Friday, January 8, 2010

Wild Card Preview, Episode I

Sweetness! The Playoffs are here and I'm pumped as all hell. The next two weeks are the best all season, with a pair of big time match-ups both Saturday and Sunday. So go grab a few brews and a half dozen pizzas and get it ready for the weekend.

I'm going to discuss each game, first the Saturday games and then post notes for the Sunday affairs separately.

Jets vs. Bengals:

This is going to be the ugliest game to watch, hands down. We're going to see 2 good defenses, 2 decent but predictable offenses, and some cold weather. It's a combination likely to max this game out at about 32 points total. An odd element here is that while I think Cincinnati is better overall, the Jets are a terrible match-up for them and pose some serious problems for a 6 seed.

I don't like the way Cincy's offense matches up here. Basically, their primary receiver (Ochocinco--BTW, this has given me endless laughs over the last 2 years. I don't care if it's corny, I love it.) is going to be seriously limited by Revis, the top corner in the game right now. After that, the Jets can commit 8 man fronts to stopping the Bengal run game, which is their bread and butter. I like Benson as a grinder-type running back, but I can't see them making a living when the Jets are stacked against the run. If Cincinnati is going to win, you're going to see some big plays out of Andre Caldwell Laverneus Coles. This of course reminds us of the age-old football proverb: if you're relying on Andre Caldwell and Laverneus Coles, you're probably screwed.

On the other side of the ball, the Jets have no choice but to focus on running the ball. To say rookie quarterbacks traditionally struggle in these situations is like saying trees traditionally struggle in wood chippers. Additionally, Sanchez doesn't really have the cannon that you'd like to see in a cold, breezy day. They'll try to mix in some play action so loosen the linebackers up a little. The Cincy corners are good, and the Jets receivers are at best a mediocre lot, so don't expect a lot of downfield stuff. I think we could see some good things out of TE Dustin Keller. Most of all, it's all about how well the Jets can pound out the rushing yards. I think you can run on the Bengals a little with the injuries they've had (like Maualaga's broken ankle) and that's something the Jets will try to exploit.

I'm guessing this one stays close, but the Jets are able to make a couple of big plays on defense. Maybe something like an interception or sack and fumble recovery for a TD. Cincy just can't put enough points on the board, and Jets squeeze it out with the D.

The Call: JETS, 17-13.

Eagles v. Cowboys:

First of all, don't put huge stock into what happened last week. Those week 17 games don't generally have much impact on the next week. That being said, the Cowboys have looked excellent the last few weeks and have shown they can handle the passing game probably as well as most anyone. I'm not as high on the Eagles as a lot of people. They look to me like a team that has feasted on teams that either weren't any good (like KC and Tampa) or who were all messed up at the time of the game (like the Giants late in the year or Atlanta w/o Matt Ryan or Turner). I don't see any quality wins on their schedule (link).

I like the way the Dallas defense matches up with the Eagles. The corners, especially Jenkins, have played real well in the last few weeks, and the Eagle receivers other than Desean Jackson are pretty unremarkable. The other issue here is that the Dallas defensive line is playing extremely well and should be able to dominate the Philly blockers. Look for the criminally underrated NT Jay Ratliff to make some plays and for Demarcus Ware to eat up Jason Peters, who's been living off his name for 2 years now. All this should allow for a lot of nickel and dime coverage for Dallas and a tough throwing day for McNabb. The Eagles are going to struggle running, so look for a lot of short screens and draws with McCoy.

On the other side of the ball, look for Dallas to try to wear down the Eagle defense with a big offensive line and it's tailback rotation. I like the Philly defense, but I'm thinking they may have trouble because of the versatility of the Cowboy offense. Dallas has to avoid the long 3rd downs, because the Eagles are going to blitz and have the defense designed to make big plays. Asante Samuel is excellent for the Eagles and he is going to make a big play. But by that same token, Dallas is going to run some double moves with the receivers and beat him on a long pass.

I think the home field will be a surprisingly big advantage for the Cowboys. They're going to pack the new stadium with some ridiculous number of fans, and it's going to be noisy as hell with the roof closed. The Dallas defense will surprise and really have a big game. I'm guessing it's close early and Dallas pulls away in the last 20 minutes.

The Call: Dallas 30-20

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