For years, home-field advantage has been the aim and goal of playoff teams in the NFL. This year is no different, except for the fact all four home teams may get their front doors kicked in and handed to them by their Wild Card round guests.
Whether it’s a 7-9 division winner matched against the defending Super Bowl champs or the top rushing team in the league against one of the toughest run defenses, the road teams seem to have the edge in every game with the exception of crowd support.
Here are my final outcome predictions for Wild Card weekend…
The 7-9 Seahawks may have won their division, but they certainly haven’t won the confidence of many outside their locker room.
Seattle ranks 23rd in points scored this season (310), and 25th in points allowed (407). Finishing the regular season -97 in the point differential category is hardly encouraging, considering they are playing the high-powered offense of the 11-5 New Orleans Saints.
Drew Brees and his teammates are coming into the game without Chris Ivory or Pierre Thomas. While their Super Bowl run of a year ago was fueled by a great running game, the Saints are going to be doing a lot more throwing if they hope to win it all this season.
In the meantime, the Saints shouldn’t have much trouble shutting down Seattle’s best efforts on offense with a hobbled Matt Hasselbeck, and Charlie Whitehurst backing him up.
Things to Watch:
Marques Colston vs. Marcus Trufant
Saints 38 – Seahawks 13
While the Colts may have gotten the best of Rex Ryan and the Jets a year ago in the playoffs, don’t be so sure they can do it again without Jet killers Dallas Clark and Austin Collie.
The Colts have been as schizophrenic as the weather in Virginia Beach all season. While Peyton Manning has done a better job as of late with the revived running game brought about by the resigning of Dominic Rhodes, he has been anything but All-Pro in the playoffs in years past.
If the Jets can isolate Reggie Wayne with Cromartie and a safety over the top and let Derrelle Revis cover Pierre Garcon for the majority of the day, the Jets defense should have no problem shutting down the Colts running game.
If the Jets can take the pressure off Mark Sanchez early by having success running the football, they should have success in the outcome of the game as well.
Things to Watch:
Revis vs. Garcon
Cromartie vs. Wayne
Jets 24 – Colts 20
It’s cold, it’s been snowing and the Eagles aren’t going to be able to postpone the game this time.
The Green Bay Packers have been hot at the right time, and that has stemmed from the play of their quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has thrown for 846 yards in the last three weeks, and his defense has found a way to stunt all comers with the exception of the 31-27 loss to the Patriots three weeks ago.
After the Packers suffered what seemed to be insurmountable injuries all season, they found a way to work themselves healthy and into the playoffs at season's end.
While some would say Rodgers is not a playoff quarterback, I would beg to differ. Rodgers has only had one opportunity, and his numbers (423yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT) could not have been any better as his defense gave up 51 points to the Cardinals.
The Eagles have been on the decline over the last month of the season, and while Michael Vick started the season refusing to turn the ball over, he has done anything but protect the football in recent weeks.
The cold weather doesn’t play into Vick’s game well, and while he has become a better passer, it’s not going to be enough to outdo the Packers defense in the cold weather.
Things to Watch:
Michael Vick’s ability to run and throw in the cold weather
Green Bay’s ability to limit DeSean Jackson
Packers 34 – Eagles 24
It’s a classic matchup of a team that loves to run the football against a team that loves to shut it down.
The Chiefs have made their hay in the running game this season, and they are going to have to be able to continue the trend if they hope to progress in these playoffs. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the Baltimore Ravens are the leagues fifth ranked defense against the run, and perhaps even worse, have only given up five rushing touchdowns all season ( first overall).
If the playoff-experienced Ravens defense, led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, can shut down the run early and force Matt Cassel to win the game passing, Baltimore should have little trouble putting up the points needed to overtake the overachieving Chiefs.
Things to watch:
Chief’s running game against Baltimore defense
Dwayne Bowe vs. Baltimore defense
Joe Flacco under playoff pressure
Ravens 24 – Chiefs 13