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NFL Wild Card Saturday Open Thread

The 2014 NFL Playoffs kickoff at 4:25pm ET on Saturday in the early game, where the Carolina Panthers [7-8-1] host the Arizona Cardinals [11-5]. Following that, we’ve got an AFC North battle as the Pittsburgh Steelers [11-5] host their rivals, the Baltimore Ravens [10-6].

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers have taken bizarre paths to postseason.  The Panthers, who began the season with a 3-8-1 record got "hot" late in the season, winning their last four [and the NFC South division], and earning the 4th seed in the NFC.  The Cardinals started the season 9-1, but were consistently dealt bad news in regards to injuries at the QB position.  A team that looked to had earned the NFC West title, and top seed in the NFC, lost four of it’s last six games, and now finds itself trying to stay alive - on the road - with their third string QB.

That game kicks off at 4:25 ET, and is airing on ESPN.  The game will be called by Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico.  OddsShark has the Panthers as 7-point favorites, with an over/under of 38.

For more on each team, you can visit Cat Scratch Reader and Revenge of the Birds.


In the late game, we’ve got two bitter rivals facing off, as the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on Saturday evening [8:20p ET].

For the Steelers, a team known historically for it’s hard-nosed, pound the ball style offense, their aerial attack might be their team's biggest strength in 2014.  Ben Roethlisberger lead [tied with Drew Brees] for most passing yards in the NFL this season, with 4,952.  His favorite target, Antonio Brown, lead the NFL in receiving yards, with 1,698.  Le’Veon Bell finished 2nd in the league in rushing yards, [well] behind DeMarco Murray, with 1,361.  He was also good for 854 receiving yards this season.  The Steelers will be without perhaps the best dual threat RB in the NFL, as Bell will sit out [knee] this afternoon’s game.

The Ravens defense will still be tested by a potent Pittsburgh offense.  Offensively, Joe Flacco, may have to heavily rely on receivers Torrey Smith and Steve Smith Sr. if the Steelers’ offense starts clicking early.

These teams always play each other close, and this one should be no exception.  A few interesting story lines to note for this Wild Card battle:

*  Haloti Ngata returns from a four-game suspension

*  Le’Veon Bell out for Wild Card game vs. Ravens

*  Steelers’ running back Josh Harris with a chance at redemption

*  Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco plays a game called "just a tip"

The game kicks off at 8:20p ET, and is airing on NBC.  The game will be called by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.  The Steelers are favored by 3 points, and the over/under for this one is 45 [per OddsShark].

For more on each team, you can visit Behind the Steel Curtain and Baltimore Beatdown