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NFL Wild Card round predictions & preview
When the 32 NFL teams are working their tails off in those OTAs in the spring, and then in those steaming hot fields in training camps in the summer, and play those pre-season games, and then the regular season, they do it for one reason. The reason is to be playing in the playoffs in January.
Teams work their butts off to get to January for the ultimat goal. They want to be that one team on that first Sunday in February to have that confetti falling on their heads. They want to be holding up that Lombardi Trophy, with QUEEN’s “We Are the Champions” blaring in the background, and want to be known as the Super Bowl Champion.
The 2012 season was a bit unusual because their was a dispute between the NFL and the referees union, so the first few weeks were officiated by substitute refs. The substitute refs were awful, and several games were marred by their decisions.
One in particular that could have altered this year’s playoffs was the infamous “Fail Mary,” involving the Green Bay Packers who were playing at the Seattle Seahawks. It is so famous, and not in a good way, that I will let the video speak for itself.
The NFL and the refs union made peace very soon after this debacle, and both teams made the playoffs, so fortunately for the NFL, this controversial game did not affect either team’s chances at going to the playoffs.
However, I do feel the Packers did get screwed on this game, and they should have one more win (may have had a shot at the #2 seed), and the Seahawks should have one more loss.
Anyway, we are in January, and we have our twelve team field for the playoffs. For the AFC, in order of their seedings, we have the Denver Broncos , the New England Patriots, the Houston Texans, the Baltimore Ravens, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Cincinnati Bengals. For the NFC, we have the Atlanta Falcons, the San Fransisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers, the Washington Redskins, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Minnesota Vikings.
I did not see a lot of the turnover that the talking heads on ESPN mention. In the AFC, the field included the usual suspects, and pretty much the same participants from last year. The Colts are in, and the Steelers are out this year.
No one thought the Patriots, or the Peyton Manning led Broncos were NOT going to be in the playoffs, and get the two byes, did they?
Over on the NFC side, there are a couple of newcomers. The Vikings, Redskins (who won their first NFCE Division title since 1999), and Seattle Seahawks are in. Gone from last year are the New Orleans Saints, the Detroit Lions, and surprisingly, the defending Super Bowl Champion, New York Giants.
Well, it is now time for me to get my picks in for the four games that will be played this Wild Card Weekend. I am not going to deal with odds or any of that. I am just going to comment briefly on the game, and predict the winner, and guess at a score, and that is all.
Here we go.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Time: 4:30pm on NBC
Wild Card Game: The Cincinnati Bengals at the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium
Analysis: This is a rematch from last year’s playoff where the Texans, albeit with their backup QB, won 31-10. However, this time, starting QB Matt Schaub is leading the charge against second year QB Andy Dalton for the Bengals.
The Texans were the favorite of the talking heads, and backed them up with a strong start to their season, both on offense and defense. However, the loss of their star defender Brian Cushing really put a damper on what they could do on that side of the ball. The team’s being blown out by the New England Patriots later in the season didn’t help because the Texans have not looked quite the same since.
Honestly, I am not sold on Matt Schaub as an elite QB. I think his play makers such as RB Arian Foster, and WR Andre Johnson really carry the offense. JJ Watt really carries that defense too.
The Bengals come in on a tear, especially on defense. Their defense will give Schaub problems.
The coaches on both teams don’t excite me on play calling either, so this game could be interesting.
My Pick: Despite my misgivings about Schaub, I think the Houston Texans win despite him, not because of him.
Score: Texans 24 Bengals 16
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Time: 8:00pm on NBC
Wild Card Game: The Minnesota Vikings at The Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field
Analysis: The two teams split their series. Now, they are playing a third time, but this time, it is to advance to the divisional round. I think the tactics for both teams is pretty obvious.
For the Packers: Stop Adrian Peterson in anyway possible. For the Vikings: Give the ball to Adrian Peterson as many times as possible.
Of course, as the saying goes, that is better said than done. This game should be interesting. The Packers have DB Charles Woodson coming back after missing quite a number of games with that broken clavicle. His effectiveness will be key.
Can Vikings Christian Ponder get the job done if the Packers find some way to stop Adrian Peterson? That is the million dollar question.
My pick: It is the Packers, and they are much too hard to beat at home. I am going to have to go with the Packers. I so would like to see an upset, but I don’t see it here.
Score: Packers 35 Vikings 20
Sunday, January 6, 2013
1:00pm on CBS
Wild Card Game: The Indianapolis Colts vs The Baltimore Ravens at MT Bank Stadium
Analysis: Wow. What a story this has been for the Indianapolis Colts. I am sure every NFL fan knows their story by now, so I am not going to repeat all the details. It is amazing though that they are in the playoffs, especially since they were 2-14 last year.
Now, to the game. Before taking the job as Colts Head Coach, Chuck Pagano was working as a defensive coach for the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, in 2011, Pagano was the defensive coordinator for the Ravens, so he knows the Ravens pretty well. On the other hand, they know him too.
The Colts are led by the rookie QB Andrew Luck, who has had a very good year. He stands tall in the pocket, even when taking hits. He has an incredible will to win as well, for someone as young as he is. He has great chemistry with Reggie Wayne, and T.Y Hilton.
This Colts team is very motivated, and they are willing to play for their coach, who has been battling cancer. Their will to win even carried them to victory against the Texans in Indy (Texans never won in Indy), causing the Texans to fall to the 3rd seed (Patriots destroyed the Dolphins to earn 2nd seed.). Can this will to win beat the Ravens?
I had something very different written about the home team, the Baltimore Ravens. I had this blog almost all set to hand into my editor, Eric Gargiulo. I decided to save this, and go take a nap. I then was going to proofread it, and send it on its way, when I got the news on Twitter that the Ravens MLB for 17 years, Ray Lewis announced that he was going to retire after the playoffs.
This news puts a different spin on the game. Ray Lewis is the team’s defensive, and emotional leader. The team has been harmed by injuries on their defense, including Lewis who suffered a triceps injury in Week 6. Sunday will be his first game back if he plays. It is not known if he will play.
There will be emotional issues on both teams. As for the Ravens, the Lewis news puts a bit more pressure on the Ravens Offense, particularly QB Joe Flacco to come through with the win.
My Pick: Both teams will be playing with a lot of emotion. There is no doubt about it. The Ravens are at home. Ray Lewis is so beloved by the team, and by those fans. Could the emotion work against them? Could the emotion for Chuck Pagano work against the Colts as well? No doubt. I am still going to go with my original pick before the Lewis news broke, and say the Colts escape with a win.
Score: Colts 24 Ravens 21
Sunday, January 6, 2013
4:30pm on FOX
Wild Card Game: Seattle Seahawks vs the Washington Redskins
Analysis: This is the battle of the rookie QBs. Seattle Seahawks have Russell Wilson, and the Washington Redskins have Robert Griffin III. Both young men did a great job with their teams in leading them to the playoffs. I do give Griffin the nod because he led his team to a division title, and Russell’s team has a better defense.
This game should be pretty good. Seattle’s tougher defense vs the Redskins more dynamic offense. RGIII is still going to be a nightmare for Seattle’s defensive coordinator, even though Griffin is still not 100%. I am sure Jim Hazlett, Redskins defensive coordinator, will come up with something to try to stop Wilson, and his offense.
Score: Redskins 24 Seattle 21
Well, those are my picks. I will be back on Monday with a post Wild Card weekend analysis.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan