Wild Card Weekend Playoff Analysis

Matt Lichtenstadter ('12)/Eastside Staff

I was writing for fantasy, now I am writing predictions for every playoff matchup. Sit back and enjoy!

AFC Wild Card: 5 New York Jets @ 4 Cincinnati Bengals 4:30 PM EST Saturday on NBC

One of the 3 rematches from week 17, this being the only one which changes sites. Can the Bengals D regain its edge after being run over in the Meadowlands? We’ll see.

Jets Offense vs. Bengals Defense: The Jets are the best team in the league running the ball. The Bengals don’t allow many rushing yards, excluding last week. The keys here are Mark Sanchez, and the Bengals injured defense. Will Rex Ryan let Mark Sanchez throw in a hostile environment? I doubt it. This gives the Bengals the schematic advantage. But, will the injuries to Domata Peko,  Chris Crocker, and others, will the Bengals have enough depth to counter the Jets rushing attack, which will be the focal point? I don’t think even the Bengals will be able to stop the Jets rushing, and maybe later, the play-action pass.

Advantage: New York

Bengals Offense vs. Jets Defense: The Jets allowed Carson Palmer to throw for 0 yards last Sunday. Given that the Bengals receivers were dropping balls left and right, the numbers are a bit deflated. But, can Carson Palmer throw effectively against the blitzing linebackers, and lockdown secondary with Darrelle Revis and Jim Leonhard? If the Jets eliminate the deep passes, and forces the short routes and Cedric Benson to be successful, they will have the advantage. If the Bengals can’t throw, they won’t score.

Advantage: New York

Intangibles: The Bengals are at home, with the home crowd. The Jets are starting a rookie QB, who hasn’t played in a game like this (sans the Rose Bowl). The weather is also a factor, with the cold and the wind. The Bengals are at home, they get the nod.

Advantage: Cincinnati

X-Factor: Mark Sanchez

Will he be held in check? With the scary thought of a short field for the Bengals due to turnovers, he may not be throwing very much. If he doesn’t turn the ball over, then the Jets will win. If he does, then the Bengals have a good chance.

Pick: New York. The Jets D is just too good for Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson to handle, and the Jets will eat the clock with the run.

NFC Wild Card: 6 Philadelphia Eagles @ 3 Dallas Cowboys 8:00 PM EST Saturday on NBC

The Eagles got whipped last Sunday. Will the recover enough to make this a game?

Philly Offense vs. Dallas Defense: Donovan Mcnabb accepts the blame for the loss last week. Should he have? Maybe. The offensive line was whipped by the Dallas front 4. They attacked Donovan, beating the line on the outside, and forcing Donovan to rush throws. The Eagles abandoned the run, forcing the pass in, and they cannot do that on Saturday. Dallas is very good against the run, which may be the reason why, but the Eagles have to establish it on Sunday. This sets up the pass, which will force only 4 man rushes, giving Donovan time to throw. However, if the deep play is eliminated by the Dallas secondary, the Eagles will again struggle. I think Dallas can eliminate the deep play.

Advantage: Dallas

Dallas Offense vs. Philly Defense: Tony Romo has played efficiently of late. He isn’t making mistakes, and he has a 3-headed running attack with Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and if healthy, Tashard Choice. They all can add a different dimension to the Dallas attack. Flozell Adams will be matched up against Trent Cole, and last week, Flozell won. Will Sean McDermott blitz more to shake up Romo, and get the D offense off the field? If he doesn’t, the Cowboys will control the ball more. The matchups favor Dallas, but the Birds always have a trick up their sleeves. But, the Dallas O is playing better now, and that is all that matters.

Advantage: Dallas

Intangibles: The Cowboys are playing well, the Eagles aren’t. Momentum is huge going into the postseason, and the Eagles just don’t have it. Dallas is at home, so that helps.

Advantage: Dallas

X-Factor: The Eagles Deep Play passing game

If the Eagles get this going, then this game will be a shootout. However if they don’t, like last week, the result will be like last week. All things considered, this is huge for the complexion of the game.

Pick: Dallas. They’re playing better on both sides of the ball, they’re confident, and history is on their side.

AFC Wild Card: 6 Baltimore Ravens @ 3 New England Patriots 1:00 PM EST Sunday on CBS

New England is struggling overall, but is great at home. How will that affect the game?

Baltimore Offense vs. New England Defense:

The Ravens of course run the ball very well, but what will Bill Belichick have in store for them? Joe Flacco has struggled a bit of late, and the Pats D is much better at home than it is on the road. If the Pats can stop the run, then they will force Joe Flacco into tough situations. The key though is what is Belichick going to do to take away the run? Will he force the Ravens to max protect? Whatever it is, New England’s struggling, injured D is better at home.

Advantage: New England

New England Offense vs. Baltimore Defense:

Tom Brady is better against the blitz than almost any other QB in the NFL, but this was with Wes Welker. He loves to throw deep against the blitz, but will the wideouts cooperate? Even though the Ravens pass D is struggling, they will have Ed Reed back, always helpful. The Pats running game will play a major role in the game. If they run the ball well against a very good run D, then the field will be opened up for Brady to throw. But, the key is how will Julian Edelman play? I think he plays well enough to keep New England in it, but the Ravens D will be fired up.

Advantage: Baltimore (by a nose)

Intangibles: New England plays very well at home, and Baltimore is the most penalized team in football. This is an easy choice.

Advantage: New England

X-Factor: Julian Edelman

He is replacing Wes Welker, and on the surface, it doesn’t look like he will be able to replace him effectively. But, he has had good games when Welker wasn’t playing, and that is big. If he plays well, then New England will win. If he doesn’t Baltimore will. I think that he won’t.

Pick: Baltimore. Even though New England is awesome at home, Julian Edelman is the key to the game. I think the Ravens game plan to shut him down, which means they will win.

NFC Wild Card: 5 Green Bay Packers @ 4 Arizona Cardinals 4:40 PM EST Sunday on FOX

The Packers didn’t see much of the Cards last Sunday, because they benched their starters. How will that affect the game?

Green Bay Offense vs. Arizona Defense:

Aaron Rodgers is the hottest QB no one is talking about. He is playing very well, and as I said, momentum is very important in the postseason. Arizona is hurting on D right now, and the big name is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Cards best corner. If he plays, Arizona will be able to match up well with the Green Bay wideouts. The Cards rush the passer very well, and have to get after Rodgers to win the game. However, Rodgers and the Pack are hot, and that is all that counts.

Advantage: Green Bay

Arizona Offense vs. Green Bay Defense:

Dom Capers should be assistant of the year for what he has done to the Packers Defense. Their 3-4 D, minus Al Harris and Aaron Kampman, is still tops in the league. Despite this, Arizona is still confident they can win. Why shouldn’t they be? Larry Fitzgerald played amazingly in the postseason last year, and that really opened the Cards O. They need that to happen again, or else they will be shut down. The Packers D is great, and that is huge for this game, where the best D may decide the outcome.

Advantage: Green Bay

Intangibles: Arizona is at home, where surprisingly, they were worse than they were on the road. But, the home field is huge. Green Bay is playing better than Arizona, but that atmosphere is going to sway the favor of the game to the Cards Court.

Advantage: Arizona

X-Factor: Who has the better running game?

Statistically, it is Green Bay, by 24 yards. I think that stats don’t lie. Green Bay is playing much better on the ground, and this is where the game will be decided. Who can dictate the tempo of the game on the ground, and Arizona didn’t all year, and won’t be able to now.

Pick: Green Bay. A trendy dark horse super bowl pick, and I believe it. They are playing better than Arizona, and they are going to scare the NFC big boys.

And for the record: My Super Bowl XLIV: Sand Diego vs. Minnesota.

See you next week!