If not for the thriller in Arizona last Sunday evening, the 2010 Wildcard weekend would’ve been a wash in terms of competitive play. Even with the shootout between the Cardinals and Packers, nothing climactic happened until the 7:20 mark of the third quarter when Aaron Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings for a six yard touchdown pass. In case you missed it, the two teams went on to combine for a Wildcard Weekend high of 96 points (Arizona 51- Green Bay 45 OT). Between Dallas easily beating Philadelphia for a third time this season, Baltimore imposing its will on New England and Cincinnati learning the harsh reality of how a team can’t just turn “it” on and off in a second loss to New York (Jets), competitive balance was left to be desired. Now we’ve entered divisional play where teams with a bye come out of their brief hibernation to begin their journeys to Super Bowl 44. How will the upper brass of the playoff pool fair coming off a week of rest? Let’s find out:
Cardinals over Saints– Yes, Arizona’s defense squandered a 21 point lead and narrowly escaped Green Bay last week, but it seems to know how to step up in a playoff environment. The good news for New Orleans is the bye week served them well as battered players like Jeremy Shockey, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sharper will suit up and play. The bad news is the defense. The Saints’ defense went on a downward spiral. At one point, they owned the sixth best unit in the league. It finished the season 21st. Also, the Saints struggled with teams that proved to be more physical. I’m looking for Arizona’s physicality to close the curtain on the “New Greatest Show on Turf”.
Colts over Ravens– If you are looking for a live motion game of chess, look no further that Saturday’s nightcap. Watching Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis audible their units in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage is nothing short of epic. In looking at the offenses, I think the safe bet is the Colts since their offense is the more balanced of the two. The Colts are equipped with receivers that can step up on command, while the Ravens are still looking for a reliable option outside of the aging Derrick Mason.
Cowboys over Vikings– This game by far was the hardest for me to decide on and it has nothing to do with me being a Redskins fan. Last week, I side with Dallas’ playoff history, thinking another typical loss would happen and that brand of logic blew up in my face. It’s evident that Tony Romo, for now, has overcome his late season collapses. In addition, his supporting cast is helping him out. In my humble opinion, Felix Jones the most dangerous running back remaining in the playoffs. Defensively, Jay Ratcliff and Anthony Spencer have answered the call in helping DeMarcus Ware wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage. Connect that with Brett Favre’s lack of cohesion with Brad Childress and Adrian Peterson’s numbers tapering off at the latter part of the season, I get the sense that “Ol’ #4” will revert back to his gun slinging ways, which will likely result in turnovers.
Chargers over Jets– If you have not become a believer of Darrelle Revis as a shutdown cornerback by now, you might want to reevaluate how you process the game of football. As much as I admire Phillip Rivers’ moxy, wisdom would serve as his best weapon. Choosing spots incorrectly would only prove deadly for San Diego’s offense. Defensively, make life as uncomfortable for Mark Sanchez as possible so he won’t have a repeat completion percentage (80%) of a week ago.
Going 0-4 on Wildcard Weekend tells me I too can choose my spots better. I hope I did this week, but of course, we’ll see at the conclusion of round two.
By Antoine Hoffman