Andy Cash’s Money Playoff Picks 2015 – The NFL Wildcard Round
It's hard to believe another NFL regular season is in the books. What a wild ride it has been! We saw one of the most competitive divisions in a long time in the AFC North and a division that still has us scratching our heads in the NFC South. If the 2015 NFL Playoffs are anything like it's regular season, then football fans are in for a treat! Here are my money picks for the NFL Wildcard Round.
1. The Arizona Cardinals @ The Carolina Panthers
Saturday, January 3rd @ 4:35 p.m. on ESPN
Where in the world do I start when it comes to this sure to be entertaining matchup? Can you read the sarcasm in that sentence? These are two teams that have truly battled for their playoff spots. For Arizona it has been a quarterback carousel that has sidelined two starters, Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, leaving the young Ryan Lindley. Their record (11-5) suggests that this Cardinals team is not going down without a fight and I believe head coach Bruce Arians has a lot to do with that.
On the other side of this coin you have Cam Newton and the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers. Many ask, how did they make the playoffs with that record? Well, they won their division and if you ask Giants fans they will tell you, you don't need a winning regular season record to win a Super Bowl. Now do I think that this team can hang on to beat the birds? I do believe that Cam Newton may one day win a Super Bowl, but that year is not this year. I just feel like Arizona's defense will be too much for an offense that finished off the regular season ranked 15th, even though their star QB has been playing great despite back fractures from an automobile accident a little less than a month ago.
Predicted Score: The Arizona Cardinals 24, The Carolina Panthers 17.
2. The Baltimore Ravens @ The Pittsburgh Steelers
Saturday, January 3rd @ 8:15 p.m. on NBC
It's always exciting when divisional rivals play each other in the playoffs and after the season these two teams have had, it's sure to be a thriller. I should have just flipped a coin to decide my pick for this game because I believe it really is a toss up. You have the always present and experienced playoff mind set of John Harbaugh and the unpredictable ability of Joe Flacco in Baltimore. For the Pittsburgh Steelers you have a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, who is having a career season. He has had a lot of help from weapons like Antonio Brown and the running game of Le'Veon Bell. Brown had 13 touchdown receptions this season and had over 1,600 yards. This powerful combination is definitely enough for me to believe the Steelers can run away with it, but running will be a definite concern since their leading rusher is out with a knee injury. Bell ran for a total of 1,361 yards this season. This definitely weakens the offense of Pittsburgh, but I do believe they will have what it takes to take down the Ravens.
Predicted Score: The Baltimore Ravens 28, The Pittsburgh Steelers 31.
3. The Cincinnati Bengals @ The Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, January 4th @ 1:05 p.m. on CBS
Three of the four teams from the AFC North are in the playoffs and that's because those teams are all fierce competitors. The Cincinnati Bengals, even though they are a wild card team, have had one of the most impressive journeys into the post season with the highlight being a week 16 victory over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Whatever magic they had during that game, they will need big time against Andrew Luck and the Colts. One of the biggest worries for Cincy right now is the 'Doubtful' status for star wide-receiver A.J. Green who suffered a concussion. If they can get over that hurdle, then they just have to worry about their post-season record woes. Quarterback Andy Dalton has a playoffs record of 0-3 and Marvin Lewis is at 0-5. They need to get over that hump, and this will be a tough team to do it against.
It's only a matter of time before Andrew Luck proves his place in NFL quarterback history. He is so much fun to watch and his win at any cost mentality makes defenses fear him. Sure, he has the tendency to throw the occasional momentum shifting interception, but so did Brett Favre and look how he turned out. When I think of Andrew Luck and the playoffs, I think about that game against Kansas City in last year's Wildcard Round, where Luck and his offense mounted a huge comeback to defeat the Chiefs by a score of 45-44. With a player like Andrew Luck and receivers for him to throw to like T.Y. Hilton and the veteran Reggie Wayne, the Bengals will have a tough time. You can't forget either that the Colts shut out the Bengals 27-0 in week 7. I'm going with the Colts in this one.
Predicted Score: The Cincinnati Bengals 10, The Indianapolis Colts 27.
4. The Detroit Lions @ The Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, January 4th @ 4:40 p.m. on FOX
I truly have saved the best for last. This is sure to be the most exciting matchup of the 2015 Wildcard Round. The Lions will go into AT&T Stadium and put up a good fight against an outstanding Dallas team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2010. There is no doubt that Dallas' big three Romo, Murray, and Bryant all have big chips on their shoulders. The Lions have two threats at wide-receiver that make defenses crazy and they are Calvin Johnson and the hard-working Golden Tate. The addition of Tate to this offense has
brought life and hope into Detroit. Even though nobody has really talked about Detroit this year, they definitely have the potential to make a run in this year's post-season and there is only one thing standing in their way...The Dallas Cowboys. One player for Detroit that is going to be under the microscope is Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh. He was facing a one game suspension for stomping Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the final game of the regular season. That suspension was overturned and instead he was fined $70,000.
At the end of this game however, I believe the overwhelming offense of the Dallas Cowboys will be too much for a Detroit Lions defense that has struggled in the secondary. Not only will the deadly combination of Tony Romo to Dez Bryant be an almost certainty, then you have the hero of fantasy teams everywhere this year, DeMarco Murray. Murray has had a career season with 392 carries, 1,845 yards, and 13 touchdowns. How do you stop that? It won't be easy. Plus, a Dallas vs. Green Bay matchup would be exciting to watch considering Dallas is undefeated on the road and Green Bay is undefeated at home.
Predicted Score: The Detroit Lions 27, The Dallas Cowboys 37.
So there it is! A fan's opinion of how I feel the first round of the NFL playoffs will go. One thing is for sure, with an awesome regular season comes an even better post-season and the NFL rarely disappoints. Happy football watching!