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For football fans, wildcard weekend is one of the greatest sports weekends of the year. So I thought I’d take a short break from all the heavy political stuff like CBO scores and debating health care repeal, to offer predictions on the games.
New Orleans at Seattle
This is the closest thing to a lock of the weekend. New Orleans isn’t playing as well as they did last year (and Drew Brees has thrown a surprising number of interceptions), but the 7-9 Seahawks don’t deserve to be in the playoffs and are outmatched by the Saints. Prediction: New Orleans.
Baltimore at Kansas City
Kansas City has a dominant running game, which counts for a lot in the playoffs, and they’re playing at home, where they were 7-1 this year. So I wouldn’t be shocked to see them win. That said, the Ravens have a solid running defense and a more experienced post-season quarterback in Joe Flacco. It’s also worth noting that the Ravens played in a tougher division than the Chiefs, and that the Chiefs record was likely inflated by the fact that they got to play the weak NFC west teams, which accounted for 40 percent of their wins. Despite the tougher schedule, the Ravens (12-4) came away with a better record than Kansas City (10-6). Prediction: Baltimore.
NY Jets at Indianapolis
As a long suffering Jets fan, this is the game that I’m most invested in. For me, the key to this game will be the Jets running game. If Shonn Greene and/or LaDainian Tomlinson have a big day for the Jets, it will take a lot of pressure off of Mark Sanchez and keep Peyton Manning off of the field. The Colts aren’t as good as they were when they beat the Jets in the AFC Championship game last year, but neither is the Jets’ defense. While Darrelle Revis has shut down whichever wide receivers he’s covered, the pass rush has been generally weak this year, and because they’re a blitzing team, that’s opened up a lot of plays in the middle, which has caused problems for the Jets against the league’s elite quarterbacks. Give Manning too much time, and he’ll pick apart the defense, even with fewer weapons than in past years. I hope I’m wrong, but… Prediction: Indianapolis
Green Bay at Philadelphia
This is the most difficult game to call. Both teams are pretty equally matched, and they’ve both been inconsistent and streaky. It’s hard to say which teams will show up. If Michael Vick has one of his crazy games, the Eagles should coast to victory. But I’m going to give the edge to the Packers here, because they ended the season strong (with a near-win against the Patriots with Matt Flynn as their QB, a blowout against the Giants and a gut-check defensive win against the Bears to secure a playoff spot). With Aaron Rodgers back to health, they seem to be hitting their stride at exactly the right time. By contrast, the Eagles ended the season with two duds against the Vikings and Cowboys. Prediction: Green Bay