NFL Wildcard Review and Divisional Playoff Outlook

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The Wildcard games were exciting, and man, was I wrong!

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals 24-30

I picked the Falcons over the Cardinals, but Kurt Warner (Best Passer Rating among all Wildcard passing performances – 94.7) and Edgerrin James (16 rushes for 73 yards) proved that the Cardinals are for real, while Matt Ryan finally showed his inexperience. The Cardinals were able to shut the Falcons running game down (just 60 yards rushing allowed), forcing the game into Ryan’s hands and he couldn’t handle it: 2 interceptions and a fumble which was returned for a TD plus taking 3 sacks one for a safety.

Now the Cardinals have to travel to Carolina to play the Panthers on their home ground – This year the Panthers haven’t lost at home! But as the Falcons they heavily rely on their rushing game, which the Cardinals controlled pretty good vs the Falcons. But with Jake Delhomme in his 10th season they face a an experienced QB and not a Rookie.

My Tip: Panthers!

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers 17-23 OT

I also picked the Colts over the Chargers. And was almost right, but if you’ve seen the game, is wasn’t so much for the good Colts Defense but more for the Chargers inablity to complete a drive with a score that kept the Colts in the game and force Overtime. And when the Chargers won the toss is was clear that the Colts would have needed something near to a miracle to stop them. Peyton Manning led the Wildcard QBs in passing yards (310) but threw just one TD and completed “only” 25 out of his 42 attempts, which wasn’t enough to compensate the absense of a real rushing attack (64 yards in 22 attempts). Philip Rivers on the Chargers side didn’t have his best day either, but with Darren Sproles rushing 23 times for 105 yards, receiving 5 passes for 45 yards and returning kickoffs and punts for another 178 yards that wasn’t needed.

The next game for the Chargers will be on Sunday in Pittsburgh. In my eyes the Steelers weren’t that convincing at the end of the season anymore… while the Chargers are hot (entering the Divisional Playoffs with the longest winning streak) so it should be a very interesting game to watch…

My Tip: Chargers

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins 27-9

The Ravens went down to Miami to play the Team of the Season, and I predicted that the Dolphins would come through even though they already lost in the regualar season to the Ravens. But again I was wrong. But how could I’ve known that Chad Pennington would do everything to destroy his name for taking care of the football he earned during the regular season with just 7 interceptions, and threw 4 interceptions in this one game. All in all the Dolphins had 13 turnovers during the regular season, but 5 in this one playoff game. Getting the only PAT blocked was just the icing on the cake (in a negative meaning)…

The Ravens will now travel to Tennessee to battle the Titans. The Question will be: Will the Titans be able to get going again after they kind of rolled down in idle gear into the playoffs, or will it happen to them just as last years week 17 “loafers” who all lost their playoff games despite being favourites? Can the Ravens stop the Titans 2-headed rushing attack without abandoning the passing defense? It all will depend on Joe Flacco, only the third Rookie NFL QB winning his playoff debut: Will he take it up a notch or two, because he can’t expect his counterpart on the other side to falter again.

My Tip: Ravens

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings 26-14

Just the EaglesVikings game came as I predicted – almost. The rushing attack of Brian Westbrook wasn’t much to mention (20 attempts, 38 yards) but on the receiving end he was more productive (3 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown). Donovan McNabb passed for 300 yards (2nd most in the Wildcard games) while on the Vikings side Tarvaris Jackson fulfilled my expectations (or should I say the Eagles Defense did): just 15 completions from 35 attempts and 164 yards, no touchdown but one interception. The Vikings rushing attack wasn’t slowed down as much as I thought, but since the Vikings always had to catch up running the ball played more into the hands of the Eagles. Only negative on the Eagles side (besides Westbrooks rushing average): The Eagles just scored one offensive TD.

The Eagles have to go to New York to play their division rival Giants for the third time this year. In the regular season they split the games, each time the visiting team won. The Eagles beat the Giants on Dec. 7th in NY with a top performance by Brian Westbrook, while the game on Nov. 9th in Philadelphia the Giants won heavily on the shoulders of – now ailing – Brandon Jacobs. So the question will be: Is Jacobs healthy enought to contribute significantly or will Westbrook break through again?

My Tip: Eagles

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