Question of the Day: Which of the four NFL wild-card teams stands the best chance of advancing the furthest? [Updated]
Writers from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses, vote in the poll and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune
The teams that have the most success in the postseason usually are the teams that get the best quarterback play. Of the four wild-card teams, the one that is most likely to be propelled by passing is the Packers.
With the exception of New Orleans' Drew Brees, no wild-card quarterback is as dangerous as Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. And Rodgers has been playing better than Brees in recent weeks. The Packers will be leaning heavily on Rodgers because they really can't run the ball very well. But if they get outstanding quarterbacking and can play the kind of defense they played Sunday against the Bears, they can be the surprise team of the playoffs.
The Ravens are the most balanced of all the wild-card teams and also could be a surprise, especially if Joe Flacco gets hot. But the wild-card team that you wouldn't want to play most is the Packers.
[Updated at 10:22 a.m.:
Ken Murray, Baltimore Sun
This might be the best wild-card field in recent memory. I like the chances of three of the four wild-cards to win at least one game, and I think the Jets -- my fourth team -- could win. A wild-card team has reached the conference championship game the last three years, so there is precedence.
The two teams that are in the best position to pull that off are the Saints and the Packers in the NFC. The Saints get the biggest break of the first round with a game against the Seahawks. Then they either go to Atlanta (and a dome) or Chicago (and a tundra). As defending champs, they are capable. I think they have the best shot of going furthest.
If the Packers can win in Philadelphia -- and they did that in Week 1 -- they would play in Atlanta, where they lost in November. The Packers have everything working right now and are dangerous.]
[Updated at 10:52 a.m.:
Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
I think the wildcard teams will go 2-2, with only two of them emerging from the first round. New Orleans will win in Seattle, and Baltimore will win at Kansas City. Green Bay, meanwhile, will lose at Philadelphia, and the Jets will lose at Indianapolis.
So, on to the divisional round, where I see both wild-card teams losing -– New Orleans will fall at Chicago, and Baltimore loses at New England. That sets up an AFC championship game between the Steelers and Patriots in Foxborough, and New England wins that. The NFC title game will be Philadelphia at Atlanta, and the Eagles win that. So the Super Bowl will be another New England-Philadelphia matchup.]
[Updated at 2:26 a.m.:
Nick Fierro, The Morning Call
The Baltimore Ravens have the best chance of the four wild-card teams to advance to the Super Bowl.
They have the quarterback (Joe Flacco), coach (John Harbaugh) and proven defense to compete, and they’ve played everyone on their schedule tough. Their four losses this season have been by a total of 16 points. Furthermore, they have a good bit of positive postseason experience, having won three playoff games the previous two seasons.
And should they run into the Jets -- another dangerous wild card -- along the way, they won’t be surprised by anything Rex Ryan has up his sleeve. Or in his shoe. (Sorry, had to throw that in.) On the other hand, Ed Reed is 32 and might not even be able to play Sunday with his rib injury. And Ray Lewis is 35.
Eventually the clock will strike midnight on these guys. But the feeling here is that it won’t this year.]
Photo: Aaron Rodgers celebrates with Packers fans. Credit: Jeffrey Phelps / Reuters