Let’s talk NFL Wild Card Playoffs

This weekend begins the playoffs for the 2010-2011 NFL season, with the AFC and NFC both playing two wild card games.  There are some good matchups in this round, but one game that should be a no-brainer.  I’ll leave it up to you to figure that one out.  First off, I just want to say that I find it interesting that in three out of the four wild card games, the team with the worst record gets to play at home.  In the Green Bay vs Philadelphia game, both teams have the same record, same wins and losses in their division, but the Packers had a better conference record than Philadelphia.  Also, does anyone find it odd that a team with a losing record is hosting a playoff game?  The Seattle Seahawks (7-9) make the playoffs, while the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are sitting at home with 10-6 records in the same conference.  Perhaps there is a better way to structure the playoffs, but for now this is what we are stuck with.  Now let’s get into the matchups.

#6 New York Jets (11-5) at  #3 Indianapolis Colts (10-6):

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton ManningThis game is a rematch of last years AFC Championship game in which the Colts defeated the Jets 30-17 after trailing early on.  The Colts have the advantage of playing this game at home, and won their last four games of the regular season.  The Jets lost three out of their last five regular season games.  Peyton Manning, as always, will be the key for the Colts and their number one ranked passing offense.  He finished the season with 4,700 passing yards, a 66.3% completion rate, and 33 touchdowns, all good enough to be ranked second in the NFL this year.  The Jets can only hope that Manning has an off day, like his three-week span where he threw 8 TD’s and 11 INT and lost all three games during that period.  Manning’s 13 years in the league and Super Bowl XLI Championship give New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchezhim the experience advantage over Mark Sanchez, who is only in his second year in the NFL.  Sanchez significantly improved over his rookie season of 12 TD’s and 20 INT, but the Jets are still much more of a ground and pound team, ranked 4th overall in rushing yards.  The Jets priority will be to pressure Manning, and their 40 sacks tied them for 4th best in the AFC.  The Jets overall defense was ranked 3rd in yards allowed and 6th in points allowed.  The best chance for the Jets to win is to maintain possession to keep the ball out of Manning’s hands, and not allow the Colts to score over 24 points.

#5 Baltimore Ravens (12-4) at #4 Kansas City Chiefs (10-6):

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal CharlesThis game matches a veteran defense against a very young and potent rushing offense.  The Chiefs have the advantage of playing their first playoff game since 2006 at home.  They haven’t won a playoff game since 1994, so their lack of experience may hurt their performance.  The Ravens beat the Chiefs 38-24 in their only meeting last year.  The Chiefs also took a beating in their final regular season game, losing to the Raiders 31-10, and it was quarterback Matt Cassel’s worst game of the season by far.  Cassel had his best year of his career in some respects, and with 27 TD’s and only 7 INT, he shows that he typically will not lose the game by making a mistake.  The Chiefs also have the number one rushing offense in the NFL.  Jamaal Charles was second in the NFL with 1,467 rushing yards, and was complimented by Thomas Jones and his 896 rushing yards.  Both Matt Cassel and Jamaal Charles are making their playoff debuts.  Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe scored an NFL best 15 TD’s on his way to 1,162 receiving yards this year.  Whether he plays or not will be key to whether the Chiefs can compete vertically, since they were ranked 30th in passing yards even with Bowe playing every game.  The Baltimore Ravens come into this game winning their last four games of the regular season.  Quarterback Joe Flacco, in his third season, has very similar numbers to Matt Cassel with 25 TD’s and 10 Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray LewisINT.  The Ravens offense is ranked 22nd overall, and is not their strength.  The defense is what wins games for the Ravens.  Linebacker Ray Lewis had another stellar year with 139 tackles, leading the third ranked defense in points allowed and fifth in yards allowed, giving up only 93.9 yards per game this season.  The Ravens defense only allowed three players to rush for more than 80 yards in a game.  The Chiefs running game against the Ravens defense is definitely the key to this game.  I don’t see either team scoring more than 21 points, but if one does, they may end up winning the game.

#5 New Orleans Saints (11-5) at #4 Seattle Seahawks (7-9):

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew BreesThe worst thing that could happen here is that the Saints overlook the Seahawks, as you still have to play the game and can’t win on stats alone.  The Seattle Seahawks have the notable distinction of being the first NFL playoff team with a home game and losing record.  The only other time in NFL history when teams with losing records made the playoffs was the strike year of 1982, but neither team had a home game.  Seattle backed into the playoffs by losing five of their last six games, but defeated the St. Louis Rams in the season finale to earn the playoff spot.  Seattle lost to the Saints on November 21st, in New Orleans, by a score of 19-34.  It has not been determined who will start at quarterback for Seattle, but they would have a better chance to win with Matt Hasselbeck over Charlie Whitehurst.  Even though he has thrown 12 TD’s and 17 INT Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasslebeckon the season, Hasselbeck has won his last four postseason starts at home.  The Seahawks and are ranked 19th in total passing yards, and have the second worst rushing game in the NFL, averaging only 89.0 yards per game.  The Saints won six games in a row during the regular season, but lost two of their last three games.  They will be playing in their third game in 12 days and have a depleted running game, with injuries to leading rusher Chris Ivory as well as Pierre Thomas.  Reggie Bush and Julius Jones will certainly have to step up their games.  The Saints offense, however, is powered by Drew Brees, and ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards.  Brees passed for over 4,000 for the fifth straight season and had a completion percentage of 68.1%.  The Saints defense is solid, and was ranked 4th in both passing yards allowed and total yards allowed.  I see the only way for Seattle to win is by creating turnovers, and if not, I see Brees leading the Saints to a lopsided victory, although I am not sure he can lead them to another Superbowl this year.  

#6 Green Bay Packers (10-6) at #3 Philadelphia Eagles (10-6):

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael VickThis playoff game is a rematch of the first game of the season in which Green Bay beat Philadelphia 27-20, and at one point in the game led 20-3.  Kevin Kolb left with a concussion, and Michael Vick almost led the Eagles to a comeback win in the second half.  Home field advantage isn’t such a valuable thing for the Philadelphia Eagles, as they are only 4-4 (.500) at home.  The Eagles lost their last two regular season games, and Michael Vick sat out the final game to rest his bruised quad.  The Packers had to win their last two regular season games to squeak into the playoffs.  Out of their six losses (by a total of 20 points), they led in five of those games, and were tied three times in their other loss.  The Packers biggest problem this year has been finishing close games in the fourth quarter.  Aaron Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron RodgersRodgers had the third highest quarterback rating at 101.2 for the Packers, and the Eagles Michael Vick was right behind him (4th) with a rating of  100.2.  Green Bay was ranked 5th in total passing yards on offense.  With assistance from Clay Matthews and his 13.5 sacks, the Packers ranked 5th in total passing yards allowed and total yards allowed, and 2nd in total points allowed (15.0).  The Eagles have a higher ranked offense, ranking 2nd in total yards, and 3rd in total points per game (27.2).  Their defense is ranked lower, at 15th in rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed, and 21st in points allowed per game (23.6).  Both teams have explosive offenses, as the Packers had 57 passes for 20 plus yards, and the Eagles had 80 plays of 20 yards or more.  Watch for receivers Greg Jennings of the Packers (1,265 receiving yards), and DeSean Jackson of the Eagles (1,056 receiving yards) to have an impact on who wins.  This should be a game of whoever makes the most big plays wins, whether that be on offense or defense.

~ by Troy Erickson Realtor on January 7, 2011.

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