NFL Playoffs: Wild-Card Predictions
While some teams clinched playoff spots comfortably, others snuck their way in during the last week of the season. Regardless, it’s a clean sheet now and anything could truly happen. It’s simple: win and you advance, lose and you go home. Here are our predictions for this weekend’s wild-card action.
(6) Cincinnati Bengals at (3) Houston Texans (Saturday 4:30PM ET)
Ryan Tartaglia: With first place and home-field advantage on the line, the Houston Texans came out with zero energy and played uninspired football in Week 17. Ever since Matt Schaub took a beating in New England in Week 14, Houston hasn’t even looked like a playoff team. You could even argue Houston has not played a terrific game since Week 11, a 13-6 victory at Chicago on Sunday night. Other than J.J. Watt, Houston’s defense has been overrated. Cornerback Jonathan Joseph is playing hurt and they are starting linebackers signed off the street. The Texans may have peaked too soon.
Cincinnati, on the other hand, has been on fire winning seven of its last eight with the only loss coming to the hands of the Cowboys as time expired. The Bengals defense is quietly one of the best in the game, led by unsung hero Geno Atkins, who has terrorized opponent’s backfields all year. Don’t believe me? As a defensive tackle, Atkins leads the Bengals in sacks (12.5), tackles for loss (6) and forced fumbles (4). I haven’t even begun to mention their offense, which carries the best wide receiver in the game, A.J. Green, and an emerging star tight end, Jermaine Gresham. Cincinnati has the better team and the better quarterback right now. Cincinnati wins in Houston.
Andy Deossa: Déjà vu, much? Just a year ago I was sitting in front of this same computer writing my prediction for the sixth-seeded Bengals vs. the third-seeded Texans. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the same computer but you get the point. It’s a rematch of last year’s playoff game which ended in a 31-10 win for Houston, led by third-string quarterback T.J. Yates and Arian Foster. Much has changed since then and I won’t make the same mistake of picking the Bengals to win in Reliant Stadium again.
It is indeed a promising trip to the playoffs for Cincinnati which clinched its first consecutive playoff berths since 1981-82. As Ryan mentioned, A.J. Green has had a significant impact this season, finishing with 97 receptions, 1350 yards and 11 touchdowns. Heck, the Bengals had the same record as the Ravens at the end of the season and could have won the division. But they didn’t. As great as Cincy’s last three wins of the seasons were to get them in the playoffs, let’s not forget that this team lost to the Dolphins and Browns earlier in the year.
Its Matt Schaub’s first career playoff game and Houston will be pumped for this one. The Texans let the first-round bye slip out of their hands but this is still a very talented team — ranked 8th in rushing yards and 11th in passing yards. It’s also the same team that went on a five game winning streak at the start of the season before losing their first game, and then went on to win another six straight. If you’re questioning the Texans’ legitimacy look at the only four teams they lost to: Packers, Patriots, Vikings, and Colts. All of those are playoff teams. Houston will be back this weekend and beat the Bengals at home.
(6) Minnesota Vikings at (3) Green Bay Packers (Saturday 8PM ET)
RT: Adrian Peterson can run for over 300 yards and the Packers will still win the game. Rodgers will be on point from the start of the game. AP will get his yardage but Christian Ponder will freeze up in Lambeau. Green Bay wins big at home.
AD: Nodding my head in agreement with what Ryan said. The Packers haven’t lost a home game in over three months. Green Bay was 7-1 this season at Lambeau and also went 5-1 against NFC North opponents. My money is on the cheeseheads.
(5) Indianapolis Colts at (4) Baltimore Ravens (Sunday 1PM ET)
RT: The entire Colts organization has been inspired by Chuck Pagano’s recovery from Leukemia. Three months later, Pagano, still in recovery, was on the sidelines leading his team to a Week 17 victory over the Houston Texans. Football is a game filled with passion, resilience and heart. Some things are simply immeasurable. I was well on my way to selecting an Indianapolis upset but that was until Ray Lewis announced that he will be retiring at the end of the year. Lewis has been the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens for 17 years. Making the playoffs was the Colts’ Super Bowl. Pagano’s story is just the start of something special brewing in Indianapolis but for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and many other aging Ravens, this is their last parade. A year removed from being Cundiff’d, the #RayLewisRetirementParty takes care of #ChuckStrong in an extremely emotional, but not close game. Baltimore Ravens win easily.
AD: If the BCS commissioners had a say this game would be called the Inspirational Bowl. Corny joke, I know. Seriously though, what side is more motivated to play? Better yet, how much Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bernard Pollard will we see on Sunday? Baltimore comes in with a banged up defense and will be facing a high-powered offense anchored by the Rookie of the Year, in my opinion, Andrew Luck. Regardless of the outcome, this season was a success for the Colts. However, their run stops now. Indianapolis is giving up an average of 137.5 rushing yards per game which must have Ray Rice and the Ravens anxiously waiting to attack on Sunday. Like Lewis said about his retirement, “everything that starts has an end.” Baltimore wins convincingly at home.
(5) Seattle Seahawks at (4) Washington Redskins (Sunday 4:30PM ET)
RT: Seattle is just a better all-around football team than the Redskins. The Seahawks have the best defense in the NFL and it’s not even an argument. They have better weapons and they have NFL’s Rookie of the Year, Russell Wilson. This game shouldn’t be close, but it will be. Seattle prevails on the road.
AD: The Seahawks won 11 games this season and only three of those were on the road. Not only are they traveling across the country for this matchup, they are facing the top-ranked rushing team in the league which hasn’t lost a game since November 4. Seattle could perhaps thanks the replacement refs for sneaking into the playoffs but Washington will be the one’s asking “You mad, bro?” at the end of Sunday’s game. RG3, Redskins edge out Seahawks in a tough battle.