It could be argued that the 2010 Seahawks are the worst team in the history of the NFL to make the playoffs. At 7-9 they are the first losing team record to make the playoffs in a non-strike season, this while the 10-6 Giants and 10-6 Buccaneers are watching from their easy chairs at home with a bowl full of popcorn. However, as division champions they not only get into the playoffs they get to host the defending Super Bowl Champions in the first game of Wild Card Weekend.
The Seahawks are here because the entire NFC West was bad, pick any team out of the division and they would finish in last place in at least half the other seven divisions, including the Seahawks, who are entering the playoffs with seven losses in their last ten games. Of the Seahawks seven wins, only one came against a playoff team. Four wins came against the other three terrible division mates, with another coming against the Panthers, who has the worst record in the NFL.
The Saints are here because they are proven winners, who survived a tough regular season after winning Super Bowl XLIV and made the playoffs with an 11-5 record. The Saints still had a chance to win the division heading into the final week, and are clearly still one of the best teams in the NFL. They have many concerns at the running back position with, but QB Drew Brees is capable of carrying the team for a few weeks.
The only thing the Seahawks have going from them is their home crowd, which is one of the best in the NFL. However, that is quickly erased if the Saints build a big lead early, and for a team that has won a Super Bowl, a hostile crowd is easy to overcome.
Jets Coach Rex Ryan has said it is personal between him and the Colts, who he has never beaten as a Head Coach or even as a Defensive Coordinator with the Ravens. There was another matter with his wife and feet, which he also said was personal Coincidence? I think not. After all the Colts do have a horseshoe on their helmet.
The Jets defense has looked ordinary down the stretch, as they got torched by the Patriots and the Bears. While Peyton Manning is missing several key targets, it seems Manning can pick any shlub off the street and make him look good, just look at the Blair White project. If the Jets are to have a chance they must have a big game from their running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, because Mark Sanchez will never win a duel with Peyton Manning and the less time he has the ball the less dangerous he is.
The Colts have their own problems, as they were not impressive beating the Titans last week, but the home crowd the playoffs and shutting up Rex Ryan is enough extra incentive to bring out the Colts best effort. This was not a great season in Indy, and the Colts won’t go much further, but beating the Jets will at least validate them as battling adversity well.
The game won’t be easy and both teams will score, but in the end the game will be decided on who has the best kicker, and that is the Colts Adam Vinatieri, as Nick Folk is common at best. Ironic; that feet will decide a game coached by Rex Ryan see there are no coincidences here.
The Chiefs are a nice young team on the rise, with talent all over the offense from QB Matt Cassel to RB Jamal Charles and WR Dwayne Bowe. After floundering in last place the last few seasons it was a reawakening in Kansas City with the renovation of Arrowhead Stadium. They also have a fine coach in Todd Haley who has a good offensive mind. However, the key word is young and the veteran Ravens were the worst possible playoff match up for the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round.
The Ravens at 12-4 and just as good as the Steelers this year who won the AFC North by tiebreaker thanks to a better division record. The Ravens have a good running game led by Ray Rice, a good QB in Joe Flacco and a strong set of receivers. This is without considering their all world defense, which is still one of the best in the NFL.
The Ravens know how to win playoff games on the road, they have beaten a top seeded Titans team in 2008, and handed the Patriots their first home playoff loss under Coach Bill Belichick last year. Experience and defense are the two most vital weapons this time of year and the Ravens have both over the Chiefs.
If the game is close late maybe the home crowd which helped the Chiefs go 7-1 at Arrowhead can lift the Chiefs to a win, but a lot will have to go wrong on the Baltimore sideline for that to happen as the Ravens fly to the next round.
The final game of the weekend is the best game of the weekend as the Eagles host the Packers in a rematch of their Week 1 bruise fest. That opening week game had a lingering effect on both teams that lasted the entire 16 game schedule.
The Packers lost several key players in that game including RB Ryan Grant, who the Packers have had trouble replacing. This led to a greater reliance on QB Aaron Rodgers who was up to the challenge leading the Pack to a solid 10-6 season
The Eagles also lost several key players, as QB Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion that led to Michael Vick getting a chance to play. Given a chance to play Vick has a MVP type season leading the Eagles to a division title, as he regained the mantle of elite quarterback he had lost when he went to prison for dog fighting.
I expect a similarly bruising game that will leave one team sore for the off-season as the winner limps into a likely loss next week. A month ago this match up looked quite different as the Packers were neck and neck with the Bears, but a tough December forced the Packers to win their last two games just to slip into the postseason, while the Eagles had a bye week slip out of their hands with two home losses to close the season. The losses on the Eagles hand is the focus of this pick, as they have played uninspired football in 11 of their last 12 quarters. If not for their stunning comeback against the Giants the Eagles would have missed the playoffs. In falling behind 31-10 the Eagles played terrible football that was masked by the comeback, and while the season ending loss to the Cowboys could be written off as them resting players, their snow delayed loss to the Vikings can not be. The Vikings beat up Vick in the game by hitting him early and often and the Packers are capable of doing that with Clay Matthews Jr. coming off a monster season. With that blueprint in mind the Packers are able to stop the Eagles and win in Philly for the second time this season.