Sunday, January 10, 2010

Analyzing the wild card winner's chances of making a run...

We have learned from past that wild card weekends cannot be overlooked. Nearly every year we see the a Super Bowl bound team come from the wild card round.  This can be simply attributed to the fact that some teams find their groove in playoff victory.  The bye-week teams are resting their bodies, but their in-game football minds can fade.  Playing every weekend allows teams to stay sharp at the most important time of the season.  But hey, there's a reason the one and two seeds are in the position they are in.  They have proven through the regular season that they are solid teams that should be able to cope with a week off and potential loss of an in-game edge.  But which teams gained the needed momentum to top a bye-week seed with a road victory?  Let's look at each wild card winner to find out who might be able to make a late, upsetting run to the Super Bowl.

Jets:
A dominating victory over the Bengals shows that the Jets didn't just waltz into the playoffs to get beaten in the first round.  Had the playoffs been held in November, I bet the Bengals would have looked a lot better, but they were just another team that didn't enter the playoffs on a high note.  Mark Sanchez surprisingly played a lot better than his USC counterpart Carson Palmer.  Darrelle Revis, not so surprisingly, dominated Chad Ochocinco. The Jets are a worthy foe for the Chargers next week.  The premier match up will obviously be the Chargers offense versus the Jets Defense.  Unlike the Bengals, the Chargers have a deep receiving corp that will prove much harder for the Jets to suppress.  We saw a number of teams jump out to big leads in the wild card round.  The Chargers can score points in bunches, while the Jets have to meticulously rush the ball down the field.  If these teams play ten times, I would say the Jets would win three.  The Jets have to control the pace of the game, then they'll have a chance. Another note: can NBC snag some better announcers for the non-showcase game? Tom Hammond sounded like he was at gunpoint, and would get shot if his decibel level got too high.

Cowboys:

Another dominating victory over the Eagles. Tony Romo no longer looks afraid to be in a game being played in December or January. The defense looks hungry.  The team isn't distracted by off field issues that have plagued them in the past.  Honestly, is this the quietest the Cowboys have entered the post season in recent memory.  Trying to figure out the 'Boys is usually like taming a wild animal, but this year they seem to have their stuff together.  A solid defense, a dangerous running attack and a confident quarterback.  Sounds like a playoff team poised to make some noise.  Which brings up next week's match up with the Vikings.  Both teams have a similar pedigree: scary defense, good running attack, veteran QB. On paper these teams look similar.  But the hot hand belongs to the Cowboys.  Although the Vikings are playing at home, I refuse to believe that homefield advantage matters much in the NFL anymore.  Perhaps it matters when the Detroit Lions travel to Minnesota, but not a veteran squad like Dallas.  But watch out, Jared Allen (above) is cah-razy!

Ravens:
The Ravens are one of those teams that sneaks up to you.  They're old school. We glorify the pass happy teams, yet overlook the in-your-face, running teams. The Ravens are dangerous because they have nothing to lose.  Did you see Joe Flacco's stat line in a victory against the Patriots? 4-for-10, 34 yards, 1 int, and a 10.0 QB rating.  Atrocious! But look who's in the second round. The Joe Flacco lead Baltimore Ravens everybody! They sported a 5:1 run to pass ratio against the Pats. In the 2010 NFL, that is unheard of. Up next is the Indianapolis Colts. Indy, notorious for early playoff exits, has to defeat it's kryptonite in order to advance. The book on defeating the Colts: keep the ball away from Manning, and own time of possession. Granted this doesn't always work, (see week 2; Colts at Dolphins, Dolphins held the ball for over 45 minutes and lost) but it is the prevailing strategy nonetheless.  I say the Ravens win this match up four times out of ten.

Cardinals:
Uht-oh! They're back!  Find me a better wild card game than the Cards/Packers thrilling 51-45 overtime game. Offensive showcases don't happen every day. That was special. I can't find a reason as to why the Cardinals are a good playoff team. The fact is, however, that they mosey though the regular season, then collectively decide to turn it up in the playoffs.  There are teams historically that you can say are playoff winners and losers (Notable winners: Ravens, Jets, Panthers, Eagles, Steelers.  Notable losers: Jaguars, Broncos, Chiefs, Dolphins. I'm probably missing some, but you get the idea); meaning they always 'seem' to advance, no matter what their record   It took the Cardinals a long time to become a playoff franchise.  Maybe they're just one of those playoff winners, but they were just late to the party. They're an average running team and have a pourous defense.  But they have a proven winner in Kurt Warner.  Next week's match up at New Orleans may prove to be another offensive explosion.  Do not bet against Warner!

Don't be surprised if any of these teams advance. Momentum is a silly thing this time of year. Watch out for Ray Ray.


Wild Card picks: 3-1; Overall 58-39-2

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