The NFL Wild Card weekend is just around the corner and it features some pretty intriguing matchups. Three different rookie quarterbacks have led their teams to the playoffs this season, and one of the wild card games features two of those rookies squaring off in what is likely to be the most talked about game of wild card weekend. There are other interesting storylines for the weekend as the other rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck, goes on the road to take on Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens in what could be the legendary linebackers final NFL game. Then there is the rematch of a week 17 classic between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers, this time with a change of venue and no season rushing record on the line. There is plenty to be excited about as the NFL post season gets under way, even if the Rams didn’t qualify this year there is still some great football to look forward to. Hopefully we improve on our pick percentage from last weekend, when we went 8-8 to finish the season with a 62% accuracy on picks which would be equivalent to a respectable 10 win season in the NFL. Since there are only four games to discuss this weekend we will try to go into each matchup a little more in depth than usual, and hopefully come out on the plus side of .500 after the dust settles.
Bengals @ Texans. The Houston Texans sputtered into the post season, going from a near lock for the #1 seed in the AFC to the 3rd seed and a wild card matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. Matt Schaub will make his first career post season start at quarterback against second year player Andy Dalton. Schaub will be under a lot of pressure to deliver a win and right the ship after the Texans lost 3 of their final four games, he will also be under a lot of pressure from the Bengals defensive line which finished 3rd in the NFL for sacks behind only the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams. The Texans are built primarily to run the ball and and are very good at protecting a lead, they haven’t shown much ability to play catch up this season when they fall behind so they will try to establish Arian Foster early in the game. On the other side Andy Dalton will have to deal with defensive player of the year candidate JJ Watt and his incredible combination of pass rushing and batting down passes, and he may have to do it without a fully healthy running game as BenJarvus Green-Ellis missed last weeks game with a hamstring injury. The nod goes to the home team in this one, even though the Bengals seemingly have the momentum the Texans have the better all around team. Texans win 24 – 20.
Vikings @ Packers. Adrian Peterson came up 9 yards short of the NFL single season rushing record last weekend as the Minnesota Vikings chose to kick a field goal from to 10 yard line instead of giving him one last shot at the record. Since the end of the game Peterson has been quoted as saying he is coming for Dickerson’s record, in the history of the NFL no player has ever had multiple 2,000 yard seasons but I wouldn’t bet against Peterson after what he accomplished this season. Peterson may need to set his sights on another record held by Dickerson if the Vikings are to win this weekend, that being the record for most rushing yards in a playoff game. Dickerson rushed for 248 yards in 1985 against the Dallas Cowboys, Peterson averaged 204 yards rushing in his two games against the Packers this season so that record isn’t safe this weekend. On the other side the Packers appear to finally be getting healthy again as Charles Woodson is likely to return to the lineup, which would be a big boost to the Packers defense. In the end Aaron Rodgers is one of the 3 best quarterbacks in the league, and Christian Ponder is a huge question mark. Packers win 27 – 17.
Colts @ Ravens. Rookie Andrew Luck has had an impressive season, even if the statistics don’t show it he has played very well on his way to becoming the first #1 overall draft pick to lead his team to the playoffs in his rookie season. The +9 in the win column for the Colts this year is all you really need to know about how much he has impacted this team. The other rookie signal callers in the playoffs have +5 (RGIII) and +4 (Wilson) in the win column this season. The Ravens have suffered plenty of injuries on the defensive side of the ball this season, with the loss of Ray Lewis for a majority of the regular season, Terrell Suggs also hasn’t been the same player since returning from injury. Even with Ray Lewis returning for this playoff game, this is not the same Ravens defense we have all come to expect during Lewis’ incredible run at MLB. They are vulnerable and could be a favorable matchup for Luck and the Colts, which makes it tempting to pick the Colts here. On the other hand the Colts defense has been near the bottom of the league all season, and Ray Rice should have a field day running the ball. As long as Joe Flacco doesn’t turn the ball over multiple times the Ravens should be able to ride Rice into the divisional round of the playoffs. Ravens win 20 – 14.
Seahawks @ Redskins. The NFL has scheduled the best for last in this wild card weekend, the matchup between Russell Wilson and RGIII has drawn plenty of media attention as they become the first full time rookie QBs to face off in the playoffs. The Seahawks will clearly have the advantage on defense, and probably the nod on the special teams units. The Redskins have the advantage when it comes to offense and coaching. Then there is the fact that this game is going to be played at FedEx Field making it harder and harder to go against the Redskins. The Seahawks struggles on the road have been well documented this season, as they only one 3 games on the road this season and none against playoff teams. As a Rams fan I can’t really root for either team to win, of course I want the Redskins to lose to provide the best draft pick possible from the trade, but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to root for the Seahawks under any circumstance. I am confident that the Seahawks will have the better team on the field, but Pete Carroll has proven time and again that he can lose a game to an inferior opponent when matched up against even average head coaches. It is a home game for the Redskins and they have an above average head coach, which should be enough to tip the scales in their favor in what should be a very close and entertaining football game. Redskins win 27 – 21.
NFL Wild Card Round
Seahawks @ Redskins
Vikings @ Packers
Bengals @ Texans
Colts @ Ravens