It feels like I was just writing my NFL season previews, but now it’s playoff time. Most of the field was set weeks ago, including most of the NFC, but seven teams were battling for the remaining two AFC slots in week seventeen. The Jets and Ravens, two teams who took very different routes to the playoffs ended up taking home the last two wildcard positions.
This season, there were five different champions out of the eight divisions, three of which are in the AFC. There are also six teams making an appearance in the postseason that had an early tee-time at the golf course this time last year.
New York Jets (9-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (10-6):
Time: Saturday at 4:30 PM EST on NBC
How they match up: The Jets have the #1 defense in the NFL by a wide margin, but their offense is a less-than spectacular 20th with rookie Mark Sanchez at the helm. They do have one of the most dominant running games in the NFL, led by Thomas Jones’ 1,402 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. They stack up well with Cincinnati, though, due to the similarities of these two teams. Cincy is 24th overall in offense, a confusing number due to the amount of weapons that they have at their disposal. Cedric Benson has been one of the best stories of the season, rushing for 1,251 yards and 6 touchdowns. Their defense is the 4th ranked unit, but they allowed almost fifty more yards per game than the Jets.
Last time they played: January 2nd, Jets 37, Bengals 0.
Prediction: This is not an easy game to predict, even though last week;s game would make it appear so. Week seventeen was a play-in game for the Jets, but it was just a day to rest Cincinnati’s stars because they had already clinched a spot. This has the makings of a defensive struggle, not only because of the stout defenses on the field, but because of the potential of bad weather in Cincy. I’ll give this one to the Bengals 21-13.
Time: Sunday at 1:00 PM EST on CBS
How they match up: The Patriots wrapped up the AFC East weeks ago, but the Ravens just barely made the playoffs after ending the season at a mediocre 9-7. They are a team of opposites, the Pats have a top five offense and the Ravens have a top five defense. The Ravens offense is 13th and the Patriots defense is 11th. Whichever one of these teams is able to find a weakness in their opponents supposed strength will come out of this victorious.
Last time they played: October 4th, Patriots 27, Ravens 21.
Prediction: Tom Brady just won the AP comeback player of the year award after returning to the NFL after tearing his ACL in the first game of last season. He not only came back, but he led his team to a division title and a playoff birth. Everyone is talking about the Colts and Chargers in the AFC, but don’t make the mistake of discounting the Patriots. I think the Pats should take this one 24-10.
Time: Saturday at 8:00 PM EST on NBC
How they match up: Besides the Cardinals, the Eagles are the only team in the playoffs without a top ten defense or offense. This could pose a problem against the Dallas Cowboys, who have the second ranked offense as well as the ninth ranked defense. Tony Romo and company finally seem to have figured out how to win games late in the season and that’s bad news for the Eagles, who just lost to these same Cowboys 24-0 to end the season. The Eagles are 6-1 in their last seven, though, so who really knows.
Last time they played: January 2nd, Cowboys 24, Eagles 0.
Prediction: This is arguably the hardest wildcard game to predict. These are two divisional foes with a long history. Dallas swept the season series, but the Eagles are a tenacious group led by Mcnabb, one of the toughest quarterbacks in NFL history. I’m convinced that if he broke his leg during a game he would just tape it up and limp back onto the field and throw three touchdowns. But, I’ll still give this one to Dallas 35-24, just because they are at home.
Time: Sunday at 4:40 PM EST on FOX
How they match up: You might not know it from looking at these team’s records and by the fact that the game is being played in Arizona, but this is one of the biggest mismatches in the first round. The Packers have won seven of their last eight games. The only hiccup was the last second loss to the Steelers on December 20th. They have the second best defense in the NFL and the 6th best offense. Aaron Rodgers has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL after throwing for 4,434 yards with 30 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. The Cardinals on the other hand have the 14th ranked offense and the 20th ranked defense, by far the lowest combined ranks in the playoffs.
Last time they played: January 2nd, Packers 33, Cardinals 7.
Prediction: The last of three week seventeen rematches in the wildcard round features the Pack against the Cards. Sadly for the Packers, the game will be played in warm Arizona instead of the “frozen tundra of Lambeau Field”. It doesn’t really even matter though. The Packers are a lot better than the Cardinals. Also, I don’t care that I overlooked the Cards throughout the playoffs last year because I’m going to do it again. Packers 28-17.
30 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist and sports editor. He also writes about fine beverages for drinkingmadeeasy.com and Chilled Magazine. On top of that, he writes about college and professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, throw him an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chrisosburn