As I watched the Wild Card games this weekend, I was very encouraged by one thing, old-school football coming out. Defense and the run game can usually indicate a very boring game, but this weekend it lead to some exciting football. So without further ramblings, here are my predictions for the Divisional round.
Arizona Cardinals vs Carolina Panthers
West-coast teams were dominated this year when traveling to the East Coast. The Cardinals are a prime example of this, as they went 0-5 on the East Coast, losing by an average of 20 points per game. This includes a 27-23 loss at Carolina.
The Panthers had a week off and it should have given key players some time to get fresh. Arizona is coming off of a great win. If Edgerrin James shows up like he did this week, look for it to be a close game. Look for a good game but the Panthers win 30-17.
Philadelphia Eagles vs New York Giants
My preseason pick for the Super Bowl was Philly. That being said, they just came off a very hard fought, physical game. The teams split the season with the Eagles winning at the Meadowlands in December.
The Eagles could have very well won both of those games. The Giants lack a dominate number one receiver, this will allow the Eagles to have Brian Dawkins come on the blitz and help on run defense.
The Giants' week off allows Brandon Jacobs to get healthy, but I don't see him being too big of a factor. I'll stand by my preseason prediction and go with the Eagles, 27-21.
This leaves a rematch of the 2003 NFC Championship game.
Baltimore Ravens vs Tennessee Titans
Two of the games best defenses face off. The Titans won the meeting in the regular season, 13-10. That game was played in Baltimore. The Ravens played a great game and Ed Reed is an animal.
Joe Flacco had an off game but had no mistakes. The Titans had a bye week but had practice all week. Jeff Fisher will put the ball in the hands of his running backs and Kerry Collins will be asked to protect the football.
I see the Titans repeating their regular-season performance. Titans win 13-10.
San Diego Chargers vs Pittsburgh Steelers
I had the Chargers in the Super Bowl in the preseason. That was before injuries plagued the team. Last week, I said to watch them to be a dark horse throughout the playoffs. The Chargers held the Colts to 17 points, which could have been 10 if they wouldn't have taken a play off.
The Steelers won a very close 11-10 game in Week 11, although the referees missed the call at the end of the game. That was a completely different Chargers team. I have the Chargers winning 14-10.
So, in the AFC Championship, the Chargers would travel to play the Titans.
So, if you don't like defense and running in your NFL game, this is not a playoff year for you. Look for a heavy dose of both in all of the games in the upcoming weekend.