The regular season of the NFL has come to an end and now the top twelve teams are preparing for the playoffs. When it looked like the Green Bay Packers didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs, Aaron Rodgers and their defense led the team the second half of the season with a 7-1 record. The San Diego Chargers became supercharged and surged to a 13-3 record and secured a first-round bye. The Dallas Cowboys turned around their December luck and finished the season with an 11-5 record and the division title. With the teams set in place, here is a look at what is coming in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
Indianapolis Colts (14-2), San Diego Chargers (13-3), New Orleans Saints (13-3), and Minnesota Vikings (12-4):
These four teams clinched a first round bye and will all be resting this week while the other eight teams battle to stay alive for their chance at a Superbowl ring.
The AFC Wild Card Games:
New York Jets (9-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): (Sat. Jan. 9, 2010; 4:30 p.m. ET; NBC)
The New York Jets finished the season strong with a shutout against the Bengals in week 17. The Bengals didn’t play their starters for the whole game, which could be one of the main reasons why they were shutout. The Jets have one of the best running games in the NFL. Thomas Jones has rushed for over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Mark Sanchez and the Jet’s passing game needs work if they want to make it to the Superbowl. Sanchez will have to step up and make some big plays to get past the Bengals’ starters. The Cincinnati Bengals started off the season with a 9-3 record, but fell apart in the end of the season ending with just a 10-6 record. Carson Palmer was one of the top quarterbacks again this year, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. Their running game was also improved with the acquisition of Cedric Benson who rushed for over 1,200 yards and 6 touchdowns. If the Bengals perform in the playoffs like they did in the first half of the season, they should be able to make it past the first round of the NFL playoffs.
Jets 27, Bengals 14
Baltimore Ravens (9-7) at New England Patriots (10-6): (Sun. Jan 10, 2010; 1:00 p.m. ET; CBS)
The Baltimore Ravens have one of the top rushing offenses in the league. Ray Rice has rushed for almost 1,400 yards and has 7 rushing touchdowns. Willis McGahee has also been very productive running and has over 500 yards and 12 touchdowns. Not only is Ray Rice a strong runner, he is also one of the Raven’s top receivers and has over 700 yards and a touchdown receiving. The New England Patriots are back in the playoffs after missing it last year. Tom Brady is back this year and doesn’t appear to be as confident as he was two years ago when he threw for over 50 touchdowns. This year he has thrown for 4,300 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Patriots defense has allowed an average of over 100 yards rushing per game, where as the Ravens have allowed only 90. The Patriots lost Wes Welker last week due to injury and this should benefit the Ravens. This is where the game decider will be. If the Patriots’ defense can stop the Ravens’ strong running game, they should be able to contain Joe Flacco and use their strong offense to squeeze by the Ravens.
Ravens 24, Patriots 17
The NFC Wild Card Games:
Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) at Dallas Cowboys (11-5): (Sat. Jan 9, 2010; 8:00 p.m. ET; NBC)
The Philadelphia Eagles were shutout last week by the Cowboys last week in the final battle for the NFC East Division title. Both teams have been dominating the last half of the season, but the Cowboys got the better of the two ends last week. This week is an all new game, with a new motive. A chance to get a step closer to the Superbowl. Donovan McNabb has been leading the Eagles to victory and has over 3,500 yards and 22 touchdowns. DeSean Jackson has been one of the most explosive receivers this year and has over 1,100 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns. He uses his speed and agility to turn short yardage plays into long touchdowns and is always a threat to the opponent’s defense. The Dallas Cowboys have ended their season strong. Tony Romo has over 4,400 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. Last week, the Cowboys rushed for over 180 yards against the Eagles’ defense. This week, the Eagles will be looking to slow down the Cowboys’ running game and will try to stop Marion Barber from gaining big yards.
Cowboys 31, Eagles 21
Green Bay Packers (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (10-6): (Sun. Jan. 10, 2010; 4:40 p.m. ET; Fox)
The Green Bay Packers ended their season with a 7-1 record. Last week, the Packers dominated the Cardinals 33-7, and will be looking for a repeat performance. The last 2 weeks, their running game has been very effective. Ryan Grant has rushed for over 1,200 yards this season and has 11 touchdowns. Not only has Ryan Grant been affective on the ground, but Aaron Rodgers has been picking up some big yards on the ground. He leads the league with over 300 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns this year. The Packers’ strongpoint isn’t the running game, however. Their passing game has been phenomenal this year. Aaron Rodgers has passed for over 4,400 yards, 30 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. The Cardinals ended the season poorly again. They clinched their division early again, and faltered at the end of the season. Kurt Warner has passed for over 3,700 yards and 26 touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are both over 1,000 yards and will be a threat for the Packers’ defense.
Packers 28, Cardinals 17