Thank goodness that the Patriots avoided playing this weekend. With all the nicked up players that they have, earning a bye week was huge. After this weekend, we'll know who they'll be facing in the divisional round. Here are my "Wildcard Weekend" picks:
1.) (10-6) Cincinnati Bengals (+4.5) @ (12-4) Houston Texans: Friends, Houston fans are beside themselves! They were looking forward to a #1 seeding, in which the path to the SB had to go through Houston. Had it happened, it would have been the first time any Houston sports team had claimed top billing in a playoff. But nay! The Texans have never recovered from the shellacking they took at the hands of the Patriots, several weeks ago. Since then, Houston went on to lose two of their next three games. They are in a tailspin. Head coach Gary Kubiak and QB Matt Schaub are both being lambasted by the Houston media. BUT, what to make of the Bengals? Last year in this round, Cincy failed to beat a T.J. Yates led Texan team in the play-offs last year, in Houston. The Bengals have a good, young defense, that can apply pressure to an opposing QB. The Texans are all about Arian Foster, and the running game. To win this game, the Bengals are going to have to jump out front, and force Matt Schaub to beat them. But, I have little confidence in their QB, Andy Dalton, to move his team in such a manner. Nor do I think that much of their head coach, Marvin Lewis. Over the years, he's managed to hang on to his job by a thread. That said, I don't like the way the Texans are playing: PICK: Bengals;
2.) (10-6) Minnesota Vikings (+8) @ (11-5) Green Bay Packers: How much tread does Adrian Peterson have left on his tires...after 348 rushing attempts, for 2097 yards? In last weeks' win against the Packers, Peterson carried 34 times, for 199 yards. The guy has got to be nicked up, and worn! Though QB Christian Ponder has developed into a decent game manager, he'll never be confused with RG III. I credit Minnesota for winning their last 4 games to get into the play-offs...but don't see their run going any further than Lambeau Field. BUT, this is not to imply that the Green Bay Packers are world-beaters. There are issues on their OL, particularly at LT. So, Aaron Rogers is not getting as much time to slice and dice defenses, the way he once did. The Packers have no running game to speak of, and PK Mason Crosby has been shaky. On defense, other than Clay Matthews, what do the Packers really have? Yes, Green Bay can score...and score they'll have to, to win this game: PICK: Packers;
3.) (11-5) Indianapolis Colts (+6.5) @ (10-6) Baltimore Ravens: Thanks again to the Indianapolis Colts, for helping to secure a playoff bye for our Boys in Blue. Indy has been playing on emotions for much of the season. Health permitting, Andrew Luck is going to be a pro-bowl caliber QB for the next decade. Nonetheless, Luck is a rookie, whose had some difficulties this season, especially on the road. Again a veteran, battle-tested crew like the Buzzards, Indy's season will end. Look for QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice to lead the way: PICK: Ravens;
4.) (11-5) Seattle Seahawks @ (10-6) Washington Redskins (+3): The best match-up of the wild-card round. It's wonder rookies Russell Wilson, vs. RG III. Wilson looks like the second coming of Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, the way he can extend plays with his scrambling abilities. Like many, I was a skeptic on this 5'11" (on a good day) rookie QB. But, he's made a believer out of me. More importantly, his team believes in him. Wilson tied Peyton Manning's record for most TD passes by a rookie in a season, with 26...while throwing just 10 interceptions. He also rushed for nearly 500 yards. He should have time to wheel and deal against Washington's defense...as injuries have taken away the 'Skins top two pass-rushers, Brian Orakpo, and Ryan Kerrigan. In addition, Wilson has a running game, spear-headed by rejuvinated RB, Marshawn Lynch. Lynch carried over 300 times this season, gaining 1590 yards...averaging 5 yards per carry. Defensively, the Seahawks are 10th in run defense, and 6th against the pass. Overall, the Seahawks may be the most well-balanced team in the NFL. AS for the 'Skins, there's the wonder of RG III. Griffin rushed for 815 yards, and threw 20 TD passes...with just 5 picks. He too has a striong running game to rely on, led by RB Alfred Morris. Morris rushed for 1613 yards, and scored 13 TDs. On defense, Washington is 5th overall against the run, but 30th overall against the pass: PICK: Seahawks.
Your comments and playoff predictions are welcome.