Friday, January 2, 2009

The BIG Wild Card Weekend Preview

Here it comes! From select NFL stadiums all across America, it's the FABULOUS 48 hour NFL WILD CARD ROUND...!

Arizona Cardinals, COME ON DOWN!!!

The Cardinals will play their first home playoff game since 1947. They didn't finish the regular season strong, going 1-2, including a 47-7 loss at New England. Lots of high flying receivers (Boldin, Fitzgerald and the rest) led by a born-again Kurt Warner (no pun intended). They'll face the...

Atlanta Falcons, COME ON DOWN!!!

The Falcons have made a huge return to glory, finishing 11-5 after going 4-12 the year before. By the way, Dave will toot his horn and let EVERYBODY know he picked the Falcons to win 10+ games this season. Sure, it was a long shot, but I'm proud to say I'm the only guy that got it right :-)

Ok anyway, the Falcons are 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards per game led by Michael Turner who really took off after leaving the San Diego Chargers. Let's not forget Matt Ryan, who's exceeding everyone's expectations in his rookie season. Ryan has thrown for 3,440 yards along with 16 TDs and 11 interceptions.

So the Falcons play at Arizona at 4:30 ET Saturday afternoon. This game ought to be fairly close but I wouldn't be surprised if either team won. Should be fun!

Saturday night features the best matchup of the weekend:

San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts, COME ON DOWN!!!

Hard to fathom an 8-8 team being much of a threat to anybody in the playoffs, but the Chargers present some mystifying matchup issues for the Colts and have been for the last five years. Remember how the Colts faded against these Chargers in last year's Divisional Round? That may have been an even bigger upset than the Giants beating Dallas.

So many big names make this matchup a good watch: On one side there's Manning, Harrison, Wayne, Addai, Rhodes, Sanders, and Clark (ok Jeff Saturday should make the list too). On the other side there's Rivers, Tomlinson, Gates, Chambers, Cromartie, and Jackson. While last year's playoff duel was in Indy, this year's fracas takes place in beautiful San Diego. For all we know, this game could be a blowout, but on paper, it appears to come down to a last second field goal.

After a pretty good Saturday slate of Wild Card games, we move on to the Sunday Surprises.

MInnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, COME ON DOWN!!!

Both teams were picked by many to make the playoffs during training camp, but they started off 2008 so badly, one feels like they're relieved to make the big playoff tourney. By week 8, we figured they'd be lucky to make the playoffs. The Vikings, just like last year, are in the top 5 in rushing and defense against the run. Unfortunately, they also have lousy QB play and turnovers will make the difference.

The Eagles? I can't figure them out. Phily loses a game they had to win at Washington two weeks ago, 10-3, and still sneaks into the playoffs. How? First, Tampa Bay does the unthinkable and loses at home to Oakland. Next, the Eagles take a weak-minded Cowboys team and clobber them 44-6.

The Eagles remind me of another "hard to figure out" team, the 2000 New York Giants. Nobody knew what they really had, yet somehow they were good enough for a 1 seed and they completely destroyed the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. Then they were manhandled by the Ravens 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV. Granted, the Ravens forced many of Collins' 4 interceptions, but in the end, the Giants were outcoached and outplayed from start to finish. The Giants' only score was a fluke kickoff return for 97 yards.... which was answered by a Baltimore kickoff return TD of their own!

But enough about 2000, the Eagles and Vikings look like two teams made for each other. I'm willing to bet the game will be within 8 points and Vegas agrees. The Eagles, on the road, are favored by -3 despite having a mostly uneven season. On the other hand, the Vikings have looked really meager against the dregs of the NFL. For example, the Vikes played the Lions twice and beat them by a combined 6 points. Oof. This game could get ugly, but it'll be interesting to start.

Now to the real Sunday Surprises...

Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, COME ON DOWN!!!

For a rookie, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco has done remarkably well. His QB rating is ranked middle of the pack for the NFL. The Ravens also feature one of the fiercer defenses in the NFL. After years of experts, myself included, counting the old gang out, the Ravens defense has held up for another season. They look good! Reed, Suggs, Lewis, and all the rest continue to harass opposing QBs.

Then there's the Dolphins, who made a big turnaround, having gone from 1-15 to 11-5. It's been a good season for Miami, but they've also struggled to win many of their games. They're only +28 in point differential which means they've been in a lot of close games. The problem is, these close games have been against bottom feeders such as San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, and so on.

But nobody expected either of these two teams to be NEAR the NFL playoff race, let alone in them. It's great to see the NFL's beacon of hope at work. Neither team can come from behind. Neither team has a QB that can throw the ball down the field. However, seeing the strength of schedule for the Ravens (playing Dallas, Pittsburgh, NYG, and Tennessee) as opposed to the Dolphins, I'd figure Baltimore is a clear favorite, despite being on the road.

All 8 teams, you are the first contestants on the SUPER BOWL is Right!! Who's going to be the big Double Showcase Winner and advance to Tampa? It all starts this weekend!

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