Some final thoughts on Wild-Card Weekend, a ranking of the remaining teams, and initial thoughts on the divisional round match-ups —
- If you would have told me I would pick 3 of the 4 games right for the past weekend and the one I got wrong would be Seattle/New Orleans, I would have never believed you. Who could have seen that coming? Seattle grabbed the momentum and took advantage of a terrific game by Matt Hassleback. The funny thing now is that Seattle has already won in Chicago this year and has a decent shot at doing it again this weekend. Could you imagine the Seahawks actually hosting the NFC Championship Game as a 9-9 team?
- It was a great weekend of games, outside of the complete dud laid by the Cheifs at home. Baltimore was the superior team but Kansas City could have put up more of a fight. How do you not target Dwayne Bowe once? It isn’t like the Ravens have Darrelle Revis out there.
- The Packers are peeking at the right time, which is incredibly impressive considering all the injuries they sustained. It felt like Mike Vick was taking Philly in for a touchdown on that final drive but a few inches underthrown and a great play by Tramon Williams ended it.
Divisional Weekend Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots – They are the unquestioned favorite. Let’s see if the Jets can make Belichick and Brady look human again, like they did way way back in week 2.
2. Atlanta Falcons – Would anybody be surprised if Green Bay went into Atlanta and won this weekend? The Falcons don’t have the same clout as most number one seeds normally do.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – Let’s see how their offensive line holds up in round III vs. the Ravens.
4. Baltimore Ravens – You can’t love football and not be beyond excited for Ravens/Steelers this weekend.
5. Green Bay Packers – The Packers have the feel of a team who is hot at the right time and with enough talent to win it all.
6. Chicago Bears – If Jay Cutler has his head on straight, the Bears should roll to the NFC Championship Game. However, I have a feeling Seahawks/Bears is going to be a tight one.
7. New York Jets – Nobody will give them a chance this weekend. Let’s see if they can shock the world.
8. Seattle Seahawks – Well they shut us up last weekend.
Initial Thoughts on Divisional Weekend
Ravens at Steelers – Tape the knuckles up and get ready for old-school, smashmouth, defensive football between a couple of teams who couldn’t know each other any better and couldn’t hate each other more. Take the under and look forward to one hell of a football game.
Packers at Falcons – Their regular season game a few weeks back was terrific and this one should be even better. A couple of great young quarterbacks and high powered offenses at work in the prime-time game.
Seahawks at Bears – I can’t help but have an early feeling Seattle is going to build off last week and take this game. This is coming from somebody who spent the entire year bashing the Seahawks as one of the five worst teams in the league. However, they did beat Chicago earlier in the year and I am not fully sold on the Bears yet. Remember the playoffs are about who is hot at the right time.
Jets at Patriots – Do I expect the Jets to win? No. Will I spend the whole week coming up with every possible way for them to win and talking myself into it happening? Yes.
Wild-Card Weekend Highlights
Is there anything better than a weekend of playoff football when your team is involved? The correct answer is absolutely not, so here is hoping that everybody beat the snow home and is ready for a great two days of football, without carrying on anymore here is a very special edition of the 12 pack for Jets/Colts, along with the rest of my weekend picks —
1. Mark Sanchez is going to throw for over 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns against an over-matched Colts secondary. More importantly, he will protect the football and won’t have a single turnover.
2. Peyton Manning is going to throw for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Jets secondary. He will find the match-ups that he wants because he always does. However, Manning will throw an interception Saturday night to Antonio Cromartie.
3. Shonn Greene will have at least 18 carries and at least 90 yards to lead the Jets ground attack. LaDanian Tomlinson will have 10-12 carries and 3-5 receptions. Joe McKnight won’t be involved in the offensive game-plan.
4. The Colts won’t have a running back who finishes with more than 50 yards on the ground. However, they will make big contributions catching the football out of the backfield.
5. Jacob Tamme is going to have a big day against the Jets secondary, with at least 65 receiving yards and a touchdown.
6. Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards will both have at least 70 yards receiving. One of them will get into the end-zone on a big play of 30 yards or longer.
7. Reggie Wayne will have less than 50 yards receiving and won’t score a touchdown against Darrelle Revis. Pierre Garcon will beat Antonio Cromartie for one big play but beyond that will be relatively quiet.
8. Brad Smith is going to have one big kick return and break one big run on offense.
9. Robert Mathis will have a pair of sacks against Damien Woody as he struggles to return from his surgery.
10. Despite having a less reliable kicker, the Jets will outplay the Colts on special teams which will go a long to determining the outcome of this game.
11. The Jets will coach this game extremely aggressively, meaning they won’t hesitate to go for 4th and 1’s and potentially try a few trick plays. However, Rex Ryan being too aggressive on defense will burn them a few times for big plays.
12. The Jets are going win a close one that comes down to the final few minutes, 27-24.
NFL Wild-Card Weekend Picks
Jets (+3) vs. Indy
Saints (-11) vs. Seahawks – I don’t want to hear about the long trip, the crowd noise, or the injuries to their running backs, the Saints are a much, much better team than the 7-9 Seahawks who don’t belong anywhere near the playoffs.
Ravens (-4) vs. Chiefs – Kansas City will struggle to move the football and will have a difficult time stopping Ray Rice. The Ravens are simply a more experienced team, who is better prepared to win this type of game.
Packers (+3) vs. Eagles – I have been all about the Mike Vick show all year but I think he will struggle with Green Bay’s blitzing and the Packers offense will run up a bunch of points on an inconsistent Philadelphia defense.
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Finally, the NFL playoffs are here…here is how TOJ sees the 12 teams ranking heading into Wild-Card Weekend, along a few more thoughts on Jets/Colts and the other match-ups –
1. New England Patriots – The unquestioned favorite to win the Super Bowl, New England couldn’t be any hotter at the moment. I have to think the Patriots would love to see the Jets coming back into their building and will be hoping to avoid the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.
2. Atlanta Falcons – The other number one seed will have a tough road to reach the Super Bowl, likely starting with either New Orleans or Green Bay.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – A much needed week off for them to rest injured players. You have to wonder if their offensive line can hold up for a Super Bowl run.
4. Chicago Bears – The least talked about team with a bye as a serious Super Bowl contender. However, Chicago will be tough to beat in their building if Jay Cutler is on his game and their pass rush remains active.
5. Baltimore Ravens – Ray Rice has picked it up over the last month and they will need him leading the way on offense, if they want to win the road games necessary to reach the Super Bowl.
6. New Orleans Saints – The defending champs won’t have their home field advantage from a year ago but are still a team nobody in the NFC wants to see coming into their building.
7. Philadelphia Eagles – Everybody is a little down on the Eagles from the previous few weeks but they are too explosive on offense to ignore as a very legitimate Super Bowl contender.
8. Green Bay Packers – They are playing well at the right time and are going to be a handful for any team they face. Yet, being so one dimensional on offense could haunt them this time of the year.
9. Indianapolis Colts – Nobody in the AFC South took advantage of a down year from the Colts who still found a way to 10 wins and a division title.
10. New York Jets – They actually are a lower seed than they were a year before despite having 2 more wins.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – All the makings of a one and done team.
12. Seattle Seahawks – 7-9, yuck.
New Orleans at Seattle – You could talk about the long trip New Orleans has to take and how loud Seattle’s crowd is all you want but at the end of the day, the Saints are a significantly better team in every way imaginable. It is honestly hard to see this game even being entertaining into the second half. However, this is the NFL and crazier things have happened than a 7-9 team potentially led by Charlie Whitehurst knocking off Drew Brees and the defending champs.
Jets at Indianapolis – It is nice to see the early overwhelming confidence of the football world in the Colts. The Jets fit better into the underdog role anyway. This match-up isn’t sitting as badly with me as it did a few weeks ago, especially after watching the Colts against the Titans yesterday. It would be a big step in Rex Ryan’s coaching career if he could knock off Peyton Manning in playoff game. I do know this, one and done is absolutely considered a failure for the Jets season with all the hype around the team.
Baltimore at Kansas City – I have a very tough time seeing the Chiefs being ready to knock off an experienced team like Ravens, despite being at home. It is too easy to picture Ray Rice having a big day and Baltimore’s defense rising to the occasion to limit Jamal Charles and Dwayne Bowe’s production.
Green Bay at Philadelphia – It is between this and Jets/Colts as the best game of the weekend. This should be a fun one, where there won’t be a shortage of points. I could really see this going either way, especially if Green Bay’s blitz gets after Mike Vick early and often.