It’s a good thing that Jim Mora, Sr. isn’t here, because for the next month we’re going to be talking about…
The 2010 NFL regular season has now come to an end and the Wild Card round of the playoffs begins this Saturday, January 8th, 2011. Here is a reminder of the playoff seeding for anybody living under a rock for the past 17 weeks:
For the sake of the coming weekend, we’re not concerned with New England, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, or Chicago; all of those teams get the week off to rest players and get ready to face who comes out of the Wild Card Weekend playoff games. Instead, our focus is on the eight teams fighting for the right to challenge the teams with the best records in their conference.
Here at The Sports Geeks, I’ll be writing up statistical comparisons and breakdowns for each playoff match-up and making my prediction for each game’s result; my fellow writers here at the site will be contributing picks of their own as well. For each game, we’ll be picking who we think will win the game as well as what we think the final score will be. As the next month continues along, we’ll keep a running tally of which writer here has the best eye for predicting the game outcomes; the tiebreaker for anybody who makes the same number of correct picks will be how close they get to picking the final score of each game. Feel free to play along as well by giving us your picks in the comments below.
Now, on to this weekend’s slate of games; we’ll proceed in chronological order from the earliest game to be played through the end of the weekend.
The first game of the Wild Card weekend features the last team to punch their ticket to the postseason: the NFC West Champion Seattle Seahawks. From a strictly statistical view, the New Orleans Saints outclass the Seahawks in just about every category; as evident from the “stat box” above. The Saints won 4 more games than the Seahawks this season; a number which many are pointing to as reason to consider re-seeding in the playoffs so that a 7-win team doesn’t get a home game against an 11-win team.
The truth is that the Saints are going to be overwhelming favorites in this game; they are the defending Super Bowl Champions, with Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees guiding the team to the playoffs once again. That said, many people thought that the Rams were superior to Seattle until the Seahawks drummed up their home-field advantage to win in Week 17. While the Rams do not yet belong in the same discussion as the Saints, that result should be a reminder to New Orleans that nothing is assured in the NFL; if they come out flat on the road on a short week, there is an outside chance that they will be one-and-done in embarrassing fashion.
As far as my pick is concerned, however, I don’t see the first sub-.500 Division Champion advancing past the Wild Card round.
The Sports Geeks Picks:
- Brian — Saints win 28-14
- Alex — Saints win 31-10
- Pat — Saints win 27-17
- Matt — Saints win 28-9
Just under a year after meeting in the AFC Championship Game, the Jets and Colts get another chance to take each other out of the playoffs. Fortunes have changed somewhat for each team since that meeting; the Jets added a number of high-profile free agents and improved by 2 wins over the 2009 season, while the Colts suffered through a stretch of poor play from Peyton Manning and injuries on their way to dropping 4 wins from last year. The teams, however, find themselves in the same playoff roles as last year; the Jets as a Wild Card from the AFC East and the Colts as AFC South Champions.
Statistically, the Colts are actually slight underdogs to the Jets leading up to this game. However, it is difficult to pick against Peyton Manning, particularly given his flawless record against teams coached by Rex Ryan. The 2010 Colts may have been disappointing compared to prior versions of the franchise, but they still did enough to earn a home game in the playoffs. The Jets, meanwhile, built up their 2010 record primarily through beating teams with sub-.500 records; only two of their wins in the entire season came against teams with winning marks. New York has also had to deal with injuries to key players on both sides of the ball along with embarrassment through recent news stories.
When it comes to making a pick for this game, it’s hard to call this as a slam-dunk for either side. However, Peyton has been too good against Rex Ryan in the past to believe that this match-up will be any different, despite injuries to the Colts.
The Sports Geeks Picks:
- Brian — Colts win 24-17
- Alex — Colts win 27-24
- Pat — Colts win 27-23
- Matt — Jets win 21-17
Few people are surprised to once again see the Ravens in the postseason; if not for losing out on tiebreakers to the also 12-4 Steelers, Baltimore would be sitting at home waiting to host a team in the Divisional round. The same cannot be said for the Kansas City Chiefs, who improved from a 4-12 record in the division’s basement in 2009 to 10-6 this year on their way to the AFC West title. While many of the statistics sway in favor of the Ravens, overlooking Kansas City’s chances would be an unwise decision this year.
As good as the Ravens have been in 2010, there has been some disappointment in a 12-win campaign. Many experts in the preseason believed Baltimore to be a near-lock for the AFC North crown after an offseason that saw key acquisitions like receiver Anquan Boldin. Instead, the Ravens must once again go on the road in the postseason if they hope to be the AFC’s Super Bowl XLV representative. The Chiefs, on the other hand, were not a popular pick to even make the playoffs this year; credit the largely mistake-free play of quarterback Matt Cassel and a great rushing attack from Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones for leading KC to hosting a Wild Card game.
The 2010 Chiefs are a great story; their fans deserve to wear their AFC West Champions gear with pride. For the sake of this game, however, I find myself leaning towards the team with more experience on this stage. Kansas City certainly has a shot to surprise, but I’d be surprised if Baltimore doesn’t leave Missouri with a W and a ticket to either Pittsburgh or New England.
The Sports Geeks Picks:
- Brian — Ravens win 24-14
- Alex — Ravens win 24-16
- Pat — Ravens win 17-13
- Matt — Ravens win 17-11
The final game of the Wild Card Weekend features two teams which have seemingly reversed expectations over the course of the 2010 season. Many experts thought that the Packers would rule over the NFC North and be a strong pick for NFC representative in Super Bowl XLV; instead, Green Bay was put in a must-win situation to earn a Wild Card spot in Week 17. After the Philadelphia Eagles traded away starting quarterback Donovan McNabb last Easter, many thought that they would struggle to match last season’s success behind Kevin Kolb; instead, the Eagles brought on Michael Vick when Kolb was injured and matched their 2009 record on their way to the NFC East title.
One might say that the Packers have set up their own predicament here; in the Week 1 meeting between these teams at Lambeau Field, Kolb was injured as the Packers led 24-10. Vick went in to replace Kolb and proceeded to lead Philadelphia to 10 points and a near-comeback win. Since then, Vick has largely been “the guy” in Philly as the Eagles locked up the #3 seed and were in position to end up higher than that. Meanwhile, underachievement in Green Bay nearly resulted in the Packers missing the playoffs if not for a gutsy 10-3 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 17.
When making a pick for this game, the health of Michael Vick must be a consideration; Vick sat out the Eagles Week 17 game after suffering a leg contusion in a Week 16 loss to the lowly Minnesota Vikings. Along with that injury came a potential blueprint for containing Vick, as the Vikings were largely able to keep Vick from being the MVP-caliber QB he’d been through many games prior. If Vick is 100%, then the vaunted Packers defense will have their hands full; if Vick is not ready to go, however, then Green Bay has already shown that they are more than capable of handling Kevin Kolb.
In the toughest pick of the weekend, I give the ever-so-slight nod to Green Bay because of questions about Vick’s health for the game and the fact that the Packers enter the playoffs with more momentum than an Eagles team which used Week 17 as an unofficial “bye” week.
The Sports Geeks Picks:
- Brian — Packers win 31-28
- Alex — Packers win 31-20
- Pat — Packers win 31-27
- Matt — Eagles win 28-24
To recap our picks using percentages, here is how the collective writers here at The Sports Geeks see the Wild Card games playing out:
- Saints versus Seahawks: Saints with 100% of picks by average score of 28.5 to 12.5
- Jets versus Colts: Colts with 75% of picks by average score of 23.75 to 21.25
- Ravens versus Chiefs: Ravens with 100% of picks by average score of 20.5 to 13.5
- Packers versus Eagles: Packers with 75% of picks by average score of 29.25 to 25.75
But that’s just our view; what do you think, The Sports Geeks reader? Let us know in the comments below—who you think will win and what the final score will be—and you might be included in our running scoreboard throughout the NFL postseason!