Heading to Baltimore for Sunday’s Colts-Ravens game, but wanted to give my picks for this weekend before I get on a plane:
Bengals 20, Texans 16: This is a matchup of decidedly mediocre quarterbacks. Surprisingly, second-year Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has the playoff experience advantage over Matt Schaub (first playoff game in nine seasons). Dalton will be up and down, that’s who he is. Schaub has shown that the bigger the stakes, the worse a quarterback he is. He plays scared when the play-action game isn’t giving him a ton of open space to operate, and he won’t have that with DT Geno Atkins killing the right side of the Texans’ line. The Bengals’ secondary is really good and matchups up well with Andre Johnson and company, never mind the fact that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is a terrific strategist.
Packers 30, Vikings 23: This one will come down to whether the Vikings’ front four, specifically a beat-up Jared Allen, can get enough pressure against Aaron Rodgers behind a mediocre Green Bay offensive line. Because with Greg Jennings at full strength, Jermichael Finley with his head in the game, and Randall Cobb back in the lineup, the Packers are going to put up a lot of points unless Rodgers is on his back more often than not. This could easily be a blowout.
Ravens 27, Colts 20: The Ravens have not being playing good football, but they are decidedly more talented than the Colts – as is just about every team – and at some point that’s going to catch up to Indianapolis. Ray Lewis’ return should give Baltimore enough of a lift to get by this one.
Seahawks 23, Redskins 20: The best game of the weekend should be the final one. The way these teams rely on physical defenses and the running game, it almost feels like an old NFC East clash – with two young, very athletic quarterbacks taking the place of the dinosaur dropback quarterback. The Seahawks have exactly what it takes on defense to stop the Redskins’ pistol offense, and Robert Griffin III not being at full strength tips it to Seattle.