Wild Card weekend is upon us. All those teams that weren’t good enough to make the top four now have a chance to show their stuff and gain some momentum before their matchup against a real powerhouse in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Here’s the matchups for the first weekend of the playoffs:
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: Before today I would have said no doubt the Steelers will win this game; however, as of now Le’Veon Bell is not playing in the game. I still think the Steelers have the edge in this game, but it will definitely be close now. The main problem with the Ravens is Joe Flacco’s recent struggles and their injuries at offensive line. Both of the Ravens starting tackles are injured. Ricky Wagner has been done for the year, but John Harbaugh announced a chance that Eugene Monroe can go this weekend. If Monroe is out, expect a long day for Flacco and the Ravens run game. The Steelers are coming in hot with home field advantage. Take the home team. Steelers advance.
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts: Simply put, the Bengals are a much better team than the Colts. That doesn’t matter much in the playoffs. The Colts are coming in after getting thrown around in recent weeks, and the Bengals are coming off a bad loss to the Steelers that would have won them the division. Andy Dalton appears to be getting ready for the playoffs throwing interceptions left and right. Sure, Andrew Luck isn’t much better recently. Luck is prone to starting very slow, but even a slow start is better than a good Dalton performance. The Colts have already beaten the Bengals badly this season in Indy, and they should have no problem grabbing another win here. Colts advance.
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers: This is definitely a weird game to pick. The Cardinals were one of the best teams in the NFL, on pace to win the NFC West, and possibly even the top seed in the NFC; but then Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton both went down. Carolina on the other hand had three wins just four weeks ago. Even now the Panthers are 7-8-1 and hosting a playoff game. These two teams are heading in opposite directions. The Panthers are getting better every week and the Cardinals are getting worse. Cam Newton is 100 percent healthy now, the offensive line is protecting Newton and opening lanes for Jonathan Stewart. The only criticism of the Panthers is that their offense has not been tested recently. The Cardinals defense will certainly do that. The Panthers do however have a good enough defense to stop the Cardinals offense and probably get a few turnovers. Should be an interesting game, but Panthers advance.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: This one will be pretty short. The Lions are not a good team. The Cowboys are a good team. Tony Romo is not a good quarterback, Dez Bryant is a fantastic receiver. Matthew Stafford is not a good quarterback, Calvin Johnson is the best receiver out there. DeMarco Murray is a game changer. The Lions have an amazing defense, but that only goes so far against so many weapons. Unless Ndamukong Suh sacks Romo literally every play, the Lions will have to win this game with offense. They haven’t been able to do that against defenses worse than Dallas’s so good luck. Romo will probably choke, but even that shouldn’t be enough to stop Dallas.