Breakdown: The only difference in this game is that instead of playing in New York, they are playing in Cincinnati. That and the week before doesn’t matter now. The Bengals had nothing to play for even though the Bengals played most of their starters. The Jets do have statistically the best rushing and total defense in the NFL. Stats don’t always help you get to the Super Bowl though. The Bengals will have a fresh Cedric Benson. The home crowd in their favor. The Jets do have that swagger that was missing in the middle part of the season. However it won’t help with a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez. Don’t get me wrong he is gonna be good, just not this year. The Bengals don’t have all the momentum, but they do have enough weapons and a good defense to offset the Jets statistical advantages. Bengals win a close one.
Matchup to watch for: Chad Ochocinco Bengals WR vs. Darrelle Revis Jets CB
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
Breakdown: This is what Cowboys fans have been waiting for. A winnable playoff game. Not to say the Eagles won’t show up, but as much as I hate to say it, the Cowboys have looked pretty good. Quarterback Tony Romo has been phenomenal. He is being given all the credit for their December success as he should. I think more should be awarded to the defense. They beat the Saints in New Orleans and shut out the Redskins and Eagles to finish the season. Not an easy thing considering their history in December. The Eagles are a much younger team than their many predecessors. Andy Reid has his work cut out for him to figure out the Cowboys attack after being shut out last week. Quarterback Donovan McNabb needs to not rush the offense in a pass happy scheme. Running the ball will help you win more than trying to shoot it out with the Dallas offense. Alas it will be too much for the Eagles which were in striking distance of a first round bye. Cowboys win in a shoot out.
Matchup to watch for: Donovan McNabb Eagles QB vs. DeMarcus Ware Cowboys LB
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
Breakdown: Baltimore couldn’t be happier with how the playoff seeding ended up. They get another shot at the Patriots. They met earlier in the year in New England that many would consider a one sided affair. Not by the score, but by the way the game was officiated. It was the most blatant attempt by the NFL’s referees to protect one of the games premiere players, Tom Brady. The Ravens could care less this time around. It will be a different crew and a different mind set. They will look to play smash mouth football. The Patriots will be without leading receiver Wes Welker, who went down with a knee injury last week. The Ravens will look to exploit that with constant pressure and double teams of opposite receiver Randy Moss. The Patriots will have a lot to prove most of all on the defensive side. Whether or not they make a run at the Super Bowl will run heavily on the defense. If the Ravens score more than 20 points, the Patriots could be in trouble. Ravens win in a brawl.
Matchup to watch for: Ray Rice Ravens RB vs. New England front seven
Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals
Breakdown: The Packers are the hottest team in the NFC entering the playoffs. They won 7 of their last 8 games to clinch one of two wild card spots. Like with the the first playoff matchups this weekend, this one was played the week before. Can we take anything from it? No. Will the result be the same? No. Are these the same teams? Yes. Aside from Matt Leinart playing for Kurt Warner, these are the same teams playing each other. The result was disastrous for the Cardinals, who have played horribly at home this year. The Cardinals are in even more trouble with an injury to one of their wide receivers Anquan Boldin. The Packers know this of course and will double if not triple team Larry Fitzgerald and force Warner to rely on someone else. The Arizona run game, which has been slumbering all year needs to have a big game against a Packers defense that constantly attacks until the whistle blows. The Packers are just as frightening for the Cardinals on the offensive side. Aaron Rodgers is looking to continue his hot streak against a struggling Arizona defense. The Packers win in a blowout.
Matchup to watch for: Charles Woodson Packers CB vs. Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals WR