After a season where the league seemed to be in complete disarray, the playoffs finally reveal some return to order. As usual, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are right in the thick of things in the AFC, and the New Orleans Saints look as strong as they have all season heading into the postseason. While the playoffs look quite ordinary compared to the previous 17 weeks, there is one thing that jumps out at you.
That, of course, is that the Seattle Seahawks won their division, the NFC West, and earned a playoff home game with a 7-9 record. Should the NFL change its rules? No. The goal of any NFL team's season is to come away with a division title, the simplest way to get into the NFL's second season. And also, I highly doubt that this will be a recurring theme throughout the league, despite the clear separation between the NFL's other seven divisions and the NFC West.
As for the Seahawks, who play host to the red hot Drew Brees and the Saints, I do not see the NFL's season of so-called "parity" holding up. In the playoffs, the better teams win. In a game that lacks much intrigue, the Saints should roll out of Seattle with a solid 31-13 victory.
The other NFC game, which I predict will be the best game of the weekend, will pin the electric Philadelphia Eagles against the equally talented Green Bay Packers. This matchup of two of the greatest stories this season will be a treat to watch on Sunday afternoon. The Packers have lost numerous starters to injury throughout the year, seeing many different starters take the field week by week. But they maintained the focus and effort needed to squeak out a narrow victory over the number two seed Chicago Bears in week 17, and with it, they earned the final spot in the NFC playoffs. The Eagles, led by a reborn Michael Vick, have been almost impossible to stop on offense and are going into the playoffs with a completely healthy Vick, which does not bode well for the Packers defense. Despite the high-scoring, throw-it-all-over-the-field offenses, I see both defenses creating some turnovers in an entertaining 24-21 win for Green Bay as they move on to see the Falcons in round two.
In the AFC, the first game is a rematch of last year's AFC championship game, which saw the Colts handle the Jets defense with relative ease. Rex Ryan has alluded to the fact that Peyton Manning is the player that keeps him up at night when he tries to prepare a defense to stop him. In this game, I do not see Rex's insomnia cease as the Colts should take care of the Jets in Indy, behind a strong performance by Manning and company, by a score of 26-17.
In Sunday's edition of the AFC's wild card games, the Baltimore Ravens and their fifth ranked rushing defense travel to frigid Kansas City to face the first ranked rushing offense in the league. Something has got to give, right? It will, in a huge way. The Ravens have, most likely, the best run stuffer in the league in nose tackle Haloti Ngata. If Ngata and the rest of the Ravens defense shut down Jamaal Charles, they should have no problem handling the Chiefs with Matt Cassel forced to control the game by trying to convert long third downs. The Ravens win this one 24-10.
JIM HARBAUGH, AND OTHER PRE-OFFSEASON REVELATIONS
By now, Harbaugh is widely known as the hottest coach in recent memory after his Stanford Cardinal dismantled Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. After already meeting with the San Fransisco 49ers, the Denver Broncos and others waiting in the wings for a chance to grab Harbaugh's services, it appears that the NFL should brace itself for the Harbaugh brothers (John Harbaugh is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens) to be meeting at the top of the league for some time to come.
In related news, Coach Harbaugh's quarterback prodigy, Andrew Luck, whom some call "as sure as it gets as a number one pick", will remain at Stanford for at least one more year. This opens the door for scenarios such as Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton to catapult into the top three picks in the draft and also gives the Carolina Panthers some incentive to trade their number one pick. This lack of a clear cut number one pick will continue to provide the drama the NFL offseason needs due to Brett Favre's "retirement".