Last weekend saw the wildcard round of the 2008 NFL playoffs.
The upshot from those matches is that this weekend sees four divisional playoff games on tap where the winners are anyone’s guess.
On Saturday the Baltimore Ravens battle the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans at 4:30pm before the suddenly formidable Arizona Cardinals face off with the Carolina Panthers at 8:15pm.
In their match-ups this week expect to see underestimated parts of those clubs decide who goes further in the playoffs.
Everyone knows and respects that Baltimore is a tough team to score on.
Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and company make getting an offense in gear a chore. But many can overlook the fact that the offense is not lackluster with Flacco making good decisions and the run game being very strong.
Many have been impressed with how well the Titans have defended all season. The defensive frontline has been holding their own and made many run games obsolete.
But be sure to watch Henry work magic with Collins in his ability to eat up yards on the ground and make plays with short screen passes.
Like many games this weekend this is a tough one to call. But I think the Ravens have too much momentum to be outworked and should win 9-6.
The Cardinals stunned many onlookers last weekend with their ability to limit the run and by extension Michael Turner. The secondary did allow some big plays but ultimately Arizona showed too much weapons, including a forgotten player in Edgerrin James, to be stopped by the Atlanta defense.
Meanwhile Carolina is a very gritty team. Williams and Stewart are at the heart of the offense but the pass attack, starring Steve Smith, is just as deadly. The secondary can be caught napping at times but overall they’re a powerful and underestimated facet of the team.
In the end in spite of Arizona’s new found defensive backbone and versatility on offense they don’t have the ability to shut down Carolina’s offense. I feel the Cardinals will focus too much on the run, allowing the Panthers to burn them in the air and roll to a 24-13 victory.
On Sunday, two old NFC East foes in the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles square off at 1pm while the upstart San Diego Chargers take on the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers at 4:45pm.
New York is a tough, balanced squad that prides itself on a robust run game that opens up passing lanes for Eli Manning and a linebacker core that’s able to defend the pass or run with equal success. The Giants are known for consistently showing up on defense and eating up yards on the ground.
Philly meanwhile is a sketchy squad that plays well on occasion.
The reason why they sputter is Westbrook not getting enough touches. But when he gets the ball about 20 times and McNabb is hitting his receivers the athletic defense generally does the rest and keeps Philly in line for a win.
Ultimately New York is the better team on paper and should have the advantage with more rest. But Philly is a streaky side that’s riding high over the last few weeks. That momentum has the Eagles primed to replicate their week 14 performance and grab the win here 14-10.
The Chargers are suddenly the team many predicted they would be at the start of the season. They run the ball well, the passing is on target and the defense is physical.
Meanwhile the Steelers are the definition of a physical club. They make scoring a painful endeavour for any club while the offense keeps the club in the game with tough running and timely big plays. However Ben Roethlisberger’s health is a question mark after his concussion some weeks ago.
I have doubts about both teams as I feel San Diego is suspect against a good run game while the Steelers can fold under a good defense. The edge goes to Pittsburgh simply because I don’t think the Chargers have the kind of defense to disrupt the passing like Dallas or Philly did.
I expect the score to be about 10-9 in favour of Pittsburgh.