BASN NFL Picks: Wild Card Weekend

By Tony McClean
Updated: January 6, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Now that college football has finally crowned a new champion, its time for the big boys to do the same. The NFL Playoffs begin in earnest this Saturday with Wild Card Weekend.

The action begins on ABC, the home for Super Bowl XL, with a day-night playoff doubleheader. At 4:30 ET, the Redskins invade Raymond James Stadium to battle the NFC South Champion Buccaneers. Tampa outlasted Washington 14-13 in the 1999 playoffs.
Later on that night at 8 pm, the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium. It’s the third time these two have met in the postseason with both teams taking home wins.
Sunday at 1 pm ET, the NFC East Champion New York Giants host the Carolina Panthers at the Meadowlands on FOX. The final game will be at Paul Brown Stadium as the Steelers visit the Bengals at 4:30 on CBS.
Go to fullsize image FACTOID OF THE WEEK
Each of the 12 teams vying for a trip to Super Bowl XL has won at least 10 games, only the third time (2000, 2003) since the current playoff was instituted in 1990 that the entire field accomplished the feat.
Go to fullsize image TRIVIA QUESTION
Which player was the last to rush for at least 200 yards in a postseason game?
A. Eric Dickerson
B. Timmie Smith
C. Lamar Smith
D. Freeman McNeil
Go to fullsize image LAST WEEK’S ANSWER
The last division to have three teams with at least 10 wins was the AFC East in 2001 when the Patriots (11-5), Dolphins (11-5), and Jets (10-6) pulled the trick.
LAST WEEK: 6-9 (143-105 in regular season)
I make no excuses, but the last week of the season can be tough to pick games. Who thought the Dolphins and Rams would show up in Week 17? Hey, I know I can get better.
Back in November, these two teams combined for over 700 yards of offense. The game was won 36-35 by Tampa when Chucky decided to go for a two-point conversion in the final seconds. Since that meeting, both clubs went 5-2 en route to the playoffs. The boys of Grandpa Gibbs come into the contest riding a five-game winning streak as they reached the postseason for the first time since the two clubs met in the ’99 playoffs. While D.C. has definitely earned it’s playoff spot, I just don’t think they have enough to stay with Tampa.
Pick: Bucs.
Go to fullsize image Go to fullsize image JAGUARS at PATRIOTS
Quick question. Who was the last team to defeat the Pats in the playoffs? It’s the Jags, who eliminated New England 25-10 in the ’98 Wild Card round. I know folks are already playing the “warm weather team playing in cold weather” angle on Jacksonville. Dont believe the hype. Remember when the Jags went into Green Bay and won there last year. In fact during their playoff history, Jacksonville has won in Buffalo and Denver. Not exactly Bermuda is it? So can the Jags pull off the upset against the Pats. I really feel that New England’s defense will let them down Saturday night.
Pick: Jaguars.
Go to fullsize image Go to fullsize image PANTHERS at GIANTS
Get ready for what appears to be an old fashioned, low scoring, defensive struggle at the Meadowlands. The teams’ defensive lines finished 1-2 in the NFC in sacks (Giants with 34.5, Carolina 33.0), which means the running game becomes the key. Tiki Barber had an MVP-type season for Big Blue and he’ll be asked to carry the load again. However, seeing Steve Smith running through a suspect New York secondary is a definite possibility. To me, this is the most evenly matched game of the weekend. For my pick, I think Carolina pulls out a close one.
Pick: Panthers.
Does anyone look any worse than the Bengals heading into the playoffs? In that same vaein, does any team look any better going in than the Steelers? That’s the story heading into the first ever postseason game at Paul Brown Stadium. As much as I’d like to see the Lewis gang pull this off, I really feel like the Black and Gold have gotten their act together and will be tough to beat. In many ways, because of their running game and tough D, they’re more suited to win on the road. I hope I’m wrong, but I like Pittsburgh.
Pick: Steelers.