Site Editor Matt Loede’s Wild Card Weekend Picks

Del Rio, Taylor and Garrard 

Time to start anew, as the NFL Playoffs are upon us. It’s what eight teams work all season for, the chance to go into a three week tourney for the chance to fight it out for a trophy that will gleam silver and end up being kissed by many the first weekend in February. With that, we have four interesting matchups over the weekend, and here are my picks for the four games.

NFC Wild Card Game: Washington at Seattle (-3.5)

The Skins have reeled off a late season charge to make it in the playoffs with the unlikely hero of QB Todd Collins leading the way. Collins led the Skins to three wins, beating the Cowboys last week to clinch the final spot. The key though for the Skins will be their running game, as well as how their O-line matches up with the solid LB core of the Seahawks. The Hawks have had issues running all year, but their key will be to keep Matt Hasslebeck protected enough to be able to run their west coast offense. The Redskins will rush four and try to disrupt the passing game, keeping Hasslebeck on his toes. Seattle has been back and forth all season, making them very vulnerable here. Despite that, I think the crowd in Seattle will play a difference, as the Hawks do have a lot more confidence at home. Watch the forecast though, as rain and wind could play a part in what will be a close game. Seattle 20 Washington 17

AFC Wild Card Game: Jacksonville (-2) at Pittsburgh

The Steelers enter this game reeling, losing three of four and banged up on the O-line and with stars Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu both less than 100 percent. Plus they are now using backup Najeh Davenport as their feature back with Willie Parker on the IR. The Jags come in sky-high, passing every major test down the stretch, including a key 29-22 win in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. They have that solid 1-2 punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew at the RB spots, and David Garrard has been mistake-free pretty much the whole year. Watch out for first time jitters from Garrard though, as first-time QB’s since 2003 are 2-13 in playoff games. The Steelers will try to run, but if they can’t it’ll be a lot of Ben Roethlisberger back in the pocket making plays downfield to Santonio Holmes, Ward and tight end Heath Miller. Look for Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau to come up with a saving game plan that will help the Steelers knock out a game Jags team at home. Pittsburgh 27 Jacksonville 23

NFC Wild Card Game: New York Giants at Tampa Bay (-3)

What Giants team will show up is the big question here. Can Eli Manning and his offense continue their push after they played pretty well last week vs the Pats? The Giants will also test the Bucs run defense, as Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will look to gain those tough yards on the ground. Manning has to be patient, and look for him to play plenty underneath against the Tampa cover-2 defense. The Bucs love to take shots with the play action down the field with Joey Galloway. Earnest Graham has played well, but look for Michael Pittman to test that Giants defense as well. Tampa is very good at home, and while the Giants play well on the road, gotta like the home team here. Tampa Bay 27 New York Giants 17

AFC Wild Card Game: Tennessee at San Diego (-9.5)

The biggest question here will be the health of Titans QB Vince Young, and if he can make plays not being 100 percent. San Diego has played well down the stretch, but there are still questions about Phillip Rivers and how well he will play now that the playoffs are here. Tennessee is banged up, as they lost wide out Roydell Williams to a broken ankle in practice, and tight end Bo Scaife is out as well. They are going to need to run, and run well if they want to make this a game. The Chargers know they escaped LP Field with a big win a few weeks back in a game they didn’t play all that well. They will look to come back and prove they are the better team, and as well as they have played the last few weeks, there is no doubt they should be able to easily handle the AFC’s 6th seed. San Diego 34 Tennessee 14

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