NFC Wild Card Game One: Lions @ Saints
Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, NBC
The Lions’ Side: After multiple gloomy seasons for the Lions, these cats have came roaring back featuring a fantastic air attack led by Matthew Stafford. Stafford has tossed for over 5,000 this season. A large chunk of his success should be credited to WR Calvin Johnson, AKA Megatron, who has been an unstoppable down the field. On the defensive side of the ball, they have found themselves in a lot of shootouts. Last week against Green Bay, they allowed the Packers’ backup, Matt Flynn, to throw for 480 yards and six Touchdowns. Their offense has been very successful, but the team has lost several times because of the defense. The Lions’ defense has been solid at times, but hasn’t been consistent at all. To win, they need to put pressure on Drew Brees, because there is no way that they will stop him throwing the ball, so Detroit shouldn’t let him throw. They need pressure from the east and west so he doesn’t roll out, and pressure from the north so he can’t move up in the pocket. The Lions also need to get a lead early on to eliminate the Saints’ running game and at least make it obvious that New Orleans will pass.
The Saints’ Side: Drew Brees is just a monster throwing the ball, and with so many targets—Marques Colston, Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Pierre Thomas to name a few (Mark Ingram is injured)—there is no way any defense can stop him. Brees shattered Drew Marino’s single season passing record this season, and the Saints’ running game has turned into a lethal weapon in the past weeks. Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, and Mark Ingram have balanced this explosive offense, but Ingram is out for the playoffs because of an injury. On defense, the Saints have an overall statistically subpar defensive unit, but their offense has basically been an excuse for their lack of success because Drew Brees normally gives the Saints a lead to work with.
The Bottom Line: While both offenses are extremely explosive, the Saints can beat any team in a shootout.
Prediction: Saints, 45, Lions, 35
NFC Wild Card Game Two: Falcons @ Giants
Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX
The Falcons’ Side: The Falcons have displayed offensive firepower at times, but have been somewhat of a disappointment this season. Rookie WR Julio Jones is incredible when he is healthy, meanwhile QB Matt Ryan has threw for over 4,000 yards this season. Ryan has been in the playoffs multiple times but has not won once. He and the Falcons are a little experienced in the dance, and look to snatch a win and advance. RB Michael Turner is poised for a big game soon, and the Falcons would benefit from it immensely. When Turner is hot, he adds a balance to their offensive attack. On defense, the Falcons are ranked 12th overall squad. The Falcons are strong at stopping the run, but are just okay at stopping the pass. To win, the Falcons need to protect Ryan from the Giants’ top tier pass rush, and need to thwart Giants WR Victor Cruz from having a big day receiving.
The Giants’ Side: When anybody thinks of the G-Men, they instantly think of QB Eli Manning. Every year Manning is faced with new skepticism about his throwing, talent, or even leadership, but somehow Manning keeps performing at a playoff level. This season, Manning has thrown for nearly 5,000 yards and has kept the Giants in contention for the playoffs. After their victory versus the infamous Cowboys, the Big Blue find themselves in a familiar situation. Their offense this year has improved drastically after the emergence of Victor Cruz. “Cruz Control” has turned short, pitch-and-catch plays into 80-yard-plus Touchdowns, including a 99 yard TD against the Jets. On defense, the Giants’ pass rush is one of the leagues finest—Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka are all players that frighten opposing Quarterbacks. For the Giants to win, they have to shut down Michael Turner and air it out throughout the game.
The Bottom Line: The Giants have a Super Bowl run under their belt, and their offense is sure to get it done on Sunday.
Prediction: Giants, 27, Falcons, 20