Wild Card Weekend is nearly upon us and since the Vikings are not involved, vikings.com is going into full prognostication mode. We can look into our crystal balls and predict what will happen without worrying about potential ramifications of playing a team that we trashed the week prior on the blog.
Below you’ll find predictions by yours truly, Ryan Cardinal and C.J. Siewert on this Saturday’s playoff games, complete with an explanation and score. This afternoon we’ll post our picks for Sunday’s games.
At the end of the weekend, we’ll tally up the games and the person who proves to be most accurate will have a Wild Card Weekend recap for you on Monday morning.
Before we get started, let’s get Super Bowl predictions out of the way as well.
Mike: New England over New Orleans
There’s no way I’m taking any team over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. And since the Patriots have home-field advantage, they advance to the Super Bowl in my book. The Saints are the best team in the NFC in my estimation and we’ll see a nice showdown between a pair of explosive offenses and play-making defenses.
Ryan: New England over Atlanta
I don’t like taking the “chalk” in things like this, but New England is just a steam-roller right now in the AFC. With the Falcons, they have the most balance of any team in the NFC on offense and I think that home-field advantage in the Georgia Dome will be too much for any team to overcome. Their home loss to the Saints a few weeks ago will have done wonders for this team over the next few weeks.
C.J.: Atlanta over Indianapolis
That’s right, New England will not make it to the “big show.” I mulled over this many times and I feel the only thing that can beat Tom Brady and Co. is a lights-out Peyton Manning. The Colts star QB will make another Super Bowl run in beating the Pats on the road, but fall short to a surging Falcons team. Atlanta provides a proficient and disciplined team that has what it takes to win it all.
Okay, onto the games…
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks – Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CT on NBC
Mike: There aren’t many who give the Seahawks even a slim chance in their Wild Card round matchup with the Saints. Seattle got in by defeating the St. Louis Rams last week to win the NFC West, widely considered the worst division in the NFL this year. But I’ll give the Seahawks a chance, primarily because they have a nice home-field advantage and also because weird things tend to happen when no one gives you a chance. Seattle isn’t winning the game, though. Right?
Prediction: Saints 26, Seahawks 16
Ryan: There is not a more unpredictable league in the world than the NFL, but it seems as though it would take a minor miracle for the NFC West champion Seahawks to pull off the upset this weekend at home against the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints. New Orleans is a double-digit favorite on the road in this game, which is something you rarely see in the NFL playoffs. Seattle won the NFC West with a 7-9 record after topping the Rams last Sunday at Qwest Field, but have an unsettled quarterback situation due to injuries and have won just three of their last 10 games. The Saints are a little beat-up too, especially in regards to their running backs, but they should be able to come away with a victory this weekend.
Prediction: Saints 31, Seahawks 14
C.J.: The Saints enter the playoffs on the other end of the spectrum than they did a year ago; they’ve gone from the #1 seed with a bye to a Wild Card team facing a division champ. But the division champ here is the 7-9 Seahawks and it’s hard for me to envision Seattle’s 27th-ranked pass defense to do much of anything to stop Drew Brees and Co.’s 3rd-ranked passing offense. In their last meeting (Week 11 at New Orleans), Brees torched the Seahawks secondary with 382 yards and 4 TDs.
Prediction: Saints 38, Seahawks 17
NY Jets at Indianapolis Colts – Saturday, 7:00 p.m. CT on NBC
Mike: Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan declared this week that his team’s playoff matchup with the Colts is “personal” and I think that characterizes the tone of this game quite well actually. You might not like how the Jets do it, but they are a good team that wins a lot of games because of their defense and reliable running game. The Colts have quietly put together another playoff-caliber season, despite dealing with a mass of injuries. Peyton Manning and home-field advantage will be enough for Indianapolis to win this game, but not in the next round.
Prediction: Colts 28, Jets 24
Ryan: After an overtime home loss to the Cowboys in early December that left the Colts sitting at 6-6 on the season, Peyton Manning and Co. rattled off 4 wins in a row to win another AFC South crown. However, this version of the Colts isn’t nearly what the team has been in recent years, due in large part to injuries which have really taken a toll on them. The Jets, meanwhile, lost 3 of their last 5 games but two of those were on the road to very good teams in New England and Chicago, and they also mixed in an impressive win at Pittsburgh over that stretch. Manning has owned Rex Ryan-led defenses over the last decade or so, but between the Colts injuries and their inability to run the ball, look for the Jets to control the clock via their power rushing attack and play enough defense to pull the upset.
Prediction: Jets 23, Colts 20
C.J.: They haven’t met since last year’s AFC Championship Game, but the Jets and Colts are geared up for what seems to be a rivalry matchup. Colts QB Peyton Manning has thrown the most INTs (17) since his 2002 campaign, but also led his team to 4 consecutive wins to finish the season with a 9-2 TD-to-INT ratio during that span. The Jets are known to bring the pressure on 3rd down – blitzing in the area of 70% of the time in such situations – but if Manning finds the open man, which he typically does, the Colts will be too much to handle for Rex Ryan’s team at home.
Prediction: Colts 24, Jets 20
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