words_Brandon Richard

It’s ‘put up or shut up’ time in the NFL this weekend. After months of preparation, it all comes down to this. Eight teams will take the field this weekend for an opportunity to continue their quest to Super Bowl XLV. Match-ups include an AFC Championship Game redux, a re-match of a Week 1 game, an inaugural playoff meeting between two teams and an unlikely showdown between the defending champs and a team with a losing record. Here is our look at to Wildcard Weekend of the 2010 Playoffs.

NFL Playoff Preview: Wildcard Round - Jets vs. Colts

New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts

We get a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game in the opening round of this year’s playoffs. After the Colts staged a 17-0 shutout in the second half of last season’s title game, the two teams are locked in a game that Jets Coach Rex Ryan deems “personal.” Not hard to understand Ryan’s feelings, considering how much he’s struggled to figure out Manning throughout his career. Tracing back to his days as a defensive coordinator for the Ravens, Ryan’s teams are just 1-5 against the Colts, a trend he’d like to see end Saturday.

Let’s be completely honest though; these aren’t the same dominant Colts from the last decade. Manning has had what is perceived to be his worst season in years, while injuries have depleted the Colts on both sides of the ball. If there’s a chance to knock Manning off his block, this is the year. For New York, the injury report has to be a bit encouraging. After suffering with a sore shoulder toward the end of the season, quarterback Mark Sanchez says he is close to 100% heading into this game.

Though generally known as a defensive team, the Jets should be looking to attack a Colts defense that is giving up 5 more points per game than they did a year ago. Particularly on the ground, where New York is averaging close to 150 yards a contest. Of course, anytime a team has Peyton Manning, they’re probably going to have an advantage through the air. However, New York fields some of the best DBs in the NFL and Manning looked sketchy throwing against good defenses toward the end of the season. Look for the Indianapolis run defense and New York pass defense to have a significant impact on the outcome of this game.

NFL Playoff Preview: Wildcard Round - Ravens vs. Chiefs

Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs

These two teams will meet for the very first time in the playoffs on Sunday. While the Ravens were expected to be in this position heading into the season, Kansas City completed one of the biggest turnarounds in the league. Their postseason inexperience will prove to be a factor against a Ravens team loaded with veteran players, including a few who have a Super Bowl ring to their credit.

On paper, the Chiefs stack up against the Ravens pretty well. Matt Cassel has played every bit as well as Joe Flacco; Jamaal Charles was the league’s second ranked rusher; and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe led the league in touchdown receptions. The Chiefs also field one of the league’s better pass rushes, recording 38 sacks to Baltimore’s 27. The Ravens have also had some trouble protecting the quarterback this season, even allowing the Bengals to take Flacco down four times last weekend. Not that the Chiefs have looked any better in that department lately. Last week against the Raiders, Kansas City surrendered seven quarterback sacks. A duplicate performance like that against the vaunted Ravens defense can result in trouble for Cassel.

Baltimore has received some good news about a few key players that are dealing with injuries. Safety Ed Reed, who is recovering from a rib injury, is expected to play Sunday. Also cleared to play are tackle Michael Oher, wide receiver Derrick Mason and kick returner David Reed. Considering the similar offensive production and defensive mindset of both teams, field position and special teams looks to be a key factor in determining who advances.

NFL Playoff Preview: Wildcard Round – Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Back in Week 1 of the NFL season, the Green Bay Packers made the same trip to Philadelphia to take on Kevin Kolb and the Philadelphia Eagles. After Kolb was knocked out of the game at halftime with a concussion, Michael Vick was given the opportunity to save the day. Though his efforts fell short, Vick turned a few heads by looking a little like his former self. Since then, Vick has taken a permanent grasp on the starting gig in Philly, making himself a legit MVP candidate in the process. So, in a twist of irony, Green Bay has themselves to thank for needing a game plan to stop Vick this weekend.

As dangerous as Vick is, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is just as hard to contain. In addition to his cannon of an arm, Rodgers is actually a pretty good scrambler in his own right, racking up 5.6 yards a carry. Due to Green Bay’s lack of an effective run game, Rodgers’ ability to move and spread defenses will prove to be pivotal in the game.

When Vick and his weapons click, they’re incredibly difficult to stop. DeSean Jackson is probably the biggest ‘big play’ threat in the NFL, but LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin help put the Eagles’ offense over the top. However, Green Bay has some of the league’s best defensive playmakers and has the opportunity to contain Vick with the proper schemes. Linebacker Clay Matthews, who was responsible for the Kolb concussion, had three sacks in the first meeting between these two teams. Cornerback Charles Woodson is a dual-defensive threat, with the ability to make big plays in coverage and put a little pressure on Vick with the blitz. Like Week 1, whether or not these two defensive studs can come up with stops and turnovers may determine the outcome of the game.

NFL Playoff Preview: Wildcard Round – Saints vs. Seahawks

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks became the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a sub .500 record. Not only did they clinch a playoff berth, but they’ll be hosting Saturday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. On paper this game should be a cakewalk for New Orleans, but when you take factors like the raucous Seattle crowd and injuries into consideration, the match-up becomes a little more interesting.

Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been named the started for Saturday’s game. His play will prove to be pivotal, because the Seahawks have virtually no run game to speak for. If he is to find a connection with top target Mike Williams, he’ll have to do so against the Saints’ top 5 ranked pass defense.

Taking snaps on the other side of the field will be Drew Brees, who racked up 4,600 passing yards this season. With Pierre Thomas and leading rusher Chris Ivory placed on the Injured Reserve list, running duties belong to Reggie Bush and a committee of backup running backs that includes Julius Jones. The injury to Ivory, who averaged 5.2 yards a carry, will make the Saints a little more one-dimensional unless Bush is able to recapture the form of his playoff run from a year ago. However, with Seattle’s pass defense ranked near the bottom of the league, is forcing Drew Brees to throw to one of his many weapons any kind of advantage?

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