INDIANAPOLIS – Greetings from the site of next year’s Super Bowls (if there is one). Here’s a look at the way I see each of the wild-card games going this weekend:
Saints 20, Seahawks 10: You might be able to get away with a poor offensive line in the NFC West, but against the better teams it will destroy you. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has to be salivating at the prospect of pressuring the Seahawks all day long. It doesn’t hurt that he’s in the mix for some head coaching job so he has something to prove. His troops will be ready to pounce.
Colts 17, Jets 13: This will be a test of wills for Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. With the weapons he has and the average play of the Colts’ secondary, he will want to throw the ball early and often but that would be a mistake. The Jets need to run for about 120 yards – most coming early – for quarterback Mark Sanchez to be effective with playaction and roll outs. Without the run, the Colts won’t by the fakes and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will tee off about an overrated Jets offensive line. Speaking of overrated, Peyton Manning should be able to make enough plays with limited weapons against a Jets defense that isn’t close to what it was last year. Colts receiver Pierre Garcon has to have a solid game.
Chiefs 20, Ravens 17: Yes, Baltimore has much more experience and has won its last two playoff openers on the road. And, yes, the Chiefs haven’t really beaten anyone, looked terrible last week and have some turmoil with the Charlie Weis drama. Everything points to a Ravens victory but something tells me the Chiefs will make one of those game-changing plays early in the game and flip the game on its head. Conventional wisdom says the Chiefs have to run the ball well to take the pressure off Matt Cassel. They just need to keep a good Ravens run defense (5th) honest, and pick apart the league’s 21st-ranked passing defense. We’ll see if Cassel was worth all that money. He needs to deliver.
Packers 27, Eagles 20: The Eagles are not very good defensively – especially in the red zone – and Aaron Rodgers should be able to pick them apart. And he will. But it’s the other guys on offense you need to worry about. Five of the six losses for the Packers this season came on the road and aside from the win over the terrible Vikings, the Packers weren’t overly impressive away from Lambeau offensively. They tend to get off to slow starts, allow more sacks, commit more penalties and drop more passes on the road and it throws an offense predicated on rhythm and tempo for a loop. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has done wonders this year with a ton of injuries, and he’ll have a good plan for stopping Michael Vick thanks to a porous Eagles offensive line. But if Vick busts a long play early, all bets are off. Capers tends to get very conservative if that happens. That being said, the Packers are talented enough that even if they get off to a poor start, they won’t fall behind like they did last year in Arizona. At some point Rodgers is going to catch fire against the Eagles and put the game away. It’s only a matter of when.
Who do you guys think will win? Any team you’d rather have the Patriots face next weekend?
I’ll have some comments during both of today’s game on Twitter at @Greg_A_Bedard if you want to join the conversation.