Wild Card Matchups:
New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) -
Cedric Benson is back and ready to rock and roll for the Bengals who are looking for their first playoff win in over a decade. The Bengals are 6-1 this season when Benson leads the game in rushing yards, so look for the Bengals to force the issue with the run to also help create opportunities for play-action passes. I like the Jets defense, but after the effort they put in last weekend I do not think they will be able to shutdown the Bengals offense and have a repeat performance. That being said, if Mark Sanchez can play smart football and handle the pressure that the Bengals will force all game, the Jets have a very good chance to win a low scoring game. I like the Bengals to rebound from last week and win a very physical game.
PREDICTION: Bengals 17 - Jets 13
Philadelphia Eagles (+4) @ Dallas Cowboys -
Give Andy Reid three chances against any team in the NFL and I would feel very confident to bet that he would win at least one of the three games. Well, he is up to number three this weekend and it's his last shot against Dallas. I love the Eagles this week in the big D. I do not expect Dallas to play with as much passion and energy as they did last weekend, and I surely do not expect the Cowboys secondary to shut down DeSean Jackson for the third time this season. If the Eagles put constant pressure on Romo and can limit the success of the Dallas ground attack they will have a tremendous opportunity to win this game. The Eagles are 7-0 under Andy Reid in first round playoff games and I believe this will be the 8th win for Big Red and the Eagles will move on to round 2.
PREDICTION: Eagles 31 - Cowboys 24
Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ New England Patriots -
The Patriots haven't lost a home playoff game since 1975, but I think that changes this year. The loss of Wes Welker will prove to be too much to overcome and Randy Moss will be double covered the entire game. The key to this game for the Ravens to win is the 1-2-3 punch of their running game with Rice, McGahee, and McLain. If the Ravens pound the Patriots defense with the run, then the play-action passes and screens will play dividends against a vulnerable Patriots defense. If the Ravens are able to have success running the ball and if the defense shuts down Moss and puts pressure on Brady, the Patriots will be packing it in early this year.
PREDICTION: Ravens 27 - Patriots 20
Green Bay Packers (-1) @ Arizona Cardinals -
The Cardinals are banged up; Boldin will be limited, and Rodgers-Cromartie and Rolle will play through the pain. The Packers are hot; winning 7 of the last 8 and coming off a huge win against the Cardinals last week. Jermichael Finley will be the difference maker for the Packers as he has caused havoc for opposing defenses all season, and the Cardinals do not cover tight-ends well. Not to be forgotten is the red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the 4 wide receivers that he targets (Driver, Jennings, Jones, and Nelson). This Green Bay team reminds me a lot of the Cardinals of last season and that should be very scary news for all Cardinals fans. Larry Fitzgerald will have to have a huge game and the Cardinals must run the ball effectively in order to get the win.
PREDICTION: Packers 31 - Cardinals 27