The NFL’s Wildcard round is notorious for great, roller-coaster games. The last few years, almost nothing has been a given, topped by last year’s wild ride by the Pittsburgh Steelers from the last seed in the AFC all the way to a Super Bowl championship.
But this year will be different. This year, it seems clear that not only will all the home teams win their games, but most of them should take the points, too. Looking at the games individually, it’s clear why…
Kansas City @ Indianapolis – This is the easiest of them all. Looking at it simply… the Colts are 8-0 at home. The RCA Dome is LOUD… unless Peyton Manning asks them for quiet. The Chiefs are 3-5 on the road. Herman Edwards is one of the worst clock-management coaches in the NFL, while Manning is the best at running a 2-minute drive. Watch for it to be a tight game until the end of the first half, when Edwards manages to give Manning back the ball with way more time than he should have [say, by throwing on 3rd down with :50 seconds left in Chiefs territory]. Manning will take the Colts down for a score, and they won’t look back. Will Larry Johnson have a great game? Probably. But as bad as the Colts are against the run, they’re great against the pass (2nd in the NFL). While the Colts can do enough to hold Johnson and the Chiefs to a couple of touchdowns and field goals, can anyone seriously expect the reverse from the Chiefs’ defense against the Colts’ offense? I think not. [Side note: The Chiefs were just 5-7 against the better conference, picking up 4 wins against the NFC. That doesn't bode well for them, either.]
New York Giants @ Philadelphia – One of the most overlooked aspects of the McNabb-for-Garcia switch after McNabb got hurt was the style of Jeff Garcia. Not only is he obviously a very good quarterback who was incredible in San Francisco, but he is the exact same type of passer as McNabb: A roll-out, pocket-moving QB who can run if he has to but generally just stays back and makes smart throws. McNabb was having an MVP-type season according to many when he got hurt, with a 95.5 QB rating; Garcia’s rating is 95.8 in his 6 games. On top of that, the Giants can’t seem to do anything to stop Brian Westbrook (271 yards, 3 TDs in 2 games against them) and the Philly defense has been consistent all year. Finally, the Eagles dominated the Giants for 7-1/2 quarters this year, with only that fluke 8 minutes or so at the end of the game in Week 2 which still makes no sense. I can’t see the Giants (who barely held off the Redskins last week) somehow beating the hot Eagles.
Dallas @ Seattle – Anyone who saw Detroit walk all over the Cowboys last week knows they have no defense. If I hear one more time about Parcells being a “defensive genius”, I think I’ll scream. They’re terrible, and have been all year. Their offense has improved with Romo, but Seattle is going to run all over them, now that everyone’s healthy. People seem to have forgotten that this is the same team that was in the Super Bowl a year ago, and that they suffered through bad injuries all year – but now, almost everyone’s back. Their secondary is still banged up – which is important against Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn – but they should be able to stop the Cowboys a couple of times, while the Cowboys will barely able to stop them at all. Oh – Seattle’s notorious for having amazing home-field advantage the last few years, and the Cowboys have shown that they get confused on occasion as it is.
New York Jets @ New England – This is the “Mangini v. Belichik game”, it seems… They split the season series, so it’s hard to say that the Patriots are a lock to win, but… they’re a lock to win. The Jets surprised the Pats in that game, certainly. But they won’t be able to do the same twice, especially in Foxboro yet again, in a playoff game. Remember also that the Jets weren’t all that impressive this year. They didn’t beat anybody good except the Patriots, and while the Patriots themselves haven’t been all that great this year, their defense still gave up less than 15 points a game on the year. The Patriots won’t be going to the Super Bowl this year, but they’re not bowing out this week.
Home should be sweet this week in the NFL. Next week, though, is a completely different story…
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