Friday, January 2, 2009

NFL wild card weekend playoff prognostications

The Road to Super Bowl XLIII officially starts on Saturday, when the NFL's wild card weekend kicks off. After a successful Six Picks for Sunday campaign, I'm back with more predictions. Feel free to add your own picks in the comments section.

Atlanta Falcons (-2) @ Arizona Cardinals - Saturday, 4:30pm ET, NBC
The NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, Matt Ryan, leads the Falcons into Phoenix to battle former MVP Kurt Warner and Arizona's high-powered passing attack. The Cards were very unimpressive down the stretch, losing three straight games before winning the regular season finale. Atlanta, on the other hand, played well beyond expectations.

The Falcons are favored in this one, as are all the road teams this weekend, but much of the Cardinals success has been at home, where they went 6-2. Arizona won six of their games against divisional opponents in the putrid NFC West, meaning they were 3-7 against the rest of the league.

That begs the question, are the Cardinals even that good? Kurt Warner had gaudy passing numbers earlier in the season but the running game has been almost non-existent. The Falcons have much more balance and have a solid running back in Michael Turner.

Warner has the playoff experience that Ryan doesn't, but experience only means so much if you don't have the talent to execute.
Prognostication: Falcons 24, Cardinals 20

Indianapolis Colts (-1) @ San Diego Chargers - Saturday, 8:00pm ET, NBC
The Colts are the NFL's hottest team, having won nine-straight, and are led by Peyton Manning, who earlier today was named MVP. The Chargers are "en fuego" as well thanks to the aerial assault that has been launched by Philip Rivers, who somehow did not make the Pro Bowl.

This one should be a shootout. Indianapolis barely pulled out a victory in San Diego earlier in the season and I think they'll knock off the Chargers again. The Colts are simply too hot right now to be stopped and San Diego's defense is a little weaker than that of Indy.
Prognostication: Colts 38, Chargers 30

Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) @ Miami Dolphins - Sunday, 1:00pm ET, CBS
Like the Colts and Chargers, the Ravens and Dolphins have faced each other this season, with Baltimore coming out victorious. The Ravens defense has played at levels nearing that of the Super Bowl XXXV team and they've found some offense in rookie Joe Flacco. The Dolphins have been revived by Bill Parcells, a new coach and quarterback, and a healthy Ronnie Brown. The Wildcat helped too.

Baltimore's defense, I believe, is just too tough for the Dolphins to overcome. Chad Pennington, the Comeback Player of the Year for a second time, still can't throw the ball with any sort of force or velocity. You can't really stretch the Ravens defense out with 17-yard "bombs." Baltimore will score just enough on offense and use their defense to win this one.
Prognostication: Ravens 17, Dolphins 13

Philadelphia Eagles (-3) @ Minnesota Vikings - Sunday, 4:30pm ET, FOX
I'm still skeptical that the Donovan McNabb that threw a bunch of picks and got benched can show up at any time, but the Iggles are riding a huge wave of momentum right now, nonetheless. They somehow wound up in the playoffs and are playing with house money.

The Vikings have stumbled badly down the stretch, looking awful on offense against the Giants' second unit for much of the game on Sunday. Adrian Peterson is banged up and it has to be bad when the best bet at quarterback on your roster is Gus Frerotte.
Prognostication: Eagles 27, Vikings 13

No comments: