NFL Wild Card Saturday: Yesterday's Upset Spells Trouble for Ravens and Eagles
Disbelief, shock and surprise.
Those three simple words were the outcome of Saturday's Wild Card round to kick off the 2010 playoffs, as it's fair to say now that not even Marshawn Lynch expected to slice through the New Orleans Saints defense like a warm butter knife late in the fourth quarter.
Here we all stand, though, with another tabloid to fumble over while we make excuses for not picking the Jets and Seahawks to pull off upset victories this weekend.
Why were most folks so naive when it came to the possibility that New York and Seattle could maintain the unthinkable?
Many reasons exist, although the most favorable is the fact that no one expect a 7-9 team to win in convincing fashion.
While you sit down and think up some kind of other brilliant scheme to keep from looking foolish, in the mean time, two other teams have some serious concerns to contemplate over the next 24 hours, as the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles aren't looking quite so solid at this point in time.
On paper, it's no secret that both Andy Reid and John Harbaugh stand a favorable chance against both the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs tomorrow. Both matchups are reasonably even in terms of skill and talent, but that isn't to say the mental stability is quite as clear for both teams right now.
If there's one thing that the past 16 weeks have taught us, it is that the NFL is extremely unpredictable. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth said it perfectly on Saturday night, stating that this is why we as fans love the league so much—due to its unforeseeable nature and cliffhanger circumstances.
Unfortunately where Philadelphia and Baltimore are concerned, this may equal a recipe for disaster.
The Eagles have become famous for their controversial ways in the postseason. One moment former quarterback Donovan McNabb was capable of leading the team to the NFC Championship Game, while the very next a Wild Card loss against the Dallas Cowboys was the fate to swallow.
In typical Philadelphia fashion, Lincoln Financial Field will be unbearably loud on Sunday afternoon when the Green Bay Packers pay a visit. However, funnily enough, a newfound positive expectation has popped up with the rise of quarterback Michael Vick, in comparison to the nervous moments seen in many past playoff campaigns.
Still, every party must have a pooper, and this time around, it is Vick's unfamiliarity with the postseason that may land him in some hot water.
Prior to No. 7's dog-fighting debacle that seemingly put his NFL career on an indefinite hiatus, Vick's last playoff spot came during 2005 with the Atlanta Falcons, which wound up being the last moment of glory for the now-Philadelphia Eagle's starting man.
Perhaps the bigger problem aside from Vick's inexperience, though, is his unhealthy status, as Reid still sees his quarterback nursing a calf injury heading into this Sunday's fixture against Green Bay.
Whether or not this factor will be a problem for Vick remains to be seen. However, considering that the Packers are ranked fifth in overall defense right now, Reid's most protected player will be under constant threat from the likes of Clay Matthews and B.J Raji.
It's far from game over for Philadelphia, but if you were to tell most Eagle fans that this weekend's game would feature an unfit Vick and a worse for wear rush defense that may struggle against the Packers weak running game, they most likely would have laughed at you.
Not just yet. Although Saturday's games do highlight the prominent change of an upset.
The Ravens' clash with the Kansas City Chiefs is failing to receive the attention it truly deserves. Overlooked thanks to the Eagles' clash with Green Bay, John Harbaugh and his team continue to fly under the radar heading toward Sunday afternoon, while at the same time still pushing for a desired Super Bowl appearance.
In comparison to last year, the Ravens have realistically come a long way. Quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown for 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season and, unlike last year, isn't relying upon running back Ray Rice to come through in the end.
That isn't to say the run factor may not cost Baltimore in the long run.
In 2009 against the New England Patriots, Ray Rice excelled. Bursting through holes and slashing a rather young Bill Belichick defense, Rice single-handedly boosted the Ravens to the AFC Divisional Round, after taking care of the Patriots easily at Gillette Stadium.
Since then, things have gone down a little.
Rice has only played for 1,220 yards this season—reasonable stats for a second-year rusher. What poses a strike against Rice's name, though, is his low touchdown count that currently sits at just five, partially due to the AFC North's tough defensive structures.
On Sunday afternoon the Ravens will look to take full advantage of the Chiefs 14th-ranked regular season defense, and ultimately prove to many naysayers that the Baltimore offense is indeed capable of making the big dance.
Expect Todd Haley's team to keep Baltimore honest, but also expect an upset. This is a game that will once again feature a 12th-man effect, as Arrowhead Stadium is just as demeaning as Qwest Field.
Will we see another day of unpredicted upsets?
It's no easy call, especially after witnessing such an uncertain day on Saturday.
There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the 12th man will play a serious part in both Philadelphia and Kansas City, but what makes Sunday's matchups interesting is the fact that both Baltimore and Green Bay are well-conditioned away teams.
Baltimore over Kansas City? Green Bay over Philadelphia?
Neither will be a real upset, yet all will be seen in a matter of time as the Divisional Playoff Round sets up for action following tomorrow's blockbuster affairs.
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Ryan Cook is an Australian Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a Green Bay Packers author for SBNation.com's for Acme Packing Company He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.
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