By Doug Halberstadt
Wild Card weekend in this year’s NFL playoff season is going to be déjà vu all over again for six of the eight teams involved. After facing one another in their final regular season games, the six teams will match up against one another again in the first round of the playoffs this weekend.
The Packers, Cowboys and Jets dominated their final regular-season games. Green Bay went to Arizona and embarrassed the Cardinals 33-7 in front of their fans. The Cowboys shut out the Eagles 24-0 in front of nearly 100,000 fans gathered in Dallas. The Jets shellacked the Bengals in New York 37-0 in the final game ever at Giants Stadium.
The Wild Card game between the Eagles and the Cowboys marks the third time this season the two rivals will face one another. Dallas won both regular-season games. In addition to their shutout last Sunday, they defeated Philadelphia in week nine 20-16 in the “City of Brotherly Love.”
Experts say how difficult it is for one team to beat the same opponent three times in a season. The Cowboys will host the Eagles for their third match-up Saturday (Jan. 9). In spite of what the experts say, I like the Cowboys to make it three straight over the Eagles. I don’t expect the Cowboys to be as dominant in their third match-up. I say Dallas 28, Eagles 17.
Green Bay will also have to face the Cardinals for the third time this year. Prior to last week’s regular-season win, they also beat the Cardinals during the pre-season 44-37. I think the Packers will win 35-21 and force a third meeting with the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional-round game the following week.
The Jets and Bengals will square off for the second week in row. I don’t think the Bengals will play as flat at home as they did last week in New York. I’m taking the Jets to win again, but in a much closer game. Instead of the 37-point whipping they administered last week, I’ll say the Jets by 10.
In the final Wild Card game, the Patriots host the Ravens. Baltimore will be looking to avenge a 27-21 loss in Foxboro, Mass., earlier this season. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is reported to have at least one broken rib and a broken finger on his passing hand. Their wide receiver, Wes Welker, tore up his knee in the final regular-season game and is done for the rest of the year. Because of those key injuries, I like the Ravens 21-10.
I finished the regular season with a record of 168-88, a 66 percent winning percentage. That’s slightly below my goal of 70 percent. I hope I can fare better in the playoffs.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue