NFL Playoff Weekend Preview: Wild Card Saturday

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It's playoff time in the NFL. Before we all get drunk let's preview the games for a moment.

 

Arizona Cardinals Vs Carolina Panthers

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

An interesting matchup - Arizona, still coasting on the fumes of their improbable 9-1 start, doesn't have a quarterback, and Carolina doesn't have a winning record. Carolina, however, does have Cam Newton, who, despite being involved in a horrific car crash less than a month ago, remains one of the most explosive players in the game. But his explosiveness is unpredictable - despite throwing for over 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns this year, Newton has also thrown 12 interceptions and bungled six fumbles (the most in his career). Additionally, the Panthers have a top ten defense and the 16th best offense in the game, outpacing Arizona in both departments.

Arizona, on the other hand, has used four different quarterbacks this year, and their current starter, Drew Stanton likely will not play this week due to a knee injury. Replacement Ryan Lindley, who would be making his first post-season and only his seventh overall start, if Stanton cannot go, tossed two touchdowns and three interceptions in a 20-17 loss to San Franciso to end the regular season. Couple that with a offense and defense ranked in the 20's and the fact that Arizona's most impressive victories (at Dallas and at home against Detroit, both in November) are outshined by absolute beatdowns by the likes of Denver and Seattle, and the Cardinals look pretty weak.

Prediction: Carolina eeked into the playoffs by battling the lowly Falcons to win their division with a losing record. I'm going with the Cardinals 24-7.

Baltimore Ravens Vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh is on fire right now, mainly because they're offense is a scoring factory, holding the second ranked overall offense and second ranked passing offense in the league. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is tied with Drew Brees for the most passing yards in the league and running back Le'Veon Bell stands at second in the league in rushing (albeit a distant second to DeMarco Murray). Pittburgh is on a four game winning streak after an inexplicable loss to New Orleans in week 13, and they've already destroyed the this year in a 26-6 curbstomp in a Thursday night game in week two in freaking Baltimore. And that was before the Steel Curtain really hit their stride.

As usual with Baltimore, it's all about defense. Baltimore is the eighth best defense in the league and they absolutely smother running backs. The vaunted defense allowed only 88 rushing yards per game and only 8 rushing touchdowns all year. And the Ravens are still in the top half of the league in total offense with quarterback Joe Flacco throwing for more yards and touchdowns this year than any other year in his career.

Prediction: This should be a great game from two hard nosed, grisled teams full of veterans who've BEEN THERE BEFORE. For all the talk about Balto's defense, they suck against the pass, giving up an average of 248 yards per game. I'm taking Baltimore 13-10, but wouldn't be surprised to see the same score in favor of the Steelers.

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