The #1 seed Colts and #2 seed Chargers are rewarded with a first round bye.
#6 Ravens @ #3 Patriots
The Ravens have the advantage on the defensive side of the ball, but this years’ defense isn’t nearly as dominant as years past. The Patriots lost Wes Welker, their most consistent wide-receiver to injury (torn ACL & MCL) in week 17 and will be without him for the postseason. I think even without Welker, the Patriots still have too much on offense for the Ravens to keep up with. I look for it to be a good game, but in the end the Patriots will be advancing into the divisional round.
Prediction – Patriots
#5 Jets @ #4 Bengals
The Jets absolutely demolished the Bengals in the Meadowlands in their week 17 matchup. The Jets ran all over the Bengals injury plagued defensive line. Their effectiveness on the ground allowed for only 15 pass attempts for Mark Sanchez which limits the chance of turnovers and greatly increases the Jets’ chances for a victory. With that being said, I think the Bengals have the advantage in the playoffs. Chad Ochocinco is questionable with a left knee injury, but Cedric Benson will be back along with many key players on the defensive line. The Bengals have to be able to move the ball through the air and stop the run in order to defeat the Jets. They must force the Jets to throw the ball with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. If the Bengals can execute their game plan than they have a chance to win, if not then we might see a repeat of their week 17 matchup.
Prediction – Bengals
The #1 seed Saints and #2 seed Vikings are rewarded with a first round bye.
#6 Eagles @ #3 Cowboys
The Cowboys and Eagles are familiar with each other to say the least. The ‘Boys have beaten the Eagles both times they have played them this season and have shown that they can win with both stout defense and an offensive explosion. With that being said, the Eagles are a veteran team with a lot of weapons on offense and a defense that is superb at creating turnovers. I think that the Eagles’ experience coupled with the Cowboys’ lack of performing under pressure are the main factors that will ultimately send the Eagles into the next round.
Prediction - Eagles
#5 Packers @ #4 Cardinals
The Packers versus Cardinals is one of the most intriguing matchups in the wild-card round. Both teams have explosive offenses with big-time play-makers at the wide-receiver position. So this game will come down to two things: who can run the ball and who can get the big stops on defense? The Packers and Cardinals have both shown the potential to sustain a consistent running game, but neither team has totally committed to the run game. Therefore, I think that the team with the most consistent defense will ultimately prevail with the win and the Packers are that team. The Packers have veterans in the secondary like Charles Woodson who create turnovers and young, athletic linebackers like A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, and Nick Barnett who fly to the ball.
Prediction - Packers
Great defensively, balanced offense, and one of the best closers in the game in Paul Pierce.
Lethal offense with multiple scorers on the perimeter and superman inside.
Lebron and Shaq will figure things out, but once LBJ has no supporting cast.
Butler, Jamison, and Arenas are a three-headed monster on the offensive end. Throw in the emergence of Blatche and Haywood and veteran Mike Miller and you have a solid Wizards team.
Rose gets better and better every game.
Dangerous on offense, but poor defensively.
Dwayne Wade will carry the Heat into the playoffs once again.
Hamilton, Prince, Villanueva, Gordon, and Stuckey make up a great core, but it’s going to take time for them to gel.
Kobe has a lot of help as this is probably the best team he has been on in his career.
Billups is one of the best pg’s in the league and Melo will be an MVP candidate this year. They also have a great supporting cast.
Parker, Duncan, and Ginobli have played with each other for which seems like forever. New addition Richard Jefferson has to find his role.
Great young core of players that will only get better with time, and Brandon Roy is a great closer down the stretch.
Deron Williams is the most underrated point guard in the NBA, and the Jazz have good role players and great team chemistry.
Jason Terry is will be a candidate for sixth man of the year and the addition of Marion gives them more athleticism on both sides of the ball.
The loss of Tyson Chandler will affect them defensively.
Lowry and Budinger have emerged as potential big time players in the future, but without Yao the Rockets won’t go anywhere in the playoffs.
The Yankees and Phillies are set to play game 1 of the 2009 World Series tonight (weather permitting). The Yankees throw out Cy Young Award Candidate C.C. Sabathia while the Phillies counter with an ace of their own in Cliff Lee. Game 1 should be pitchers duel, but you never know. Here are my predictions in terms of who has the edge in starting pitching, bullpen, lineup, and manager, and ultimately who I think will win the World Series.
I’m going to look past the first two starters on both team’s depth chart because I believe that Hamels and Lee are evenly matched against C.C. and A.J. Instead I’m going to look at each team’s third starter. I know Pedro is pitching game 2, but Hamels is #2 in the Phillies rotation not Pedro. So it comes down to familiar names, Andy Pettitte and Pedro Martinez. Both are big game playoff pitchers, but I have to give the edge to the Yankees. Pettitte holds the record for most postseason wins with 16 and he has pitched extremely well, not only in the playoffs thus far, but for the entire season. Pedro’s limited starts looked like they have been beneficial so far, but Pettitte has a more complete body of work this season. Slight edge to the Yankees.
Yankees get the edge in terms of which team has the better bullpen. The combination of Chamberlain, Hughes, and Rivera is one of if not the best in the majors. Sprinkle in Phil Coke and David Robertson and you have a strong, deep, reliable bullpen. This is not to say that the Phillies do not have a good bullpen, but Madson and Lidge are not consistent enough to be relied upon late in games. Plus Brad Lidge did blow two saves against the Yankees already this season.
I’m going to have to give a slight edge to the Yankees when it comes to who has a better lineup. Both teams are equal towards the top of their lineups as Victorino, Rollins, Utley, Howard, and Werth compare equally to Jeter, Damon, Teixeira, A-Rod, and Matsui. The Yankees edge comes with their depth towards the bottom half of their lineup. The combination of Posada, Cano, Swisher, and Cabrera are favorable over the Phillies’ Ibanez, Feliz, Ruiz, and whoever they put at DH, whether it be Stairs or Dobbs or Mayberry or Francisco. The Yankees have the best lineup in baseball, but by no means are the Phillies a distant second.
The edge when it comes to managers is definitely on the side of the Phillies’ Charlie Manuel. Manuel has a 20-11 career record in the postseason, a wealth of experience, and has a World Series ring which came last year. On the other hand Joe Giradi does not have a lot of playoff experience as this is his first postseason. Girardi also has a habit of micromanaging his pitching staff, especially the bullpen.
Yankees in 7.