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