Listen to J. Newcastle on The Brian Thomas Show this Friday. Downloads of the broadcast are available after the show time.
N.Y. Jets (9-7) @ Cincinnati (10-6)
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Forget the regular season finale where the Bengals mostly rested and shrugged through a cold game against the Jets. This one actually means something. The Jets have been up and down on offense this season, but they are always up when the running game gets going early. Their defense attacks and will try to force Carson Palmer into mistakes. The Bengals, a team of misfits on offense, has produced when they are able to gel and keep it together. However, if the pressure is too heavy and Palmer throws picks, this could be a long day. The Jets aren't lacking in confidence and the Bengals are running on emotion which means this will probably be a close game won by the team that controls the ground game. Home field won't matter.
Prediction: NY Jets 20, Cincinnati 17
Philadelphia (11-5) @ Dallas (11-5)
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, NBC
The Eagles have done well against the Cowboys in recent postseason, but that was then and this is now. The Cowboys, in spite of themselves, have figured out the Philadelphia riddle and they are poised to win the franchise's first playoff game since 1996. Philadelphia will have to counter the pressure from the Dallas front and find some balance on the ground. For the Cowboys, it's about running the ball and getting it to playmakers like Felix Jones and Miles Austin (who knew?). Thirteen years is a long time and it appears the wait is over – for at least one game.
Baltimore (9-7) @ New England (10-6)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS
This is simple. Without Wes Welker on offense for the Patriots, Tom Brady doesn't have the most important piece of the attack. Baltimore doesn't have to be special on defense; they just have to contain and that's much easier without #83 out there. Baltimore's running attack of Le'Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice can chew up yards and clock against a suspect Patriots defense. For the second year in a row, Baltimore goes on the road to win a big playoff game.
Prediction: Baltimore 28, New England 20
Green Bay (11-5) @ Arizona (10-6)
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX
Arizona's offense is scary good and the defense isn't horrible either. They've improved from the team that made a serious run at a Super Bowl win last year and it shows. Green Bay, led by Aaron Rodgers, is a scrapy, Rocky-like team; they take hits and keep ticking. The loss of Al Harris from the Packers' secondary tips the scales in Cards' favor, but don't expect Green Bay to just lay down and take it. This will probably be the most entertaining game of the weekend.
Prediction: Arizona 31, Green Bay 24