Friday, January 2, 2009

Cohen's Wild Card Weekend

2009 is now here and so is the NFL postseason. It doesn't matter how the 12 survivors for the run at the Lombardi Trophy got to this point, they are here. Unlike past years where the Patriots and Colts dominated the AFC, the conference is wide open in 2008-2009. The Patriots are not in the postseason, in their place is the suprising Miami Dolphins led by rookie coach Tony Sparano and Jets cast away Chad Pennington. Pennington was named Comeback Player of the Year and came in second in the MVP voting this year. He deserves it. After being kicked to the curb by the New York Jets, Pennington took a 1-15 Miami team and made them into division champs.

The Colts are still in the postseason, but as a wild card. The Tennessee Titans have made it to the playoffs as AFC South champs with very little in the way of offense, and a punishing defense.

Meanwhile, in the NFC, the defending champion New York Giants are still the best in the conference. They own 12 wins, and the number one seed. If there is any concerns for Big Blue it is the fact that they have lost three of the final four games. Outside of New York, there is nothing but suprisies in the NFC. The Cardinals, Falcons, Vikings, Eagles, and Panthers all missed out on the playoffs last season, with Atlanta and Arizona proving to be the biggest suprises of all.

FALCONS (11-5) @ CARDINALS (9-7): Don't change your set's tomorrow, that is the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Caridnals in a playoff game. That's right playoffs! The Falcons made it with the spectacular play of running back Michael Turner, who was second in the NFL in rushing with 1,699 yards, and the suprising play of rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons can score points, and that is a huge concern for a Cardinals defense that is not that good, they gave up 56 points to the Jets in September and 47points to the Patriots before Christmas.

That being said, the Cards can score at will themselves. Kirt Warner has revitalized his career in the desert throwing for 4,583 yards and 30 touchdowns. It helps when Warner has two dynamic receivers to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Bolden. Like Issac Bruce and Tory Holt during Warner's days with the St. Louis Rams, Fitzgerald and Bolden are both going to the pro bowl. Fitzgerald was second in the league in receiveing, and if it were not for an injury Bolden would have been in the top five as well. These two stretch the field and are enormously difficult to cover for any defense, becuse you can't put double coverage on both. Expect to see a lot of offense in this game, and expect the Cardinals with a more veteran ball club come away with the victory. PICK: CARDINALS 34, FALCONS 27.

COLTS (12-4) @ CHARGERS (8-8): Talk about high scoring, this should fit the bill. Even though Peyton Manning won the MVP award, after coming back with a vengance from his late summer knee surgery, Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers may have been more deserving of the award. Rivers had the best quarterback rating in the NFL with a 105.5 rating, and lead the league in touchdowns with 34. Rivers was front and center in San Diego's late season comeback to capture the division.

Still there are concerns for San Diego. Not only are they an 8-8 team, that has already lost to the Colts this season, LaDaninan Tomlinson is hurt once again, but is expected to play in this game. The Chargers will need Tomlinson to play, and can ill afford a replay of last year's AFC title game, where Tomlinson missed the entire game due to a leg injury.

The last three times these two have played the games have come down to the wire. In 2007, Adam Vinateri missed a game-winning field goal that gave the Chargers a 23-21 victory. In the playoffs last season, San Diego shocked the world as they stomped all over the Colts in Indianapolis. This year, the Colts found a beat the Chargers, as Vinateri got some vindication as he nailed a game winning field goal with :04 seconds to go to give the Colts a 23-20 win. Expect this one to go down to the wire once again: PICK COLTS 27, CHARGERS 24.


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