NFL Wild Card Matchups and Picks

Photo: Evan Siegle - Green Bay Press-Gazzette

Happy Wild Card Weekend! Here is some background, trivia, and my picks for this weekend’s contests.

New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

Saturday, 4:30 pm ET

The last time they met: The Saints defeated the Seahawks 34-19 at the Superdome in New Orleans on November 10, 2010.

Time capsule: The usually hapless Saints rushed for 258 yards in a 51-27 victory against the expansion Seahawks in Seattle on November 21, 1976.

Series: Saints lead, 6-5. The two teams have never met in the playoffs.

Seahawks Fun Fact: Seattle entered the league in the National Football Conference in 1976. The following year it switched to the AFC West, then switched back to the NFC West when the league was realigned in 2002.

Saints Fun Fact: In 1966, the Saints expansion franchise was awarded to New Orleans as political payback to Louisiana Rep. Hale Boggs and Senator Russell Long, who were instrumental in approving the NFL-AFL merger’s antitrust exemption. The system works!

Pick, with rationale: Saints by 7. Because the Seahawks are the worst playoff team in memory, but should put up a fight for a while.

New York Jets (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

Saturday, 8 pm ET

The last time they met: The Colts ended the Jets’ playoff run, 30-17 in Indianapolis, to advance to Super Bowl XLIV on January 24, 2010.

Time capsule: The Jets famously upset the then-Baltimore Colts, 16-13, in Super Bowl III.

Series: Colts lead Jets, 41-28. Playoffs: Jets lead, 2-1.

Colts fun fact: The Colts franchise can trace its origins back to the Dayton Triangles, an early pro team that started playing in 1913.

Jets fun fact: Though the team spent 19 years at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York’s original stadium was the Polo Grounds in Manhattan. They were known as the New York Titans.

Pick, with rationale: Quarterbacks matter, and Mark Sanchez is still a middling signal caller. Colts by 4.

Baltimore Ravens (12-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

Sunday, 1 pm ET

Last time they met: The Ravens defeated the Chiefs, 38-24 on Sept. 13, 2009.

Time capsule: The teams met for the first time in the 1999 season, with Kansas City trouncing the Ravens, 35-8 in Baltimore.

Series: Kansas City leads, 3-2. This is their first playoff meeting.

Chiefs fun fact: The late Lamar Hunt, the Chiefs’ original owner, was a great sports marketer – he even coined the term “Super Bowl.” But if he’d had his way when he moved his team from Dallas to Kansas City, they’d have been known as the Kansas City Texans. Hunt wanted to keep the nickname from the team’s Dallas days as a sort of tribute; fortunately he was talked out of it.

Ravens fun fact: The name “Ravens” comes from the poem “The Raven,” by Baltimore resident Edgar Allen Poe.

Pick: The Chiefs had a good season, but they beat a lot of terrible teams, including Buffalo, San Francisco, Arizona, Cleveland, and Denver. The Ravens have too stout a defense. Baltimore by 10.

Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

Sunday, 4:30 pm ET

The last time they met: The Packers beat the Eagles 27-20 on opening day of the 2010 season in Philly.

Time capsule: The Eagles beat the Packers, 17-13, on Dec. 26, 1960, to win the NFL Championship. It was the Eagles’ last title, and it was Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s only loss in a championship game.

Series: The Packers lead 25-15, though the Eagles are 2-0 vs. Green Bay in the playoffs.

Eagles fun fact: In 1943, due to a personnel shortage, Philly merged its team with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team was known that season as the Steagles.

Packers fun fact: Packers founder and head coach Curly Lambeau once wrote to future president (and then Michigan football player) Gerald Ford, inviting him to play center for the team in 1935. The pay : $110 per game, not bad for the Depression. Ford opted to pursue a law degree at Yale.

Pick: Philly’s rushing attack is formidable (5.5 yard per attempt) and DeSean Jackson is explosive. But Michael Vick has been so-so the past few weeks, and the Packers are peaking. Packers by 3.

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