By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Picks: Wild Card Weekend
For the eight teams this weekend and the four with byes for next weekend, this is the ultimate second act. It’s a time where every dropped pass and every missed block becomes magnified.
The playoffs are a reminder of the Al Pacino speech from “Any Given Sunday” about football being a game of inches. For 17 weeks, teams feverishly fight and claw to get to this week. And then suddenly after three and half hours or so, one team moves on while another packs its bags.
Success in the postseason is something that can turn a good player into a legendary one.
This year’s playoff field also showcases teams that have enjoyed recent postseason success. Since 2000, the Colts have been to the playoffs an NFL-best eight times. The Eagles are second in the category with seven postseason appearances in that span.
In fact, four of the top five teams with the most playoff berths since 2000 are in this year’s playoff field.
Sit back and enjoy, because now it’s star time!!
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
When the Chargers host the Colts Saturday night on Wild Card Weekend, the teams will set a record. Their combined 13-game winning streak (nine for Indy and four San Diego), marks the longest combined winning streak for opposing teams in the Wild Card round.
Three rookie head coaches will make their postseason debuts this weekend. Which one of these head coaches failed to win in his playoff debut?
A. Ray RhodesB. Bill CowherC. Bobby RossD. Steve Mariucci
(The answer comes at the end of this column).
LAST WEEK: 4-1 (133-88-1 in regular season)
If not for the Broncos’ complete meltdown in San Diego, we could’ve had our first ever perfect week. But hey, I can’t complain. Overall, we ended another season well above the .500 mark so we’ll at least get asked back just in case no else wants to do this next season.
FALCONS at CARDINALS
In one corner, a rookie who’s shown more poise and skill than we’ve seen in quite a while. In the other corner, a two-time MVP who’s starred in that same script when this decade began. Needless to say, but QB’s Matt Ryan and Kurt Warner offer some intriguing contrasts in Saturday’s opener. On the field, despite the aerial acrobatics that are expected, it appears that the winner of this game will have to master the ground as well as the air. As explosive as the Cards’ offense can be, they are still a running challenged team. Look for Michael Turner to add another chapter to his single-season highlight reel and carry the new Dirty Birds to the next round.
Did you know?: Ryan, who passed for 3,440 yards, is only the second rookie quarterback in history to throw for 3,000 yards, joining Peyton Manning of Indianapolis.
COLTS at CHARGERS
Welcome to the NFL’s newest reality series — Colts vs. Bolts. Last year, Indy fell twice to San Diego. The first time came on a Sunday night in November when No. 18 threw six picks in a 23-21 victory. Months later, the Bolts closed down the RCA Dome for good as they defeated Indy 28-24 en route to the AFC title game. Act Three came this past November as the Colts got a last gasp field goal by Adam Vinatieri in a 23-20 victory. Saturday night will mark Act Four in what has become a very heated rivalry in a short period of time. We previously mentioned how hot both teams are going into this game, but quite honestly I truly think San Diego is incredibly lucky to be here. If not for Denver’s Met-like collapse, they’d be home for the holidays. Right now, there may not be a hotter team heading into the postseason than the horseshoe heads. They’ll prove at Qualcomm Saturday night.
Did you know?: The Chargers captured their third consecutive AFC West title this season and became the first team in NFL history to reach the playoffs after a 4-8 start. They won their final four games.
RAVENS at DOLPHINS
When they met back on October (a 27-13 Raven win at Miami), both teams still evolving into the playoff teams that they are now. Ironically, both teams went on a winning streak following this game. So how do we gauge this matchup of rookie head coaches? While they’ve been scoring points in bunches in their last two games, the inconsistency of Baltimore’s offense is still a sore point for me. Joe Flacco has been as impressive (if not more) than Atlanta’s Ryan, but historically the Birds can be very unpredictable. As much as the “Wildcat” is a main component of the Fish’s offense, they have a bit more on both sides of the line. I’m gonna lean on Chad Pennington’s experience in this one. But this is gonna be a close one.
Did you know?: In the eight playoff games in franchise history, the Ravens’ defense has allowed 11.0 points per game in the playoffs, ranking first as the fewest postseason points per game allowed since 1970.
EAGLES at VIKINGS
Sometimes even irony can become real ironic. When you consider what they’ve both been through this season, I wouldn’t blame Donovan McNabb and Tavaris Jackson for telling everyone to kiss their butts. However, starting in a playoff game should be more than enough to quiet their legion of haters — for a while. As for the game, both of these teams are entering on a roll (like many others this week). The difference in this battle to me will be the defenses. We all know that Jimmie Johnson will likely have Philly blitzing Jackson on every other play. I know T.J. has gotten better since his “comeback”, but the Eagles’ D is a different animal and should be enough for McNabb and company to advance.
Did you know?: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing with 1,760 yards as the Vikings clinched the NFC North Division. It marked the sixth consecutive season the NFL rushing champion helped his team to the postseason.
B. In 1992 after winning the AFC Central with an 11-5 record, Pittsburgh’s Bill Cowher lost his postseason debut to the Buffalo Bills 24-3 in a divisional playoff at Three Rivers Stadium. He wouldn’t get his first postseason win until 1994, a 29-9 win over the Cleveland Browns.