The 2010 NFL playoffs are about to get underway, and there is no shortage of storylines.
Will the Patriots be able to win a Super Bowl with a young, exploitable pass defense?
How bad will Jay Cutler look in his first playoff game as an adult?
How did the Atlanta Falcons almost fly under the radar while winning the top seed in their conference? Can they capitalize on that and make it to the Super Bowl?
Which team that at one point appeared unbeatable will win Sunday's late game in Philadelphia?
Can Peyton Manning win with so many weapons missing, or can a Rex Ryan defense finally beat him in a game that matters?
But story lines are for the fans and the media. Teams only care about wins and losses, and here are the teams that will walk away happy this weekend.
(Click the following link to read a full preview of the Packers-Eagles game.)
Saints @ Seahawks
It is never safe to call anything an automatic victory, but this is as close as you will get. Seattle is not without some potential on offense. They ranked near the middle of the NFC (but ahead of only three AFC teams) in scoring, have an experienced quarterback with a couple weapons to throw to, and a running back who until this year has been very good.
Which team playing in this round has the best chance of making it to the Super Bowl?
But their defense are the third worst in points allowed in the NFC and seventh worst in the league. Only four teams have a point differential worst than their 97.
The Saints have been there and are better at every single position on offense, scoring 74 more points this season. They are also better at every single position on defense, a defense which allowed 100 fewer points.
With that combination the Saints blew out Seattle in their first match-up, and it is why they will win by more than two scores today. It is also among the reasons I listed on Sports Haze why the league must change the playoff format.
Jets @ Colts
Rex Ryan does not understand that the methods he is using to gear his team up have the same effect for the opposition. He does not understand that while these tactics are effective in preparing a defense for battle, they do not work as a head coach.
Worse, he has poked the bear, and that bear is Peyton Manning.
Manning has always done well against Ryan's defenses because he is cold and calculating, and Ryan's defenses thrive on physicality and fear, emotions that do not affect Manning.
The Jets have better players at two out of three positions on the field, but not at quarterback and not at the primary receiver position. That is all Manning will need. While most playoff teams are more than the sum of their parts, the Jets are less.
All that talk about winning the Super Bowl only led this team to think they had already won it. If Super Bowls were won in the off-season, Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones would have a couple each to their credit. Ryan has only made it worse by continuing to talk his team up when what he should be doing is calling them out.
Ravens @ Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are for real and will be tough to beat at home. They have the best running attack in the league and a capable quarterback with a couple good targets.
But they are facing the Baltimore Ravens, who are not only 6-3 on the road in the playoffs since drafting Ray Lewis, but have the run defense to bog down the Chiefs. They also have a pass rush that helped them acquire the league's third-best scoring defense.
Baltimore also has offensive weapons, with four good receivers (including tight end Todd Heap), one of the best all-purpose running backs in the league, and a solid quarterback who has been winning playoff games for two seasons. They can exploit a defense that gave up the fourth most points of any playoff team even though they were in a weak division and their running game limited the opposition's possessions.