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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | Jan. 15, 2010

National Football League: Playoff predictions

By Airman 1st Class Patrick McKenna 316th Wing public affairs

Cardinals @ Saints -- Saturday will be the moment of truth for the Saints, who essentially backed their way into the playoffs, losing their last three games. Can they just flip the switch and turn back into the offensive force that dominated the NFC for most of the season? Or will they struggle to find a rhythm after more than a month since they last took a game seriously?

The Cardinals offense, meanwhile, was clicking on all cylinders in last week's overtime victory over the Packers. Their defense on the other hand was incapable of slowing down Aaron Rodgers (422 passing yards/4 touchdowns) until the very last play of the game.
These teams are eerily similar in that they rely heavily on their respective passing games to move the ball while having only marginal rushing attacks.

This is a tough game to call, but Arizona gets the edge because not only will they most likely have Anquan Boldin back from injury, but Kurt Warner should have plenty of time in the pocket thanks to the Saints starting defensive end Charles Grant missing the game.
Pick: Cardinals

Baltimore @ Indianapolis -- Of all the second round playoff matchups, this game is the only rematch as the Colts squeaked out a 17-15 victory over the Ravens in week 11.
While the Colts have been criticized in recent weeks for not going 100 percent after a perfect regular season record, that criticism will pale in comparison to what they'll hear if they are eliminated at home versus the Ravens.

The Colts offense has a slight edge against the Ravens defense as Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark have all been here before while the Ravens cornerbacks are inexperienced. But the Ravens defense will have Terrell Suggs pressuring Peyton Manning, which was not the case in their first meeting when Suggs was forced to miss the game due to injury.
Defensively, the Colts biggest concern is going to be how they're going to stop the running back tandem of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. The Colts defense surrendered an average of 126.5 rushing yards per game this season and anyone who watched the Ravens victory over the Patriots last week knows they can run the ball. A heavy dose of Ray Rice not only helps the Ravens control the clock but will also allow Joe Flacco to mix in play action passes down the field to Derrick Mason and Todd Heap.

This game will come down to how well the Colts protect Manning against the Ravens pass rush and how successful the Ravens are running the ball. If the Colts are smart with the football and don't turn the ball over, they should be able to make enough big plays to get past the Ravens.
Pick: Colts

Jets @ Chargers -- On paper this is the biggest mismatch of the week. Much like Minnesota in the NFC, the Chargers, despite not having the best record in the AFC conference, were the most dominant team beginning to end. The Jets, on the other hand, had their playoff chances described as "dead" by their head coach Rex Ryan after week 14 only to see the stars align and sneak into the playoffs.

This game pits San Diego's offense, which scored the fourth most points in the NFL this season, against the Jets, who surrendered the fewest points in the league. So who wins the battle between the unstoppable force and the immovable object?

The Jets have the best young cornerback in the NFL, Darrelle Revis, who finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He has been matched up with the league's best wide receivers throughout the course of the season and risen to the occasion each time. So will the 5 feet 11 inches Revis be able to stop the much taller San Diego wide receivers (Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd are each 6 feet 5 inches)? Darrelle Revis is good, but he can't cover both of them.

The Jets offense is built on the run. With rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez under center, it's imperative they get Thomas Jones and rookie Shonn Greene rolling on the ground or else it's going to be a long day for their rookie signal caller.
Pick: Chargers

Dallas @ Minnesota -- This is easily the most intriguing matchup of the week. One could make the case that while Minnesota didn't finish with the best record in the NFC, they were the best team from beginning to end in the conference (see the Saints three-game skid to end the regular season). The Cowboys appeared destined for another December collapse losing their first two games of the month only to turn it around and win every game they've played since (including a victory over the NFC's number one seed Saints).

Both defenses are in the top five at stopping the run, which will hurt the Vikings offensive strategy more than it will the Cowboys. To be blunt, the Vikings cannot win this game if Adrian Peterson is shut down. He needs to get the ball early in the game to set the tone. This will force the Dallas safeties to move up into the box to stop him, which will then open up the big play down the field from Brett Favre to Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian.

For Dallas to be successful on offense, they need to continue to focus on the quick passes to Miles Austin and Jason Witten. The longer Tony Romo has the ball in his hands, the more likely defensive end Jarred Allen will get in his face.

The X factor in this game is Percy Harvin. He is a weapon both as a wide receiver, but more importantly, as a kick returner where he has the ability to give the Vikings consistently solid field position.

The nod goes to the Cowboys due to the fact their defense has been playing at an elite level in recent weeks and at this time of year, the team with the better defense is almost always going to get the edge.
Pick: Cowboys