As most of America rejoices that the Dallas Cowboys didn’t make the playoffs for a second straight season, there’s not too much time for the New York Giants and others to celebrate as the NFL Wild Card games take place in less than a week from now. The Giants look like the hottest team in the NFC right now, even getting a home game against the Falcons.
Doesn’t really matter, because I don’t see anyone in the NFC being able to match up with the Green Bay Packers. Too much Rodgers and a defense that gives up yards but creates turnovers. Maybe 49ers, maybe even the Saints, but I would be surprised. In the AFC, a banged up Steelers team means we’ll probably see the Patriots and the Ravens playing for the right to be in the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati Bengals (6) at Houston Texas (3), Saturday, January 7
The Houston Texans make the post season for the first time in franchise history, winning the AFC South. Problem is their quarterback position is banged up to the point that Jake Delhomme came in for 3rd starting quarterback T.J. Yates. Houston did beat the Bengals on Week 14, with Yates leading two scoring drives in the final six minutes.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5) at Denver Broncos (4), Sunday, January 8
Denver might have the home advantage, but there’s no doubt who are the favorites here. Problem for the Steelers is a banged up Ben Roethlisberger, who’s ended all of his recent games limping, carrying the Super Bowl hopes of the Steelers on his banged up body.
For Denver, it’s about the Tim Tebow bubble exploding, and the losses that came the minute after the Patriots beat them. They were lucky the Chargers beat the Oakland Raiders to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005. That year, they lost to the Steelers at Mile High in the AFC Championship game.
The New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens wait in the next round. The Patriots have the most prolific offense in the AFC, maybe in the NFL, but you gotta have SOME defense to win the Super Bowl. The Ravens are the most balanced team in the AFC, and if Flacco’s passing game holds up, I see them as the favorites to reach the Super Bowl from this conference.
The Divisional round will be played on January 14-15, and the AFC Championship game will be played on January 22.
Detroit Lions (6) at New Orleans Saints (3), Saturday, January 7
Finally after over a decade, the Detroit Lions reach the playoffs. Can they actually get a playoff win? The Lions need their defense to show up, and especially Ndamukong Suh, who hasn’t been himself since the two game suspension. Drew Brees was the best quarterback in the NFL these past few weeks, above both Rodgers and Tom Brady, and it’s hard seeing the Lions keeping up with the Saints without their defense stepping up.
Atlanta Falcons (5) at New York Giants (4), Sunday, January 8
Is there any team hotter than the Giants right now? They won two must win games against the Jets and the Cowboys, with their defensive line looking like it’s the 2007 Super Bowl and Eli Manning being pretty much untouchable. The Falcons have their up and down days, but the key for them is establishing a running game through Michael Turner, who ran for 172 yards against the Bucs this weekend.
The 49ers and the Green Bay Packers await in the divisional round. The Packers don’t have much of a running game and get criticized for their defense all the time, while the 49ers win through defense, possibly the best in the NFL this season. Still, the Super Bowl champions, with the quarterback I see as the best in the league, and a defense that gives up yards but is simply a turnover forcing machine, are hard to bet against.
The NFC divisional round will be played on January 14-15. The NFC Championship game will be played on January 22.
The Super Bowl, held in Indianapolis this year, will be played on February 5.