NFC Wild-Card Predictions: The Tortoise Beats the Hare, Again

Paul Augustin, Jr.Senior Analyst IJanuary 1, 2009

Yesterday, I wrote about the AFC playoffs, and now it is time to look at the NFC. 

Both road teams are favored. 

Atlanta has a better record than the hometown Cardinals.

Both Minnesota and Philadelphia have won four of their last five games.


Philadelphia at Minnesota

Welcome to the latest edition of the tortoise and the hare.

The tortoise, (a.k.a. the Minnesota Vikings), has had 11 of its games decided by seven points or less. 

Their biggest loss was only by 13 points at Tennessee.

The hare (a.k.a. the Philadelphia Eagles), have had half of their games decided by 13 or more points. The hare is 7-1 in those games.

While the hare has been dominant in many of their games, they have been asleep through a stretch or two of their run.

They got swept by Washington, tied Cincinnati, and got blown out by Baltimore.

The Eagles and Vikings bring wildly contrasting styles to this game.

The Eagles throw the ball around a lot, while the Vikings are more conservative with their play calling. 

No one likes to throw the ball more than Andy Reid. He puts the ball in Donovan McNabb's hands, at least since the benching, and lets him go to work.

The Vikings ran the ball more than they threw it. They like to give the ball to Adrian Peterson, owner of the league's rushing title.

Defensively, Philadelphia flies in with a variety of blitz packages.

Minnesota stuffs the run better than anyone on the league. Opponents are averaging 3.3 yards per carry against them.

Who knows which Eagles team will show up?

Will it be the team that can beat anybody in the playoffs or the team that takes a nap during the race?

The moral of the story tells us that slow and steady wins the race.  I'm going with the tortoise.

Consistency wins in the playoffs.

Crystal ball says...Minnesota, 20-16.


Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals

Everyone knows the Falcons' story. They have risen from the depths of a turmoil-filled 4-12 season to an 11-5 record and a wild-card berth.

The Falcons brought in a new coach, new general manager, new quarterback, and new running back.

All have paid dividends.

As for the Cardinals, they really didn't change much in going from a non-playoff team last season to division champ the next. 

The only thing that really changed for the Cardinals is that their division got worse.

Arizona only beat three teams outside of their division. Two of those teams, Miami and Buffalo, had to travel across three time zones to play in the desert.

At first glance, there really isn't a reason to pick the Falcons.

They have a rookie head coach.

They have a rookie quarterback.

They have very little playoff experience.

They are playing on the road.

The Falcons will win this game because they are just simply better than the Cardinals.

Atlanta's 3-3 record against the NFC South (combined 29-19) is more impressive than Arizona's 6-0 record against the NFC West (combined 13-35).

The Cardinals are no better than mediocre on defense.  Michael Turner will tear them up.

The Cardinals are no better than the worst team in the NFL in running the ball.  John Abraham will pin his ears back and harass Kurt Warner all day.

Crystal ball says... Atlanta, 30-14.