By the time the Green Bay-Arizona game started on Sunday night, I was 0-3 in the Wild Card round. This after going 7-4 during last year's playoffs. Judging by how difficult the Divisional round will be to predict, a 7-4 record is probably just wishful thinking.
(5) New York Jets def. (4) Cincinnati, 24-14: People forget that coming into this game, Carson Palmer had about the same amount of playoff experience as Mark Sanchez. Surprisingly, Palmer let his inexperience show a lot more than Sanchez did. Sanchez didn't have to pass the ball a lot, but he was pretty accurate when he did and, most importantly, he didn't make any backbreaking mistakes.
On the other hand, Palmer couldn't get anything going. Darrelle Revis cut off half the field by once again shutting Chad Ochocinco down and Palmer suffered as a result. Cedric Benson was the only Bengal on offense to do much, but he couldn't do it by himself against a great defense.
(3) Dallas def. (6) Philadelphia, 34-14 : The result wasn't really surprising, but the ease in which the Cowboys destroyed Philly was shocking. Dallas picked up where they left off in Week 17 by running the ball very effectively and finding holes in Philly's pass coverage. For the first time in a long time, Dallas looks like a legit Super Bowl contender.
I've always thought the cries from Philly to get rid of Donovan McNabb or Andy Reid were a bit ridiculous, but it's now time to seriously think about getting rid of one of them. Within the span of six days, they went from looking at a first round bye to a six seed to sitting at home and watching the playoffs. Nobody has to go, but the Eagles' front office needs to think about other options.
(6) Baltimore def. (3) New England, 33-14: I can't remember the last time I was as shocked by a game than I was while watching this. The Ravens made everything look easy. They ran the ball pretty easily. They got to Tom Brady pretty easily.
They won easily.
For the Patriots, poor drafts and the lack of a legit running threat has finally caught up with them. For years, they let go of players who many considered cornerstones of various Patriot teams and that creates a lack of leadership. They'll still be a legit contender next year, but they no longer have the aura that they've had around them for most of the decade.
(4) Arizona def. (5) Green Bay, 51-45 (OT): Reports have been coming out that Kurt Warner is considering retirement after the season is over. If this game is any indication, he still has plenty of great seasons left. He played an almost perfect game, shredding Green Bay's defense, particularly in the middle of the field. Larry Fitzgerald was Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet filled in very nicely for Anquan Boldin.
There are two reasons why Aaron Rodgers isn't getting more credit for his great performance in his first playoff game: Warner played a perfect game and Rodgers' team lost. Aaron Rodgers bounced back from a bad start and showed why the Packers made the right decision in letting Brett Favre go a few years ago.
The defenses consistently let both teams down (until overtime), but Rodgers and Warner would not let up. The Cards are moving on, but the Packers shouldn't be overly discouraged, particularly their offense.
Last week's record: 1-3
Playoff record: 1-3
(4) Arizona @ (1) New Orleans: This will be all about offense. Much like the Green Bay-Arizona game last week, whichever team's defense makes a play in the fourth quarter will win the game. Logic says that team will be the Saints because of how opportunistic their defense has been this year. However, the Cardinals have the weapons, even without Anquan Boldin, to keep Darren Sharper from roaming around at free safety, where he is most dangerous, and put him in a one-on-one situation where he is vulnerable.
There's also the factor of New Orleans' rust. Unlike the one seed from the other conference, it won't be much of a factor, but the fact that they haven't played well since the loss to the Cowboys will. The Cardinals know how to win a big game, which this obviously is. They may fall behind early, but they are the better team and will leave with the upset victory, as long as the game doesn't come down to Neil Rackers.
Arizona wins, 31-26
(6) Baltimore @ (1) Indianapolis: This feels eerily similar to a game in Indianapolis four years ago. On January 15, 2006, the No. 1 seeded Colts welcomed a sixth seeded AFC North team in a game many expected to be a laugher. The Colts had flirted with perfection that season, but hadn't played a meaningful game in weeks.
The visitors were a very physical team that came into Indy and surprisingly beat them at their own game.
This will not happen exactly how that game happened, but it will follow a similar script. There is no way that the Colts will come out and play like they have all season, especially on offense. The Ravens will come out and pound the ball, wear down Indy's defense and Joe Flacco will do enough to keep eight guys from always being in the box.
Baltimore wins, 24-20
(3) Dallas @ (2) Minnesota: I've gone back and forth on this game a lot. On one hand, Dallas has been on absolute fire since handing the Saints their first loss and they are finally playing smart football. They know when to run the ball with their outstanding backfield and Tony Romo is easily picking apart defenses. Brett Favre has also never beaten Dallas in the playoffs.
On the other hand, the Vikings are playing at home and Adrian Peterson is primed for a big game. Brett Favre has had one of his best years and the defense has been great. The Vikes also played great in their final regular season game, which counts for a lot.
In the end, I can't see the Vikings bowing out after one game following their great season. This will be extremely close, though.
Minnesota wins, 28-27
(5) New York Jets @ (2) San Diego: On paper, this shouldn't be close at all. San Diego is on an 11-game winning streak and the Jets are starting a rookie on the road in the playoffs.
However, the Jets do a lot of things well that the Chargers don't. The Jets are a great defensive team and should shut down San Diego's poor running game easily. Darrelle Revis will keep Vincent Jackson in check, which will make the Malcolm Floyd-Lito Sheppard matchup critical.
If the Jets fall behind early, this will be over in the first half, but if the Jets can keep this close, they have a chance. Unfortunately for them, no one on their side can cover Antonio Gates, who will be the difference.
San Diego wins, 24-13
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