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2005 NFL playoffs, NFL postseason, playoff predictions, Wild Card weekend, Patriots, Steelers, Bengals

2005 NFL Playoffs Preview: Wild Card Round

Sports Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

January 8 UPDATE: Bummer. The only game with any real drama was the first game of the weekend. The Redskins couldn't do squat offensively against the Bucs, but the defense did just enough to carry Mark Brunell to a second round match-up against the Seahawks. Eli Manning had his worst game of the season; unfortunately, so did the Giants' defense, and the Panthers shut 'em out 23-0. Meanwhile, the Jags hung tough against the Patriots for a half, and the Bengals held a 17-14 lead over Pittsburgh through two quarters, but the Pats rolled to a 28-3 win and the Steelers ended up winning by two touchdowns. That wasn't the bad news for the Bengals, of course, not on a day when franchise QB Carson Palmer tore his ACL on the third play of the game. Brutal.

Visit The Scores Report, the National Sports Blog, to see what advice a sympathetic Browns fan has for the "Who Dey" Nation and to take a closer look at the games.

Finally, you'll find the results of our staff predictions below. Nobody swept the picks, but everybody at least managed a split. Of course, that New England/Jacksonville game was a gimme, but we'll take it. Be sure to check back later this week for another round of predictions.

Redskins @ Buccaneers
Saturday, 4:30 (ABC)
Jaguars @ Patriots
Saturday, 8:00 (ABC)
Giants vs. Panthers
Sunday, 1:00 (Fox)
Steelers @ Bengals
Sunday, 4:30 (CBS)
Gerardo Orlando
Week One:
REDSKINS: It’s hard to get excited about either team in this one. Both have tough defenses, but look for the Skins D to take control of the game.
PATRIOTS: Don’t look now, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots are playing their best football of the year. They’ll take care of the Jags and then the Colts can start getting nervous.
GIANTS: Tiki Barber is one of the best backs in the league when he holds onto the football. Look for him to have a big game here.
BENGALS: Everyone is making too much of Pittsburgh’s late surge and worrying too much about the egg laid by the Bengals in the season finale. The Bengals will be up for this game, and Carson Palmer will have his official coming out party as one of the best QBs in the NFL.
Jamey Codding
Managing Editor
Week One:
BUCCANEERS: If this game was in Washington, I'd be all over the 'Skins. As it is, I'm not very confident in picking the Bucs, but I'll give the edge to stud rookie Cadillac Williams and the Tampa defense. If they can bottle up Clinton Portis and force Mark Brunell into an interception or two, Gruden should eek out a tight win. But if Portis goes off and Bucs QB Chris Simms shows his inexperience, the Redskins could roll. Tough call.
PATRIOTS: If the Jaguars shocked the Patriots, it would easily qualify as the biggest upset of the playoffs. Byron Leftwich fresh off an injury, in New England, with the Pats currently rolling. Good luck, Jacksonville. The Jags D is solid enough to contain Corey Dillon, which means Tom Brady will have to deliver. But since when doesn't Tom Brady deliver, especially in the playoffs?
PANTHERS: There aren't many hotter RBs in the league right now than Tiki Barber. Unfortunately for the Giants, there aren't many defenses in football better against the run than Carolina, and the Panthers also are the NFL's ninth-ranked defense against the pass. That spells doom for Eli Manning and the Giants. Steve Smith should explode against one of the worst pass defenses in football while the Carolina D keeps Tiki in check and forces young Eli into several costly mistakes.
BENGALS: As a Browns fan, this game makes my stomach turn, but it should be the best match-up of the weekend. The Steelers are playing some great football and Willie Parker should run all over Cinci's weak defense. But while Pittsburgh's D plays extremely tough against the run, they're pretty average vs. the pass. The Bengals will try to establish the run early with Rudi Johnson but when that fails, it'll quickly turn into the Carson Palmer show. Who else is anxious to see what Chad Johnson has planned for this weekend?
David Medsker
Senior Editor
Week One:
REDSKINS: Five in a row. That’s what the Redskins had to do to get into the playoffs. They weren’t all cake walk games, either, beating Dallas and the Giants. Tampa Bay’s spotting them two points, though I’m not sure how; Washington has a substantial edge on points per game and yards per game. I’m taking age over beauty here.
PATRIOTS: Forget about the fact that the Jags are the wild card team with the better record than the defending champion Patriots. It means absolutely nothing now. All that matters is: It’s the playoffs, and the Patriots are at home. Belichick has probably been planning the attack for this game since he was in high school. Jack Del Rio doesn’t have a prayer.
PANTHERS: This is the hardest game of the bunch to pick. Tiki, Plaxico and Jeremy (assuming he plays) are hard to beat, but Steve freaking Smith, man. He's been a monster all season. And that Panthers’ D is nothing to sneeze at. Non-existent running game or not, I’m sensing another NFC upset.
BENGALS: There’s no love for the Bungles, who are three-point underdogs at home against the Stillers. However, even though the Bengals haven’t been to the playoffs since Taft was in office, and their defense gave up about 700 yards of offense per game down the stretch, coach Marvin Lewis told the defensive line that if they give up more points than the offense can score, he’ll lock them in a house with Jigsaw from the “Saw” movies. That’s all the motivation I’d need to win. See runner, tackle runner, don’t wake up with Venus fly trap on my head.
Jason Zingale
Associate Editor
Week One:
REDSKINS: The only reason the Bucs made it this far is because of their relatively easy schedule at the beginning of the year. The Redskins, on the other hand, fought their way back into the race over the past two months, mostly thanks to an end-of-the-season tear that found QB Mark Brunell and WR Santana Moss having some of their best weeks ever. Simply put, the Bucs’ D has no chance of stopping the Redskins red hot offense.
PATRIOTS: This game comes down each team’s quarterback. On one hand, you have a recently-injured Byron Leftwich. On the other, Tom Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champion. This is a no brainer. Brady’s the King of Pressure, and even if Leftwich manages to bounce back early, the Pat’s star QB will make sure they move on to the next round.
PANTHERS: One thing separates the Panthers from the Giants: Steve Smith. If Carolina QB Jake Delhomme can ensure that Smith sees plenty of touches throughout the day, Carolina will have no trouble dominating the Giants. That, and Giant’s TE Jeremy Shockey is still shaking off a minor injury. Whenever either of these two guys are hot, their team usually wins.
BENGALS: Far and wide the most interesting playoff match-up this week, the Bengals should eek out a win over their division rivals. They have too much talent on the roster not to win, including Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Rudi Johnson. If just two of these four guys have good days, the Steelers won’t even come close. Look for Pittsburgh to attack the Bengals weak run defense with the one-two punch of Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis – this is their only shot of winning.
John Paulsen
Contributing Editor
Week One:
BUCCANEERS: These two teams are almost mirror images of one another – each team has a good defense, a quality running back, a speedy big-play WR, and quarterbacks that are asked to manage the game. This should be a very tight contest and I think it will come down to the play of Bucs QB Chris Simms. He’ll play well enough to give Tampa Bay the win at home.
PATRIOTS: The Patriots are playing well, and I can’t pick against them at home against a Jacksonville squad led by a QB that hasn’t played in several weeks. The Jags will keep it close but New England should be able to pull out the win.
PANTHERS: The numbers indicate that the Panthers have a very good shot at upsetting the Giants in New York. The Panther defense is good and the Giants will have a tough time exploiting any weaknesses if TE Jeremy Shockey isn’t 100%. The key to this game is the injuries on the Giants' defense. They won’t be able to stop Steve Smith and DeShaun Foster.
BENGALS: The Steelers are favorites on the road, but I think the Bengals will play well enough to get the win at home. This game could come down to a late Shayne Graham field goal.
Mike Farley
Staff Writer
Week One:
BUCCANEERS: The Skins are on a roll, having ridden the offense of Clinton Portis and Santana Moss to a five-game winning streak and the final NFC playoff berth. The Bucs are erratic, but in a home playoff game it’s hard to bet against Jon Gruden, even over an older and wiser Joe Gibbs. Look for a strong dose of Tampa Bay rookie running back Cadillac Williams and for the Bucs defense to smother Portis and frustrate Mark Brunell into throwing a few key interceptions.
PATRIOTS: Poor Jaguars. They finished 12-4, losing only to top seed Indianapolis twice, to number two seed Denver, and a close one to the Rams. Even though the Jags had the third best record in the conference, East division winner New England gets the home game. A rusty Byron Leftwich will probably start at QB against a Patriots defense that is coming alive at the right time. The Pats are still the champs, and are still too complete a team to lose to the Jags in the first round.
GIANTS: The ghosts of Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch are going to have something to say about this one. Both of the Giants owners passed away this season and both times the Giants were inspired to win. The G-men may not go far, but they should be able to win this first home game, even though Steve Smith will probably torch their shaky pass defense for a few long scores. The Panthers will not have an answer for Tiki Barber, even after shutting down the Falcons vaunted running game last week.
STEELERS: Yes, the Bengals are home and yes, they have dominated most teams this year. But they already lost to the Steelers once at home this season, and it’s really hard to pick against a team that has much more recent playoff experience. The Steelers' defense matches up well against the Bengals’ offense, and Pittsburgh’s offense is adequate enough to carry them to the next round.
Red Rocker
Staff Writer
Week One:
REDSKINS: The 'Skins are peaking at just the right time. Brunell's nagging knee problem is of concern, but that D just keeps getting better. They had a couple of huge road wins down the stretch, too. You get the feeling Chris Sims is still a year or two away from establishing himself. Take Washington and the under.
PATRIOTS: Even if Leftwich returns, he's gotta be rusty. And the last place you wanna work out the proverbial kinks is in Foxboro come January. The defending champs win this one by halftime.
GIANTS: The G Men are damn good at home, and Carolina loses their edge in the cold. Weather forecast aside, Eli probably has one great post-season game in him and then one least that's the way this season has been for him. Giants win a low-scoring, field position game.
STEELERS: Like Washington, the Steelers are playing their best ball of the season right now, and Cincinnati is unquestionably playing their worst. The playoffs are all about momentum. Oh yeah, January experience, a swarming defense, and an unmatched running game helps, too. Pittsburgh wins in a personal-foul ridden brawl.
Jason Thompson
Staff Writer
Week One:
BUCCANEERS: Somehow Washington managed to limp into Wild Card status here against the Buccaneers. For that reason alone they shall lose. I remember back in my youth, the Redskins were once a really great team. But then again, there were a bunch of “once a really great” teams this year that all fell short. Washington’s luck just ran out.
PATRIOTS: As much as I detest the Patriots and their golden boy, I’m gonna have to go ahead and give it to ‘em. When the hammer comes down, the Pats can deliver. We all know it. We’ve seen it time and again. Still, I’ll be secretly cheering for Jacksonville and will race through the streets drunk and naked if they win. Just know that you read that here first before it makes the local papers in the ‘Burgh.
PANTHERS: This one’s actually a tough one for me to call, but I’m going with Carolina here. I guess it comes down to me having zero faith in Eli Manning. I’ve seen what the guy can and cannot do, and even though the Giants are playing at home, I see this game being enough pressure to make little Eli crack. One Manning bound for glory is enough. Sorry, Eli. You’ll always be second fiddle to this fan.
STEELERS: Yes, I’m a Steelers fan. I live in Pittsburgh and I love in Pittsburgh and the Steelers are going to absolutely crush Cincinnati in this game. Why? Because we have to give ‘em double paybacks for the last time we met. Plus we have Bettis, Polamalu, Parker, Ward, Randle El, and the list goes on. And the Bengals have…damn, I can’t think of one single player from that little team.
R. David Smola
Staff Writer
Week One:
BUCCANEERS: Even though Greg Williams has figured out how to absolutely kick the crap out of young quarterbacks, his defense can’t play offense. Mark Brunell can be pressured into very bad decisions. The Washington run is over and Chucky beats Gibbs.
PATRIOTS: Even though the Jags have a better record and won six games on the road this year, I like the Pats and professor Belichick to figure out a way to win at home.
PANTHERS: Eli, this is different than anything you have ever experienced. The NFL playoffs are faster and even more intense than the regular season. The Panthers and the #4 defense against the run keep Tiki in check and the Panthers leave New Jersey happy.
STEELERS: The Bengals limp into the playoffs after getting their brains beat in for two consecutive weeks in games that lacked priority to Marvin Lewis’ club. The Steelers will pound the running game against a rush defense that ranks 20th in the NFL.
Bill Clark
Staff Writer
Week One:
REDSKINS: These teams are very evenly matched, but Washington has been on fire for the past month and has the postseason genius known as Joe Gibbs. The Bucs have been solid for the most part, although their losses to the Jets and 49ers boggle the mind. Look for a good game out of a banged-up Clinton Portis and for Gibbs to simply out-coach Jon Gruden if it's close late in the fourth.
PATRIOTS: I pity the fool who has to coach against Bill Belichik and face Tom Brady in the postseason, and this weekend Jack Del Rio faces that and this double-whammy (a quadruple-whammy, if you will): The Patriots have surged as of late and they are at home. On top of all that, the Jags may or may not be starting Byron Leftwich instead of David Garrard. Just what you need, a quarterback controversy heading into the postseason. Anyone familiar with recent Super Bowl history knows that the Jags will have to utilize their entire arsenal to stand a chance of winning this game.
PANTHERS: This looks to be a game of offensive fireworks, especially with Panthers WR Steve Smith and Giants RB Tiki Barber in the lineup. The Panthers haven't been as unstoppable as many predicted in the preseason, but they are riding into the playoffs high on a blowout win against Atlanta last week. They'll be ready for interception-happy Eli Manning and will clearly be prepared to bottle up Barber. Furthermore, the Panthers are 6-2 on the road this year.
BENGALS: No, this is not a homer pick. This game has chance to be the best of the weekend. The teams split the season series and both have big-time offenses. The Steelers are coming off two blowout wins against Cleveland and Detroit (okay, no big feat) and the Bengals got bludgeoned by the Chiefs last week. The Bengals will be up to the challenge and will pound them with RB Rudi Johnson and WR Chad Johnson. And lest we forget what happened the last time the Bengals made the playoffs (1990): A first-round win!





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