Well, it’s finally here – the 2007 NFL Playoffs are upon us. This wild card weekend is filled with interesting games and great sidebars for what should be a great four games between Saturday and Sunday. Last week I went 10-6 to end the regular season at 148-93. With that, let’s get to the thoughts and predictions for this weekends four wild card matchups.
Kansas City at Indianapolis – The 4:30pm opener on Saturday has the surprising Chiefs (9-7) travel to play the underachieving Colts (12-4). The bottom line in this one seems to be rather simple – can the Colts awful run defense do enough to slow down Larry Johnson? Johnson’s 1789 yards on a whopping, NFL record setting 416 carries and 17 TD’s is going to be the make or break for the Chiefs. If he can get off for 26-33 carries and 140 or more and two TD’s, I think the Chiefs pull this off. The Colts were the leagues only team to allow every opponent to rush for at least 100 yards per game. They also allowed 5.3 yards per carry. Even with that, I think that being perfect at home, the Colts offense will strike against the lackluster Chiefs defense early, and try to make this thing a quick kill so the Chiefs running attack simply won’t be that big of a factor. Don’t forget the Colts, despite all their issues, were 8-0 at home for the first time ever. Indy puts up close to 27 points per game, and if they can get 10-14 of those in the first quarter, they will win this game. Look for LJ to be a factor, just not a big enough factor to stop Peyton and co. from moving on to Baltimore next weekend. Indianapolis 30 Kansas City 17
Dallas at Seattle – The nightcap for Saturday sees the 9-7 Cowboys, who blew the NFC East title two weeks ago, battle the NFC West champion 9-7 Seahawks at Qwest Field. I was on that Cowboy bandwagon like everyone else just about a month ago when they were 8-4 and looked like they would make a strong push for the #2 seed in the NFC. Then the bottom dropped out on first-year starter Tony Romo and the Boys dropped three of their last four games to end at 9-7. Despite it meaning nothing in the long run, they even fell to the lowly Lions 39-31 on the final day of the regular season. The Hawks are nothing to write home about either, as they limped into the playoffs, losing three of their last four, with the lone win being a last day victory 23-7 over the bad Bucs in Tampa Bay. Seattle has battled injuries all year, losing both superstar Shaun Alexander and QB Matt Hassleback for an extended period of time. This is a tough one to call. I think that Dallas has more overall talent on each side of the ball, but they have been so up and down the last month, you have no idea what team is going to show up. The Hawks can be beat at home unlike years past, as they have already lost three games at Qwest Field this year, including two in a row. Seattle will be missing a ton of players due to injury – two starting CB’s, three offensive linemen, and possibly leading wide out Darrell Jackson. Bill Parcells will get his Cowboys motivated enough for this one, and the Hawks injuries will be too much to overcome. Dallas 20 Seattle 16
New York Jets at New England – A classic student vs teacher matchup highlights the early game on Sunday, as the 10-6 Jets get one more crack at the 12-4 AFC East Champion Patriots at Foxboro. Jets coach Eric Mangini has the Jets flying high, winners of three straight and five of six as they enter the playoffs. One of their biggest wins of the year came back on November 12th when they beat the Pats 17-14 in a rain soaked field in New England. Chad Pennington is the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and while the teams numbers are not anything to shout about, they seem to get the job done. New England used that Jets loss in November as a springboard to get better, and that they did, winning six of their last seven. They dominated their last three games, putting up an average of 34.6 points per game. Tom Brady is lifetime 9-2 vs the Jets, and look for him to spread the ball around and get everyone involved in the offense. Laurence Maroney should have success against a Jets defense that allowed 130 yards per game on the ground. New York needs big plays to get this one done, but I think that teacher Bill will have his team ready enough to get past student Eric in the third and final meeting between these two foes this season. New England 27 New York 17
New York Giants at Philadelphia – For all the problems and turmoil that the Giants went through in 2006, they still have a shot as the last wild card team to do damage in the playoffs. New York (8-8) was red hot at 6-2, but then lost six of their last eight to end the year at .500. The Giants will need a huge dose to RB Tiki Barber in the offense in what could be his last NFL game. QB Eli Manning still goes into lapses and makes too many mistakes, and his last four games have seen just a QB rating of 70.9, and on the year he has 24 TD’s but 18 picks, which could be the Giants downfall. Philly has been the shock of the league, winning their last five games without Donovan McNabb and winning the NFC East at 10-6. Jeff Garcia has stepped in for McNabb and been superb, throwing 10 TD’s and just two picks in his time as a starter. He played great vs the rest of the division, including the Giants back in week 15 in a 36-22 road win. Maybe the even bigger factor for the Eagles is RB Brian Westbrook, who ran for 375 yards in his four last full games (he ran just once vs the Falcons last week when the starters all sat). The Philly defense has also played well in the last month and a half, and will look to pressure Eli and the Giants into mistakes and negative plays. The crowd in Philly will also play a factor, and the Eagles should have more than enough to move on to the divisional round. Philadelphia 24 New York Giants 13