New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks: 4:30 pm NBC
On paper, the opening game of the playoffs appears to be an uninteresting no-brainer. The defending champion Saints finished the season at 11-5 while Seattle won the NFC West with a sad 7-9 record. However, with the beginning of the playoffs, everyone is equal and there is more to this one than meets the eye. The Saints received devastating news this week that not one but two of their key running backs aren’t going to be able to contribute this postseason. With Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas both placed on IR, the Saints are forced to start former Seahawk Julius Jones with a heavy helping of Reggie Bush if they hope to run the ball.
For Seattle, they are going with a rested Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback. Head Coach Pete Carroll likes the experience of Hasselbeck over the uneven play of Charlie Whitehurst. The Seahawks are also sporting home field advantage as well as the fact that with the game being played on Saturday, the Saints will have one less day to prepare.
This game could very well be closer than anyone anticipates.
Prediction: Saints roll the Seahawks 31-17
NY Jets at Indianapolis Colts: 8 pm NBC
It’s a rematch of last seasons AFC Championship game Saturday night as the Colts and the Jets square off in Indy in what will surely be a heated and physical matchup. The Jets are coming into this game with a hungry defense looking for payback against Peyton Manning who carved up the New York secondary like it was Thanksgiving in their last playoff meeting.
Unfortunately for the Colts, they aren’t the same team that they were a year ago as injuries have ravaged some of the precision that is normally found when watching Indy play. If the Colts are going to come out of this one with a W, then they will need to be able to run the ball effectively. If they can do that, the Jets will have to commit a safety to help stop the run, thus opening up the middle of the field for Manning to do his work. Having the middle of the field to work with is key for the Colts considering the level of skill the Jets have on the outside.
Prediction: The Jets get revenge in a close one. 24-20
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs: 1 pm CBS
The Baltimore Ravens are a team that nobody wants to face. They have a ferocious defense and an offense that can put up big points. That being said, they didn’t look very dominating in their final two games, against the Browns and Bengals respectively, and are showing signs of vulnerability in the offensive end.
Now the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t exactly end the season on a positive note either, getting demolished 31-10 by the Oakland Raiders, so they aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. However, the Chiefs loss may be the best thing they could have done as it sets them against the Ravens, who is a better match-up for Kansas City than the Jets would have been. The Ravens have been somewhat vulnerable to rushing attacks this season and the Chiefs boast the best one-two punch in the league when it comes to running the ball. This combination could prove the difference in this game.
Prediction: Upset of the weekend. Chiefs edge Ravens 27-24
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles: 4:30 pm FOX
It’s very fitting that the most potentially exciting game of the weekend is the last one to be played. This game between the Packers and the Eagles have all the earmarks of a high scoring slugfest sure to delight fans. The Packers enter the postseason as a one dimensional team. They can’t run the ball, plain and simple, but they have accepted that fact and have embraced the pass. With Aaron Rogers heading this team, they are as dangerous as any in the league.
The Eagles aren’t slouches either and they bring a balanced offensive attack, as long as Michael Vick is healthy enough to be the run threat he normally is. There is just something about this Philly team this season that screams ‘team of destiny’ and while that isn’t something that can be explained within the parameter of X’s and O’s, it is nonetheless a palatable thing.
Prediction: Eagles win in a dogfight. 34-27