Last year, the New York Giants made a beautiful run to the Super Bowl through great play, leadership, and coaching. The Giants met up with the then-undefeated New England Patriots and beat them in an exciting, albeit sloppy game.
This year, the former Wild Card-turned-Super Bowl champions New York Giants find themselves atop the NFC and with a first-round bye.
Is there another Wild Card team waiting in the shadows, ready to make another remarkable run to the Super Bowl?
Sure. The Indianapolis Colts flew off everyone's radar after their poor start, but haven't lost for over two months. They are riding the epitome of a "hot streak" and have an all-around great team.
The Colts have the fifth seed with a record of 12-4, and they travel to face the fourth seeded San Diego Chargers, who sport an 8-8 record. Indianapolis has an entire month of wins that San Diego doesn't, yet is still forced to play in San Diego. Don't tell me there isn't irony in the NFL.
Here is a Playoff Bracket for your reference.
5) Indianapolis Colts at 4) San Diego Chargers
Although the Chargers are at home, and have one of the best running backs of all-time, the Colts will more than likely blow this game out. Indianapolis has the greatest quarterback in the NFL in Peyton Manning, who is advised by one of the best coaches in the league; Tony Dungy.
The Colts' passing game is not in question, but you need to be able to run the ball to have any kind of success in January. Joseph Addai is the running back in Indianapolis and a lot will fall on his shoulders.
In this first-round game, though, the Colts should have no problem taking care of the Chargers.
Prediction: Colts 28, Chargers 17
6) Baltimore Ravens at 3) Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are one of the biggest stories of the year. From their one-win season last year to a three seed in the Playoffs, Miami has undergone a huge turnaround. Newly-acquired quarterback Chad Pennington has been excellent and runningbacks Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have also performed well.
The Ravens have an outstanding defense led by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco has done a great job of leading this young team as far as it has come, but the veteran leadership that Pennington provides will be crucial.
Baltimore has a new head coach to go along with a rookie runningback and quarterback, and this Playoff environment will be new to them. (I suppose it will also be new to the entire city of Miami...) The Dolphins should hang with the Ravens; who have higher offensive firepower, until they pull away late in the game.
Prediction: Dolphins 17, Ravens 14
5) Atlanta Falcons at 4) Arizona Cardinals
The Falcons, who have won two more games than their Cardinal counterparts, will travel to the desert to face the first team to clinch a Playoff position. The Cardinals have been slightly above the "horrible" level for the last month, but turned things around last week against the Seahawks.
The Falcons are led by rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, who acts and plays nothing like a rookie. The run-first offense led by Michael Turner have done an excellent job in the past, but in the hostile University of Phoenix Stadium they too will struggle.
I think the Cardinals can bounce back from previous poor performances. Although prior playoff experience is over-rated in the NFL, having Kurt Warner on your team sure helps.
Prediction: Cardinals 31, Falcons 20
6) Philadelphia Eagles at 3) Minnesota Vikings
This game could be the closest of all other games in this Wild Card Weekend. The Vikings are not a very solid team at all, and have relied on the best runningback in the NFL to carry them to where they are.
The Eagles got in not by playing fantastic, but by going against an imploding Dallas team. Philadelphia is led by the erratic Donovan McNabb, who can easily follow up a 300-yard, 3-touchdown game with a 100-yard, 3-interception game. You never know what to expect from him.
The Vikings have Tarvaris Jackson, who has done anything but proven himself in this league. Lately, though, he has shown that he can step up and lead his team, contrary to what "experts" tell you. The Vikings should perform well in this game, as being the underdog at home should provide adequate motivation.
Prediction: Vikings 14, Eagles 10