It's Wild Card weekend in the NFL, and there are four games over the next two days that will take place. Four teams will move on to the Divisional round and continue their dreams of the Super Bowl, while the other four teams will go home for another long offseason of work in an attempt to reach their goal.
On Saturday afternoon (4:35 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Arizona Cardinals (the NFC's fifth seed) take on the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers (the NFC's fourth seed). On Saturday night (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC), the Baltimore Ravens (the AFC's sixth seed) will take on the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers (the AFC's third seed). Then on Sunday afternoon (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS), the Cincinnati Bengals (the AFC's fifth seed) face the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts (the AFC's fourth seed). Finally, later on Sunday afternoon (4:40 p.m. ET, FOX), the Detroit Lions (the NFC's sixth seed) will face the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys (the NFC's third seed).
In each round of the playoffs, members of Stampede Blue's writing and editorial staff will give their picks for that weekend's games, and we get it started with the Wild Card matchups.
|Josh Wilson||Matt Grecco||Stephen Reed||Andrew Aziz||Ben Lamers|
|Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers||Panthers||Panthers||Panthers||Panthers||Cardinals|
|Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers||Steelers||Ravens||Ravens||Ravens|
|Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts||Colts||Colts||Colts||Colts||Colts|
|Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys||Cowboys||Cowboys||Cowboys||Cowboys|
Some of our writers were also kind enough to write up a summary of each of their predictions and give their projected scores, which you can find below:
Josh Wilson's Predictions:
Panthers 27, Cardinals 20
Steelers 30, Ravens 24
Colts 24, Bengals 20
Cowboys 30, Lions 21
Josh previewed the matchup between the Colts and the Bengals, which you can read here.
Matt Grecco's Predictions:
Panthers 24, Cardinals 17
Steelers 27, Ravens 26
Colts 20, Bengals 17
Cowboys 27, Lions 23
Matt previewed the Colts vs. Bengals game in-depth, and you can read the full preview here.
Stephen Reed's Prections:
Arizona v. Carolina
This game is a difficult one to predict since it basically amounts to the lesser of two evils. Carolina is on a hot streak, going undefeated in the month of December, while Arizona has fallen off after an impressive start to their season when their top 2 QBs went down with season ending injuries. The Cardinals haven't been able to score much recently, which is very concerning. In the playoffs, I always lean towards taking the hot team.
Baltimore v. Pittsburgh
The AFC Black and Blue division goes at it again in this intra-divisional match-up. Both teams have played well down the stretch with the team from Baltimore barely sneaking in as the 6 seed. The loss of Le'Veon Bell is considerably concerning for the Steelers, as he was the focal point of their offense. With Bell out, Big Ben will have to shoulder the load, which he's shown he can do before. A big question mark for me is Haloti Ngata. If he's even close to form, then the team from Baltimore can drop more guys in coverage and potentially pull the upset. Without the need to worry about Bell, this is exactly what will likely happen.
Pick: The Team from Baltimore
Cincinnati v. Indianapolis
This game will be very, very different from the last time these teams played. First, the Bengals may be without All-Pro WR A.J. Green after he took a vicious hit to the head and is still going through the NFL's concussion protocol. If Green isn't cleared to play, the Colts Defense will be able to drop fewer guys in coverage and pack the box to help stop the run. Second, the Bengals finally wised up and allowed Jeremy Hill to be their lead RB. Many of us have said for months that Hill was the more talented, more complete RB option for Cincinnati. Now that they are relying on him more, it will make for a much tougher match-up for the Colts Defense.
As for the Colts, they are entering this game with another different offensive line configuration after the team placed underwhelming RT Gosder Cherilus on IR. The Colts main priority should be to max protect Andrew Luck and let him methodically pick apart the Bengals Defense. Cincinnati's Defense is significantly healthier this time around and can make the Colts pay for costly turnovers if Luck is careless. However, the Bengals are still rather thin at DB talent and WRs T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief could easily get over the top from some big plays. The Colts pounded Cincinnati with the running game in the regular season to basically crush the Bengals spirit.
Overall, this game will be very different from the regular season match-up. However, the Bengals have not played particularly well as of late and have key injuries that could cause some major issues. For those reasons, I think the ultimate result will be the same.
Detroit v. Dallas
Dallas finally makes the playoffs and gets a team they likely didn't want to play. Detroit has a strong defense, which will limit the effect of Demarco Murray, but has questionable DBs so expect Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams to be key players. Detroit has a solid offense when they give Matthew Stafford time to throw it deep to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. In all honesty, I thought Suh wouldn't be playing in this game because of his "inadvertent" stomp and hold on Aaron Rodgers leg last week but his suspension was overturned so he's in. This makes a huge difference to me but not so much that it will sway my pick.
Andrew Aziz's Predictions:
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers - Winner: Carolina Panthers 27-13
Even with Drew Stanton, the Cardinals aren't that great of a team and escaped many games by the skin of their teeth. Their defense has been exposed in recent weeks. Carolina has been on fire, winning their last four games, outscoring those opponents 111-43. This is a classic case of a hot vs cold team and the Panthers should get the win here.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers - Winner: Baltimore Ravens 19-13
This is a classic rivalry game! The Ravens ended the season winning three of their last four games, and although Pittsburgh has been the better team throughout the season, I see Baltimore picking up the win. Le'Veon Ball is
questionable to play and even if he is healthy, he won't be 100%out, and that will affect the Steelers' offense. It's simple, the Ravens win when they're in the playoffs and a not-so-healthy Steelers team won't be able to pull out the win.
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts - Winner: Indianapolis Colts 27-17
The Colts haven't been great as of late, but are still a team to watch out for. The Bengals are not a good playoff team and lack much consistency on both sides of the ball. In order for them to win, they need to create turnovers. The Colts will need to stop the Bengals' running game and not turn the ball over, which I think they'll be able to do. They've been good against the run this year (with some hiccups) and they can be careful with the ball. I think the Colts pull out this one at home.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys - Winner: Dallas Cowboys 27-16
The Cowboys will be at home, with a motivated fanbase and team. The Lions look like pretenders and although their defense has been solid, their offense has been inconsistent, despite all their talent. The Cowboys have a three-headed monster that most teams have not been able to stop. Romo looks hot and Dez is maybe the best receiver in football. The Lions will need a big offensive output to win this game. The Lions have only beaten one team with a winning record this season and that came in Week 3, and have a record of 1-4 versus teams with a winning record. The Cowboys should have this one in the bank.
Ben Lamers' Predictions:
Arizona at Carolina - Possibly the two worst teams in the playoffs. One with a losing record, the other with a third strong QB. Conventional wisdom tells me to take the Panthers at home, but something tells me Bruce Arians gets the Cardinals ready for this one.
Final: Arizona 17 - Carolina 10
Baltimore at Pittsburgh - I went back and forth a lot on this game. The Steelers rolled into the playoffs while the Ravens limped (and backed) in. Baltimore has never won a playoff game in Pittsburgh. I think this is a bad decision, but I think the Ravens finally get one on the road in Pittsburgh.
Baltimore 34 - Pittsburgh 31
Cincinnati at Indianapolis - The biggest factor in this game, for me, is A.J. Green. Will he play, and if so, what role will he have? Even if he is a decoy, the Colts will have to account for him, which they didn't need to do in the first meeting. Andy Dalton has yet to win a playoff game, so that has to happen one of these days. If the Colts win the turnover battle, though, they win this game. It will be closer than the first meeting.
Indianapolis 20 - Cincinnati 17
Detroit at Dallas - It won't matter that Ndamukong Suh will (wrongly, in my opinion) play in this game. Unless he knocks Tony Romo out with a cheap shot, the Cowboys will win. The Lions offense is struggling, and I don't think the defense can stop the Cowboys offense.
Dallas 28 - Detroit 17