Op-Ed: NFL Playoff Picture

Posted Jan 4, 2010 by Michael Bearak
The playoff pairings are set for the NFL and based on the last two weeks of the season there is some level of intrigue as to how things are going to turn out.
First let's look at the AFC:
New York Jets vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The New York Jets at 9-7 are traveling to face the Cincinnati Bengals at 10-6, a repeat of Sunday January 3rd's game, which the Jets won 37-0. This game really didn't mean anything to the Bengals in that if they win they will have to go on the road, and being #3 or #4 really doesn't matter unless they win their first two games and have to go up against the #3 team. Still, being blown out in your final game is not the way to head into the playoffs. They showed no respect for the Jets, didn't show up to play and now in one week are going to be expected to turn it on again? This game is going to be tight, the weather should be cold but nicer than New York, which would allow the Jets to hang tight. Mark Sanchez is coming into his own and this game has the potential to be a major highlight in his very young career.
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
Patriots lost their last game of the regular season to the Houston Texans by a touchdown. The Ravens beat the mediocre Oakland Raiders by 8. Ravens needed the win, Patriots were silimar to the Bengals above #3 or #4, just get all our starters into the playoffs and healthy. Being #3 is nice if #1 and #2 get knocked out. Patriots win they go to San Diego. It is playoff time though the Patriots are tough. As with most years the Ravens have been slightly over-rated, Patriots survive for another day.
Indianapolis Colts
I realize that Payton Manning hasn't really played in weeks 16 or 17, but now he has a week off and is going to be expected to play top notch ball against either the Jets, who beat the Colts in week 16, Ravens or Bengals. None of which are going to be easy when your starters have hardly played in the 3 weeks leading up to the game. I don't know if I would look for an upset, but if the Jets get to Indianapolis, they just might be young enough and naive enough to not realize what they are possibly going to destroy.
San Diego Chargers
Who doesn't want to go to San Diego in the middle of January? If you don't you need your head examined. It won't matter who the Chargers play, they will get past their first game, although if you send out the Patriots it might just get interesting and that is the only team I see taking them down.
Now onto the NFC:
Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys
I can't stand the Eagles, just the same this is going to be the third time they have faced each other this year and the Cowboys took both games, including the season ending game in a shutout, 24-0. Honestly I had really expected Andy Reid to come out and beat the Cowboys today. Had the Eagles won this game would have been in Philadelphia instead of Dallas. I don't like the idea of a team being able to beat another three times in a season, in the NFL. Just the same the Eagles have to fly back to Philadelphia and then back to Dallas. Add in there that this is the first playoff game at the Cowboys' new stadium, Jerry Jones and the boys aren't going to be a pushover. There have to be questions when you are shutout for the Eagles. This won't be easy for the Cowboys, but they should squeak it out.
Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals
Don't expect the winner of this game to go very far. Unless Green Bay ends up against Minnesota in the second round, which would be interesting and again a 3rd match-up, I just don't see it happen. The Cardinals are going to get by Green Bay, not by much, but they are at home and that will be the difference.
Minnesota Vikings
This is probably the best team right now in the playoffs. The biggest question is Brett Favre and his 40 year old body, can it go another 4 games this season. They won their final game of the season trouncing the New York Giants, a week after dropping one to the Chicago Bears. They have the dome and they are playing very well right now. Figure they will get past whomever they face in two weeks.
New Orleans Saints
They are the opposite right now of the Vikings, they are on a three game skid and this week off might be the only thing that stops them from being dismissed in the first round of the playoffs. The sad part is they weren't trying to rest players and they were losing. The Saints were hot early on, but not any more. They will probably come out of their week off rusty which you just can't do in the playoffs. Their best bet is if they get the Packers for their first game, but I just don't see that happening. Whether they get the Eagles or the Cardinals the best thing going for them is that it will be a dome game. Even then the Packers play in Minnesota every year. The Saints of all the teams with a #1 or #2 seeding are most likely to bow out early. They are ripe and ready to be upset, sorry no big party in the Big Easy this year.
There you have it folks now we just have to sit back and wait and see how the playoffs and the Super Bowl turn out. One thing is for sure the first week, January 9th and 10th will be games you won't want to miss.