Tuesdays with Smitty: Forecasting Wild Card Weekend

by Aaron Smith

And then there was 12. While most of the league was cleaning out their lockers and some head coaches are cleaning out their offices – 8 teams are getting ready for the first round of the NFL playoffs . Wild Card weekend is upon on. Let’s take a look at the matchups and see if we can predict who is moving on. First up the AFC…
AFC

Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins – This should be an interesting game, as an over achieving Miami Dolphins team takes on a tough Baltimore Ravens team. Playing in Miami should help the Dolphins not only with the crowd control, but with the heat as well. Both coaches will be put to the test, as they are both rookie coaches  in a playoff  atmosphere. Most teams have been unable to solve the two-prong Wildcat attack of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams – except for the – you guessed it – Baltimore Ravens. But if Miami can run the ball, Baltimore’s defense will spend more time on the field. Add the heat and you have to wonder if they will wear down.  Baltimore’s offense has been led by rookie QB, Joe Flacco. This should be an on the job learning lesson for the young quarterback. To make matters worse, Flacco might be without favorite wide receiver, Derrick Mason.  If the Ravens shut down the Dolphin running game, will Chad Pennington be able to carry the Dolphins to the next round?  How will Flacco react to playoff pressure?

Prediction – Baltimore 24  Miami 10. I think Baltimore’s defense will be too much and Pennington won’t be able to carry the game on his shoulders. In end, Baltimore is too much for the upstart Dolphins

Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Chargers – A rematch of a regular season match up that saw the Colts win with a late FG. Manning on the Colts offense has been playing really well as of late, with the Colts defense not too far behind. Philip Rivers seems to have the Chargers offense going and LT has been running the ball lately with some authority. The Colts have not been able to run the ball with much success. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes have taken turns on the  injury list, can the Colts get either of them going?  Philip Rivers has had a career year, can he and LT combine to knock off  good Colts team? Is the San Diego defense minus Shawn Merriman, good enough to go deep into the playoffs? When will Norv Turner rear his ugly head?

Prediction – In the end, Adam Vinateri does it again. Indianapolis 31 San Diego 28.  This may be the best game of the weekend.

NFC

Atlanta Falcons vs. Arizona Cardinals – I have 2 words for the Arizona defense  MICHAEL TURNER. Most of the NFL couldn’t stop him, rushing for almost 1,700 yards. Can the Cardinals’ defense put the clamps on him and force rookie QB Matt Ryan to beat them? What type of game are we going to see from Cardinals? One of their inspired efforts that usually appear at home or one of the bombs like we saw against the Patriots?  Will the Cardinals offensive line give Kurt Warner time to find Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? If this game gets into a shootout, the Cardinals have to be favored – right? Does Atlanta have the team defense to hold down the passing attack of the Cardinals? Another rookie head coach in Mike Smith – so far this season, he has done no wrong. Can he make a mistake come Sunday? Falcons probably have the edge if the game comes down to a field goal with Jason Elam.

Prediction – I believe we are going to see the Cardinals team that everyone is going to say, “Wow where has this team been all season? ”  I think the tandem of Fitzgerald/Boldin will be too much for the Falcons and the Cardinals will win in a shootout. Arizona 38 Atlanta 35.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings – This should be an entertaining game, which starts with one BIG question. Which Philadelphia Eagles team will we see? The team that lost Washington 2 weeks or, the Eagles team that thrashed the Dallas Cowboys 44-6?  Who is quarterbacking for the Vikings  – Frerrote or Tavaris Jackson?  Neither QB spells relief, but then again does Jackson dispell any fears of the Viking faithful? Not really. How will be Eagles be able to communicate inside a very loud Metrodome? Will McNabb start to dry heave or will Brian Westbrook be the savior for the Eagles?  Does Philadelphia have the defense to put the clamps on Adrian Peterson and force Jacskon/Frerotte to beat them? When does Andy Reid make his impact on the game Sunday?

Prediction – Crowd noise and Adran Peterson will be too much for this Eagles team.  Vikings wins  as Eagles fans go home with the role of once again as the lovable losers. The Metrodome plays too much of  factor – Minnesota Vikings 17  Philadelphia Eagles 13.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!

7 Responses to "Tuesdays with Smitty: Forecasting Wild Card Weekend"

  1. Wally   December 31, 2008 at 1:02 am

    Solid analysis Smitty. Like you’ve indicated with most of your predictions, these games should be really close … and in many cases, too close to call. Personally, I don’t see Baltimore winning handily as you’ve predicted. I actually think the Dolphins will win … maybe 24-21 or 21-17. I know Flacco has been very good … but he is still a rookie on the road in his first playoff game.

    Can the Cardinals stop Michael Turner and the Atlanta running game??? You asked the question and I have to re-ask it. I’m rooting for the Cardinals to finally win a playoff game, but I’ve got to see it to believe it first.

    The Vikings must hold the Eagle under 20 to win this game … but I’m not sure they can. I guess Vikings fans can hope for the typical McNabb Meltdown … so a pick 6 can certainly push them over the 20 point threshold.

    Colts vs Chargers … what a game this should be. I’m rooting for both teams to do well, so this is a hard one for me find an angle on. I guess I agree with your prediction, Smitty, if for no other reason than the Colts have Peyton Manning and the Chargers have Norv Turner. Advantage Colts. Slightly.

  2. Smitty   December 31, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Wally –

    The Ravens/ Dolphins game came down to one thought for me – if the Ravens defense keeps the Wildcat tandem in check, Flacco won’t be asked to do too much. He looked really good in the Dallas game, but the NFL playoffs is a different breed. If they ask him to win the game, you are right – Ravens lose. But if the Ravens defense gets control of this game – which I think they will – then Flacco’s responsibility in this game is kept at a minimum.

    As for the Cardinals/Falcons – Atlanta’s defense really hasn’t been much better then the Cardinals and I don’t think they have the answer for Larry Fitzgerald,Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Turner may end up running for 160 yards, but Warner may throw for 400. At that point home field advantage becomes important.

  3. Casey   December 31, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    A first for the NFL – a pair of rookie coaches with a pair of rookie QBs leading teams into the playoffs – Harbaugh and Flacco at Baltimore / Smith and Ryan in Atlanta.

    Peterson and the Metrodome advantage seem like the obvious, but there’s something about this Eagles’ team and their inconsistency that scare me.

  4. Doug Potter   January 1, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    In the AFC I’m taking the Ravens and Chargers. The Ravens did a great job in stopping the run and that wildcat offense the Dolphins threw at them and I think Joe Flacco is just making too many big plays for Miami to keep up. He has a cannon for an arm! As for the Chargers game, both teams are on a hot streak (Colts- 8 in a row, Chargers- 4 in a row) and this game promises to be a great one. I feel that the Chargers defense has been playing BETTER, but not up to par. Last time they met, the defense let Manning throw all over them and they couldn’t stop it. Saturday will see San Diego keep him under control and make them have somewhat of a running game, which I don’t think they can do. Also, never bet against those powder blue uniforms!

    In the NFC, Philadelphia and Atlanta will move on and it’s not really that much of a question. Philly has all the confidence in the world and Donovan is playing very well. Westbrook migh not have a lot of rushing yards (Vikings 6th in Run Defense) but he will do a lot more in the offense as he always does. One thing that concerns me is the eagles run defense (22nd in the NFL) against arguably the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson. The only way the Vikings can win is if he carries them on his back. When you look at the Cardinals-Falcons game, I don’t think it’s possible for you to enter the playoffs with any less momentum than the Cardinals are. Kurt Warner has thrown 6 interceptions the last 5 games and they’ve just looked very poor in all phases of the game the last few weeks. The AP Offensive Rook of the Year (Matt Ryan), the best off-season acquisition in the NFL (Michael Turner) and the all-time single-season leader in Falcons receiving yards (Roddy White) give the Falcons a very potent offense who will run the ball down the Cardinals throat on their way to a victory.

  5. Wally   January 4, 2009 at 5:17 am

    As much as I wanted to see Peyton and the Colts advance, I’ve got to admit that San Diego deserved to win Saturday. They played better than Indy in the 2nd half. Ya know what … Philip Rivers is looking like a pretty darned good NFL QB. And how can ytou not root for the little RB … Darren Sproles?

    In the early game, didn’t Curt Warner look like an All-Pro? Boy, he still has great touch on his passes and he really sees the whole field. We saw 3 really good veteran QBs Saturday. And Matt Ryan did pretty well for a rookie in his first road playoff game. I bet he learned something from watching Warner today.

    Hope the Sunday games are just as interesting. Go Fish!

  6. Casey   January 4, 2009 at 10:06 am

    A Norv-Turner-coached team has won a playoff game. What has this sports world come to?

    Gotta hand it to the Chargers – they showed resiliency last night- the fumble in the end zone and that Reggie Wayne td where they were caught in a change. They never gave up.

  7. Wally   January 4, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Chargers haven’t quit all season … certainly could have when they were 4-8.

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