Winter is one of my favorite time of the year for two reasons: the NFL and its playoffs. Unfortunately, I will not be watching my Steelers this postseason – because my Steelers are not in the postseason. I had to consult my Bengals-loving in-laws on how one had to approach a playoffs where the favorite team is not participating. After all, what better group of people to consult?
But I digress (big time).
Nevertheless, I am looking forward to this weekend’s slate of games. Here’s is how I think the 2013 NFL Wildcard round will shape out…
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans. This is a rematch of last year’s wildcard game. Last year’s Bengals did not look ready for the big stage. Not only do I think they are ready, I think they are mad as hell over what happened to them last year. The Bengals are also much better defensively. They have the best front four in the NFL, led by Geno Atkins and his 12 1/2 sacks. Offensively, QB Andy Dalton improved his game just a little bit this season, the running game is better led by Benjarvus Green-Ellis, a.k.a “The Law Firm”. And wide receiver AJ Green is even a bigger stud than he was last season. Cincinnati will be this time around.
As for the Texans, to say they stumbled down the stretch would be more than kind. They went from the top-seed in the AFC to the 3-seed. I think the Texans are more fraudulent than fearsome. That ass-kicking they received from the Patriots on Monday Night Football a few weeks really tore down their confidence.
Having said all of that, this game will be much closer – and the Bengals will pull off the slight upset. I think the Bengals’ front four will make life hell for QB Matt Schaub, and will stifle Arian Foster and the Texans’ running game. I’ve seen the Bengals’ defense quite a few times, and trust me when I say this: those boys are good. Damn good. Cincinnati will not be scared this time around. Bengals 17, Texans 13.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens. This is the red-headed stepchild of all the wildcard matchups. I will say this: I’ll watch this game because to me, this is the classic “passing of the torch” game. The Colts are here WAY earlier than anyone predicted, while the Ravens are old, wounded and are holding on for one last ride. I think the impending Ray Lewis retirement will fire up the Ravens just enough for a win.
Besides, the Colts are too young and are not ready for the intensity of the playoffs. QB Andrew Luck will get a tall cup of “welcome to the playoffs on the road, rookie” in Baltimore this weekend.
As much as I would love to see Indy win on the road in a hostile environment in Baltimore, I just don’t see it. Ravens 20, Colts 10.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins. This is my “must-see” playoff game this weekend. This is the matchup of QBs who should be the top two candidates for the Rookie of the Year. We all know what Robert Griffin III has done this season. I think Russell Wilson has done more to earn the award considering the fact that he is a third-round pick and was much less hyped than RG3 and Luck.
This matchup comes down to which defense shows up. The Redskins’ D has been depleted all season, but also has played with a lot of heart. Anyone who watched linebacker London Fletcher near the end of the Dallas game last Sunday night would have had as much goosebumps as me. However, Seattle has the better D and has the horses to make life difficult for RG3 and Co. The Seahawks’ cornerback tandem is among the best in the league, and are playing with a lot of swagger. And, Seattle has the 4th ranked defense in the league.
I know Seattle is not the best road team in the NFL, but with Wilson flying under the radar and that hard-hitting Seahawks D, the pressure will be on RG3 to deliver a playoff win for the Redskins faithful – and he will not get it on his first of what will be many trips to the playoffs. Seahawks 17, Redskins 16.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers. Nothing much to say here, other than Adrian Peterson is the NFL MVP for single-handedly led the Vikings to the playoffs. Unfortunately for AP, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will come in pissed off for losing the last game to the Vikings. And that pissed off attitude will earn a win for the Packers in this trilogy. This will not be a blowout, but vengeance will be their’s saith the Packers. Packers 27, Vikings 13.