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!!!

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