That aside, a few of the guys have stepped outside the box and are throwing their Wild Card Weekend predictions out there just for fun.
We sure would like to hear who you think might be winning this weekend and who might find their way to Lambeau Field to play the Packers next weekend. Leave your comments and predictions below in the comment field.
Enjoy the games and your Packers-less weekend!
Arizona @ Carolina
This Panthers team made some ignominious records by making the playoffs here. They are the first team in the NFC South to repeat as division champs. They also are only the second team with a losing record to make the playoffs.
I believe we’ll be seeing them follow in Seattle’s footsteps and have playoff teams with losing records somehow be a perfect 2-for-2 in their opening games.
I’ve enjoyed what the Cardinals have managed to do all year behind Bruce Arians, but injuries all over have completely wrecked what could have been the scariest team in the conference.
The defense started strong but has fallen off considerably lately, while the offense has done practically nothing since Carson Palmer was lost to injury. They now have a third-string QB that took over 200 passes to complete on for a TD leading the charge…so yeah, not good.
As nice as it would be to see this resilient team move forward while preventing this glitch in the system (divisional winners get a playoff spot and home game, no matter how bad they are) from helping another undeserving team profit, I just can’t see it happening here.
Carolina 24 Arizona 13
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Old-school rivalry, but in a much different light than usual. Offense will be key here, with both defenses having coverage weaknesses ripe for the picking.
All sources I’ve read seem to have Le’veon Bell will probably miss this game, so things would lean towards a Baltimore win right?
Wrong. While Bell’s absence will assuredly make things more difficult on Pittsburgh, their passing game and surprisingly above-average offensive line were always going to be what carried them to a win.
The injuries and flotsam that Baltimore calls its CBs are in for a rough day.
Pittsburgh 31 Baltimore 23
Cincinnati @ Indianapolis
This may seem to be the most predictable game of the wild-card round; Indianapolis already manhandled Cincinnati 27-0 earlier this year. So that makes this a done deal, right?
Not really. When it comes down to it, Indianapolis has been progressively worse as the season has moved forward, dropping off not only on defense but throughout their offense as well.
Don’t let the 11-5 record fool you; it was built on a bunch of wins over bad teams. They went 2-4 against playoff teams, with the only impressive game being the Bengals contest.
All the other games against quality opposition saw them play pretty sloppy overall and usually face massive deficits.
Cincinnati has been better since that game, especially running the ball, but I’m still just not sure if they will be able to do enough to turn the tides. A.J. Green may miss the game, and their defense is not suited for pressuring the QB — the best way to get Andrew Luck off his game.
As for their own QB, Andy Dalton has been … Andy Dalton: Not particularly great, but still pretty good though he can be forced into making mistakes.
Though I think a major part of his losses previously have been in matchups that exploit his weaknesses — something I don’t believe Indianapolis can/will do — in a game this close to call I’ve got to go with the better QB choice here.
That could easily backfire — Luck hasn’t really been all that good in the playoffs himself — but his higher ceiling and penchant for making no deficit feel safe makes me have to go with him as the better option.
Indianapolis 27 Cincinnati 17
Detroit @ Dallas
By any stretch, this should be the one game to mark down to watch.
The matchups are exquisite: great rushing attack vs great run defense, a couple of the best WRs in the game on either side against lacking coverages, and QBs with big-time arms leading resurgent teams back to the playoffs after an extended break.
While there should be plenty of focus thrown at the lacking big-time game numbers of the QBs — and the loser will surely be lambasted about it while the winner will get a reprieve until (if?) they drop out of the playoffs too — I think we have to look at that most obvious strength-vs-strength matchup in the run game.
I think whoever wins that takes the game.
I think Dallas could still have a chance even if they don’t run — Romo is a top-tier QB (#1 in QBR on the year) and the passing game has gotten gradually better all season — but running successfully will give them the balance that has been key to their season.
I don’t see the Cowboys going for totals on the ground like Green Bay just did, but I think they will feature enough success there to allow the passing game to come to them easier and let them control what they want to call rather than kneel to what Detroit wants.
I think they are much more suited to having that outcome occur for their offense than I see happening on the Lions’ end.
Dallas 27 Detroit 24
Carolina vs. Cardinals
The Panthers Cardinals game looks like it could be a real dull affair.
The Panthers finished 7-8-1 and managed to be one of the few teams with a losing record to win a division. The Cardinals though starting fast lost two players of the most important position on the field, quarterback.
Watch this come down to who stops who.
Panthers 24 Cardinals 10
Steelers vs. Ravens
The Ravens have a tough road that might have gotten easier. They have to travel to the Burgh, but Le’veon Bell is out and Haloti Ngata is in. This unfortunately does not fix their pass defense, or that Flacco has been streaky.
The Steelers have lost their most important player, but Big Ben to Antonio Brown has been unstoppable this year. The big question is defense.
Can the Steelers stop the incredible resurgence of a Ravens run game to make them fall flat?
It’ll be tough, but probably the best game of the wildcard, with the Steelers squeaking by.
Steelers 28 Ravens 24
Colts vs. Bengals
The revenge game of the playoffs goes to the Bengals Colts game. The Bengals can’t be thrilled to face the team that blanked them, but this is not the same Colts team that did it.
The problem they will have won’t be defense, but the fact that Andy “One-and-done” Dalton is their quarterback.
On the other side Andrew Luck has to do more with less. The running game isn’t going to work, and his two best recievers this year have been playing hurt.
He is better in prime time, and after beating up the Chiefs in a thrilling comeback last postseason, I have a hard time betting against him.
The Bengals hang in, but Dalton makes one too many boneheaded mistakes.
Colts 30 Bengals 21
Cowboys vs. Lions
This could be close or a blowout. Dallas comes in with Demarco Murray, and Detroit with Ndamukong Suh. Detroit was lucky they didn’t lose him to suspension, but the Packers proved last week a tough runner and a good offensive line can best them.
Dallas has been a huge surprise this year. Romo is playing great due to a commitment to the run that doesn’t push him to have to win games. Will bad Romo rear his ugly head if the pressure get to him?
The verdict? Stafford isn’t playing playoff football. While the Dallas defense isn’t what they were early in the season, they’ll do just enough.
Cowboys 38 Lions 24
Josh McPeak is this season’s expert pick winner at lombardiave.com
Panthers vs. Cardinals
The NFC South has been a laughing stock coming down the stretch.
At 7-8-1 the Carolina Panthers will host the Arizona Cardinals who fizzled after losing their first and second string quarterbacks. Arizona will ask Ryan Lindley to go on the road and win a playoff game while Cam Newton also looks to win his first playoff game.
I wouldn’t look for a shootout of any kind in this match-up. I’ll take the Panthers at home.
Carolina 17 Arizona 14
Steelers vs. Ravens
Is it just me or does it seem like the Ravens and the Steelers play every week?
Pittsburgh will enter this game without their superstar running back La’Veon Bell due to a hyperextended knee. Bell will truly be missed as he turned in over 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season.
Baltimore played one of the weakest schedules I have ever seen this season. One could argue they haven’t beat a good football team since Pittsburgh in week two.
The Steelers are a funny team this season and they will miss Bell but I have to take them at home. I wouldn’t be surprised to somehow see them in Arizona.
Pittsburgh 24 Baltimore 20
Colts vs. Bengals
Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since MC Hammer’s “Can’t touch this” was number one on the charts.
The guy celebrating some cold cuts was also their running back, Ickey Woods. AJ Green of the current Bengals team will also not be available due to a concussion suffered in week 17.
Indianapolis has been up and down on the season but I look for them to roll in this one.
Indianapolis 35 Cincinnati 17
Cowboys vs. Lions
Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo’s reputations will be on the line in Sunday’s wild card match-up. Stafford will be looking for his first playoff win while Romo seeks just his second. DeMarco Murray will be up against the number one run defense in the league.
The Lions have lost their last 7 postseason games but new coach Jim Caldwell guided the Colts to a Super Bowl after the 2009 season.
This is by far the most interesting game of the weekend in my opinion.
Ultimately, I think the huge showdown between the Cowboys and Packers will take place next week at Lambeau Field.
Dallas 27 Detroit 17