With another regular season in the books, Jaime makes her round-by-round picks for the NFL playoffs.
I think it is fair to say that sports are the best when the games matter most.
Don’t get me wrong; I eat, sleep and breathe football but I tend to get a little more excited when there is more on the line.
There were so many playoff implications in the NFL this week. Every team in playoff contention, except the Packers, were playing for something. It reminded me a little of the last day of the baseball season when the wild cards were up for grabs and history was made not once but twice in the same day.
And like the last day of the MLB season, the last day of football did not disappoint. Each game was action packed as fans from all sides waited anxiously for the final postseason schedule to be set. Now it is and the wild card rounds are set to kick off this Saturday. So I’m prepared to make a few predictions regarding which way these games will go.
Steelers (12-4) at Broncos (8-8)
It is crazy to think the Steelers with a 12-4 record are coming into the playoffs as a wild card and will be playing on the road against the Broncos. Not to discredit the Broncos – they had a dream season, starting 2-5 and turning it around once Tebowmania took the field – but you should at least have to have a winning record to make playoffs as a four seed. I think it is pretty clear that one team is a little better here even with Big Ben’s ankle in question. You can only play three terrible quarters and pull off a miracle in the fourth for so long, so I’ll say the Steelers take this one.
Bengals (9-7) at Texans (10-6)
The Bengals snuck in and clinched a wild card in week 17, making the AFC North the most represented division with three of four teams in the postseason. This game is a rematch of week 14 when the Bengals lost by one point at home and I think the Texans will be able to do it again. They just play well as a team and I don’t think rookie Andy Dalton is quite ready for the big stage (though he does give me hope for my Dolphins, who by the way are undefeated in 2012, to have success with a QB taken outside the first round).
Lions (10-6) at Saints (13-3)
This is another rematch from the season and Saints took it handily 31-17. This one is hard for me. I want the Lions to do well. They have been one of the biggest surprises of the season but I just don’t see them being able to overcome Drew Brees and that explosive Saints offense, especially at home. I wouldn’t be upset to be proven wrong, but I think New Orleans is going to take this one.
Falcons (10-6) at Giants (9-7)
The Falcons come in to this matchup with a better record but only by a game. I think regular season records when they’re this close can be thrown out the window and the Giants have a lot of momentum having already played what was essentially a playoff game in week 17. As up and down as it’s been for New York this year, I think they are better than the Falcons. Atlanta doesn’t really know if they are a run-first or pass-first offense and I think that will show when the pressure is on.
As for the teams with first round byes, I dare say that they will all still be standing at the end of the divisional round with the exception of the Niners or Green Bay who could be beaten by the Saints. Pittsburgh has a shot in the AFC but Big Ben’s ankle has to hold up and they have already lost to the Ravens twice this season.
As always I hope and pray that the Patriots will lose and in my heart of hearts I am hoping for a Niners/Ravens Super Bowl. I’ve got nothing against the Packers but the Niners have been waiting a while for Alex Smith to come into his own and I think that time is now.