Previewing Wild Card Sunday

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on January 7, 2010 – 2:54 pm

Earlier today on the Blog, we examined the Saturday Wild Card games.  Now, let’s look at Sunday’s matchups.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots – Sunday, Jan. 10 at Noon CST

Though the Ravens and Patriots didn’t play last weekend, they did square up earlier this season in New England, with the Pats coming out on top.  Can they go two-for-two vs. Baltimore?

New England Offense vs. Ravens Defense

The main storyline of this game is in essence Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady.  Both are perennial Pro Bowlers and the leaders of their respective teams.  However, with the loss last weekend of Pats WR Wes Welker to a knee injury, Brady’s job just got a heckuva lot tougher, as the New England offense may have a difficult time replacing Welker’s 123 catches and nearly 1,400 receiving yards.

Welker had 6 catches in the Week 4 matchup between these teams last October, but had just 48 yards as the Patriots offense was largely held in check by Lewis and Co.  Randy Moss had 3 catches for 50 yards and a score, while Brady was 21 of 32 for 258 yards and the lone TD pass.

On the ground, like usual, New England struggled, as their 4-headed attack of Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney combined for 25 carries for 74 yards.

With the absence of Welker and his ability to catch short and intermediate passes, establishing the ground game to setup play action and deeper passes down-field to Moss will be key for the Pats.

Ravens Offense vs. New England Defense

In the team’s prior meeting, the Ravens offense was driving down the field late in the 4th quarter with a chance to tie or win the game, but a drop on a 4th-down pass by WR Mark Clayton inside the New England 10-yard line ended Baltimore’s hopes of pulling off the comeback.

Despite the loss, QB Joe Flacco had a solid day, throwing 47 times, which is a number that Baltimore would likely want to cut in half this time around.  While the 2nd-year signal caller has the ability to do more than just be a care-taker, a game such as last week against Oakland is more of an ideal setup for the Ravens: Flacco threw 19 passes while the team ran the ball 31 times.

The trio of Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain is as deep of a backfield as there is, as the Ravens sport the 5th-best rushing attack in the NFL.  Despite not having Welker to worry about, the Ravens will want to try to keep Brady and the Pats offense off the field and their best bet to achieve that goal is to establish the running game early and often.

Prediction: Ravens over Patriots

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals – Sunday, Jan. 10 at 3:40 p.m. CST

Including their preseason trip to Arizona, this is Green Bay’s 3rd trip to the Phoenix area this season.  A nice reward for having to live in Green Bay I guess.

Arizona Offense vs. Green Bay Defense

Despite playing just a week ago, it’s tough to draw too much from that game as it relates to this week’s matchup since, by the time the game kicked off, neither team had anything to play for in terms of postseason positioning and both teams pulled its starters at various points during the contest.

However, this weekend’s game could be adversely affected by the knee and ankle injury suffered by Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin, who suffered an MCL sprain and high ankle sprain.  Even if Boldin is able to go this weekend, he clearly won’t be at 100 percent and his loss is a big blow to Arizona’s offense.  QB Kurt Warner will still have Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston at his disposal, and the Cards will likely need to score close to 30 points or more to win.

Due to the explosiveness of Green Bay’s offense and the likely loss of Boldin, look for the Cardinals to try to establish Beanie Wells and the rest of their running game to wear down Green Bay’s defense and, more importantly, keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline.

Green Bay Offense vs. Arizona Defense

No offense in the NFL has been better than the Packers over the 2nd-half of the season, as Green Bay rolls into Arizona averaging over 30 points per game over their final 8 regular season games.  Rodgers, who earned his 1st Pro Bowl birth this season, has thrown just 2 INTs over that 8 game span, shouldn’t have many issues in continuing his strong play and putting up points against an Arizona team that may be without Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, one of the team’s top CBs.  Arizona ranks 23rd against the pass, so missing one of their top defenders could be a blow too much to overcome if Rodgers-Cromartie can’t go due to his knee injury.

RB Ryan Grant had over 1,200 yards on the ground for Green Bay this season, and like the Cardinals with their running attack, Green Bay will want to control the clock to a degree and not let Warner and Fitzgerald beat them.

As fans saw last season in the playoffs, the Cardinals are a very dangerous team, particularly at home, so look for them to give the Packers a very spirited effort Sunday is the desert.

Posted in All | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Previewing Wild Card Sunday”

  1. By vikefan4eva on Jan 7, 2010 | Reply

    If I were the Vikings I would watch these games like no other in detail as many times as possible. I’m kind of nervous that their getting a bye because for some reason lately they have not stayed focused. Right now they should rest up but they should also not lose focus and act like they will be facing these teams tomorrow.

  2. By DonLynch on Jan 7, 2010 | Reply

    vikefan4eva is not just whistling Dixie ! The Vikes needed that win last week but they can’t let it go to their collective heads; the Giants were playing with no heart out there – they were a beaten team. I can guarantee not one of the teams the Vikes are likely to face next week will suffer from that affliction; , the playoff teams will all be playing the Vikes TOUGH ! GO VIKES ! Go with confidence but Go with everything you have.

  3. By doogie on Jan 8, 2010 | Reply

    I agree with you Vikesfan4evr. Watching game tape alot is important but what do you think about Brad giving the team the week off from practice? All I can say is I sure am glad we are at the dome. I am a huge Vike’s fan who lives at Lake Tahoe Nevada. I make alot of football bets and made $ on the vike’s this year and to tell you the truth even in the dome I’m having trouble putting the $ on my favorit team

  4. By PAVikesFan on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    I agree with Don…I’m hearing a lot of people on various websites saying “if we play like we did against the Giants then we will des-troy everyone”…Either most people are du-mb or they are purely naive…The Giants mailed in their season, they quit out there, they had no desire to play football that day, we should have beaten them by that score. You cant take anything out from that game, dont even read the slightest bit into that game…I think the bye week is good for us to rest our guys, give them time to re-fresh their minds, heal up their wounds best they can…I dont think it’s going to hurt us, we know what we have to do. If #4 is a true leader, then he’ll have these guys ready, b/c he’s the silver fox, ha, no, he’s been playing football for what, 18,19 years, so, he should know what to tell these young guys on our team….Heal up, get ur minds right, then time to make 1 more run this year

  5. By OLD SCHOOL on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Tell you guys another thing that is starting to bother me…………Frazier better get his a#$ back to the dome and start working on some tape…that secondary still sucks….and there better be some ot put in on the game plan…not jet setting around looking for head coaching jobs!!!!! let’s take care of the vikes first!

  6. By Dennis on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    That D line needs to start getting some big time pressure on the QB’s and stop worrying so much about the run. Every one’s passing game is whats been killing us every week. Control the running game. You don’t have to stuff it every week. The pass and the run after the catch is whats been killing this team.

  7. By Harley and Son on Jan 10, 2010 | Reply

    My son and I will be at the game this Sunday. I have been a fan since I was 8 years old. My son has become as big of a fan as I am, we live and breath the Vikings. This will be our second time making a trip to the Metrodome from Virginia.
    I believe we can win this game if three elements are present in our game play on Sunday. First, the Vikings (our boys) need to be focused. Second Childress needs to let Favre lead the team, let him call the plays and open up the field both vertically and horizontally. Third we need to prepare for the best game play we have for pass defense.
    We can win this game…..let’s be real, any team can win on any given day, if they are focused, prepared and have the right leadership….thats why we recruited Farve… let him lead.

  8. By Repo on Jan 11, 2010 | Reply

    I keep reading about re-establish the run game and I think by now they should keep going with the passing game as it is what has gotten them this far.They need
    fast points and the only way is the passing game.The running game is great to wear down the clock but it ends at that.Go Vikings!

  9. By Harley and Son on Jan 11, 2010 | Reply

    I agree with Repo. Let Farve do his magic it is what got us here! I can only hope that the coaching staff is working with the match ups nessasary to win on Sunday. The coaches need to review the tapes and make the adjustments. See you at the game on Sunday!!!!

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