The Arizona Cardinals playoff berth was clinched long ago as the franchise will host its first postseason game since 1947. The Cardinals welcome the Atlanta Falcons to the desert on Saturday while a pair of other teams will battle for their playoff lives. Brad Wilbricht previews the NFC Wild Card round, breaking down both of this weekend's matchups.
Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
Arizona got off to a 7-3 start but struggled down the stretch losing four of its final six outings. The Cardinals have featured a one-dimensional offense for the majority of the season, getting little production from their running game. Arizona is averaging a mere 74 yards per game on the ground and has been limited to just 3.5 yards per carry. Veteran RB Edgerrin James
rushed for 100 yards in the regular season finale, the team's best rushing effort since Week 9. Look for James to see an expanded role this weekend while RB Tim Hightower
reverts to being utilized on a situational basis.
QB Matt Ryan
Unlike the Cardinals, Atlanta boasts an extremely balanced offensive attack highlighted by rookie QB Matt Ryan
and RB Michael Turner
. Ryan has been a pleasant surprise this season, throwing for nearly 3,500 yards while maintaining a QB rating of 87.7. Meanwhile, Turner was second in the NFL in rushing with 1,699 yards and racked up 17 touchdowns. The Falcons' biggest weakness has been defending the run where they've allowed 128 yards per contest. If Arizona can take advantage of Atlanta's ineffective run defense, look for the Cardinals to have a slight advantage on their home turf.
Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings
Philadelphia punched its own ticket to the postseason, throttling the Dallas Cowboys
in the final game of the regular season. Despite a record of just 9-6-1, the Eagles have been one the more dominant teams in the NFC. They've allowed the fewest points in the conference (289) and are fifth in points scored (416). QB Donovan McNabb
remains one of the most productive passers in the league. He threw for over 3,900 yards and tossed 23 touchdowns on the year. RB Brian Westbrook
has been in and out of the lineup this season, but a healthy Westbrook could give opposing defenses fits in the playoffs.
QB Tarvaris Jackson
Minnesota narrowly escaped with a win in Week 17, but would have won the NFC North by default following a loss by the Chicago Bears
. RB Adrian Peterson
led the NFL in rushing with 1,760 yards but goes up against the fourth-ranked rush defense allowing 92 yards per game. The Vikings have been even better against the run, giving up a league-best 77 yards per outing. Since replacing QB Gus Frerotte
in Week 15, QB Tarvaris Jackson
is completing 62 percent of his passes and has tossed seven touchdowns opposed to just one interception. If that production continues, the Vikings could be poised for a deep playoff run.
Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org