NFL: Wildcard Weekend
The season has come and gone. Some teams have impressed, while a good portion of the NFL disappointed but that is the life in the NFL. Team like the New York Jets, San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles all finished with a 8-8 record despite the high expectations they came into the season with. None the less, now we have new, younger and exciting teams in the playoff picture this season such as the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals. It'll all lead to an interesting playoffs this season, even though the Green Bay Packers wil be heavy favorites from here on out as they should be. However, the purpose of this article is to predict what will happen in this wildcard weekend, it should be a good one.
Wildcard Weekend Predictions
#6 Cincinnati Bengals at #3 Houston Texans
My Pick: Bengals
The Texans are finally in the playoffs, and won their division. They have been a up and coming team for some time now but the Texans have limped into the playoffs. In the first half of the season they lost defensive star Mario Williams but the rookie Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin filled in his shoes admirably. Star wide receiver Andre Johnson also missed significant time throughout the season but the biggest injury may have just been when quarterback Matt Schaub went down. After his injury the Texans have more or less been playing musical chairs at the position due to more injuries to Matt Leinhart and T.J Yates. The Texans defense has improved greatly thanks to the coaching of Wade Philips while has made great strides in the running game. Before the emergence of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the Texans had a terrible running game and now they have one of the best. They will be a tough out for any opponent but with no playoff experience and injuries they will struggle.
The Bengals are a young team who had an overhaul on the offensive side of the ball over the off-season, and it has netted positive results. Rookies Andy Dalton and AJ Green have both been very impressive. We knew that AJ Green was a sure thing in the NFL but it is still impressive how well he has done thus far. Andy Dalton has been better than most predicted and has been one of the driving forces in getting the Bengals back to the playoffs. The Bengals defense has been very solid all year but the injury to Leon Hall has hurt their pass defense significantly. The defensive line and linebackers have been solid all season.
I expect it to be a close game but also a very sloppy game to start as both teams are extremely young on the offensive side of the ball. The defenses will shine in the first half, but the Bengals have a more efficient offense and that will be seen in the second half.
#6 Detroit Lions at #3 New Orleans Saints
My Pick: Saints
Drew Brees will have a field day. It is as simple as that, the Saints are in a groove right now and it helps that they will play in New Orleans. The Saints are a terrific team in New Orleans, and outside of the dome they can be had. The case and point being their loss last season to the Seahawks. The Lions have quiet the task in trying to stop the fantastic Saints aerial attack. The only hope they have is to get after Brees. Ndamukong Suh and the Lions defensive line will have to put constant pressure on him, without making stupid penalties . The Lions offense has enough fire power to give the Saints some issues, but they are also an inexperienced team. They have never been to the playoffs before this season for the most part, but this could be the start of great things in Detroit.
#5 Pittsburgh Steelers at #4 Denver Broncos
Tebow time has come to an end. There is a reason why the Broncos has struggled to score and subsequently have lost their last three games badly. Ever since the loss to the Patriots, opposing defenses have been much more aggressive in defending the Broncos run game. The Broncos are now matched up with one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL in the Steelers. Linebackers James Harrison, Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons will pin their ears back and attack the Broncos running game. The Steelers can be had by a team with an efficient passing game, which clearly the Broncos are lacking. The Broncos defense will be on the field frequently seeing how they will have a hard time moving the ball, which will lead to a big play or two for the speedy wide receivers that the Steelers have that will break the game open.
A scary factor for the Steelers in this game, and for the playoffs, is the reports of running back Rashard Mendenhall possibly tearing his ACL. Without the threat of the running game, the Steelers hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl decrease slightly. Without Mendenhall, the Broncos fast defense won't have to worry about the running game and can focus on getting to the hobbled Ben Roethlisberger. I expect the game to be close for the first half at the most, but after that the Steelers will be too much for the Broncos.
#5 Atlanta Falcons at #4 New York Giants
My Pick: Falcons
In all honesty, no team from the NFC East should have made the playoffs. None of them were consistent all season, and in terms of skill, they all have been playing sub par. The Falcons are a interesting team to, a tad bit overrated, but still have a talented offense with Matt Ryan and company. A team with offensive weapons of the likes of Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones can give anyone trouble. The Falcons downfall is their struggles on the road and soft defense. With all of this being said, the Giants don't match up well against the Falcons offense and will have a tough time stopping the passing game. The Giants have a pedestrian group of corners which the Falcons will look to exploit early and often. The Giants defensive line can create many problems for the Falcons, which makes it that much more important for the Falcons to score first. It'll be a good game and a close game, but whoever scores the first touchdown will likely win the game.