Let’s take a quick look at both of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff games, with a prediction of the AFC game. We’ll also have a preview of Sunday’s Wild Card playoff games here on the vikings.com Blog later this afternoon.
NY Jets at Cincinnati Bengals – Saturday, Jan. 9 , 3:30 p.m. CT
Winners of the AFC North division, the Bengals are the #4 seed and host the #5 seeded Jets, who earned a spot in the playoffs as a wild card. This game, as both of the NFC Wild Card matchups are, is a rematch of a Week 17 contest that New York won by a 37-0 score. I’m pretty sure this game will be closer. Let’s take a look…
Jets Offense vs. Bengals Defense
No team ran the ball more often or more successfully than the Jets this season – they led the NFL in rushing attempts and rushing yards. And in the playoffs that offensive philosophy will behoove them because they will be starting a rookie QB – Mark Sanchez – who has made his fair share of mistakes.
The Jets were able to run all over the Bengals in their Week 17 contest, but there are 2 major differences between that game and the one that will be played on Saturday. For starters, the Bengals had nothing to play for last week and it showed. There is more on the line this time and the Bengals will play like it. But Cincinnati will also perform better defensively because they’ll have their run-stuffing DT – Domata Peko – back from injury. Whether those 2 factors are enough to tilt the field in Cincy’s favor remains to be seen. It will be fun to watch, though.
Bengals Offense vs. Jets Defense
There might not be a more aggressive defense in the NFL than a Rex Ryan defense. Blitz-happy doesn’t even come close to describing Ryan’s philosophy, especially on 3rd down. What Cincy has going for it, though, is that even though they were also a run-dominated offense this year, they can also pass it. Carson Palmer is a playoff-proven QB and he has a #1 WR (Chad Ochocinco) who can play with anyone. There are 2 key matchups to watch here: 1) Palmer against the Jets blitz and 2) Ochocinco against perhaps the best cover CB in the NFL – Darrelle Revis.
Both of these offenses will come out running the football and running it a lot. That means controlling the tempo and winning the field position battle will be crucial. Special teams is a big factor in field position and the team whose special teams unit can perform better will have a leg up in this game.
Prediction: Jets over Bengals
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys – Saturday, Jan. 9, 7:00 p.m. CT
In another Week 17 rematch, the Eagles make a return trip to Dallas to play the Cowboys, winners of the NFC East. Dallas defeated Philly twice in the regular season, so the Eagles are out to exercise the demons while the Cowboys are preparing to complete a 3-game season series sweep of their division rivals.
Eagles Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
QB Donovan McNabb and Co. have displayed their explosive abilities often this season, but never against the Cowboys. The Eagles were shutout last week and scored just 16 points in the 1st meeting. As a result, I expect head coach Andy Reid to come out with a new twist in the offense – something we haven’t seen from the Eagles much this season. I don’t know if it will involve Mike Vick or not, but that’s one possibility. Maybe it’ll be an exclusive spread offense attack, a la what New England did to the Vikings in 2006. Something’s gotta change for the Eagles, and I know Reid has the offensive mind to figure something out.
Cowboys Offense vs. Eagles Defense
What you’ve got to like about the Cowboys offense is their versatility. They can hammer you with a 3-pronged rushing attack, which is paced by former Golden Gopher Marion Barber III, or they can beat you through the air with QB Tony Romo firing the rock all over the place to WR Miles Austin, RB Felix Jones and TE Jason Witten. The Eagles are dealing with injuries and it just feels as if they are a bit out-manned in this matchup. Dallas is hot and it’s tough to pick against them in this spot. But the Eagles do have some play-makers on defense – notably CB Asante Samuel – so if the Cowboys relax too much they will get in trouble.
The Eagles have a distinct advantage in this facet of the game. Although K David Akers missed a FG last week, he comes up big in big spots. No other kicker made more FGs than Akers this season. I will say, though, Dallas did a much better job this season in pinning their opponents inside the 20 with coffin corner kicks.
However, the special teams trump card goes to the Eagles because of WR DeSean Jackson, who is a lethal returner and will strike from anywhere on the field, at any time in the game. If the Eagles win, I bet Jackson makes a big play on special teams.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 3 Comments »