With both the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers both winning, the Sports Debaters have started with a perfect 2-0 record in our playoff predictions. Yesterday’s games were relatively easy to predict while today’s quality matchups are not so cut and dry. I have to admit that while the Packers and Vikings always provide entertaining games, the battles that are happening today are the teams we were really looking forward to watching. I mean out of the two games today there are THREE rookie Quarterbacks starting. That is absolutely unreal! Here are our previews and predictions for the Sunday’s NFL Wild Card games.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens: The first contest of today’s games features two completely different squads. The Colts enter the game as one of the youngest teams in the NFL, while the Ravens boast one of the oldest. Indianapolis’ turn around is nothing short of remarkable as they were the worst team in the the league last year. With the first pick of the draft the Colts chose the heavily sought-after Andrew Luck who they expected to help rebuild their once prominent franchise. Little did they know that he would be able to return them to glory in his rookie campaign. Andrew Luck is starting to look eerily similar to the last quality QB that led the Colts to the Super Bowl not to long ago. The Ravens seem to always be in the AFC Playoffs and their way of getting there is usually the same strategy…DEFENSE! Sunday will mark the last ever home game for arguably the greatest linebacker in NFL history, Ray Lewis. Lewis announced he was retiring after this year, so the Ravens would love nothing more then to reward the dominant force with his second Super Bowl win. We feel that this game is going to come down to how well the Ravens can manage the clock. For Baltimore to be successful, they must be able to ride Ray Rice the entire game. If Flacco is relied on too heavily then the Ravens will sputter. For the Colts to win, they must clamp down on the defensive end and make sure that Rice doesn’t eat them alive. Luck will be able to provide enough offense to give them a win so if the defense plays their part then the Colts will move on. All that being said, we feel that the greatest story in football this year, Chuck Pagano, will have lots of Luck on his side to upset the Ravens in Baltimore.
Prediction: Colts 27 – Ravens 23
Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Redskins: The second matchup on Sunday is without question the most intriguing Wild Card matchup in this year’s playoffs. Two of the most fascinating rookie QB’s in recent memory will face off in what should be a great NFC rivalry for year’s to come. The NFL Draft had the football world buzzing this past year with plenty of potential superstars, but one player that no one was talking about after the draft was the Seahawks Russell Wilson. In the offseason, Seattle went out on the Free Agent market and signed Matt Flynn to a big contract, so everyone thought that Wilson was being drafted to play the role of backup. A few months and a training camp later and Flynn found himself relegated back to his familiar spot on the bench while Russell Wilson proved that he shouldn’t have been overlooked by so many. Wilson plays with a poise that is rare to see in most veterans let alone a rookie who had to fight his way into the starting lineup. Benefiting from Wilson’s beautiful play is Marshawn Lynch who broke out with a career year and deserves way more recognition then he has been receiving. NYBobby and myself were talking about how sick Lynch has been these past few years yet he is never mentioned when people talk about the premiere backs in the NFL. Wilson and Lynch are going to have a hard time finding a grove as they will be playing in a Redskins stadium that hasn’t hosted a playoff game in 13 years. The Washington Redskins season has been quite a roller coaster as they started the season a dismal 3-6 and ended it with 7 straight wins to take the tough NFC East title. We feel that RG3 is the front runner for Rookie of the Year based solely on the fact that he completely redefined the QB position this season. He runs like a Pro Bowl back and throws like a Pro Bowl QB. He manages the clock like a seasoned veteran and he seems to be making everyone around him better. Along with RG3’s masterful play this season, we have witnessed the emergence of Alfred Morris, who looks like he will be a top back for many more years. The back and forth combination of Griffin and Morris has confused the hell out of every opponent in the second half of the season and we are expecting nothing less in this playoff matchup with Seattle. If the stadiums were reversed and the Seahawks had the advantage of their “12th man” then our prediction could have easily been swayed, but with the momentum that the Redskins have as well as Coach Mike Shanahan’s playoff resume, we feel that RG3 will escape this fun contest with his first ever playoff W.
Prediction: Redskins 21 – Seattle 16
Check in next week for our previews and predictions for next weeks playoff matchups and more!
Every year there seems to be one person that emerges from the NFL Draft and represents themselves as a dying franchises savior. This season, there is not only one player, but three, that have completely redefined and revamped franchises that seemed to be slowly deteriorating. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have all taken the reigns over their teams and not only improved them but they all turned them into potentially dangerous playoff teams. The great thing about these three superb athletes is that they have all taken a different approach to the new age NFL and made it look extremely easy to succeed in a league that players average only 3 years for an entire career. A lot of people say that it takes time to develop at the professional level, but when you are born with the God given talents that these three players possess, time is no longer a necessity.
Andrew Luck was the first overall pick of the NFL Draft. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts after they finished the season with a league worst 2-14 record. Luck was given the very unpleasant task of filling the shoes of arguably the greatest QB of all time, Peyton Manning. The last time the Colts had the #1 overall pick in the draft was when they took Manning 14 years ago. Manning showed signs of brilliance but the Colts still finished with a less than impressive 3-13 record in his rookie campaign. Luck on the other hand has taken the worst team in the NFL and turned them into a playoff bound 9-5 electrifying squad that has the 8th best passing attack in the league. Andrew set the NFL Rookie record for most passing yards in a single game by torching the Miami Dolphins for 433 earlier this season. More impressively, Luck has already passed the NFL Rookie record for most yards in a season (3,739) set by Manning back in 1998 by already accumulating 3,978 and he is on pace to break the all time rookie mark that Cam Newton set last year when he threw for 4,051. Luck has shown signs of some rookie jitters but all in all he has looked like a seasoned professional and has an unbelievably bright future ahead of him.
Luck Stats: Passing Yards 3,978, 308 completions, 20 Touchdowns passing and 5 Touchdowns rushing
The second overall pick of this past year’s NFL Draft was the Heisman Trophy winning Robert Griffin III. The man they can RG3 has taken the NFL by storm and has redefined how coaches will look at the Quarterback position. He runs as well as any running back (most rushing yards for a rookie QB 748 and counting), he throws as hard and accurate as any Quarterback and he manages a game as well as any coach. He plays the game at the pro level like he has been there for decades yet he has only started 13 games all season. He started the season working out the problems that led the Redskins to the NFL’s second worst record from a year ago and now has them sitting on top of the best division in football, the NFC East. Washington started slow with a 3-6 record, but the emergence and maturation of RG3 has led to the Skins reeling off 5 straight victories and now they have complete control over their own destiny. RG3 has impressed everyone and even though he suffered a little set back a couple of weeks ago when he injured his knee, he is still bound to have an NFL MVP award within a handful of years.
RG3 Stats: Passing Yards 2,902, Rushing Yards 748, 18 Passing Touchdowns to only 4 Interceptions, 6 Rushing TD’s, Best YPC in NFL 6.7
Rarely does the 75th overall pick of the NFL Draft make a big impact on his team in their rookie season, let alone lead them at the QB position to a playoff bound 9-5 record. That is exactly what Russel Wilson has done this season after stealing the starting QB position from the highly touted, waste of money signing, of the Green Bay Packers, Matt Flynn. In the preseason Wilson showed signs of a mobile QB that had the ability to sling the ball down field. He had great command for the game and was a perfect complement to the running attack that Pete Carroll, who I despise by the way, implemented with the ever-talented Marshawn Lynch. While Wilson’s stat line isn’t nearly as impressive as Luck’s or RG3’s, his game management and record sure as hell are. The Seahawks are known as a defensive reliant team yet Wilson has led his team to back to back games that have totaled more than 100 points combined. On top of that, with two games remaining in the season, Wilson has helped lead his team from a 7 win season a year ago to 9 already this year. While I don’t think Wilson will be able to steal the NFL Rookie of the Year away from Luck or RG3, I do feel that he will be a playoff QB for many more years.
Wilson’s Stats: 2,697 Passing Yards on 63% completion percentage, 402 Rushing Yards, 21 Passing Touchdowns
The NFL regular season is around the corner and teams are getting their rosters in order. It is never easy to succeed as a rookie in the NFL and it is even harder to do so as a Quarterback. Last season was proof that you really can rebuild a team around a rookie QB, as was evident with how Cam Newton took the football world by storm and brought the Carolina Panthers back to relevancy. As of noon this morning, 4 different teams have announced that they will be starting a rookie quarterback during week 1 of the NFL season. Andrew Luck (Colts), Robert Griffin III (Redskins), Brandon Weeden (Browns), and most recently Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) were all named opening day starters for their respective teams and all the pressures of the NFL world have been placed on their shoulders. A fifth rookie, Russell Wilson (Seahawks), is slated to start for the first time in Seattle’s third preseason game, but I feel that when the regular season roles around, the Seahawks Free Agent pickup, Matt Flynn, will be their starter. In this article, I will break down how each of the 4 starting rookies will pan out over their freshman season.
Never has the expression “big shoes to fill,” rang more true than it does for Andrew Luck and the man he is replacing. Former Indianapolis QB, Peyton Manning, is one of the best of all time and now Luck has the unfortunate privilege of following his legacy. Luck was drafted as the number 1 overall pick of the NFL draft and is off to a sizzling start to his first ever preseason. Just 2 games into the preseason and Luck already has a couple of passing touchdowns along with a rushing TD which definitely is not his forte. If you’re counting, that’s 3 more touchdowns than the entire Jets team this preseason. While he has already been picked off twice, the poise and comfort he shows on the field has been impressing everyone. With the former Stanford star player so well in preseason and at training camp, NFL analysts are picking his beneficiaries in the receiver positions as some of the better fantasy options for the new season. With Reggie Wayne looking healthy and determined to prove he can succeed without Peyton and Austin Collie trying to make the 2012-13 season a healthy and improved one, Luck has options to help him along the way. Andrew’s former college teammate, Tight End Coby Fleener, was also drafted by the Colts and is looking like he can be a formidable option for Luck to build stats off of. Luck’s got the size, skills and fortitude to succeed right away in this league and I think he will do just that.
Predicted Stats: 28 Touchdowns, 12 Interceptions, 3,600 Passing Yards
Robert Griffin III:
Unlike Luck, RG3 doesn’t have a predecessor that is even worth mentioning. What Griffin does have though is the comparison of last season’s break out rookie sensation Cam Newton weighing down on him. I have said from the get go that while Luck is without question the better prototypical QB between him and Griffin, I feel that RG3 will lead his team to more wins this season. RG3 not only won a Heisman Trophy with Baylor, he absolutely demolished all of their school’s records with his ridiculous athleticism. While Griffin is significantly faster than Newton, his lack of size can cause him some trouble at the professional level. The Washington Redskins coach, Mike Shanahan, seems to have the perfect offense for RG3 to excel in and since Griffin has a better arm than Newton does, expectations coming into this rookie campaign are uncomfortably high. Griffin has 3 great targets for him to choose from with veteran Santana Moss, free agent acquisition Pierre Garcon, and feisty Tight End Chris Cooley spreading the field. Since Shanahan still hasn’t confirmed who will be the staring tailback for the Skins this year, it’s feasible to think the RG3 can lead his team in rushing for the season. Having said that, I am a huge fan of Running Back Roy Helu, and I feel that this could be a breakout season for the second year man out of Nebraska. I think Luck will win rookie of the year but I don’t think he will run away with it because Griffin is going to have a brilliant freshman campaign as well.
Predicted Stats: 16 Passing Touchdowns, 10 Rushing Touchdowns, 14 Interceptions, 2,300 Passing Yards, 600 Rushing Yards
Weeden is probably the least known of the 4 quarterbacks I am talking about today but that doesn’t make him the worst…although in this case it’s arguable. I say that with respect because all four of these rookies are going to have above average season’s for newbies. Brandon is replacing Colt McCoy who just never really got his game to the level that we all expected him too. Weeden is taking over a team that has been in the gutter for most of their existence, so he is probably entering the season with the least pressure out of all the rookie QB’s. Weeden does have the luxury of being the second most important rookie on his team since the #3 overall pick, Trent Richardson, will be where all eyes are looking for the beginning of the season. Richardson will be Weeden’s get out of jail free card because all of the teams failures will most likely be pointed at Trent rather than Brandon. The Cleveland Browns have one of the worst Offensive lines in the NFL and Weeden will be under constant pressure. Richardson has great hands and since there really isn’t a quality receiving option other that Greg Little on the Browns, you can expect Trent to be Weeden’s go to guy. Unlike Luck and Griffin, Weeden will be replaced if he doesn’t show signs of progression early on in the season. McCoy remains on the team and will be the Browns starting QB if Weeden doesn’t find a way to make his offense work. If veteran Tight End, Benjamin Watson, can remain healthy throughout the year then he can help Brandon stack up yards on short plays over the middle. The Browns are going to be terrible once again but I feel Brandon Weeden will show signs of a quality QB in the making.
Predicted Stats: 18 Touchdowns, 13 Interceptions, 2,800 Passing Yards
With Matt Moore playing absolutely awful last season, the door was open for Ryan Tannehill to take over the QB role for the Fins. The Miami Dolphins have never started a rookie QB in week 1, but their new coach, Joe Philbin, thinks Tannehill is the man to break that streak. Not even Dan Marino or Bob Griese had to deal with those pressures, but the 6’4″ gunner out of Texas A&M is ready for the rodeo. Tannehill is the first Dolphin QB drafted in the opening round since they drafted Marino in 1983. Since 83′, the Dolphins have started more QB’s than any other team in the NFL (17). While Ryan is working with one of the better Offensive lines the NFL has to offer, he is without a real quality receiving option which will make his rookie campaign a tough one. It doesn’t help Tannehill that he plays in the AFC East where there are 3 of the better defenses coming at him 6 times a season. I think that Tannehill will have a favorite target in Anthony Fasano and the two of them will connect as one of the better QB-TE combinations in the league. While Reggie Bush is an amazing athlete in the backfield, his blocking is extremely below par and could cause Tannehill to taste a lot of dirt throughout the season. Miami will not be a winning team this season but I think that starting Tannehill behind center is a good step in the right direction.
Predicted Stats: 16 Touchdowns, 11 Interceptions, 2,900 Passing Yards
Even though I feel that all four of these rookies will become successful QB’s in the NFL, I do not feel that any of them will lead their respective teams to the playoffs this season. I love to watch rookies play in the spotlight and I will be following these four young guns throughout the year.