We’re into the wild card round of the playoffs, so first we’ll recap who we’ve projected to make the playoffs and their expected finish.
1. New England Patriots- Tom Brady is too good not to come back with a vengeance this year.
2. Indianapolis Colts- Peyton Manning will come back from knee surgery to get the Colts 12+ wins (again).
3. San Diego Chargers- will be in a battle with the Colts for the second bye all year, I see them barely missing out.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers- the most flawed division winner.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars- the team is just as strong as last year, and now they have playoff experience.
6. Cleveland Browns- Derek Anderson will get the Browns into the playoffs (just barely).
So the Patriots and Colts will get the 2 byes, and now we have our first round matchups.
San Diego Chargers vs. Cleveland Browns
This should be an interesting matchup, but I see a Charger victory here. LaDainian Tomlinson should run over the Brown defense, and the Browns offense should be stopped also. Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman should get to Derek Anderson on almost every play. Antonio Cromartie should do a good job covering Braylon Edwards. The only matchup problem should be Kellen Winslow. I’m not sure who on the Chargers will have the job of trailing him considering both outside linebackers rush the passer on almost every play. Marlon McCree maybe? I’m not sure that will work, but I don’t see Anderson having enough time to deliver the ball to Winslow anyway. The Chargers are just too good for the Browns, and should win this comfortably.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
A rematch from last year’s wild card round, I expect this one to be just as close as the game in 2007. The game this year should prove who is the better quarterback, either Ben Roethlisberger or David Garrard. Last year, the Jags got the best of the Steelers, in Pittsburgh no less. The Jags have a great running attack, that includes Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. They have a weak receiving core, but they tried to improve by signing Jerry Porter in the offseason. This should help Garrard immensely. The defense is good as well. They always seem to shut their opponents down, and all opponents have trouble scoring on them. I expect the Steelers to win this one however. Roethlisberger is a great quarterback, and should step up to the occasion and win this home playoff game. They have Willie Parker at running back and Hines Ward at wide receiver. They have a good defense, and should be able to stop the Jaguar offense. Also, Garrard was very shaky in the playoffs against the Steelers last year, and if I remember correctly, his biggest play on the game winning drive was a run, not a pass. Steelers win a close one here.
Divisional Round Matchups
New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Chargers
NFC Wild Card predictions up next.