Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wildcard Weekend

Ahh the most bittersweet time of year. The hoopla of the holidays has past, and all that stands between us and a long winter are 11 games of the most entertaining sport being played at the highest level. All due respect to March Madness, the NFL Playoffs are the single greatest event in all of sports from this perspective. You will see records, bones and hearts broken; unimaginable plays of every variety and one team crowned as world champs. It all starts this weekend, so sit back and enjoy.


Cincy @ Houston (Sat - 4:30pm)
These two teams met back in Week 14 in Cincy, culminating in a T.J. Yates to Kevin Walter TD with 0:02 left for the 20-19 win. The crowd at Paul Brown stadium that day was the second smallest in the history of the stadium. The crowd was even smaller than one of the University of Cincinnati's home games - yes, the University of Cincinnati - so I'm picking Houston just based on principle.

But seriously, this is the toughest pick for Wildcard Weekend in my opinion. Both teams have top notch defenses; rookie QB's and plenty of question marks. Houston boasts the best running back tandem in the NFL (Arian Foster and Ben Tate), along with one of the best offensive lines in the league. It is the first ever playoff game in the franchise history, so the atmosphere at Reliant Stadium should be Seattle-esque. I would love a Cincy win so the Pats could avoid playing Pittsburgh next weekend; but with a healthy Andre Johnson, the home crowd, and their aggressive D Houston is the pick.

Houston 17 - Cincy 16

Pittsburgh @ Denver (Sun 4:30pm)
Jesus Jr. vs. Roethelisberger. Denver's fairy tale season has sputtered of late, losing the last 3 games, as teams seem to have figured out the Tebow offense and the defense hasn't been as opportunistic. However, Pittsburgh lost Rashard Mendenhall for the season (not that he did much this year anyway), Roethelisberger has a high ankle sprain and All-Pro center Pouncey is hobbled. All that said, Pitt is a far better team and I don't see the sputtering Denver offense putting up enough points to pull this one out. Although, if the game is close in the 4th out.

Pittsburgh 20 - Denver 10


Detroit @ N'awlins (Sat - 8:00pm)
If you like points, the most entertaining match up of Round 1. Mr. Brees is playing on another level and Stafford has stepped his game up of late (not to mention he has the biggest freak in the NFL as his #1 target). The undisciplined Lions cost themselves over 200 yards in penalties in their last visit to New Orleans. If I didn't hate their putz of a coach so much I might say that they'll clean it up this time around, but I don't like Jim Schwartz so no. Not to mention the Saints are in the dome:

P.S. - watch Jonathan Vilma because he is a beast.

New Orleans 41 - Detroit 27

Atlanta @ NYG (Sun - 1:00pm)
Whether you believe in destiny or not, there is no denying that some seasons there are teams that get "lucky" and catch all the breaks on the way to the Super Bowl. The '05 Steelers survived vs. the Colts because Bob Sanders' wife decided to stab him in the leg the morning of the game, leaving him a step slow and allowing Roethelisberger to trip him up and save a surfire fumble return TD and win the game (followed by the least entertaining Super Bowl of all time). The "Tuck Rule" in '01, and countless other examples. As much as it pains me to say this, the Giants have that feel this year. Now I'm not saying they're going to win the Super Bowl (God do I hope not), but they certainly have enough luck rolling to make it past Round 1.

The D-line is undeniably one of the best in the league at rushing the passer, and Jason Pierre-Paul has emerged as one of the elite overall players at his position. My fingers won't allow me to type about Eli in a positive light, but lets just say he doesn't look like himself this year. All that coupled with the fact that Matt Ryan is running the show for Atlanta adds up to a Giants win. Shit.

NYG 23 - Atlanta 17

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