It’s Wild Card Weekend! The dust has barely settled on the 2014 season and last we counted, there were more head coaches fired than there are playoff games this week. But we live for the bubble team, and this is when we get to see which team left standing will be this year’s Cinderella. So pick up that size-11 glass slipper and let’s take a look at this week’s feet.
Saturday, January 3
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
They were the best team in football through the first three quarters of the season, but the current Cardinals team is being held together with twine and chewing gum… and Coach-of-the-Year-candidate Bruce Arians. The Panthers earned their division crown and a place in the playoffs with a losing record, but they’ve also won all of their games in December and are peaking at just the right time, which would probably get Malcolm Gladwell psyched. Everyone’s going to be picking the Panthers in this match-up, but Bruce Arians has carried his team across the desert more than once, and even with a healthy QB no one had any idea they would be playing this far into the season. Besides, how can you not pull for a guy who forced Jim Harbaugh into the sidest of side eye?
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
The cities of Baltimore and Pittsburgh will likely be drinking all day waiting for this night cap. The two teams actively dislike each other (no, seriously) and are pretty evenly matched in terms of talent—so they’re playing to see who will lose next week. Still, the game should provide for a smash mouth (You’re an All Star!), grind-it-out (sorry) classic that will ultimately come down to a last minute freak play. Just drive safely rust belt cities!
Sunday, January 4
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts
The first game on Sunday pits AFC’s Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde duo. Both the Colts and Bengals have had tremendous moments backed with some incredibly sloppy games. I’d still give the Colts the upperhand, but they probably come in with the most question marks—especially when it come to running the ball, where starter Trent Richardson leads the team with only 519 yards rushing and the team average fails to break four yards per carry. It’s not unthinkable to think the Colts could lose by shooting themselves in the foot and watching Andy Dalton take advantage. Dalton might be the the ultimate DJMH player, but the Bengals do have some big weapons and might be the most under-appreciated team left despite coming out of one of 2014’s toughest divisions. Is this the day the Red Rifle gets his first playoff win? Sounds like a great Cinderella story. Just sayin.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
Oh boy! The NFL is saving it’s best for last in the first round of the playoffs. While Saturday night’s game might be a slug fest, the Lions at the Cowboys will have dudes flying through the air like they’ve got rockets on their cleats. Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford have had bonkers good seasons and at 11-5, the Lions come in as the best Wild Card team. But while they had one of the best run defenses, they struggled against top tier quarterbacks and Romo has had an Aikman-record-breaking season. Then again, Detroit does have it’s biggest weapon back in their arsenal.