The Playoffs- Divisional Round- Predictions

Remember last week when Jamie and David told you exactly how the playoffs were going to go? Yeah, about that….. Jamie hit 2 out of 4 (Ravens and Packers) whilst David hit just 1(Ravens). Andy was in another country, unaware of even what games were happening so he gets no points. So this week, rather than looking all the way into the future, here are our predictions for this weeks games.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

David: Steelers

Jamie: Steelers

Andy: Ravens

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons

David: Falcons

Jamie: Packers

Andy: Packers

Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears

David: Bears

Jamie: Seahawks (Once bitten….)

Andy: Bears

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

David: Patriots

Jamie: Patriots

Andy: Patriots

So there you have it folks, once again we are ready and prepared to look very foolish come monday morning. Until then be sure to check out our live coverage on twitter (@UKNFL) and stick you predictions for the weekend below.

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Divisional Playoffs – NFC Preview (Part Two)

 

Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears

 

Sunday. 6pm.

The Seahawks. The Seattle Seahawks. They beat the Saints. The Superbowl-winning, Lombardi-lifting Saints.

 
In case you thought you were completely delirious at around midnight last Saturday, yes, this did actually happen. The Seahawks became the only home team to win on wild-card weekend, and advance with steamroller-esque momentum to a match up with the NFC North-winning Chicago Bears.
The annual debate regarding who-and-who shouldn’t make their way to the playoffs reared its less-than-pretty head once again before the Seahawks’ match-up with the champs, as a lowly 7-9 record was enough to get them to the postseason. This was all forgotten by the time Marshawn Lynch romped, bundled and crotch-grabbed his way to the endzone at the end of a 67-yard touchdown game to win the game and cement Seattle’s status as a real, and dangerous, playoff side. Matt Hasselbeck has been here before (and not just here, to the big one too), Lynch has turned his switch to ‘beast mode’ and Seattle aren’t completely adverse to turning on a decent pass rush too.

 
However, to go any further in this fairytale of a playoff campaign, the Seahawks will have to overcome a Chicago Bears side that few gave any chance of leaving the NFC North last September. But the Packers faltered, the Vikings had to deal with everything that came with employing Brett Favre, and the Lions were, well, the Lions (albeit enjoying a better campaign than usual). All of this gave the Bears a leg-up in topping the division, but Jay Cutler’s side ground out victory after victory to help get the other leg over. The Bears, usually pass-heavy, have become more neutral in the latter weeks of the season, with Matt Forte becoming more prominent in the Chicago offense, whilst Brian Urlacher has enjoyed a superb season in leading the Bears in tackles, and will reveal his true importance in fending off Marshawn Lynch come Sunday.

 
Players To Watch

 
If one moment thrilled NFL-watchers last weekend, it was the afore-mentioned, ridiculously enormous, touchdown run by Seattle Seahawks running-back Marshawn Lynch. The 4th-season rusher has shared such duties throughout the season with Justin Forsett, and in doing so has only gained a modest 573 yards, gaining only 3.5 yards per carry. Lynch, however, has the quick feet and sharp change of direction combined with the strength captured in last week’s game-winning touchdown to trouble the Bears from all sides. Laying such a gauntlet last week has also forced the Bears to take serious notice of the ‘Hawks running game, freeing more time for Hasselbeck to consider his preferred options through the air. If nothing else, a spanner has been thrown in the works of Chicago’s preparation, and this alone may make Lynch compulsive viewing on Sunday evening.

 
Quarterback Jay Cutler is not everybody’s cup of tea. He’s relatively arrogant by trade (his arm is ‘stronger than John Elway’s’, doncha know?) but if he beats Elway for his arm, he doesn’t touch him in terms of PR skills. He also enjoyed what might be called ‘a Cutler’ in October’s defeat to the Seahawks, completing 17 of 39 passes and ended up on the floor six times, once in the endzone for a safety. However, this is a different Jay Cutler. The Cutler of October was concussed from a week of nine sacks against a brutal Giants defense the week previous, and with a clear head in a home game against an underdog team in his first playoff game, the 5th-season QB will look forward to impressing. He doesn’t have a shining receiver to throw to, but more a collection of hard-working WRs in the mould of Johnny Knox who could provide the key to the Bears going to the Championship game next Sunday.

Prediction

 
The Seahawks defeated the Bears during the regular season in a 23-20 victory, but beating an injury-ravaged side in Week 6 means little at this stage of the season. If Cutler can perform without being rattled in his first postseason game, the Bears will eek out a win in the same way they have all season. However, if the Bears don’t grab on to Marshawn Lynch, and somewhat Matt Hasselbeck, they could see their postseason go the same way as the Saints did last weekend. I’ll take the Bears by seven, but with the Seahawks the joker in the pack of the entire season so far, this could go either way.

David Dickson.

Divisional Playoffs – AFC Preview

And so, the AFC Divisional games come down to, quite aptly, 2 big division rivalries. Both for the 3rd time this year, the Jets face the Patriots, while the Ravens head to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.  Throw out any previous numbers or predictions – its the playoffs, its personal, it’s going to grit-your-teeth tight. Buckle up for what could be another couple of hugely entertaining games.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Saturday 15th, 9:30pm

“I hate playing the Ravens.”

You can’t blame Big Ben Roethlisberger for feeling this way. The Ravens have always been one of those hard nosed defences that QB’s hate to go against. Their defence is dangerous at all 3 levels – D-Line, linebackers & secondary. One ray of hope that Roethlisberger may be clinging to is that there is a chance Ed Reed, the Ravens pick-machine Free Safety, misses this game for personal reasons.

Baltimore arent exactly slouches on the other side of the ball though. While perhaps not explosive, they can certainly put points on the board, and with big time play makers like Ray Rice & Anquan Boldin you can’t simply say they’re a one dimensional team.

Pittsburgh are a team made in the same mold. Their defence is mighty. Their offence compliments the D well enough to win games. Lots of games. Like the Ravens, they have some solid playmakers on the attacking side of the ball, Rashard Mendenhall (1273 rush yards) & Mike Wallace (1257 receiving yards) can feasibly score from anywhere on the field, and you cant take anything away from Big Ben either, especially at this point in the season – He’s won 2 superbowls already, don’t forget.

Despite this, both defences are good enough to stop the offences they are facing. As such, this game is undoubtedly going to be won in the trenches. This one could get nasty.

Ones to watch

Ray Lewis. The 15 year veteran linebacker is quite simply the heartbeat of the Ravens. There are few in the league who match his intensity on the field, and he backs up his talk with consistent play. He’s also one to step up his game in the playoffs. If you’re one of those who finds it difficult to get excited by defensive play, keep an eye on #52. It’s hard not to be fired up by his energy, even through the TV.

Staying on the defensive side of the ball, there may not be a player in the leage who polarises his team as much as Troy Polamalu does for the Steelers. He anticipates the game so well, and it’s for that reason that he is so often able to come up with those game-changing plays – picks, forced fumbles, sacks, etc. You can expect him to leave this game with at least one big number on his stat line. Big Ben may hate playing the Ravens, but I cant imagine Joe Flacco enjoys it too much either when he looks up and see’s Troy lurking.

Prediction

It’s not going to be high scoring. Despite 2 decent offences, it will likely be a defence dominated game. Pittsburgh will be fresher, Baltimore have some good momentum. In truth I think the Steelers are the better team, but I’m going with the Ravens on this one. Not by much though. Baltimore by three.

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

Sunday 16th, 9:30pm

If you’ve been paying attention to the media coverage of this game, you’ll have seen some cracking trash talk. Rex Ryan is always good for it, claiming that this game is all about Rex Ryan vs Bill Belichick and calling out Tom Brady for having poor work ethic (comparatively to Peyton Manning). Pretty bold for a man who’s team was beaten 45-3 last time these teams faced off. Still, you have to love it. Even Antonio Cromartie got in on the action: “Tom Brady? He’s an asshole, f*** him.”

Fun though it is, in reality the Jets have a huge task on there hand if they want to make it to the championship game. The Patriots are undoubtedly the favourites for the Superbowl, and they are playing wonderful football. Brady has had a magnificent season – 3900 yards, 36 TD’s and only 4 INTs. Thats about as close to perfection as it gets in the NFL, and he has this very youthful team working with such efficiency it looks like you’re watching veterans.

The Jets are also a very good team. On paper, they’re probably better than the Patriots at most positions (excluding QB), and I wouldn’t expect a repeat of that week 13 thrashing. They’re going to need all they’ve got to win it though, and I expect the deciding factor will be if Mark Sanchez is in the mood to put up points. We’ve seen a few times this season the Jets offence simply not clicking – Only 9 points against Baltimore, none against the Packers and 6 against Miami. That wont fly against New England, and despite having one of the best defences in the league, I think they’re going to need to put 30 points on the board to upset the Patriots.

Ones to Watch

LaDanian Tomlinson is a vastly experienced back, and has enjoyed a solid return to form with the Jets this year, however, it is his backfield partner, Shonn Greene that could be the game changer in this one. He didn’t put up huge numbers in the regular season while sharing carries with LT, but he exploded in the playoffs last year, and I can see him doing the same again.

For the Patriots, I’m going to be a little more obvious. If you can get past the hair, watching Tom Brady play quarterback is like watching a surgeon at work. He’s made so few errors this season and I expect that form to continue here. Like him or not, you have to appreciate he’s one of the best to play the game and a certain future Hall of Famer. Sit back and enjoy him at work.

Prediction

As I mentioned, the Jets are going to have to be faultless to get by the Patriots in this game. I don’t think they will be. I can see this one getting really personal, and though I think it’ll be quite high scoring (relatively to Ravens – Steelers…), but ultimately Tom Brady will play better than Mark Sanchez. Patriots by 10.

Andy Stuart

Divisional Playoffs: NFC Preview (Part One)

 

 

Are you nervous? Are you excited? Are you positively delirious?! It’s divisional weekend y’all! But before all that, what on EARTH happened last weekend?! Only one home team victorious, both Superbowl-contenders eliminated, one of which by a team with a losing record in the regular season. This all left the so-called experts at Any Given Sunday (Night) red-faced with their predictions for the playoffs laid beside them in tatters. So, with slight hesitation, here is part one of our preview for the NFC before this mouth-watering weekend of football…

 

 

Packers @ Falcons


Saturday 15th – 1am.

 

Proverbial arse-kicker in his own backyard, Matt Ryan, faces off in a home game against a Packers side who grew a third dimension on wild-card weekend in discovering a running game, of all things. When these two teams met in November, the Falcons ran out 20-17 winners with a last-minute field goal in a game that the Packers shone in statistically. The Falcons have had a week off, and will arrive at the Georgia Dome reminding themselves that they are 7-1 in their home stadium, whilst Green Bay will be buzzing from eliminating a promising Philadelphia Eagles side with a 21-16 victory last weekend.

 

Firstly, the victor here will certainly fancy their chances at going to the Superbowl at the expense of the Bears/Seahawks, so if this didn’t mean enough already, Dallas in February will certainly be in their sights. Both teams have a superb array of talent at their disposal, with Pro-Bowlers littering the two sides. The Falcons have been consistent throughout the regular season, finishing 13-3 and rarely looking troubled, and interestingly enough, both NFC teams who defeated the Falcons this season have already been eliminated from the playoffs in the Saints and the Eagles. The Packers, meanwhile, have been topsy-turvy throughout, and almost looked out of the postseason altogether after consecutive defeats to the Lions and Patriots in weeks 14 and 15. But a commanding performance against playoff-rivals the Giants and a nail-biting victory over the Bears in the final week took them through to a wild-card match-up with the Eagles, who looked surprisingly lacklustre whilst going down at home at the Linc.

 

 

Ones To Watch

 

 

As mentioned previously, last Sunday will go down in history as the day the 2010 Green Bay Packers discovered how to run the ball. Throughout the regular season, only once did the Pack rush for over 100 yards in a game, and that included one 71-yard run as part of Brandon Jackson’s 115-yard day. In fact, they only ran over sixty yards on four occasions out of the sixteen match-ups. All of this meant very little when James Starks ran all over an unsuspecting Eagles last Sunday for a quite spectacular 123 yards in only his fourth appearance this campaign (during which he has two of the Packers’ top four rushing days). Whether his performance last Sunday was a result of poor Eagles defense or was just a complete fluke remains to be seen this Saturday night. Starks will not defeat the Falcons on his own (especially considering the Falcons have the 10th-best run defense in the league), but he will without a doubt add a third side to an offensive triangle of the exceptional Aaron Rodgers and his collection of highly-qualified wide receivers which could go a long way in helping the Pack leave the Georgia Dome victorious.

 

Completing the triangle is something the Falcons have no problem with at all. Pro-bowler Michael ‘The Burner’ Turner has been beating down defenses all season, and has 1371 yards complete with 12 touchdowns for his efforts. Fellow Hawaii-resident Roddy White has had another outstanding season with 1389 yards for ten TDs. However, the glue that holds all of this together is third-year quarterback Matt Ryan. He has a whole bundle of yards on the season (3705 in fact) despite having one helluva running back stood behind him, and twenty-eight touchdowns to go with it. On top of this, he just does NOT lose at home (well, not often at least) and has a quite extraordinary habit of winning games when going into the fourth quarter behind, with SIX already this season. The Packers are a powerful unit, without doubt, but if Ryan can avoid the interceptions (a minor blip on his 2011 campaign so far) then the Falcons have a massive, massive chance of going to the championship game.

 

Prediction

 

I do not even know where to start. The Falcons need to have the balls to believe that they really are better than the Packers, and there is no way better to do this than to race into an early lead at home. However, Matt Ryan is an expert at coming back in the fourth quarter, so maybe that is not even essential in itself. On paper, the Falcons home record plus a collection of excellent go-to guys make Atlanta favourites, but you can never write off a team with the talent of Aaron Rodgers who are absolutely buzzing right now. I predict Atlanta by three. In the last minute. But maybe the Packers. By twenty one. Because the NFL is absolutely crazy this year.

 

 

David Dickson.

The Playoffs – AFC Wildcards.

 

Ah, the AFC. Patriots, Colts or Steelers. Patriots, Colts or Steelers. That’s how it has been since the Raiders (albeit losing) Superbowl appearance of 2003, and we have to go back to 2001 to find the Ravens as the only team apart from the hallowed three above to win a Superbowl from the conference. With the Steelers and the Patriots already through to the divisional round of playoffs, we have to wonder what the point even is of the fabled ‘Wild Card Weekend’…

 
I’ll tell you why. Because the NFL is CRAZY this year. The Chiefs are in the playoffs! The Bears are in, and don’t even have to bother with a wildcard! The FALCONS are the NFC’s number one seed! We’ve gone absolutely bats**t mental this season in football, so anything can happen this weekend, and by golly it probably will. Therefore, this entire preview is probably going to be choc-a-bloc with absolute balderdash that won’t even take place, but roll with me, and ye shall discover what just could happen this weekend.

 
Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs.

 
Postseason experience takes on a wild, young and vocal side as the battle-hardened Ravens battle a Chiefs team who have dramatically turned their ball club around from last season to this. The Ravens have won three playoff games on the road in the past two seasons, and Joe Flacco has just got better and better since then, where as the Chiefs have the NFL’s best rushing attack, with a Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones one-two combo that regularly pummels opposition defenses on the ground.

 
Whilst the Chiefs team is short of postseason experience, their coordinators are not, in Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Weis’ guidance of quarterback Matt Cassel has been key throughout the season, and has led KC to an outstanding 7-1 home record, and one which they may revel in again at a noisy Arrowhead come Sunday afternoon.

 
The Ravens, however, are probably the most complete team in the NFL. They have a young quarterback in Joe Flacco who has become increasingly accustomed to the limelight, a fantastic rushing attack in Ray Rice (who stands at 1220 yards for the season) coupled with go-to receivers in Anquan Boldin and veteran Derrick Mason. What stands out, as always, is the Ravens physical tough offensive and defensive lines, coupled with a pick-happy secondary, led by ball-magnet Ed Reed.

 

Ones To Watch

 
Although Matt Cassel has been exceptionally efficient lately whilst also being able to rely on a simply awesome rushing attack, the Chiefs key player could be wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. On paper, Bowe’s season looks good enough, with fifteen touchdowns during the regular season. However, throw in the fact that fourteen of those touchdowns came in the first eleven games, and the Chiefs could have a problem. Considering Ed Reed is beaten up and Lardarius Webb is in poor form in the Ravens secondary, the Chiefs could be finding themselves in playoff wonderland should Bowe be able to turn it on again come Sunday. But that’s a big ‘if’ right now, and all eyes will be on Bowe’s connection with Cassel at Arrowhead Stadium, especially considering the Ravens will attempt to knock over the Chiefs’ running game with their extreme physicality.

 
Joe Flacco, once shaky rookie, now accustomed playoff-victor, is going to be the man to watch for the Ravens. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. At six foot nineteen, his height and bullet-esque arm have moulded Flacco into a all-conquering quarterback. But under pressure, he can waiver. The Bengals, surprisingly, have been the team to do so in weeks two and seventeen, and the Chiefs will look to learn from the Bengals at home against the Ravens.

 
Prediction

 
This game absolutely hinges on the Ravens bringing down the Chiefs running game. On the basis of them doing so, I’m going to plump for Baltimore by seven. However, if Cassel finally wakes up Dwayne Bowe after five long weeks of slumber, this could all change.

New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts

 
A game in which a team where everything rests on their quarterback plays a team where…everything rests on their quarterback. A re-match of the AFC Championship game from last year awaits us Brits on Saturday night at 1am, and one suspects that everything will not go quite as smoothly for the Colts this time around at Lucas Oil Stadium. But, then again, nothing really has for the Colts during this campaign…

 
The Colts are quite tremendously banged-up. Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, both tremendous targets to Peyton Manning, are out, whilst the list extends on and on from there. For a team so focused on their passing game, a lack of viable targets may harm Indianapolis significantly. However, the Jets aren’t coming into this game in such great shape either. LaDanian Tomlinson is running like a drunkard for a night bus, where as a defence that looked solid at the beginning of the season has become decidedly more shaky in recent weeks. The Jets will always try to bring the pressure against Manning on third down, and against such an accomplished quarterback in his home stadium, this could be risky.

 
Ones To Watch

 
Ahh. The easiest section of the entire season to complete. Who could we possibly watch for the Colts? Peyton God-Damn Manning has been portrayed as having some sort of bunk season for the Colts. Yet, a poor season for Peyton Manning happens to consist of 4700 passing yards, second only to yard-gobbler Drew Brees, and 66.3% completion rate, again only second to the Superbowl MVP. Manning is absolutely everything for the Colts. If he throws interceptions, the Colts go down. If he throws like he can, the Colts will breeze past the Jets like a breath of…fresh air that breezes past a Jet. Whether Manning can carry such a banged-up Colts side all the way to the championship is another matter, but against a Jets defense with severe question marks over it, if Manning performs, it’s a Colts victory.

 
Manning’s importance is mirrored in the Jets’ dependence on Mark Sanchez. Jets’ quarterback Sanchez has a severe habit of moving between the sublime and the ridiculous this season, from interception to eye-of-the-needle touchdown, and his exceptional significance this coming Saturday night should not be underestimated. He passed for two touchdowns in last season’s playoff match-up with the Colts, but with Indianapolis giving up practically an extra touchdown this season per game, Sanchez may see this as his moment to shine. However, if there’s a last-minute touchdown to be had, I would keep an eye out for last-minute touchdown-catcher-extraordinaire Santonio Holmes.

 
Prediction

 
On a personal level, I just can’t bring myself to bet against a Manning in the playoffs. The Jets have been impressive this season, but not impressive in recent weeks, and I believe Manning can just about carry the Colts past the Jets, if not past the rest of the AFC. However, it won’t be by much. I’ll take the Colts by three.

 
David Dickson.

UKNFL Tell YOU how the Playoffs will go…..

We all love the playoffs. But sometimes, when I’m watching them I wish I knew how people that run an NFL website think they’re going to go. Well at UKNFL know how you feel, AND YOU SHALL FEEL THAT WAY NO MORE.

Andy is away this week, but David and Jamie are here to guide you through how they think the next month or so is going to go. So without further ado, here goes-

David

NFC

Wildcard Round-

Saints beat Seahawks

Eagles beat Packers

Divisional Round-

Falcons beat Saints

Eagles beat Bears

NFC Championship-

Falcons beat Eagles

AFC

Wilcard Round-

Ravens beat Chiefs

Colts beat Jets

Divisional round-

Patriots beat Ravens

Steelers beat Colts

AFC Championship

Patriots beat Steelers

Superbowl

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS WIN


Jamie

NFC

Wildcard Round-

Saints beat Seahawks

Packers beat Eagles

Divisional Round-

Falcons beat Packers

Saints beat Bears

NFC Championship-

Saints beat Falcons
AFC

Wilcard Round-

Ravens beat Chiefs

Colts beat Jets

Divisional round-

Patriots beat Ravens

Steelers beat Colts

AFC Championship

Patriots beat Steelers

Superbowl

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS WIN

 

So there you go, we both agree on the ending, but with a different route there. Either way, it promises to be an exciting few weeks. Stay with UKNFL for all the coverage. In the comments below, why not stick what you think will happen, so that when you mock us in a months time, it won’t be purely in hindsight…….

The Playoffs- NFC Wildcards

The Passion of the White(hurst)

It’s Playoff Time! It’s RUDDY PLAYOFF TIME. The sleep is getting more deprived, the games more frantic and overtime more complicated. We at UKNFL are upping our coverage for the most important and exciting time of the NFL season with previews and live coverage of every game (as well as some pre-superbowl coverage FOR YOUR EARS), and here we’ll start by looking at the NFC wildcard games this weekend, with an AFC one to follow. (Just as a sidenote, I’ve written a less comprehensive preview of the weekend with some betting tips for Talking Sports here).

The two NFC games this weekend couldn’t come with more different expectations.

New Orleans @ Seattle

Surely, surely this game is no contest. A wilcard team playing a divisional champion. The Champion of one of the most competitive divisions playing the runner up in a division whose winner has looked certain for most of the season, like I said, no contest. I of course jest, despite being lower in the NFC seedings (and hence facing a trip to Seattle) the Saints have won 4 more regular season games (in a far tougher division) than the Seahawks and start this one as heavy favourites.

Despite a stuttering start to year, perhaps a product of the perennial ‘Superbowl Hangover’ (Copyright- Every lazy NFL journalist or writer) the Saints ended the season on fire and were only kept from the top of the NFC South by an astonishing season by the Atlanta Falcons. Drew Brees continues to lead a high-powered offense that has been bolstered this year by running back Chris Ivory, who took on a significant amount of the workload after injuries to Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. Unfortunately, Ivory and Thomas’s seasons are over following injuries so Heismann Trophy winner (though now stripped of his award) Reggie Bush will need to step up, and will be supported by Julius Jones. Their defense, explosive in it’s turnover-ability last year has taken on a more solid look this term and has stifled opposing offenses, relying less on the spectacular.

The Seahawks on the other hand only secured their playoff place with a turgid win over the St Louis Rams on Sunday night, which put them on top of the NFC Worst (West), becoming the only divisional champions in the league’s history with a losing record (7-9). Charlie Witehurst led the Rams to their weekend way but may be replaced at quarterback by expected starter and 3-time Pro-Bowler (and figure of South Park fun) Matt Hasselbeck. Their running game has struggled all season (putting up the second-least amount of yards in the league), and whilst the defense contained Sam Bradford and the Rams at the weekend, over the rest of the season they have only the 25th best De in terms of points conceded. In fact, only their special teams have stood out, with the side returning 3 kickoffs for touchdowns.

Ones to Watch

For the Saints, well, just about look at anyone on the offensive side on the ball. With a pair of explosive runners, a wide array of recievers they can hurt you in just about any way. The unit is spearheaded by Superbowl MVP Drew Brees, who, despite less impressive numbers than last year, continues to mature, and now has both the experience, and the ring, that a Superbowl win brings. He’s got so many options to hurt you with, it seems impossible to concieve the Seahawks controlling them all. The only way Seattle win this is by Brees having an off-day of the Seahawks finding some improbable way to shut him down.

In Seattle, the brightest spark for them this term has been kick returner and running Leon Washington. In one of the most spectacular performances of the season, Washington returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against the Chargers earlier this season for a total of 200 yards. He remains a threat to give Seattle good field position when he has the ball in his hands. Whilst he has lost all possibilities of carries to Lynch and Forrsett, his explosive nature in special teams means he is one to watch.

Prediction

I do not think it’s too strong to say that only a fool would bet against the Saints in this game, and I am no fool. The Saints look stronger in every department, despite crucial injuries in the running game,  and in reality this game may be over by halftime. Saints by 17.

Green Bay @ Philadelphia

This game looks far tighter to call. Both teams ended the regular season with 10-6 record but due to the Packers being in the same division as the impressive Chicago, and despite beating the Eagles in week 1, Green Bay find themselves as bottom seeds in the NFC, and facing a trip to the 3rd seeded Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles started the season with Kevin Kolb as starting QB, but after he was injured in an opening defeat to the Packers, the walking redemption-story Michael Vick came in, and despite a 3-week injury layoff, impressed enough to become the Eagles started. Vick mixes up some impressive deep passing (especially to rapid wide reciver DeSean Jackson) with the kind of speed that would send Wil E Coyote ACME anvil storehouse. Vick, combined with emerging running back Lesean McCoy, has created one of the most exciting and explosive offenses in the league, and, despite losing their last two regular season games, one that will be feared by all 12 teams still in the running. The Eagles weakness this season has been their defense which has only been the 21st in the league in terms of points, and is the worst in the Red-Zone.

Facing them will be a Packers unit with one of the most one-sided offenses in the league. Aaron Rodgers has continued to impress whilst stepping into Brett Favre’s shoes (in a strictly on-the-field sense) but have struggled to run the ball since the early-season injury of starting running back Ryan Grant. This despite the best efforts of full-back and UKNFL favourite John Kuhn, who aside from jumping over half of the league, has chipped in with some useful scores late in the season. Rodgers has carried the Packers, and with targets such as Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, it’s easy to see how this has been successful. The Pack have been even more impressive on the other side of the ball, conceding less points than anyone other than the Pittsburgh Steelers. Previous defensive MVP Charles Woodson has starred whilst contender for this years award Clay Matthews has caused opposing QBs problems all season.

Ones to Watch

For the Eagles, it may be obvious, but Michael Vick, has provided THE story of the NFL season. After serving a prison sentance for, erm, a dog-related crime (no, not THAT sort of dog related crime) Vick has exploded back in his first season as starter and provides such a varied threat that he’s a nightmare for opposing defensive co-ordinators. On one monday night against Washington Vick seemed to beat the team by himself through the air and on the ground and a similar show would dump the Pack out of the playoffs.

Looking to stop Vick, will be Clay Matthews. Aside from having the second best hair in the league (behind Tom ‘heart-throb’ Brady) the second-year linebacker has had a breakout season, gaining 13.5 sacks, as well making 60 tackles and forcing 3 fumbles. Offensive co-ordinators the league over need to come up with gameplans purely to deal with him and the matchup between him and Vick will be key to deciding the outcome of this game.

Prediction

This matchup is so close, both passing attacks are dangerous and whilst the Packers have the defensive edge, the Eagles can outrun them. Ultimately I think the Packers ability to deal with Vick will be crucial and will see them sneak home. Packers by 3.

Whilst the two games look contrasting, it promises to be an exciting weekend in the NFC Wildcards. Both games are well worth a watch and we’ll be covering them live on twitter- @UKNFL. Dave will be here soon with his preview of the AFC matchups.

Jamie Cutteridge