Daily Blog • January 5th
Projected Box Score
1:00 pm ET • CBS • @philsteele042 • #AFCWildcard

The Ravens are just 1-7 vs IND with their only win being a 24-10 victory last year. IND has gone from the 1st pick in the draft to a Wildcard spot thanks to 7 game winning drives vs my #32 schedule. They are the only team with a negative point differential that finished with a winning record. BAL stumbled through 3 straight losses in Dec being outgained by an avg of 70 ypg before they got it right vs NYG to win the AFC North. The common foes are NE/CLE/KC/HOU with BAL going 4-1 while IND went 3-2. Versus winning teams BAL has the #7 and #11 units with IND having the #12 and #23 units but BAL has a huge edge with +9 TO's while IND is -12.

Luck has developed thanks to Arians knowing how to work a young QB into the NFL, a still #1 WR Wayne who's been targeted 195 times this year and only 4 games vs a top 10 D not counting the season finale. Prior to the 2nd HOU game Luck had avg'd just 222 ypg (46%) with an 8-5 ratio and 5.9 ypa. IND's strong finish on 3rd downs shows how Luck excels in situational football despite a weak run game with a single 100 yard individual rush effort. Fleener started slow and missed 4 games due to injury but has had a late season surge. The 6 different OL combos have been due to poor play/injuries and the fact that Luck has been sacked 40 times but with only a 6.7 sack %. IND's #26 D's shift to a 3-4 scheme has had a slew of injuries up front and in the secondary. Even without giving up 352 yards rush (8.0) to KC they were allowing 124 ypg with only BUF/NO being worse than their 4.8 ypc. The strength is the LB's with FA pickup Freeman thriving and Angerer rebounding after missing 6. Freeney and Mathis are still the core of the pass rush (13 combined sacks) but they aren't what they used to be. The secondary had promise but lacks depth and has a -14 ratio. It should be noted that their #25 ST's ranking is best since '06 in my rankings thanks to Hilton's 11.2 PR avg.

2012 was supposed to be the year that Flacco, in a contract year, broke out, but the offense had become quite predictable and Rice wasn't being utilized to his fullest (two 100 yard games vs 6 last year). Flacco has a solid 15-5 ratio (8.3 ypa) at home but just 7-5 ratio (5.9 ypa) on the road. Rice does have a solid amount of rec's but that's coming off checkdowns. Boldin remains a solid #2 type with Smith being a dangerous deep threat. BAL likes to use the 2 TE sets but they are much more conservative than NE's in scheme. The OL is above average (#20 sacks, 4.7 ypc) which is a disappointment with the talent. 2002 was the last time BAL wasn't in the top 10 for D for yardage but they remain top 10 in ypp. Injuries have hit every level here but they should have 9 of 11 opening day starters (CB Webb/LB McClain) here. The fact they have only given up a 14-13 ratio shows their quality of depth. Top 5 return units thanks to Jones work combined with a great year by Sam Koch has them atop our ST's rankings.

Both teams have beat up defenses but BAL is at home taking on a thin IND team that is off back-to-back emotional games. Luck should connect for points with Wayne and weather isn't expected to be a factor.

Projected Box Score
4:30 pm ET • FOX • @philsteele042 • #NFCWildcard

This is the second game in NFL history with rookie QB's at the helm (HOU/CIN last year). The Seahawks youth movement the last 2 years has helped end their road woes (4-4 this year) and they are +20 ypg (-1 TO's) away this year. Against the common foes of DAL/STL/CAR/MIN they are +60 ypg (+2 TO's) with a 3-1 record. WAS is -16 ypg at home (+6 TO's) for a 4-3 mark after losing their first 2. Against the common foes they are 2-2 coming in at -31 ypg (+6 TO's).

Moving to a rookie 3rd RD QB over the touted FA pickup was a surprise move by SEA but it has paid off. From the NE gm on, Wilson has avg'd 209 ypg (65%) with a stunning 21-4 ratio. Against top 10 D's he has avg'd 180 ypg (60%) with a 12-4 ratio thanks to a stellar power run game behind Lynch who has ten 100 yd rushing efforts this year. Despite this being the first 16 game season for WR Rice, not having a 1,000 yd receiver is more a function of Wilson spreading the ball around and the success of Lynch. SEA has started 6 different OL combinations this year but LT Okung earned his Pro Bowl berth as he's the only LT to not allow a sack this year. Seattle's Tampa-2 style D is built around lean, quick twitch defenders that have missed just 7 games via starters with 4 coming via CB Browner's 4 game suspension as the Seahawks have the league's best secondary. The LB unit is solid with Wagner and Hill locking down the middle and they are very mobile. The Seahawks DL is designed to be aggressive and they accept giving up yards on the ground (4.5 ypc) to get to the QB (#14 sacks by). SEA has my #8 ST's unit this year thanks to one of the best returners in Leon Washington.

Washington paid a steep price for Griffin but it has been more than worth it. His 8 gms of 100+ QBR are the most by a WAS QB since '91 (Mark Rypien). Griffin is just the 2nd rookie QB selected for to the Pro Bowl (Marino) that isn't an injury replacement. RB Morris is only the 5th WAS RB to tally 1,300 yds rushing ever. Last year WAS had 8 different OL combinations due to injury but they had the same through the first 14 games which as been vital for both rookies success. The Skins system excels in spreading the ball around as shown in the ydg/ypc totals. Garcon is the most important as the team is 8-1 with him and 1-5 without him with Moss being the slot WR. Prior to the bye WAS allowed 398 ypg and 28 ppg but since then its 361 ypg and 24 ppg as they adjusted to the early season injuries. The sum is greater than the parts for the #30 D that hasn't been put in bad spots thanks to Griffin. The strength of the D is the LB unit thanks to Fletcher's leadership and Kerrigan/Jackson improving since the bye. The secondary is a major weak point that has only faced one top 10 off (DAL) since October 7th. WAS has my #24 ST's unit due to below avg return units.

Washington will be in its second straight playoff setting but I will back Seattle with their superior offense, despite being on the road.