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Pigskin Pundit — NFL Picks, Wildcard Week

by Clash Daily’s Pigskin Pundit

Andrew_Luck_(cropped)Black Monday has hit the NFL, and you can hear cans rattling all around the league. In Chicago, Lovie Smith has gotten the can. The New York Jets have canned GM Mike Tannenbaum, but retained Rex Ryan. The Bills have finally canned Chan Gailey. Romeo Crennel has expectedly gotten the can in Kansas City, as has Andy Reid in Philly. Cleveland decided not to stand Pat with Shurmur, saying he’s on the fritz. Same goes for GM Tom “Give em” Heckert. Both out like the lights.

The Cardinals have canned Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves. Jacksonville gave the can to GM Gene Smith. San Diego finally canned long-term failure Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith. If not for Jerry Jones’ hubris, Jason Garrett would be done in Dallas, instead of getting a new set of training wheels in the play-calling department next season. One thinks the same might be true for Jim Schwartz, if his team hadn’t played so well last season. Ditto for Tom Coughlin, who may still fall to the axe for chronic inconsistency.

The list of firings reads like bad headlines; Jets Can Tann, Bills Can the Chan, Chicago Falls Out of Lovie With Smith, Philly Reids Andy the Riot Act, Kansas City Says Romeo Must Fly, Whisenhunt & Graves Have Nothing In the Cards For Them, Cleveland Browns Out Over Shurmur & Heckert, Jaguars Scratch Smith From Payroll, and Bolts Give Jolt To Pair of Dolts. We’ll see what unfolds in the Sean Payton drama this off-season.

Obviously, the league needed a shakeup. Somehow I don’t see perennial desirables John Gruden and Bill Cowher leaving their cushy media jobs to reacquire the heartburn of a sideline position, regardless of how many doughy-eyed teams come courting their services. So we’ll see who gets the call to assume the golden headsets for these teams’ openings.

In the midst of all the firings, I want to highlight some of the great things that emerged this season. The NFL has enjoyed what will probably be considered the finest, game-ready crop of rookie quarterbacks ever drafted. Washington has been a joy to watch, and they have a real gamer in RGIII. It’s nice to see good football restored to that proud franchise. The same goes for Indy’s emotional turnaround this year. They proved they’re for real. And any team that isn’t truly sobered by the prospect of playing Seattle has been asleep all season. This team is deadly serious about being taken seriously.

Let’s get to the picks.

Bengals @ Texans – Houston has struggled of late, while Cincinnati has been elevating their game each week. The Texans are more talented without question, but their recent losses have got to be eating at that confidence a bit. JJ Watts is amazing, but he can’t stop the other team by himself. Arian Foster and Schaub are very talented players, but this week will be the first true test in whether they can elevate their game further or have hit the ceiling. This Bengals team is one of the best I have ever seen, and they believe in themselves – a deadly weapon when shaped around a good game plan. I believe Houston will prevail in this match because they are the better team. Let’s see if they believe it. Texans advance.

Colts @ Ravens – Baltimore is the old war horse making one more run at the big prize. They have been here before, although there are very few Raven players who have a championship ring on this current squad. The Colts are a rising power, at least for this season, and like the Bengals they too believe in themselves. I’m going with Indianapolis in this one. Flacco has never impressed me, and this game rests squarely on his shoulders. Ray Rice will give another Herculean effort, but the Colts have momentum, youth and inspiration fueling their effort. Oh, and Andrew Luck is already better than Joe Flacco. Colts for the win.

Vikings @ Packers – This is the type of playoff game fans hunger for. Whatever the outcome, it will be a pigskin war. Adrian Peterson has been other-worldly this season, putting this improving team on his back. Their gutsy victory over these same Packers last week to get into the playoffs was the stuff that wins over non-football types to the game. The Packers are still one of the best teams, but they are capable of failing, even with Rodgers at the helm. They will have to play their best football of the season in order to overcome the inspired Purple People Eaters. With the possible absence of Randall Cobb, Charles Woodson, Davon House, and James Starks out with injuries, Green Bay will need a deep bench to win this. In the Battle of the Frozen North, Minnesota prevails when the dust settles.

Seahawks @ Redskins – The two Washingtons clash in an epic battle of newbie QBs. I’m fairly confident on this pick, mainly because of defense. Seattle should win this one, as their potent D has played inspired, aggressive football all season, and more so down the stretch. CB Richard Sherman has had a very nice season, establishing his territory as a dangerous place to throw the football. Marshawn Lynch is an explosive runner who sheds tackles and greedily gobbles extra yardage when he hit’s the holes or bounces outside. Washington has played inspired football all season, but it should end here. Seahawks advance.

Enjoy the playoffs!

Image: Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts; Source: Cropped from File:Bears v. Colts; author: Mark Susina (Mark 2400);Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license