Sunday Playoff Action
January 3, 2013
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The final two games of Wildcard Weekend have both #4 vs. #5 matchups going from each conference. Three rookie QB's are involved and for the second time ever in the history of the NFL we have two rookie QB's squaring off against one another in the playoffs. Last year was the first time we witnessed this phenomenon as Andy Dalton was a rookie with Cincinnati when he met Houston's backup signal-caller T.J. Yates. Yates and the Texans were able to prevail that day thanks to a solid defense and home field advantage, a feat RGIII and Washington is hoping to repeat on Sunday night.
#5 Indianapolis (+7) vs. #4 Baltimore (-7); Total set at 47
Rookie QB Andrew Luck heads into Baltimore to take on a reeling Ravens team that has lost four of their past five games. You never want to limp into the playoffs the way Baltimore has especially since experts everywhere are talking about all the glaring holes they have on both sides of the ball. However, this game should mark the first time that Baltimore will have Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis together on the field at the same time and for how bad Baltimore's defense has looked at times, they will be welcomed back with open arms.
Speaking of Ray Lewis, he announced earlier this week that he will retire at the end of this season, giving his teammates that extra motivation to come out and be on the top of their game for the next month. The Ravens were a completely different team at home this season, scoring like gangbusters in nearly all eight games played here. Baltimore put up 44, 31, 23, 31, 55, 20, 17, and 33 points in their eight home games which works out to 31.75 points on average. On the road this year, Indianapolis allowed 29.15 points per contest, so things are lining up well here for the Ravens to put up some points in this one.
Indy has been the feel-good story of the season and for good reason with Luck and head coach Chuck Pagano's story. But winning in the playoffs is tough for any rookie QB to do as only five have ever done so and only one did it as a road underdog in their first contest. That trivia answer is Mark Sanchez during his first year with the Jets en route to the AFC title game. While Luck is eons better than Sanchez was, or is, Sanchez largely benefited from something Luck doesn't have; a spectacular defense. Despite their good season, Indianapolis turned the ball over way too much this year (-12 turnover ratio) and if they do that in this one, Baltimore (+9 turnover ratio) will feast on them.
Luck will have a great career in the NFL but the first playoff game for a great QB is typically more of a learning experience than anything.
Look for the Ravens to win this one in a higher scoring affair.
#5 Seattle (-3) vs. #4 Washington (+3); Total set at 46
This is the game with the rookie QB's squaring off against each other, ensuring that the number of rookie QB's to win their first playoff game will be at least six. Washington's last two playoff appearances were ended abruptly by this Seattle franchise and the Seahawks are looking for the hat-trick. They come into this game with more hype surrounding them after how strongly they finished the year and many are even picking these Seahawks to be a legitimate threat for the Lombardi Trophy. I have a tough time believing it though.
In the history of Wildcard Weekend (since 1978), home underdogs are 13-4 ATS and dogs of 3 points or less at any site (home or away) are 27-18-2 ATS. Washington's defense stepped up over the final quarter of the season, and while there are concerns about RGIII's health and ability to run, he was still the league leader in yards per pass attempt at 8.14 and trailed only Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in completion percentage (65.6%). Seattle does have one of the best CB tandems in the league with Brandon Browner returning from suspension, but there is something to be said about rust and chemistry regarding his return. Seattle was also 3-5 SU on the road this year and suffered road losses to Arizona, St Louis, Detroit and Miami; four teams all watching the playoffs from home.
Take the points with Washington.
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