NFL Saturday Wild Card Previews and Predictions

January 3, 2015

Saturday's NFL Wild Card games are going to be worth watching. Here is our quick breakdown and prediction of each game.

ARIZONA CARDINALS (11-5) at CAROLINA PANTHERS (7-8-1) (Saturday, ESPN, 4:35 PM ET)  

Arizona tied a franchise record with 11 wins this season and for most of the season the surprising Cardinals appeared headed towards the #1 seed in the NFC on the back of a stout defense and a balanced and timely offense.

Bruce Arians' team started the season 9-1, but injuries to their first (Carson Palmer) and second (Drew Stanton) string quarterbacks definitely disrupted the momentum of what appeared to be a dream season, as Arizona lost four of their final six games.

Nonetheless, the Cardinals' head coach remains confident his team can pull out a road win this weekend.

“It’s a whole new season now,” said Arians about the postseason. “We’re all 0-0 and we’re in the tournament. We’re going to get ready for this playoff game. We’re not planning on being one-and-done.”

Still, considering that it was confirmed earlier in the week that Stanton was out for Saturday's playoff game, the odds of third string QB Ryan Lindley pulling off a road victory seem long indeed, despite his marked improvement last week.

Two factors suggest otherwise.

First, the Cardinals have relished the role of disrespected underdog all season long and however Lindley plays one would be wise to believe that Arizona's defense can keep them in the game.

Second, they are not exactly playing a great team.

It seems pretty bizarre that the Carolina Panthers can have a losing record and still host a playoff game. They can thank their lucky stars they play in the pathetic NFC South.

Based upon the full season resume, the Panthers inspire zero confidence that they could have beaten the Cardinals if either Palmer or Stanton were playing.

But they aren't, and so this game should be close. On top of that, the Panthers are actually a very hot team.

Carolina enters the playoffs on a four-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 111-43. In December, the Panthers ranked second in the NFL in rushing offense (199.3 yards per game) and points allowed (10.8 points per game).

“We put ourselves in this position by playing the way we did in December,” said head coach Ron Rivera about advancing to the postseason. “We've won the NFC South two years in a row and that’s something to build on as we move forward as a football team.”

PREDICTION: Cardinals win, 20-17

Cam Newton and the Panthers should win this game, but they won't.

It has been a special season for the mentally tough Arizona Cardinals, and even with Lindley at the helm it will take a better team than the Panthers to end it.


Many expect another classic slugfest when AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh meet on Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Despite the fact that the Ravens needed some luck to get into the postseason, history suggests they will not be an easy out. “Anything can happen when you get into the playoffs,” said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Both Flacco and RB Justin Forsett will need to have solid games if the Ravens are to control the ball and pull off the upset. If they don't, they will be playing with fire.

That's because Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has put up some ridiculous stats this season (4,952 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 103.3 passer rating), who has been helped by Pittsburgh's talented skill position players as well. Running back Le'Veon Bell (1,361 rushing yards, 854 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns) and wide receiver Antonio Brown (129 receptions for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns) will be joining their quarterback at the Pro Bowl.

However, the major news is that Bell has been ruled out of this game with a hyper-extended knee, and if the Steelers struggle to run the football as a result, their high-powered offense will look very ordinary.

The Steelers went undefeated in December (4-0) to lock up the AFC North and every indication is that they will be ready for this matchup. Furthermore, the last time the team's met Pittsburgh crushed the Baltimore, 43-23, and Roethlisberger absolutely lit up the Ravens.

“Hopefully the journey is not over,” said Roethlisberger.

It won't be . . .

PREDICTION: Steelers win, 27-17

The Steelers have played exceptional football to close out the season and they will keep the momentum going.

Though Bell's injury leads to a slower start on offense, Roethlisberger starts rolling in the second half and the Steelers pull away.

By Staff of

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