Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NFC WIld Card Preview and Predictions

No. 5 New Orleans Saints (11-5) @ No. 4 Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

The Saints may have the most unlucky draw of these playoffs. Yes, they get to play the worst team to make it, but, the Seahawks do have one of the most raucous crowds in the NFL. Even though the Saints have a better record, they have to travel to Seattle because Seattle won their division.

All that aside, New Orleans comes into this post season reeling, losing two of their last three games; looking especially bad in week 17 against the Bucs. These are the defending champs, however, and they're still one of the most dangerous offensive units in the league. QB Drew Brees had another solid season, despite multiple injuries in his back field. RB's Reggie Bush, Chris Ivory, and Pierre Thomas missed a total of 22 games, and it shows in their 28th ranked rushing attack. Drew Brees always has plenty of receivers to throw to, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Shockey, and Jimmy Graham (if he is able to go) will all make for a difficult game for the Seahawks secondary.

Because of all the attention paid to the Saints offense, their defense doesn't get as much credit as they deserve. New Orleans D ranks 4th in opponent passing yards per game, and 16th in opponent rushing yards per game. Last years' Superbowl hero Tracy Porter has big play capabilities in the secondary, along with Roman Harper and Jabari Greer. LB Johnathon Vilma is one of the best in the league, so look for him to have a big impact against the lackluster Seahawks running game.

Key to Saints victory: Just play your game.

The Seahawks are the first team in NFL history to win their division with a sub .500 record, and they get a first round home game in the playoffs; but hey, rules are rules.

Seattle comes into the post season with a little bit of a QB controversy. Pete Carroll gave the nod to Charlie Whitehurst in the must win Sunday night game against the Rams, but is now undecided as to who will start against the Saints on Saturday. Personally, I don't think it matters either way, but I feel that Carroll is doing this to try to confuse New Orleans game plan. Seattle's passing game is ranked 19th in the league, and their rushing game is the worst in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett will split touches out of the back field, and the Saints secondary will focus their efforts on WR Mike Williams, who leads the team in receptions, and receiving yards.

The Seahawks bring a lackluster defense to the table. They gave up 27 or more points eight times this season, and New Orleans should have a field day. Seattle's D is ranked 27th in passing yards allowed, and 21st in rushing yards allowed, which doesn't bode well for them against New Orleans pass heavy offensive attack. The one bright spot for this defense is rookie DB Earl Thomas, who has five interceptions this season.

Key for Seahawks victory: Do everything right.

Prediction: Saints 31-13

No. 6 Green Bay Packers (10-6) @ No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

The Packers were in danger of missing the playoffs after being given such high expectations. They gutted out a 10-3 victory against the Bears at Lambeau to make the post season, and they are, in my opinion, the most dangerous team in the playoffs.

QB Aaron Rodgers has had a great season, despite multiple concussions, and an injury to his top back, Ryan Grant, in the first game of the season. The Pack bring the 5th ranked passing attack into this game, and one of the best WR's in the NFL in Greg Jennings. Jennings had a huge season recording 1265 yards and 12 TD's. The Eagles D will pay a lot of attention to Jennings, so look for Rodgers to target James Jones much more. The injury to Ryan Grant caused Green Bay's rushing attack to greatly suffer. RB Brandon Jackson didn't have the production the team wanted, and it shows in a 24th ranked rushing attack. Another staggering stat is QB Aaron Rodgers is the teams second leading rusher.

The Packers defense is scary, and it is led by soon to be defensive player of the year Clay Matthews. Matthews has been absolutely ridiculous this season with 13.5 sacks and an interception. Not to be out done, fellow LB A.J. Hawk has 111 tackles and 3 interceptions. The Packers secondary is one of the best in the league, they rank 5th in passing yards allowed per game, and they have combined for 14 interceptions. Look for them to blitz Mike Vick early and often.

Key to Packers Victory: contain Mike Vick, and cause two turnovers. The offense will come.

QB Mike Vick has had an amazing season thus far, and this stage is where he performs at his best. Vick has thrown for over 3,000 yards and rushed for over 600 while amassing 30 total TD's. RB LeSean McCoy, combined with Vick lead the Eagles 5th ranked rushing attack, gaining 145.4 yards per game. WR DeSean Jackson is the biggest deep threat receiver in the NFL, averaging 22.5 yards per catch. Look for Vick to go deep to Jackson very, very early. If Jackson can't get open deep, look for Jeremy Maclin to have a huge day underneath. The Eagles O-Line need to be ready for multiple blitz packages that the Packers D will show them.

The Eagles defense is mediocre, ranking 15th in both passing yards allowed, and rushing yards allowed. It looks like Stewart Bradley will be out for this game, which puts more pressure on Ernie Sims and the LB core. DE Trent Cole must come off the edge hard, and get to Rodgers in order to disrupt any rhythm. Look for DB's Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell to make some big plays, they have combined for 10 interceptions this season.

Key to Eagles victory: Vick and McCoy must combine for 110 rushing yards and two TD's. Also, they must sack Rodgers at least three times.

Prediction: Green Bay 27-24

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