Friday, January 7, 2011

NFL 2010: The Wildcard Games -- It's Now Or Never

The playoffs to decide the Super Bowl contestants for the 2010 season feature some familiar playoff participants: Baltimore, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Philadelphia, a team that is something of a Cinderella team, Kansas City, and a team that simply is hard to figure why they are in the field with a losing 7-9 record, Seattle, but given the mess the NFC West is right now, they’re the last men standing and their victory to get there was not of little consequence. The showoff between the Seahawks and St. Louis with the winner gaining the final playoff berth achieved record ratings for NBC’s Sunday Night NFL programming.

In making our selections, we’ve examined how each team has played down the stretch, the matchups they’ve face, how healthy the players are, and the ever present intangibles and here are our selections in order of their broadcast time.

New Orleans (10 ½) @ Seattle [Saturday, NBC, 4:30 pm]
Are you kidding, the national champs versus the chumps. Seattle is 1-3 in their final four games only beating St. Louis. They lost to San Francisco, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay. New Orleans is 2-2, but lost to the kinds of teams they’d have to beat to repeat – Baltimore and Tampa Bay. This is the one game on the slate that could be a blow out if Drew Breese gets everything running. The Saints march on.

New York Jets @ Indianapolis (-2.5) [Saturday, NBC, 8:00 pm]
This has not been a typical year for Payton Manning and the gang. Their spot in the playoffs was not secured until the final Sunday but nevertheless they are getting healthier and have won their last four games including Jacksonville in week 13 the team they needed to top to secure their playoff berth. The Jets are 2-2 in their final drive losing to Miami and Chicago but QB Mark Sanchez is finding his lack of experience getting in the way of winning. Rex Ryan will throw every defensive trick in the book at Payton Manning, but what quarterback except maybe Tom Brady researches his opponents more? The Colts look like a convincing pick.

Baltimore (-3) @ Kansas City [Sunday, CBS, 1:00 pm]
Baltimore has certainly raised questions with their week performance in the second half of crucial games with their defense looking gassed and their offense not using up the clock and putting up the points. The important thing is they are winning and are 4-0 down the stretch including knocking off the champs from New Orleans, aside from a foolish loss to Cincinnati in week 2, the Ravens have lost to the most elite teams in the game this year, one game to Pittsburgh, New England, and Atlanta. These are teams they might have to face later to be the champs. They should beat the Chiefs but they’ll have to pick up their game to look worthy of what lies ahead.

Green Bay @ Philadelphia (-2 ½) [FOX, 4:30 pm]
Philadelphia comes into the playoffs Eastern Division champs after the New York Giants closed up shop playing against them in week 15. Since then, they haven’t won but didn’t really need to in the final week. Still, they have two home losses against a decimated Minnesota Vikings and the Cowboys. Meanwhile, Green Bay had to win on the last day of the season to clinch their playoff spot being a strongly favored team early in the year but facing considerable injuries which are only now being resolved. Green Bay began their stretch run with an embarrassing loss to the suddenly hot Detroit Lions and then went to Foxboro and got beaten by the Patriots. They finished with wins against a playoff rival, the New York Giants and then beat their division winner, Chicago, at Lambeau Field. This could perhaps be the closest match in this year’s Wild Card field but we’ll give the edge to the Green Bay Packers. How about a little Wisconsin cheese topping that Philadelphia Cheese Steak, huh?


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