It’s time for the playoffs once again! Here are my quick predictions on today’s games.
ARIZONA (5) VS CAROLINA (4)
This could be the biggest dud in the playoffs. The Panthers are not a winning team. But because their 7-8-1 record was good enough to win their division, they host the Cardinals. Arizona has played tremendously this year and their defense has been stellar. The concern, however, remains at quarterback. With Carson Palmer’s injury, the team did a rotation of quarterbacks for the remainder of the season. It has not been pretty but Ryan Lindley is the guy the team will trust to take them to the next round.
The Arizona defense has been phenomenal all year and that might be what gets them this win. Carolina still doesn’t have a great established offense and Cam Newton has been inconsistent many times this year. The young wide receiving group of Carolina is going to rely heavily on Greg Olsen to lead the way. If Newton and Olsen can get on the same page, then that opens up their running game. Jonathan Stewart has been averaging 5.3 yards per carry in the team’s final five games. He needs to continue that against the tough Cards defense to give them a chance.
Lindley has an amazing connection with Michael Floyd and I expect that to be the deciding factor. The Cardinals should be able to slowly control the clock with their offense and stifle the Panthers. It will be a low-scoring affair, but defense rules in this game.
CARDINALS WIN 13-7
BALTIMORE (6) VS PITTSBURGH (3)
The AFC North produced three playoff teams and this is the best matchup of them all. The Ravens and Steelers know each other so well and their hard-nose style matches up perfectly with one another. This should be another fantastic game. Looking at Baltimore, their team was a surprise to me. I think that Justin Forsett and Steve Smith rejuvenated this offense and gave Joe Flacco some life in leading this offense.
On the other side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger has played like an MVP but how much can the offense handle without Le’Veon Bell’s availability? This could mean a lot of Antonio Brown but if they double team him, young receivers like Markus Wheaton need to step up. Still, Roethlisberger has been passing the ball so well that I expect the offense not to miss too much of a beat even though their running attack isn’t going to be as strong.
Pittsburgh has been strong all year and I think their offense will be perfect for this huge, high-scoring game.
STEELERS WIN 38-31