Baltimore Ravens 11-5 (Road: 5-3) at Tennessee Titans 13-3 (Home: 7-1)
In the final weeks of the season, the Baltimore Ravens were unsure of even qualifying for the playoffs, much less win against the Miami Dolphins and their Wildcat offense. At one point in the season, the Tennessee Titans were the last undefeated team in the NFL, and though they have fallen three times, they still show traces of the magic that brought them the first seed in these playoffs.
For the most part of the season, the Titans offense has worked systematically and well on their way to winning football games.
However, Kerry Collins is getting up there in age, and I am afraid that one more hit will send him to a retirement home with Brett Favre before soon. Chris Johnson, on the other hand, is a rookie, this year’s Adrian Peterson.
The Titans will count on him and former USC standout LenDale White to control the offensive side of the game for the Titans.
On the Ravens side of the ball, Joe Flacco emerges from the obscurity he faced at Delaware, and is poised to show that he is truly ready for whatever the NFL throws at him.
Helped with a very potent rushing core in Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain, Flacco will be trusted to make good throws, and to make as many few rookie mistakes as possible. When it comes down though, the ability of the two teams to run the ball will ultimately decide the rhythm of these two offenses.
How often have we heard this? Defense wins championships. Need an example? How about taking a look at the 2000 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens? Perhaps this Ravens squad has not gotten up to the level of defense that the 2000 squad had, but they are getting pretty darned close. Ed Reed acts like a center fielder and CAN be in three places at once. Ray Lewis anchors the linebacking core.
This Ravens defense has almost no holes in it, so look for it to seize every opportunity it gets to either sack Collins or pick him off.
Albert Haynesworth has been the undisputed leader of the Titans this year. He leads a Titans team that has to get in Joe Flacco’s face and force him to react to pressure and make rookie mistakes. That is the only way that they are going to stop the Baltimore offense.
Matt Stover vs. Rob Bironas. Both return units are solid, but in the case that this game goes down to the very last few seconds, both kickers can win the game for their respective teams.
Coach Harbaugh is a relatively new coach, but has reacted well in his rookie year. Coach Fisher, on the other hand, has coached for the past 15+ years. Fisher has more experience, but Harbaugh will definitely be more willing to try something new.
How many turnovers can the Ravens force against the Titans offense?
Baltimore Ravens by seven.
Arizona Cardinals 9-7 (Road: 3-5) at Carolina Panthers 12-4 (Home: 8-0)
Arizona proved that they belonged in the playoffs last week with a solid win last week, eliminating the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers have proved all season long that they play with the best. In addition, they are undefeated at home. This Saturday night's NFC Division Playoff game looks to be a completely lopsided affair.
The Cardinals have a legit offense led by another old man, Kurt Warner. His targets, however, are still young and spry. Larry Fitzgerald leads the receiving core, but his workload might be increased further with the questionable status of Anquan Boldin playing in the game.
Three receivers on the Cards have contributed 1000 yards to their offensive cause, but come tomorrow night, they will be looking to prove that they are not a one dimensional football team.
The Panthers, on the other hand, have it made. Led by oft-injured quarterback Jake Delhomme, Carolina hopes to capitalize on a balanced offensive attack which consists of Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad at wideout, and DeAngelo Williams along with rookie Jonathan Stewart at the back positions.
With the return of several injured linemen, the Panthers look to not only protect Delhomme, but also open gaping holes for either Williams or Stewart to run wild.
The Panthers’ pass defense has been effective over the past few weeks, and look for them to step up against a pass heavy Cardinals team. They can certainly stop the Cards weak run offense, but the question is whether they will able to sack quick release quarterback Kurt Warner.
The Cards’ defense showed up to play last week, seemingly for the first time since the midway point in the season. They dominated Michael Turner, and seemingly have an answer for any star running back that comes their way.
Their question will be whether their rookie corner Rodgers-Cromartie will be able to hang on to either Muhammad or Smith.
Neil Rackers vs. John Kasay. Rackers looked completely off last week, as he almost missed a few kicks while playing in a dome at home. So, strangely enough, I doubt that he will do extremely well after a cross country trip to freezing cold North Carolina. J.J. Arrington will be counted on throughout the night to provide Kurt Warner with good field position.
John Fox vs. Ken Whisenhunt. Fox is definitely more experience, so he wins this battle.
How will Arizona attempt to stop this insanely good Carolina offense?
Carolina Panthers by 14.