NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions
Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) at Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
Arizona had a great thing going, that is until they were forced to start going through office rolodex files to find someone who could play quarterback. They have a mediocre passing game as a team (14th), but much of that was based on the previous starters. Mix that with the next to last rushing attack in the league and it means trouble.
Carolina has been surging as the season wound down, despite a losing record and Cam Newton’s auto accident. They are solid running the ball (7th) and New can explode for big yardage and scores at any moment.
While I like the Cardinals personally, this one goes to the Panthers 35-17.
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
These two almost always put on a good show if you’re up for hard-fought yards and a lot of action. But the last two matchups of these teams in 2014 have been lopsided, one going each way.
The Steelers really should be the favorite in this game, except that star running back Le’Veon Bell is not healthy. In fact, he may not be able to play. He had 1,361 yards and 8 TDs this season. Josh Harris has shown some potential, but he’ll have to shine if he is to give the Ravens something to distract them from focusing on Ben Rothlisberger. If Big Ben can stay standing, the Ravens will have issues.
The Ravens have a similar tandem in Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett. Flacco is really the question mark here. He had a great season when they played San Francisco in the Super Bowl, but otherwise is an above-average QB. Forsett has clearly come out from under the shadow of Ray Rice and his spousal abuse issues, amassing 1,266 yards and 8 TDs.
There’s a lot of give and take in this game, but in the end I think the Steelers will rise to the occasion and win the day. Pittsburgh 31, Baltimore 24.
Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1_ at Indianapolis (11-5)
In their only matchup this season the Colts blanked the Bengals 27-0 October 19th. Seems that whenever an opposing QB gets over 290 yards passing in a game, Cincinnati loses. And if anyone can rack up yards quick, it’s the Colts Andrew Luck.
Luck had 4,761 yards and 40 TDs this season passing. He lit up the Bengals for 344 yds/2 TD in the win earlier this season. But what Luck provides in a passing game the Colts severely lack in a rushing attack. Trent Richardson and Boom Herron have given some great efforts, but they will need to step up big of Indianapolis is going to make it far in the postseason.
Cincinnati has an impressive arsenal of offensive weapons, managed by QB Andy Dalton. But for all of that, the Bengals are just not great defensively.
This figures to get into a shootout at best and I’m not sure that the Bengals have the firepower to keep pace. Indianapolis 35, Cincinnati 17.
Detroit Lions (11-5) at Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
Have you heard about them ‘Boys? If you haven’t, you clearly don’t know any fans of the Big Blue Star.
Dallas QB Tony Romo finally had the kind of year his supporters have been telling us he’d have. Regardless of the reason, he has been on fire most of the year, save the stint he had with injuries. And while he and Dez Bryant have been putting on an aerial show all season, the real jugger naught has been RB Demarco Murray. He crushed the league with 1,845 yards and 13 TDs this season and was over 100 yards in all but four games.
But that was again patsy defenses.
While Detroit has some good offensive weapons, make no mistake that they are where they are because of their defense. They allowed just 88 yds/gm this year on the ground and 251 yds/gm in the air, making them the No. 2 defense in the league. And while the Dallas offensive line now has a full year under its belt together, they will have to dig deep to give Romo time and Murray holes when they have the ball.
In perhaps the biggest irony of the Wild Card Weekend, Dallas won all eight of its road games this year only to earn the right to play at home where they went 4-4.
This game will be a test of wills, but if the Cowboys can must the same type of game they played against Seattle (Oct. 12, 2014), they have a shot. Dallas 24, Detroit 21.