NFL Playoff Weekend Preview: Wild Card Sunday

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It’s playoff time in the NFL. Before we all get drunk let’s preview the games.

cowboys lions

Detroit Lions Vs Dallas Cowboys

AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX

The battle of the Big D’s. Of course Detroit, a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991, would draw Dallas in this game. Dallas is ablaze right now, an absolute offensive juggernaut. Not only do the Cowboys boast the leading rusher in the game, DeMarco Murray, who outpaced his nearest competitor by 500 yards, but quarterback Tony Romo is having an MVP type season. Romo and the ‘boys torched a lowly Washington squad in their final game of the season, scoring 44 points (most before halftime). And they scored 30 or more points in 11 of their 16 games. Romo has had a powerful year, passing for 34 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions and leading the seventh ranked offense in the nation. And that’s before we start talking about one of the most electrifying rushers in the game, Murray, who leads a rushing offense ranked second in the league and averages 147 yards per game.

However, Murray and the Cowboys running attack is going up against one of the best defenses in the league and the best rushing defense around. Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Lions defensive line smother runners, allowing only 69.3 yards per game. Their passing attack is almost as good, ranked 13 in the league. Overall the Lions only allow 300 yards per game and 17.6 points per game. Offensively the Liojns aren’t the most intimidating force, ranking 19th overall, 12th in passing, and a harrowing 28th in rushing (averaging only 88 yards per game with only 11 TD’s). Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford passed for his lowest total yardage since his injury year of 2010, but also tossed the fewest interceptions of his career this year. Statistically, Stafford’s number one target, wide receiver Calvin Johnson had his least productive year, catching less passes for less yards and less touchdowns than at any non-injury point in his career. Nonetheless, the Stafford to Megatron connection is still one of the most potent in the league, and one which should give Dallas’ 26th ranked passing defense an afternoon of headaches.

Prediction: The question mark with Dallas have always been less about statistics than about intangibles. Can Romo win the big one? Is Jerry Jones cursed? We’ll find out.But the same can be said about Stafford and the Lions. The Lions are the least productive franchise in the NFL, and have been a joke for a long time. Slowly but surely the team has clawed their way out of laughing stock into a spot of respectability and Stafford has pieces around him to succeed. This could be their year, and I’ll go ahead and pick Detroit, 16-14. After all, the last time the Lions won a playoff game they beat, who else? The Cowboys.

colts indy

Cincinnati Bengals Vs Indianapolis Colts

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN

Wow. Poor Cincy. Their beloved tiger striped team has been offered up as sacrificial lambs in the playoffs for the last couple of years and this year probably won’t be any different. Cincinnati is a middling team with a questionable quarterback going up against one of the most efficient offenses in the league. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is often as much of a liability for his team as a benefit. Dalton posted a QB rating of 83.5 this season and a whopping 17 interceptions. Cincinnati’s rushing offense, led by running back Jeremy Hill, who rushed for over 1,100 yards and nine TD’s, emerged this year as the sixth best in the league, while passing, which rests on Dalton’s rubber arm, remained mired in the low twenties. Combine this with a defense that ranked 20th in both passing and rushing and Cincinnati could be in for a long day.

Alternatively, Indianapolis’ hopes rest on the shoulders of the second coming: Andrew Luck. Anyone who watched Luck’s 28 point comeback in the first round of the playoffs last year against Kansas City. Luck passed for 443 yards in that game, and it was unbelievable. Somehow it seems irrelevant to note that Indy has the third best offense in this league, with only the 22nd ranked rushing attack. It also seems pointless to mention that the Colts have the eleventh ranked defense in the league. The only things that matter is that Luck posted career highest this year in passing yards (4,761), QB rating (96.5), and touchdowns (40). He’s going to win a Super Bowl at some point, the only question is: when?

Prediction: Colts 34-6 is what I predict as the outcome. But I really, really, really hope Cincinnati finds a way to play devil’s advocate and eek out a win.

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