NFL Wild Card Preview: Jets, Ravens, Packers Could Render Home-Field Advantage Meaningless

Like I mentioned in my previous post, each road team in this weekend's playoff games would be at home if home-field advantage were determined solely by better win-loss record (although the Packers and Eagles the same record, the Packers win the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the head-to-head matchup in Week 1).

Don't be surprised if all of the road teams win this weekend. It would be the first time since the NFL went into a 12-team format in 1990 that all four visiting teams won on Wild Card weekend.

As I said in my previous post, I fully expect the New Orleans Saints to take care of business in Seattle. But how will the other three playoff visitors fare against teams that actually earned its trip to the playoffs rather than happen to be the least-mediocre team in the junior varsity division known as the NFC West?

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5 ), 7 p.m. CST (NBC)

This may sound like a weird thing to say about a game featuring the likes of Peyton Manning, but I'll say it anyway: This game will come down to the battle in the trenches.

The Colts, according to the most recent Sports Illustrated issue, are 8-0 on the season when they attempt to run the ball at least 24 times. It's really simple: Indianapolis needs to establish the run to give Manning more options in the passing game.

Especially with the likes of Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez unavailable to Peyton.

The Jets have the NFL's third-ranked rush defense. If they can make the Colts give up on the run early, they will be successful on that side of the ball.

On offense, the running duo of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene gives New York the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing offense. In the Colts' six losses this season, they have allowed an average of 190 rushing yards.

If the Jets can establish their running game and take away the Colts', they will have control of this game. But then again, it is Peyton Manning, so this will be a close game.

This game will come down to one final drive by the Colts thwarted by a Darrelle Revis pick.

Jets 20, Colts 14

Baltimore Ravens (-3.0) at Kansas City Chiefs, Noon CST (CBS)

Speaking of battles in the trenches, how about Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and the top-ranked rushing offense lining up against Ray Lewis and the always-fierce Ravens defense?

Just the thought of watching this matchup makes me wonder where I last left my aspirin.

Ultimately, though, this game will go to the Ravens, if only because of their experience in the playoffs. They will be going for their third consecutive Wild Card road victory.

Although Arrowhead Stadium gives the Chiefs one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL, I doubt that Baltimore will flinch.

Ravens 24, Chiefs 14

Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.0), 3:30 p.m. CST (FOX)

Some may say that the Packers did not win 27-20 over the Eagles in Week 1.

Rather, they escaped with a win.

Filling in for an injured Kevin Kolb in the second half, Michael Vick completed 16-of-24 passes for 175 and a touchdown to lead Philadelphia on a 17-point rally, invoking bad memories for Packers fans in the form of his 2002 Wild Card performance as an Atlanta Falcon.

When Vick was stopped on fourth-and-1 with less than two minutes remaining, Green Bay fans rejoiced in a collective sigh of relief.

Well, guess who's back? This time, we will see what Vick can do with a full game against the Packers (remember to breathe slowly, cheeseheads).

So, can Green Bay stop Michael Vick's high-powered Eagles offense enough to earn its first road playoff win since the 1997 season?

The Packers have the NFL's fifth-ranked defense, so they definitely have a shot. If they can limit, if not eliminate, Philadelphia's big plays and force the Eagles to maintain long drives like the Chicago Bears did in their victory over the Eagles, they will give Aaron Rodgers enough to outduel Vick's offense.

This is a game that could go either way. It will ultimately come down to whoever has the ball in the game's final minute and which quarterback can deliver in the clutch.

Rodgers has yet to prove that he can do so in the postseason. He may show me otherwise on Sunday, but considering the kind of season Vick's having, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Eagles 28, Packers 27

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