NFL Wild Card Preview



Is anyone hungover from Tebow Mania? Maybe Denver fans are and maybe the fine folks at ESPN are as well. But the past few weeks have been a bit horrendous for the media “chosen one”. But Tebow isn’t the only story and isn’t even the biggest story, why? Because it’s Wild Card weekend in the NFL Playoffs.



The great thing about the Wild Card Weekend is that 5 out of the past 6 years teams that played in the Wild Card Round made it to the Super Bowl (Arizona, New York Giants, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh) with the Arizona Cardinals being the only one of those teams not to take home the Lombardi Trophy. Some interesting factoids for you Ranterz.



So let’s get down to business and talk some playoffs (using our best Jim Mora voice)



Pittsburgh (12-4) at Denver (8-8)


This would normally be a “slam dunk” pick for me, but there are just too many questions and concerns with Pittsburgh. Say what you will about the 12-4 record I am just not convinced the Steelers are very good. I also am less convinced that they can overcome the mishaps and setbacks they have had this season, more notably in reason weeks.


Mike Tomlin playing an injured Ben Roethlisberger in a game with minimal importance other than seeding really made me scratch my head. Tomlin showed this journalist that he was willing to compromise the health of his already injured franchise quarterback just to get a higher seed. Would the seeding helped? Surely. But in this case you have to look at this in terms of “risk vs. reward”.


Super Bowl coaches typically rest up players to gear up for a Playoff push. This would have been the perfect formula for Tomlin and the Steelers but for some reason, he chose to go in the opposite direction. The result; they lost the game, didn’t gain any position in seeding and lost running back Rashard Mendenhall for the season with a torn ACL.


On the flip side you have the Denver Broncos and maybe this will prove to be the perfect matchup for a hobbling Steelers team. Tim Tebow is still the talk of the NFL and the subject of heavy debate. In the final 4 games (the stretch run) of the NFL season Tebow led the Broncos to a 1-3 record while posting an abysmal 51.82 average quarterback rating.


What is even more troubling is Tebow threw only 2 touchdowns against 5 interceptions and only completed 43.6% of his passes. In crunch time those numbers won’t lead to victory no matter how good your defense is.


Still this is a very tough game to pick. Both Pittsburgh and Denver have solid defenses, decent coaching and veteran leadership throughout their rosters. But the injury to Mendenhall looms pretty largely over Steeler Nation. Big Ben has shown incredible difficulty throwing the ball deep and with a Denver defense that is much improved, it could prove to be even more difficult.


I see Denver pounding the rock and limiting the chances Tebow has to make. But I also see Pittsburgh keeping the Denver defense on the field too long and forcing them to throw the ball. Even though Denver Broncos President John Elway has implored Tim Tebow to “pull the trigger” in this weekend’s game, Tebow’s numbers tell me that Elway may regret that statement.



Pittsburgh 13, Denver 9



Cincinnati (9-7) vs. Houston (10-6)

This game is one I will certainly be watching. This is the first playoff appearance for the Houston Texans in franchise history. The Cincinnati Bengals surprised everyone (including me) with their turnaround season behind the play of rookie QB Andy Dalton and WR Aj Green.


While Houston will be without QB Matt Shaub, Tj Yates seems to have played well enough to keep the Texans winning. They also have this guy named Arian Foster that apparently can run the ball pretty well. Needless to say this is a game every football fan should tune into because neither the Bengals or the Texans have seen much (if any) national tv time this year and they both deserve it.
Both defenses are solid and although many people will point to Yates being a question mark for this game, the Texans have an insurance policy with veteran Jake Delhomme ready to come in and take the reigns if trouble arises.


In my opinion, these are both young teams led by rookie quarterbacks, but the Bengals are too young to overcome the mistakes young teams make in the playoffs.


Houston 23, Cincinatti 10


Atlanta vs. New York


Boy oh boy it seems since the New York Giants stomped a mudhole in the New York Jets they are acting like the trash talking in-state rivals. The Giants haven’t seemed to put 2 and 2 together in regards to what usually happens to teams when they commence heavy trash talking because they are the ones making the bold statements heading into this weekend’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.


Giants defensive end Justin Tuck referred to the Falcons as “dirtbags” and pointed to what he called “dirty” play from the Falcons offensive line, an accusation the Giants have hard from other NFL teams this season (the Detroit Lions). But that didn’t phase the Falcons.


“If a dirtbag is someone who gets downfield to protect one of our guys with the ball in his hand, then that’s what we are,” center Todd McClure said. “I know a big deal is going to be made of [Tuck’s comments], but we don’t think it’s a big deal.”


Needless to say the Giants have a questionable secondary at best. The secondary has to deal with the explosive passing game of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons. Simply too much to overcome in my opinion.


Atlanta 31, New York 14


Detroit vs. New Orleans

Talk about a game with “offense” written all over it. Detroit capped off an impressive turnaround season to return to playoff contention after over a decade of misery. The New Orleans Saints just completed a record breaking season from QB Drew Bress who broke Dan Marino’s 20+ year passing record. What does all of this add up to? A scoreboard video game!

Julio Jones provides a huge mismatch for Detroit who has some major questions in the secondary. But even if they figure out how to contain Jones, they still have a huge mismatch to deal with in tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez has made a Hall of Fame career out of being a headache for opposing defensive coordinators and this game will be no different.

Truth be told, Calvin Johnson is a great player but he can’t do everything. Especially in the Playoffs

I can sit here and break down matchups and edges but it all is going to come down to one 2nd half defensive play that will decide this game. While I will be pulling for the Lions in this one, The Saints have been to the playoffs consistently in recent years and even have their own Lombardi Trophy to show for it. In this case, experience will trump all.

New Orleans 133, Detroit 121