NFC Wild Card Round Preview

Usually the AFC is the main course of the first round of the playoffs with the NFC having a laugher thrown in there, usually with the NFC West involved.  The 49ers put an end to that and left us with two good match-ups this weekend.  Here’s my preview:

Detroit Lions (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3), Saturday, Jan. 7, 8:00 PM, NBC

Brees hopes to add a Super Bowl title to his historic season

The Lions have not been to the playoffs since 1999.  They face a tall task in their first appearance back as they must go up against the team with the best record playing in the round, the New Orleans Saints.  The Lions had a chance to play out of this game if they had beaten the Packers and their back-up quarterback Matt Flynn last weekend.  Instead they lost by a score of 45-41 and Flynn threw for 480 yards and 6 TDs.  Imagine what an offense led by Drew Brees can do to their pass defense?  The Saints offense obviously matches up well with the Lions defense.  They have so many weapons to account for – Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Darren Sproles – how can Detroit possibly account for all of them.  On defense the Lions rely on their front 7 led by star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is very active in the middle.  Their secondary is the weak spot of their defense and that obviously does not bode well for the Lions in their match-up against the Saints offense.  Offensively the Lions are explosive themselves with quarterback Matthew Stafford and all-world receiver Calvin Johnson.  Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, and Tony Scheffler add some horizontal threats to Johnson’s vertical threat.  The Saints are not much better than the Lions against the pass.  They are better in the front 7 with Jonathan Vilma and Sedrick Ellis manning the middle of the field.  Jabrari Greer and Tracy Porter are opportunistic corners and will take advantage of mistakes if Stafford makes them.  These two teams are both tougher against the run but obviously the others offense doesn’t rely on the running game as much as the pass.  The question will be can the Lions offense keep up with the Saints?  When it’s all said and done I think the Saints will pull away from the Lions but not before the Lions light up the scoreboard a little bit themselves.  The Saints will use the home field advantage to create some turnovers that will be the difference in a Saints win.

Prediction – New Orleans Saints 45, Detroit Lions 31

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at New York Giants (9-7), Sunday, Jan. 8th, 1:00 PM, FOX

Gonzalez is searching for the 1st playoff win in his long career

This might be the best game of the week and it might end up the closest.  The Giants could be one of the better teams in the league when they put their minds to it.  The Falcons will be desperate for a win.  Matt Ryan would love to shake the stigma that he is not a postseason quarterback and Tony Gonzalez would love to win at least one playoff game in his Hall of Fame career.  Eli Manning has done it before and he leads an offense that is explosive when healthy.  UMass product Victor Cruz has been a revelation for the Giants offense and Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham make great compliments when healthy.  The running game is key for the Giants as they need to get the trio of Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward off and running.  Atlanta is another defensive disappointment.  Defensive end John Abraham can still get to the quarterback.  Cornerback Dunta Robinson is a punishing and sometimes dirty hitter.  If they let Manning sit back in the pocket it could make for a long day for the Falcons defense.  On offense Matty Ice and Gonzalez will look to win their first playoff game.  Their best player on offense is Michael Turner who may be the most underrated running back in the league.  Roddy White and Julio Jones can both stretch the field but both are prone to drops.  Defensively the Giants are all about the pass rush.  They are weak at LB and incredibly weak at cornerback.  It’s up to the guys up front, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Jason Pierre-Paul.  That trio can give opposing quarterbacks nightmares.  Their linebackers have suffered injuries but they get outside linebacker Michael Boley back for this game.  Him and Mathias Kiwanuka give them a good duo of outside linebackers.  Cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Corey Webster are underachievers but they will get plenty of help over the top from safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle.  The key though will be stopping Turner.  If he has a big day that will open things up for Ryan and the Falcons’ passing game.  I don’t think this will be much of a defensive game so again turnovers and quarterback pressure will be key.  I like the Giants pass rush more and they’ll have the hometown crowd behind them in the first playoff game at the new stadium.  I say the Giants take this one by a touchdown.

Prediction – New York Giants 31, Atlanta Falcons 24

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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