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8th January 2010

NFL Talkboard: Talk about the wildcard weekend

Have your say on all the week’s upcoming games and post your predictions for the first round of the play-offs below the line

Welcome to this week’s NFL talkboard. For those of you who have stumbled upon it for the first time, this is the dedicated place on the sportblog where people can talk about American football.

As with last season, we will be carrying on our predictions game into the play-offs. Last year we treated this as a completely separate competition to the regular season Pick Six – with everyone starting on zero in the standings. I propose we do the same again. Then at the end we can always have a check on the “overall” standings by adding regular-season records to post-season ones.

In the meantime the regular-season winner is TommyCarcetti, who rather impressively picked six on the final weekend to move ahead of BobbyRobson at the top of the table. Props to DowFC, who also predicted all six games correctly. The final regular-season standings are at the bottom of this blog.

New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals

Wildcard weekend looks awfully like a repeat of last weekend for six of the eight teams involved, and the Bengals will remember all too well that last week they were on the receiving end of a 37-0 pasting from the Jets. That result isn’t to be taken too seriously, given that the Bengals had nothing, and the Jets everything, to play for, but New York will fancy their chances after finishing the season with the league’s top-ranked defence.

They also happen to have the league’s best rushing offence, a recipe that would make them a serious Super Bowl contender were it not for the fact they also have the rookie Mark Sanchez at quarterback. Cincinnati will be a lot better with defensive tackle Domata Peko and end Robert Geathers back in the line-up, as well as Cedric Benson at running back. It’s going to be close, and I would be surprised if either team manages more than 20 points, but I’ll go with …

Jets to win

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

The impact of losing Wes Welker cannot be overstated for the Patriots. Welker led the league in receptions – his total of 123 catches was 14 clear of his closest rival, Steve Smith – and was second in the league for receiving yards. New England may still have their home run hitter in Randy Moss, but Welker is the man who has kept them ticking along all season, the man Tom Brady looks to in a bind, the glue that holds it all together.

Without him the Patriots will not win it all, but that is not to say they can’t beat a Ravens team who haven’t been that impressive at any point this season and who have repeatedly contrived to shoot themselves the foot, giving up a league-leading 1,094 yards on penalties. New England don’t have a great pass rush, but I still wouldn’t back Joe Flacco to put up great numbers against their defence, so much will rest on how well the Patriots can stop the run. They allowed 116 yards on 17 carries during a 27-21 win over the Ravens back in week four, but I think they’ll do a better job this time around.

Patriots to win

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

Of the three repeat match-ups, this is the only one that was played out at full intensity last weekend. Knowing that a win would give them home-field advantage, the Cowboys thumped the Eagles 24-0 and while I don’t think the scoreline will be as lopsided this time it’s hard to see Philadelphia winning after seeing their offence so comprehensively shut down. The Eagles have long been over-reliant on the big play, and Dallas’s secondary seem to have a pretty good handle on how to force Donovan McNabb to keep checking down to his underneath receivers. With head coach Andy Reid neglecting the running game as much as ever, McNabb is not consistent enough to win that way.

Cowboys to win

Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals

Like the Jets-Bengals game, this one was a blow-out last weekend, but can be expected to play out very differently this time around. The Cardinals pulled their starters early in a 33-7 defeat, yet still lost their cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a knee contusion – on the third play of the game – and receiver Anquan Boldin to a combination of an ankle sprain and sprained cruciate ligaments. Boldin would be missed if he can’t play on Sunday but Arizona are deep at receiver and could cope. Rodgers-Cromartie, however, has been the team’s top cover man this year, and would be a massive loss against a team as pass-happy as the Pack.

Green Bay have momentum behind them after going 7-1 in the second half of the season – a stretch during which they have worked out how to keep Aaron Rodgers upright. The Packers gave up a league-leading 51 sacks in the regular season, but only seven in the last six games and a big part of that is because Rodgers has finally started releasing the ball quicker. This should turn into a shoot-out between him and Kurt Warner, and, with Rodgers-Cromartie out, I’d give Rodgers the edge.

Packers to win

Final regular-season standings

Full standings, as always, can be found in the comments section of last week’s blog

1st TommyCarcetti – 65 correct picks

2nd RobbyBobson – 62

3rd Percinho – 60

4th skipperD – 56

5th kennbry – 54

6th donwendyagain, grafhamboy, participationworks – 53

9th ECFC, tompll – 52 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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