Can we start by saying that up until the Packers-Cardinals game, wild card weekend was anything but wild. In fact it was almost downright boring. Either you were ecstatic if your team won, depressed because your team got blown out, or bored because you didn’t have a dog in the fight and didn’t get to see a quality football game. Obviously that description did not apply to the shootout in the desert. Let’s go through the games one by one and look at each team’s chances to go to Miami like Will Smith.
Jets 24, Bengals 14
Not a blowout by score, but drops a plenty and a lack of excitement really kept this game from being entertaining. I am not among those who are only entertained by the passing game and I appreciated a defensive bloodbath, however,
there were so many drops Braylon Edwards would be proud. Oh yeah, he played in the game and helped add to the tally by letting a perfect throw by the unflappable Mr. San-CHEZ (as Ron Jaworski would say). However, the Jets came out on top and sent the Bengals back to lick their wounds. Among those Bengals is Chad OchoCinco who might have to change is name back after promising it to Bob Costas and then getting lost on Revis Island. I would not call the Jets an intimidating team, but they will not be fodder for anyone with that defense and their physical play. Credit goes to Rex Ryan for instilling both belief and that swarming defense. Not to mention he leads the league in quotes, closely followed by his LB Bart Scott.
The Jets Chances: Well they have to face the Chargers now, which is hardly a reward for having won a playoff game. However, the Jets will head to Ssan Diego and try to slow down the high voltage Bolt offense. I will not write off any team that plays defense that good, but the Chargers are rightfully favored in this matchup. Chances @ San Diego: 20%. Super Bowl Odds (mine, not vegas): 20-1.
Ravens 33, Patriots 14
This game was as big of a beatdown as we have seen in a long time. Not only that, but it should be the beginning of the end of Patriots superiority. I would love to rant for hours about how this shows that Tom Brady is not an elite QB without a defense behind him, but I will hold that for another time. The Ravens only threw the ball 10 times, something miraculous in today’s NFL, and still bludgeoned the Patriots. Ray Rice has budding superstar written all over him, and the Ravens proved they still have that voracious running game that got them to the AFC Championship Game last year. The Patriots get blown out at home to a team that only throws for 34 yards? Strange days.
The Ravens Chances: The Ravens reward? A date with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. I know people are still talking about the Colts loss of momentum and all that, but Peyton Manning still has not really lost a game this year, leaving the Jets game while ahead 5 and the Bills game early after being tied. I don’t buy the Colts fading argument, but I do buy the Ravens as a legitimate contender. We will talk more about the Colts in their own section, but I don’t think anyone in Indy is looking forward to facing the team that just bullied the Pats in Foxborough. Ravens Chances in Indianapolis: 50%. Super Bowl Odds: 10-1.
As a Colts fan, I am scared of them. As a football fan, I admire them. Overall, I just hate the Chargers. Unfortunately, even a hater cannot deny that they are hotter than the New Jersey Nets in the John Wall Sweepstakes (they are hot for losing, yeah it’s confusing). The Chargers remain my Super Bowl favorite even tho I absolutely hate myself for it. Rivers-Jackson-Tomlinson-Gates-Sproles and a host of other guys you don’t know, but will by the time the game is over. I hate the Chargers and I hate that they are making me pick them by being the best team in football right now. If we were playing this in September, give me anyone else, but in December, January and February, give me the Bolts. Chances vs. Jets: 80%. Super Bowl Odds: 5-2.
They are still the #1 seed and do not buy the whole “Colts are struggling” thing. Antoine Bethea was quoted in a recent edition of teh Indianapolis Star as saying that his body feels better now than it ever has at this point in the season and that is because of the rest the Colts have been getting. I understand how being in rhythm is nice, but you cannot argue with your players being so fresh they feel better than they ever have during their career at this point. I still think the Colts are the second best team in football at this point, but they do not match up especially well with Baltimore and theebst team in football is the #2 seed in their conference. I hate myself for doing it almost as much as I hate the Chargers, but I have to put the Colts on Upset Alert. I hope they win, but it is far less assured than I would like. Go Colts, and congratulations to Peyton Manning on MVP #4. Sorry, the homer in me had to come out at some point. Chances vs. Ravens: 50%. Super Bowl Odds: 3-1.
Philadelphia 14, Dallas 34
Donovan McNabb’s peaked too soon. His best moment came pregame playing air guitar and messing with fans in the tunnel, and it was all downhill from there. The Eagles played like Dallas used to in December and Dallas could not have played much better. Their defense is scary, their offense is efficient and built to win in all weather and their special teams, kicker aside, are solid. There isn’t much to criticize the Cowboys on unless you want to talk about Terrence Newman’s health. In the blink of an eye they have gone from crunch-time chumps to prime time pimps. Nothing to talk about in the game because the game stunk, but by through no fault of the Cowboys.
The Cowboys Chances: There is nothing to dislike about this team’s playoff chances and they have a shot to shred Minnesota’s shaky offensive line next week. I actually really liked Minnesota’s chances against Arizona or Green Bay, but they got a tough one on their hands here. Jay Ratliff is one of the most underrated defensive lineman around, and Anthony Spencer is a budding star opposite DeMarcus Ware. He is the Robert Mathis to Ware’s Dwight Freeney. This team is peaking at the right time, or so it seems. Chances @ Minnesota: 60%. Super Bowl Odds 4-1.
Packers 45, Cardinals 51
Thank God for this game. It singlehandedly saved wild card weekend for me and helped me make a point at the same time. When you look at the playoff teams, the first thing you need to do, and by first I mean somewhere around 5th or 6th, is write off the sexy pick. Some teams are just too sexy a pick to do well and that description fits Green Bay perfectly. They obviously put up a fight and are a good team, but they were never going to go too deep into the
playoffs. The Cardinals, however, showed me a lot. Granted, they let Green Bay claw back from a 17-0 hole, but they gave me a new sexy under-the-radar pick. They have an opportunistic defense, a manageable matchup with the Saints, and playoff experience all over the field. Not to mention it sure did not look like they missed Anquan Boldin too much. A great game, and dare I say, a springboard game that ill send this team on a tear. I do worry about their matchup with Dallas because Warner is the epitome of a rhythm QB, but I will take a flyer on them to make the Super Bowl, especially for their odds.
Just a few quick notes:
- This is Kurt Warner’s last playoffs, expect fireworks
- Aaron Rodgers is a top 5 NFL QB
- I will take the Packers to win the NFC North next year and will stick to it barring some very significant developments
- Wisconsin hates Jarrett Bush and after watching that game I now understand why
- Offensive Pass Interference is among the least acknowledged penalty in the NFL. Ask Charles Woodson.
- Greg Jennings is a better all around receiver than I had previously thought
The Cardinals Chances: I like them a lot. I do not think they are the best team remaining, but they may be the team peaking the most at the right team. They will be propelled by this game and if I was a betting man I would put a lot of money on them to not only beat the Saints, but to make the Super Bowl. Much of the analysis of their chances came earlier so I will leave it at that. Chances @ Saints: 65%. Super Bowl Odds: 7-1
Everything points toward the Vikings doing well in the playoffs. They don’t have to go otudoors with old man Favre, they got back on track vs the Giants in Week 17, and they have a balanced offense and defense. However, they just don’t have that feeling of a team that is about to make a run. I like Favre indoors, I like Peterson, I like Allen, but I do not like the Vikings to make a run. By the way, classic matchup here between two of the original NFL teams. Chanc
es vs. Dallas: 40%. Super Bowl Odds: 6-1.
They have scored 17 or less in their last 3 games, including a home loss to lowly TB, haven’t been able to stop the run,and just have no rhythm going into the playoffs. Unlike the Colts, who laid down, the Saints just couldn’t win in the last few weeks of the season. The offense is potent, but we will see if they can put it together. I wouldn’t bet on it. Who dat gonna win the Super Bowl? Not the Saints. Chances vs. Arizona: 35%. Super Bowl Odds: 8-1.
Ravens over Colts (gulp, sorry I have to, Indy. Also a good deal of self-loathing for doing this). Chargers over Jets. Chargers over Ravens (closer than you think).
Cardinals over Saints. Cowboys over Vikings. Cardinals over Cowboys.
Chargers over Cardinals 34-24 in Super Bowl XLIV