By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
NFL PICKS: Wildcard Weekend
BRISTOL, CT—Finally, it’s time for the NFL’s playoff party.
Last year’s opening round was arguably the most exciting weekend in NFL postseason history. In a span of 48 hours, we saw two of the greatest comebacks in playoff history and we saw the Packers lose their first postseason game ever at the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field.
The Packers are back in the playoffs, due to Arizona’s wild finish against the Vikings. In fact, Green Bay joins Tennessee, Indianapolis, and Philly as the only four returnees from last year’s postseason.
The Titans get the playoffs started at 4:30 ET Saturday when they visit Baltimore. The Ravens have won five in a row against their former AFC Central rivals, including a 24-10 playoff win during 2000 playoffs en route to their Super Bowl XXXV triumph.
Later at 8:00 ET, Carolina hosts its first playoff game since 1996 when they take on the Dallas Cowboys. Ironically, it was Dallas that the Panthers defeated (26-17) to advance to the NFC Championship that season.
Carolina went on to meet the Packers.
Green Bay opens up Sunday’s action at 1:00 ET as they host ex-Green Bay chief Mike Holmgren and his Seahawks. Back in October, the Pack handed Seattle their first loss of the season in a 35-13 triumph at Lambeau.
Sunday’s final game (4:30 ET) is another regular season rematch as Denver visits the RCA Dome to meet the Colts. Just a week ago in fact, the Broncos earned their wild-card berth with a dominating 31-17 triumph at Indianapolis.
LAST WEEK: 9-7 (Considering all the twists and turns, this wasn’t too bad).
SATURDAY TITANS at RAVENS Defense and a strong ground game (Jamal Lewis’ 2,066 rushing yards) are once again Baltimore’s strengths, while the Titans counter with a solid defense of their own and an opportunistic Steve McNair at quarterback. This has all the makings of a low-scoring, defensive struggle. Tennessee has been able to run the ball a little more effectively over the last few weeks. But going up against Ray Lewis and the Raven D is another story.
There’s always at least one upset on wildcard weekend. Considering the losing streak, maybe the Titans are just due.
Pick: Titans COWBOYS at PANTHERS Carolina and Dallas met a little over a month ago in what appeared to be a statement game for the Tuna Helpers. The Cowboys came away with a 24-20 home triumph holding Stephen Davis to just 59 yards on 26 carries. But this time, Dallas will be on the road against a team which is almost a mirror image of themselves. If you take account Dallas’ running woes this season, Carolina should have the edge. But during this time of the year, who would you rather have on the sidelines: Parcells or Fox. No disrespect Coach John, but the man’s been here before.
Pick: Cowboys SUNDAY SEAHAWKS at PACKERS It took some incredible twists of fate to get both of these teams into the playoffs. In fact, the Seahawks and Packers were the last two NFC clubs to clinch playoff berths. While stopping Brett Favre will be in the Seattle game plan, the real person who the Birds have to contain is Ahman Green.
The ex-Seahawk capped his Pro Bowl season by becoming the first Packer to ever run for 200 yards in their thrashing of the Broncos. When you factor in Seattle’s road woes and last year’s embarrassing loss to Atlanta, I think you can pencil in the Pack to advance.
Pick: Packers BRONCOS at COLTS In their meeting at the Dome, the Broncos were able to produce 227 yards on the ground (including a career-high 136 from rookie Quentin Griffin) and held the ball for nearly 45 minutes. All this without Clinton Portis. While the experts will quickly say that Indy has the edge because they have a better quarterback, I can counter that with just one statement. Jake Plummer has something that Peyton Manning is still searching for: A win in the postseason. Following Sunday’s game, the Snake and his bunch will be slithering their way to the next round.