That's right, Coach Mora...the NFL Playoffs are the talk of the sports world right now, outside of Gitty-Up Gilbert Arenas living up to the name "Agent Zero" but that's another story I dare not go over. I'm here to talk about playoffs much to the dismay of Jim Mora Sr. This opening wild-card weekend offers three week 17 matchups where all of them were major blowouts. I'll be starting with the AFC matchups and give a brief, "amaturish" analysis and my picks:
(5) Baltimore Ravens vs (4) New England Patriots
The Patriots (10-6) come into their wildcard matchup after a loss to the Texans and also losing star receiver Wes Welker to torn ligaments in his knee and is out for the playoffs. Taking his spot will be rookie Julian Edleman who also filled in for Welker in weeks 2 and 3 when Welker was out. He has been scouted as playing a similar style to Welker and finished the Texans game with 10 catches for 103 yards. Not bad for the rookie. But he'll be going against the Ravens (9-7) mighty defense who look to really make him work. The Ravens played the Pats earlier in the year and lost so look for them to come into this game with a chip on their shoulder to avenge that. It was a very close game and I imagine the same here. Ray Rice, the Ravens starting Pro Bowl running back, has really come along late in the season so he'll take the pressure off second year QB Joe Flacco. There has been talks of Lawrence Marouney also being severely banged up so we'll see how well he plays. He as well as Edleman are my X-Factors for the Patriots. Now if the Ravens can take away Moss and the deep ball, the Ravens will be moving onto the next round. Depending on how well Flacco and his sketchy receiving corp play which is my X-Factor for the Ravens. If they are catching balls and moving the chains effectively then that spells a win for the Ravens. And I honestly expect them to show up. So I'm going against the odds (and the snow) and I see the Ravens upsetting the banged up Pats here. Sorry Pats fans.
(6) New York Jets vs (3) Cincinnati Bengals
This is one of the week 17 matchups where the New York Jets (9-7) shutout the Bengals 37-0 in a must-win game for the Jets. The same couldn't be said for the Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) who already clinched the 3rd seed earlier that day. The Jets were clicking in all three areas: offense, defense, and special teams to stomp the Bengals out. Carson Palmer was very ineffective against the Jets top ranked defense and the Bengals were also without WR Chad Johnson (that's right, Johnson) with him leaving early with a slight knee injury. Cedric Benson was also pulled early which played into the zero points scored. And with that said don't be fooled by that score. The Bengals didn't play their hardest let alone their best players in a meaningless game for them, especially knowing they would meet the Jets in the playoffs. On their turf in Cincy. Expect the opposite of their week 17 matchup and the Bengals winning by at least a touchdown or maybe even more to move onto the next round.
(6) Philadelphia Eagles vs (3) Dallas Cowboys
The second of three week 17 rematches, the Eagles (11-5) were shutout by the Cowboys (11-5) 24-0. Using a similar game plan they used to beat the Saints a few weeks back, the Cowboys took away the deep ball from the Eagles and moved the ball behind speedy Felix Jones and bruising running back Marion Barber and QB Tony Romo finished the two early scoring drives with touchdowns to make it an early 14-0 lead and the Cowboys defense handled the rest. The Eagles played very flat on both sides of the ball. McNabb was way off on some of his throws and WR DeSean Jackson gave up on plays. Only shining star in the offense was TE Brent Celek. On defense they blitzed very seldomly and Romo was able to pick them apart. Despite this, Romo was slightly off and almost threw several picks. The Eagles were only a half step behind on plays that could have blown the game wide open on their end. The Eagles need to regroup and figure out this Cowboys team quick, fast and in a hurry. They are talented enough to do so but is 6 days enough time to make the necessary adjustments? This is a hard game to call...so I'll go with "what have you done for me lately" and pick the Cowboys who are the hot team and seem to have the Eagles number right now and they move onto the next round. As much as it pains me to admit it because I can't stand the Cowboys. So I hope I'm wrong and the Eagles come through and make adjustments lol.
(5) Green Bay Packers vs (4) Arizona Cardinals
The last of the three Week 7 matchups where the 11-5 Packers beat the 9-7 Cardinals 33-7 in Arizona, where their playoff game will be played again. This game also played out to be just like the Bengals/Jets game where the Packers went full throttle and the Cards held back and just kept it basic. Which one of these tactics will work we'll come to find out this weekend. It seems Arizona's offense has been pretty stagnant as of lately and Kurt Warner is showing he's human. Haven't seen Beenie Wells in weeks so someone is going to have to step up. The Packers are one of the season's surprise teams turning it around from a 6-10 record last season to making the playoffs. This is QB Aaron Rodgers' coming out party and I look for him to have a big game. The Super Bowl runner-up Cards lose here in my other upset and the Packers will be set up to possibly play...*dun dun dunnnnnn* the Vikings next round in the game Everyone-Wants-To-See-But-Doesn't-Want-To-Admit-It-Out-Loud special of the playoffs.
So once again I have Ravens over Pats, Cowboys over Eagles, Bengals over Jets, and Packers over Cards all moving to the second round of the playoffs. Next week I'll make my picks for that round, until then thanks for reading and remember to comment and d