NFL Playoff Preview: Atlanta vs. Arizona
And here begins Mason Lyttle's preview of the 2008 NFL Playoffs, starting with the Atlanta/Arizona matchup on Satuday.
Wildcard No. 5 seed Atlanta (11-5) visits NFC West Champs and No. 3 seed Arizona (9-7) at 4:30 PM on Saturday.
Atlanta comes into this game having won three in a row and five of their last six, including three playoff teams in Carolina, Minnesota, and San Diego, and a fairly strong Tampa Bay team. They've clearly shown that while they've earned a wildcard playoff spot, they're not by any means the fifth best team in the NFC.
They've been solid all year and are hitting their stride right now, quarterbacked by the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in Matt Ryan. Michael Turner is simply dangerous whenever he touches the ball, and every TD he scores is backed by an underrated defense, which only gives up 20.3 points per game.
Arizona limped into the playoffs this year, dropping two of their last three and four of their last six. They've proven that they don't match up against the hard nosed and balanced teams that are so unlike themselves; their seven losses being to the Redskins, Jets, Panthers, Giants, Eagles, Vikings, and Patriots.
Contrarily, their wins have been against marshmallow teams. While the Cardinals can boast a 6-0 division record, that means that six of their nine wins came against St. Louis, Seattle, or San Francisco. Winning the NFC West gave them home field this weekend, and they'll need it, as they certainly don't function nearly as well in the cold. The Cardinals are the league's most one-dimensional team, and if they can't get going in the first quarter, they're cooked.
And cooked they will be this weekend when they host the Falcons. Turner should break 150 yards on the ground as the Falcons roll to a lopsided victory. The Cardinals have finally turned into the Cinderella team writers have been predicting them to be for years, but their major accomplishment is behind them.
Atlanta, however, has been playing excellent football lately and the fact that they didn't win their division is only a chip on their shoulder that Arizona wishes wasn't there. Determination and physical football will win this matchup for the Falcons.
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