The Once-Over: Wild Card Weekend
The Saturday Games
New York Jets (9-7) at Cincinnati (10-6): Forget about the 37-0 thumping the Jets laid on the Bengals last week and try to forget about the subsequent trash-talking from Rex Ryan. It's playoff time and the Jets will be facing a Bengals team that will show more than just a vanilla game-plan. Mark Sanchez needs to continue to limit mistakes and let his high-powered running game lead the way to victory. If the Jets can force a few turnovers, it would make Sanchez' job easier as well.
Two keys to this game make the playoff version much different than Week 17. Cedric Benson had the week off during Week 17 and enters the playoffs with fresh legs. Benson has led this Bengals team all season and his presence on offense can be a game-changer. Cincinnati also has the advantage of playing in front of a home crowd. The antics from Chad Ochocinco aren't nearly as good this way, but the outcome from the Bengals could be.
Read Stephanie Stradley's full Jets at Bengals FanHouse preview.
Pick: New York Jets
Philadelphia (11-5) at Dallas (11-5): In Week 9 the Eagles lost to the Cowboys in a close game, 20-16. They held Dallas' rushing attack to only 76 yards and only one score. In Week 17, however, the Eagles lost 24-0 and the Cowboys ran for 179 yards. The only way the Philadelphia Eagles win on Saturday is for their defense to contain the Cowboys running backs. It's as simple as that.
Tony Romo found a way to peel the monkey from his back and win a few December games this season. It's time to take another step and earn the Cowboys their first playoff win since 1996. Not only does Dallas hold the keys to victory in their running game, but Romo enters the playoffs with more confidence than ever. The Cowboys also bring a defensive unit that may be playing better football then any defense in the NFL right now.
Read R.J. White's full Eagles at Cowboys preview.
The Sunday Games
Baltimore (9-7) at New England (10-6): It seems like just yesterday that the Patriots escaped a Week 4 beating from the Ravens. Baltimore may use the fact that they should have won that game as motivation, or they may just ride the back of running back Ray Rice. Not only did Rice rush for 103 yards on 11 carries in their first meeting, but he also had 49 yards receiving. Look for Rice to get enough touches on Sunday to surpass those numbers.
The Patriots are going to find out just how tough it is to play without Wes Welker, whose season ended last week after he injured his knee. New England played two games without Welker early in the season and went 1-1 in his absence. In just 13 games -- he was hurt on New England first drive of Week 17 -- Welker caught 122 passes, a total that made up 29.6 percent of the New England passing offense. Julian Edelman had best be ready to fill big shoes.
Read Josh Alper's full Ravens at Patriots FanHouse preview.
Green Bay (11-5) at Arizona (10-6): Doesn't it seem like Green Bay was just in Arizona? However nice it must be for the Packers to leave the cold weather of Wisconsin for the warm desert in back-to-back weeks, they'll be facing a Cardinals team that cares a little more about the outcome. As good as Aaron Rodgers was in the regular season, he has a chance to be better in the playoffs. If he can limit his turnovers, the Packers defense should give him ample opportunities to get on the field often and rack up yardage through the air on Sunday.
In 11 postseason starts, Kurt Warner has thrown 26 touchdown passes, has a 98.9 percent passer rating and has won eight games. That's not a bad playoff career. But, Warner may be without Anquan Boldin on Sunday -- which gives the Packers opportunities to focus on Larry Fitzgerald. If the Cardinals wish to open this game up and come away with a victory, Beanie Wells needs to run well so the offense can keep the Packers guessing.
Read Matt Snyder's full Packers at Cardinals FanHouse preview.
Pick: Green Bay