NFL Wildcard & Duke/Maryland Preview

7 Jan

With wildcard weekend just a few days away, I’m going to breakdown all four games this weekend, plus a little college basketball…

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks

Saturday 4:30pm on NBC

This looks like the easiest game to predict in this wildcard weekend. You have the defending Super Bowl champs who have some impressive wins this season with an elite QB and you have the only team in NFL history to have a losing record and make the playoffs. Looking at the stats, this is a game where the Saints should completely dominate. Drew Brees, even though he looked sloppy early, looks like he is back to last year’s form along with the defense. They have beaten teams like Atlanta and Pittsburgh, proving their ability to win big games. On the other hand, Seattle has no defense and no running game. Somehow last Sunday night Marshawn Lynch played really well but I don’t see that happening again. With all that said I will pick the Saints but I will offer Seahawk fans some hope. Matt Hasselbeck, who led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005, will be back, and I see him making little to no mistakes in this game. Finally, the game will be in Quest Field, which is the toughest place to play in the NFL. In the past couple seasons, it has registered the most false starts in the NFL by any venue. The 12th man will be out in full force Saturday afternoon. Also, Drew Brees is not a cold weather quarterback. Temperatures should be around 40 degrees with a chance of showers so all this may benefit Seattle. But I’m still going with New Orleans. This is just the case of a really good team vs. a bad team. 35-17 Saints.

 

New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts

Saturday 8:00pm on NBC

All season long the Jets have been talking trash on how they are the best team in all of football and why they will be the Super Bowl champs. With a 10-6 record, those claims made earlier haven’t quite come through for them. They face a veteran Colts team in enemy territory, but they are still talking trash. You might think they learned their lesson after getting thumped by the Pats on Monday Night Football a few weeks ago, but apparently they didn’t. But I actually like this idea. I believe that this is why they are able to play well. Only a few teams are able to do this and Rex Ryan and company do this really well to an extent. On the Indianapolis side of things, the Colts struggled in the middle of the season but have found their stride of late. Though this team has been decimated by injuries they continued to play well en rote to another AFC South Divisional title. This team, like previous Colt teams, will go only as far as Peyton Manning will take them. In this game I like the Colts. Manning has never lost a home wildcard playoff game at home and many people are riding them out because of the fact that they aren’t as dominant as before so this may be a motivating factor for them. 31-20 Colts.

 

Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday 1:00pm on CBS

Run, Run, Run. This game will feature two of the leagues best running backs in the game. Ray Rice and Thomas Jones will be going at it for their respective teams come Sunday. The Ravens played well all season and their losses where usually really close. They lost to New England in OT, lost to Atlanta on a questionable call and lost to Pittsburgh on a silly turnover. This team can be very dangerous in the postseason and may go to Dallas in February for the big game. The passing game is better this year then ever with the acquisition of Anquan Boldin and the defense has been as good as it’s been in the past. Rice’s contributions though are what make this team elite. Rice had 1776 all purpose yards this season with 1220 rushing yards so he is also dangerous catching passes from the backfield. The Chiefs won the AFC West mainly through their running back combo of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. Jamaal Charles had a rushing average of 6.4 yards per carry. That is outstanding and guys like Dwayne Bowe and rookie Eric Berry stepped up as well. Matt Cassel also had the best year of his career with a 27-7 touchdown to interception ratio. This Chief team may cause the Ravens trouble early but due to Baltimore’s improved passing game I will pick them in a game that unexpectedly will be close. 24-20 Ravens.

 

Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday 4:30pm on FOX

This should be the most exciting game of the weekend. The Packers have had tons of injuries this season but were able to make the playoffs because of a consistent defense and Aaron Rodgers playing like a veteran QB. The Eagles are led by QB Michael Vick who has once again become a dual threat with his improved passing ability and his elusiveness in the pocket. Some even believe he is the MVP of the league. WR DeSean Jackson has also broken out to become one of the best receivers in the game and probably the fastest man in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how the Philly offense does against a tough Packers defense. Clay Matthews has been playing out of his mind this season with 13.5 sacks and with AJ Hawk it is usually hard for opposing offenses to trick them. But remember that the Eagles have Michael Vick who is well known for confusing defenses. This game boils down to what Aaron Rodgers can do and if the Packers can limit the penalties. If those two things work out, which I think they will, the Packers will win but it will be a nail-biter. 34-31 OT Packers.

 

Maryland at Duke

Sunday 8:00pm on CSN

After getting your fill of postseason football, enjoy some ACC basketball to end the weekend. Maryland travels down to Durham Sunday night to face the number one ranked Duke Blue Devils. Earlier in the season, Kyrie Irving would have made this an unfair matchup, but with him out of the picture, Maryland can be competitive and even has a realistic shot at winning this game. This is essentially the exact same Duke team as last year, minus Jon Scheyer. Yes, guys like Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee have started to take bigger roles, but for the most part, Maryland is familiar with this team. Kyle Singler is one of the top ACC performers around, but Sean Mosley has shown that he can stop him. In both games last year, his defense cooled Singler. If Mosley is able to guard Singler effectively again and use his offensive skills successfully, then this game will be competitive. Plumlee shouldn’t be a factor on both sides of the ball due to Jordan Williams. Maryland will definitely have the size advantage in this one too. Maryland is 8th in the country in rebounding and Duke is 82th. Dino, Jordan and Weijs will have their way against the Plumlee brothers and Singler. But the reason Duke is number 1 in the country has been their guard play. Nolan Smith is a leading candidate for ACC Player of the Year and Seth Curry has played well in place of Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile, Maryland’s guard play has been shaky all season. Coach Gary Williams should start either Pe’Shon Howard or Terrell Stogin at the point in place of Cliff Tucker who has played well of the bench. Adrian Bowie should be at the two. A lot of people have been critical about Bowie’s play this season at the point guard position. He doesn’t look comfortable their and it’s a position he probably isn’t used to. He is most effective when playing off the ball. Ever since the lineup change Bowie has been playing well and Bowie is a great defender. If Maryland can match the intensity level of Duke and make their free throws, this game will be close and it will come down to late game execution. If Jordan Williams doesn’t get much help and the free throws keep hitting iron, the Terps will be in for a long night. It kills me to say this but my prediction is 69-63 Duke in a very physical game.

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