Yes, the Steelers didn’t make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that we’re just going to shut things down and call it a season. There are twelve teams left hoping to become the heir to the Lombardi Trophy. The race starts tomorrow.
Paul Brown Stadium
Cincinnati is back in the playoffs for the first time since Kimo Von Oelhoffen destroyed Carson Palmer’s knee. After being annihilated by the Jets last week, Cincy gets a mulligan. The Bengals passing game hasn’t been great this year, but their running game and defense carried them to the AFC North crown. The Jets got in by way of winning five of their last six games. Rex Ryan has the Jets playing aggressive on defense and touting the top rushing offense in the league. With rookie Mark Sanchez playing like a rookie, the Jets will do all they can to keep the ball out of his hands. Their strategy will be similar to how the Ravens played with Flacco last year: run, run, run, and if necessary, punt and let your defense hold the other team.
Ian’s Prediction: New York 17-13
John’s Prediction: New York 21-10
Jerry Jones Mansion
Before the season, everyone had the Eagles pegged as NFC Champions. However, Dallas came out of no where with Miles Austin arising as a premier receiving threat. The Dallas rushing attack is keyed by the best 3-back tandem in the league with pounder Marion Barber, speedster Felix Jones, and versatile back Tashard Choice. Philly’s defense has been porous against the pass, and opposing quarterbacks have lit them up all season. The Cowboys swept the Eagles this year by 20-16 and 24-0 margins. As much as I hate to say it, I think the Cowboys are going to pick up their first playoff win in over a decade.
Ian’s Prediction: Dallas 34-27
John’s Prediction: Dallas 20-7
The story of the game is Wes Welker, and he isn’t even playing. New England is 8-0 at home this season while Baltimore was only 3-5 on the road. Even without the leading receiver in the league, New England’s offense is still better than Baltimore’s defense, which has taken significant steps back this season after losing coordinator Rex Ryan and linebacker Bart Scott to the Jets. New England’s defense isn’t great either, but Baltimore’s offense is still primarily keyed on running the ball. Todd Heap-of-shit has come on recently for the Ravens, including four touchdowns in the last three weeks of the season.
Ian’s Prediction: New England 20-14
John’s Prediction: Baltimore 28-20
University of Phoenix Stadium
The defending NFC Champs start this playoff year in the exact same place they did last season. Larry Fitzgerald carried the team to the Super Bowl last year, and they’re going to need a similar performance from the passing game to get back this season. As was the case last year, their running game was non-existent, even after spending a first round pick on Beanie Wells. Green Bay brings a potent offense to the table with Aaron Rodgers spreading the ball around. Green Bay had eight receivers with over 20 catches on the season, but only 3 with over 50. On the other side, Warner primarily targets Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, and Tim Hightower, all of which had over 55 catches. Green Bay has the better defense, finishing 2nd in total defense, 7th in passing, 1st in rushing, and 3rd in scoring defense. Former Steelers coordinator Dom Capers keyed the switch to the 3-4 and it has played huge dividends for the Packers. Kurt Warner doesn’t do well when he is pressured often, and that’s exactly what Green Bay will do.
Ian’s Prediction: Green Bay 38-24
John’s Prediction: Arizona 24-21