The NFL had thrown up a few surprises for us this season; and as we head in to the playoffs, The Daily Shift’s Joel Slattery gives us the breakdown of the upcoming wildcard round…
This weekend sees the start of the NFL playoffs as the road to Louisiana begins to take shape. Thirty-two teams have been whittled down to just a dozen over the last 17 weeks. Defending champions the New York Giants, however, are not one of those teams falling behind the Washington Redskins in the NFC East and not earning a wildcard spot.
Those NFC wildcard spots went to the Seattle Seahawks (11-5), who ended the season with five straight wins, and the Adrian Peterson inspired Minnesota Vikings (10-6) who won four on the bounce to cap off the regular season.
The Vikings this week are up against the Green Bay Packers, who they beat last Sunday. However, this time they face the daunting task of playing the packers in Lambeau Field. QB Aaron Rodgers threw for over 4,000 yards in the regular season for Green Bay. If he can continue in such form the Packers should avenge last weeks defeat. If they are to win however, they must stop the Vikings running back Peterson – something they couldn’t do last week.
The Seahawks know their impressive late season form will count for little if do don’t beat the Washington Redskins in the capital. This tie is all about the two rookie quarter-backs – Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. There was little to choose between the two all season (Griffin threw 3,200 yards, Wilson 3,118) however how they deal with the pressure of the playoffs will be key. Despite the attention of the QB it is important to note that these are two of the top three rushing teams in the league so expect both teams to work the ground game in this one.
The winners of these games go on to the divisional round to play San Francisco and Atlanta who, as the top two seeds, have byes past the Wildcard Round.
In the AFC the Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) and the Indianapolis Colts (11-5) both have to travel on Wildcard Weekend. The Bengals go to the Houston Texans, who really should have secured a bye but lost three of their last five games. The Colts meanwhile go to Maryland to play the Baltimore Ravens.
The Bengals, like most wildcard teams, ended the season well and had fantastic wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 16 and the Baltimore Ravens in week 17. The Bengals defence are ranked sixth in the league and will look to choke out the Texans offence, which were seventh best in the NFL. The Texans will look to Arian Foster on offence and the beast that is JJ Watt on defence to help the number three seeds progress to the next round.
The story of the 2012 Colts team has been amazing to say the very least. They have gone from being the worst team in the NFL to making the playoffs in just one season. Add onto that a rookie quarterback and a coach with a life threatening illness and the story becomes heroic. Last Sunday, coach Chuck Pagano took to the sideline for the first time since being diagnosed with leukaemia. They go to Baltimore to face the Ravens in what could be Ray Lewis’ last ever NFL game. The legendary linebacker announced this week that he is going to retire from football at the end of the season. In a game with so many subplots the action in the tie of the weekend kicks off at 6pm Irish time on Sunday.
The New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos will have to wait until next week to get their post season under way.
NFL Wildcard Round and start times (Irish time) All games on Sky Sports
Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans – Saturday 9:30pm
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers – Saturday 1:30am
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens – Sunday 6pm
Seattle Seahawks @ Washinton Redskins – Sunday 9:30pm