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NFL Wild Card Weekend Preview & Predictions – Inside The Wheelhouse

Matthew Stafford & Drew BreesAfter 17 weeks of regular season Football we have narrowed the field down to 12 teams that can call themselves “Super Bowl Champions” come the end of the season.

Six teams each represent the NFC & AFC respectively with the winners of both conferences battling it out in Indianapolis at Super Bowl 46. But before that all begins we have to go through the NFL Wildcard weekend to narrow the field from 12 to 8. Here is the preview & predictions for this weekend’s upcoming NFL playoff games:

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans

This game doesn’t appear to be the most attractive game out of all the playoff matchups and it most definitely fits that billing. Cincy has been on an unbelievable journey this where most people, including myself, did not see this team winning more then 5 games at the most. They instead finish the year 9-7 and have made the playoffs & are one of three AFC North teams to do so. Playing in that AFC North may prove to be of importance for this young Bengals squad.

All season long I would talk about in my weekly NFL thoughts blogs or on The Wheelhouse NFL weekly wrap-up shows that the Houston Texans could easily slide into a first-round bye and even into home-field advantage due to their schedule been relatively easy as compared to the other AFC squads. That appeared to be the course of action until they lost Matt Schaub for the season and also lost backup QB Matt Leinart within minutes of filling in for Schaub. Andre Johnson has spent most of the season on the doctor’s table as well along with Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, they are a banged up team on the field & off it and enter the playoffs on a horrible losing streak to end the year.

Houston could be one of the worst highest seeded NFL playoff teams we have seen in quite sometime and do not ignite the fear of a #3 seed like the New Orleans Saints do in the NFC. This game & how far they go this season is going to be dependant on their defense, the defense is going to have to set the tone early in this one so the offense can follow. If the Texans allow the Bengals to stay in this one I believe this young Cincy team will easily get past the Texans.

At this point the Bengals are playing with “house money” which makes them extremely dangerous but they have struggled against good defense this season as they lost all their games both to the Steelers & Ravens, two of the historically great defense. The Texans defense mirrors that same level of intensity those defenses have showcased for years. Be that the case the Texans should get past the Bengals on defense with Arian Foster & Ben Tate carrying the offense.

Prediction: Texans 17 Bengals 10

Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints

While the AFC Wild Card matchups may not be the most intriguing games in the world the NFC delivers as they have proven that their conference will be the most difficult one to get past to reach Indianapolis in a couple of weeks. This matchup between the Lions & Saints will prove that the NFC is the superior conference this season as both these teams could have first-round byes had they been playing in the AFC. This matchup may be the most intriguing of them all since you figure New Orleans will handle the Lions pretty easily, something you can not take for granted in the playoffs, ever.

New Orleans enters the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFL period. Drew Brees has had a NFL MVP season and they have peaked at the right time. It’s amazing to think that this Saints team is just a #3 seed but so it goes in the NFC and the NFL. They are the playoff veterans of the NFC going up against the first-time Detroit Lions in a playoff atmosphere.

At the beginning of the season I felt like the Lions could be a playoff team and as the season went on they appeared to be a team that could knock off the Packers in the NFC North. They had their bumps in the road being a young team and learned a great deal as they slid down the standings falling into the sixth & final spot in the NFC playoffs. They enter the playoffs after a horrible loss against the Packers “B-team” in Week 17 and don’t have momentum on their side, something a young, first-time playoff team needs to have this time of the year.

To me the New Orleans Saints are the clear cut favorites in this one since they are playing a team that is going through the learning curve before they peak as an NFC elite team in the next couple of years. We saw this happen in the past with Aaron Rodgers version of the Green Bay Packers in ’09 (when they lost to the Cardinals) and we will see it happen here for the Matthew Stafford version of the Lions. Lions fans have nothing to feel bad about after this one as this is only the beginning for a very good team for years to come.

Prediction: Saints 31 Lions 17

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants

Outside of the New Orleans Saints these two teams have had some incredible momentum entering the playoff stretch here to end the season and it seems fitting that one team’s momentum will come to a halt this Sunday in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Falcons and Giants both appear to be those lower seeded teams in the playoffs to watch out for and surprise the field like we have seen in years past. Both have peaked at just the right time and I expect to see an amazing matchup this weekend.

The New York Football Giants have played extremely well the last two weeks of the season as they have finished the year strong, something that plagued them the last couple of years. They have already been compared to the 2007 Super Bowl Championship team in the run they made at the end of the season and into the playoffs. Be that the case then the Giants are the dangerous team that the NFC Elite (Green Bay, San Francisco & New Orleans) need to watch out for in the playoffs.

Atlanta has finished the year strong but similar to the New England Patriots they have done it against teams that you may not consider to be really competitive to NFL Playoff standards. Either way they have gotten the wins and that’s all that matters when you’re looking at how you rate teams in the NFL. The Falcons have a chip on their shoulder after being a favorite last season and collapsing in the playoffs, they will have to prove people wrong by beating a very good New York Giants team.

For some reason the New York Giants under Eli Manning have struggled in the playoffs when they play at home (0-2) and succeed better when their backs are up against the wall on the road (3-1), I believe that home losing streak comes to an end for Eli Manning & the Giants as his MVP-like season continues for “Big Blue.” When you look at two teams entering with a ton of momentum you got to look at their victories and you can see that the Giants have had victories over good teams (Jets & Cowboys) while the Falcons just have not. The Giants have played every game like it’s their last to finish the season and I feel like that atmosphere will help carry them as the most dangerous team in the playoffs.

Prediction: Giants 20 Falcons 14

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

The mystic that is Tim Tebow has made his way into playoff action where he will go head-to-head with the defending AFC Champions in Mile High Stadium to finish up the Wild Card games from the weekend. It seems fitting (in the minds of television executives) that Tebow close out the Wild Card round against a team that last played a playoff game in the Super Bowl of the prior season. No matter what you think this is the most ultimate test for Tim Tebow this season.

Denver has had a pretty miraculous season as Tim Tebow took over a 1-4 team in October and made them go 5-4 the rest of the way to edge out all other teams in the AFC West to win the division & make the playoffs. I don’t think anyone ever saw this team making the playoffs and even making it under Tim Tebow. For the early part of the season this team appeared to be ready to stamp their ticket for the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes but instead decided to play to win a Championship in January.

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the playoffs really banged up as Ben Roethlisberger is playing with a high ankle sprain and Rashard Mendenhall is out for the season with a torn ACL. As we have seen with other good defensive teams this season (i.e. Chicago Bears) once your offensive leaders go down it’s hard to stake claims to victory. The Steelers will do what they can for the rest of the way out to defend their title as AFC Champions.

This game is going to be close throughout and make you believe that “Tebow Time” is starting to click away, I don’t see that being the case though as the Steelers, despite being banged up, are still a veteran playoff team. For years this team has found ways to win defensively despite not putting many points on the board. Tim Tebow forces your defense to play defense and that is something Pittsburgh loves doing & has no problem doing it either. Don’t sleep on Pittsburgh not being a dangerous #5 seed because of all these injuries.

Prediction: Steelers 13 Broncos 7

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at www.wheelhouseradio.com!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com.

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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