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NFL Wild Card round predictions & preview – Inside The Wheelhouse

Thursday 03rd, January 2013 / 10:18 Written by

It’s amazing how quickly 17 weeks can go but here we are again getting ready for the 2012-2013 NFL Playoffs this upcoming weekend. 12 teams remain from the regular season in the National Football League and one team will be left standing with the right to call themselves Super Bowl Champions. We kick off the 2012-2013 NFL Playoffs by looking at this weekend’s Wild Card round games as the field of 12 will be down to 8 come Sunday Night. With that said lets preview and predict the Wild Card matchups:

AFC:

(3) Houston Texans vs. (6) Cincinnati Bengals

Weeks ago if you told me that the Houston Texans would be in the Wild Card round and would not have a first-round bye I’d think you were crazy. The Texans were looking like the best team in the AFC, all things were clicking offensively and defensively but they crumbled down the final stretch of the regular season. In their final 4 games of the season, all against playoff teams (New England, Indianapolis (twice) and Minnesota), they were outscored 110-65 and were 1-3 in those games. That is not the way to build momentum heading into the playoffs; it’s actually the complete opposite.

Then there is the Cincinnati Bengals who once again have quietly made into the playoffs with a record of 10-6. Cincinnati is the complete opposite of Houston right now as they have entered the playoffs winning 7 of their last 8 regular season games and getting into the playoffs in consecutive seasons. This is a Bengals team one-year removed from making it into the playoffs and getting eliminated by Houston so they will be looking to avenge last year’s exit.

It’s very rare that a #6 seed would be the favorite in a playoff matchup against a #3 seed but I believe that to be the case right now. Cincinnati is riding on good momentum entering the playoffs while the Texans are stumbling when it matters the most. I like the Bengals avenging last year’s playoff exit and eliminating the #3 seed Houston Texans on their home turf this weekend.

Prediction: Bengals 17 Texans 7

(4) Baltimore Ravens vs. (5) Indianapolis Colts

Anyone who read my NFL blogs last season for the Camel Clutch Blog knows that I was very high on the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC all season long. I actually had the Ravens as my Super Bowl 46 AFC team and they came up three points short from making my prediction become a reality. Now here we are again with this Ravens team and they look more inconsistent then ever to close out the regular season. Sure they got that big win against New York in Week 16 but then coasted against the Cincinnati Bengals (who were playing at full strength) in Week 17, not the way a team needs to prepare themselves for playoff action.

On the other side of the coin when you are discussing riding momentum at the right time in your season there is no other AFC team doing that more right now then the Indianapolis Colts. Let’s face it, nobody saw Indianapolis pulling off what they did this season and making it into the playoffs at all, except this team themselves. They are riding inspirational momentum from their cancer-defeating Head Coach Chuck Pagano and look to keep this amazing ride going against Baltimore in the Wild Card round.

As for this Wild Card matchup I really like what I am seeing from Indianapolis right now because they have put it together at the right time in the season. Baltimore on the other hand comes into this game struggling a bit, playing very inconsistent and a little banged up with some veteran players trying to give it a-go and play in this game. When it comes to the playoffs the team with the “hottest hand” usually keeps their dream alive longer and that’s why I’m picking the Colts to defeat their former address of Baltimore in this one.

Prediction: Colts 21 Ravens 17

NFC:

(3) Green Bay Packers vs. (6) Minnesota Vikings

The 2012 regular season for the Green Bay Packers was completely different then the 2011 regular season where they went 15-1 and had a first-round bye in the playoffs. This season brought the Packers “back down to Earth” as they dealt with some tough losses versus Seattle, Indianapolis & New York, while overcoming adversity to be written off in the NFC North and win the division yet again. It was a triumphant regular season for the Packers in 2012 and was very reminiscent to what they had to overcome in their Super Bowl season of 2010. Whether or not they can repeat that same magic in the playoffs this season is anybody’s guess.

Out of all the teams to make the playoffs this season the Minnesota Vikings were the most surprising. Entering 2012 you didn’t know what you would get out of Adrian Peterson coming off of a devastating injury, you didn’t know if Christian Ponder could be your franchise quarterback and you didn’t know if this defense could hold offenses from scoring. There were too many question marks for this team entering 2012 and they quickly squashed them as they were able to win 10 games to have the right to play past Week 17. Similar to Indianapolis, the Minnesota Vikings were one of the best stories to watch unfold in 2012.

Since both of these teams are division rivals we have seen them battle it out twice this season, splitting the season series at one game a piece, with the most recent coming in Week 17. Now they battle it out in a “win-or-go-home” format of the playoffs on Lambeau Field, a place where Green Bay has failed to win a playoff game at since January 12th, 2008 against the Seattle Seahawks. With that said I still like the Packers chances in winning this one in front of their home crowd and advancing to the Divisional Round to take on San Francisco.

Prediction: Packers 35 Vikings 21

(4) Washington Redskins vs. (5) Seattle Seahawks

Washington was another one of those NFL teams that had a magical season in 2012. At one point in the season Washington was 3-6 and left for dead by their head coach in a now monumental press conference. Since Mike Shanahan stated that Washington would be looking towards 2013 the Redskins won their final 7 games of the regular season and captured the very tough NFC East divisional crown. Years of frustration finally came to an end for one of the best fanbases in the National Football League as they will be able to see their team play once again past Week 17.

As for the Seattle Seahawks they made me into a believer as the season went on. I wasn’t on-board with the “Seahawks hype” at the early part of the regular season and as time went on they proved me wrong that they deserved all the hype they were receiving. Many people, including yours truly, have pointed out the comparisons to the last two Super Bowl Champions (Packers and Giants) when describing the Seattle Seahawks simply because they are the “hottest” team entering the playoffs right now.

The theme for the NFL Playoffs lately has been momentum. Well now you have two teams entering the playoffs with a ton of momentum as Washington has won their last 7 games and Seattle has won 7 of their last 8 games. So when it comes down to comparing these two teams I have to lean towards the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle has beaten some “elite” NFL teams this season (Green Bay, New England and San Francisco) and looks like they are clicking at the right time offensively & defensively.

Prediction: Seahawks 27 Redskins 17

For more NFL talk join Bower, Chris Johnson and myself Monday – Friday throughout the Football season on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, ESPN 1300 in New Haven and online at 979espn.com!

You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

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About the author

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JeffPeck979ESPN

View all articles by Jeff Peck

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