NFL Wildcard Weekend Preview

Well, we learned yesterday that despite doing really well picking the bowl games overall (23-11 to this point), I know nothing about the top teams in college football. I’m far from excited about the title game, Oregon’s style of play just drives me nuts. However, it should be competitive, and that is what the sport needs most. The NFL playoffs start tomorrow. I was fairly decent picking games down the stretch. Let’s hope that continues into wildcard weekend.

Cardinals (11-5) at Panthers (7-8-1)-Arizona will go into the playoffs with 3rd string QB Ryan Lindley at the helm. I give Arizona a ton of credit for managing their injuries at the skill positions so well all year long. Their defense is better than the numbers suggest, particularly in the secondary, led by Patrick Peterson. They have a knack for forcing key turnovers. Carolina is really interesting. They are just the 2nd team ever to reach the playoffs with a losing record, but throw that out. Cam Newton is back to his old self and he has spearheaded Carolina’s late season run to snatch the subpar NFC South. Also, the defense ranks 2nd to only Seattle over the last month. In short, Carolina is rolling and Arizona has been unreal this year, but is banged up and leaking oil everywhere. Car 21 Ari 9

Ravens (10-6) at Steelers (11-5)-Like all the games between these two division rivals, this will be close. It is no secret I’ve been high on the Steelers all year. However, all that changes without Le’veon Bell in the backfield due to a bum knee. He is the one guy they couldn’t lose. 2nd in the league in rushing and 2nd on the team in receiving says it all. Unknown Rookie Josh Harris will do his best to fill those massive shoes. I know Baltimore hasn’t set the world on fire of late, but QB Joe Flacco should be comfortable in this spot. I don’t see how the Steelers can generate enough offense without Bell. Bal 20 Pit 13

Bengals (10-5-1) at Colts (11-5)-The Bengals are trying to avoid a 4th straight wildcard weekend loss and win their first playoff game since 1990. The defense and run game did a great job carrying QB Andy Dalton in a win over my Broncos to get here. Indy is in a similar yet different spot. QB Andrew Luck has carried a very average roster to this spot. As detailed above, the reverse is true in Cincy. Indy’s top ranked passing game is much better at home. Combine that with top WR A.J. Green being out for Cincy and what does it all mean? Despite rookie RB Jeremy Hill’s best efforts, the longest playoff victory drought in the sport will continue. Ind 31 Cin 27

Lions (11-5) at Cowboys (12-4) All the talk is about Seattle and Green Bay in the NFC. Yet, I like Dallas to reach the Super Bowl. The offense is the most balanced I’ve ever seen. What DeMarco Murray is doing for Tony Romo reminds me of what Terrell Davis did for John Elway. The Lions have been a pleasant surprise, but won’t score enough to stay in touch. Dal 35 Det 20

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