colts: This game provides a rematch of a week 12 matchup in which the Colts defeated the Charges in a nail biting 23-20 victory. While the chargers boast of one the league’s better rushers in the NFL over the past few seasons in L.T., I think that momentum plays a big part entering the playoffs and no team is hotter than the Colts who come into this weekend having won nine consecutive games. While I believe it will be another low-scoring game, the Colts should win out in this match as well to advance to next round.
Ravens at Dolphins: As with the previous AFC matchup, this game also features two teams who met during the regular season. In Week 7, the Ravens defeated the Dolphins 27-14 in Miami to even its record at 3-3 and the Dolphins dropped to 2-4 at the time. However, since then, the Dolphins have won 9 of their last 10 games and finished the season at 11-5 and claimed the AFC East division after only winning only 1 game last year. On the other side of the coin, the Ravens only trail the Steelers in total yards allowed per game at 261 and the finished 4th in the league in rushing at 148ypg. In order to be successful in the playoffs, a team needs to have a good ground game along with solid defense, which the Ravens both possess. While the Dolphins have one biggest turnarounds from a season ago, The Ravens should win this one going away also.
Eagles at Vikings:
This matchup features two teams who barely made to the playoffs this year. The Vikings enter the playoffs by way of capturing the NFC North Division with a 20-19 win over the New York Giants. The Eagles on the other hand, were not even sure if the game against the Cowboys would have playoff implications for them until the Bears were defeated by the Texas earlier in the afternoon and they went on to throttle the Cowboys 44-6 and capture the final wildcard slot in the NFC. The Vikings have the superior running game and an edge in their receiving personnel as well. The Eagles have the edge at the QB position and like the Vikings are relatively stingy against the run (92 y.p.g.) and finished 3rd in overall defense in 2008. My pick here is conditional. If the Eagles defense can hold Adrian Peterson to an average day on the ground, the Eagles should emerge as the winner. However, if A.P. has a successful day on the ground, that will help open up the Vikings passing game which could be spell trouble for the Eagles. Pick Eagles.
Falcons at Cardinals:
Here we have the Cardinals who find themselves as division winners for the first time in 30 years along with a former Super Bowl MVP QB in Kurt Warner leading the Cardinals to the playoffs. The surprise Falcons manage to bounced back from a tumultuous 2008 season where their QB was arrested, their head coach quit in the middle of the year and they finished at only 4-12. The emergence of rookie QB, Matt Ryan and former Charger backup, Michael Turner has resulted in the Falcons being one of the few surprise teams from a year ago. The Cardinals have the edge at the QB position but I believe the Falcons have a more balanced attack on offense. Being that neither team has a defense that blows you away, I think that the team that is more capable of controlling the clock will be the team that will win this game. Pick Falcons
**STATS REFERENCED IN THE ABOVE ARTICE WERE CITED FROM THE NFL.COM SITE**