NFL Playoff Picks: Predicting Scores for Every Game of the Wild Card Round

Gordon BlockContributor IIIJanuary 5, 2012

NFL Playoff Picks: Predicting Scores for Every Game of the Wild Card Round

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    We're only days away from the start of Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs, so now is a great time to look into the big matchups that we will see this coming weekend.

    In addition to breaking down what to like about each team, this preview will also show what the difference will be for each of the games.

    Here are the score predictions for each of the four Wild Card Round games this weekend. 

Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints

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    What to like about the Detroit Lions

    This game will be an offensive shootout, and if that's the case the Lions have the talent ready to score at will.

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been tremendous this season, as he has remained healthy and been effective in finding his best target, wide receiver Calvin Johnson. However, this team has plenty of receiving options in tight end Brandon Pettigrew and wide receivers Nate Burleson and Titus Young.

    They'll have to score plenty to cover for a defense that was ravaged by a mostly second-string Green Bay Packers squad this past Sunday.

     

    What to like about the New Orleans Saints

    When it comes to offensive fireworks, few can touch what the Saints and their quarterback Drew Brees have been able to do. Brees, shattering Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage mark, has been nearly unstoppable in moving the offense down the field.

    Also important is the team's ability to run, which will be vital should the Saints need to burn out some clock time. Look for running back Darren Sproles to make a big play (either with the offense or the special teams unit) at some point in the game.   

     

    The difference: When it comes to a shootout, the side with the most weapons wins. That would be the Saints.

    The score: Saints win 38-34

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants

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    What to like about the New York Giants

    Giants quarterback Eli Manning is having one of the best years of his career, and has proven himself to be very effective in pressure situations. Connecting with wide receiver Victor Cruz, the offense has found ways to stretch opposing defenses and create mismatches.

    On the other side of the ball, the defense looks to be much better than their numbers would suggest. Jason Pierre-Paul has been unstoppable as a defender against the pass and the rush.

     

    What to like about the Atlanta Falcons

    The Atlanta Falcons are a very well-balanced team, and one that has to be ecstatic that they missed a deadly first-round pairing with the New Orleans Saints.

    Quarterback Matt Ryan is one of the best young passers in the league, but his regular-season numbers have not been able to translate into any playoff wins.

    He'll hope to change that Sunday, and will be boosted by a passing attack featuring wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez.

     

    The difference: This should be a very close game, and if that's the case, I'm a lot more comfortable siding with Manning than Ryan.

    The score: Giants win 27-24

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans

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    What to like about the Cincinnati Bengals

    Ready to get revenge for a last-second 20-19 loss to the Texans earlier in the season, the Bengals have plenty of weapons on their side to get the edge.

    Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton will probably have a better game than last time, in which he threw only 189 yards and a touchdown. He'll be helped by wide receivers A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson, who flipped onto the national stage with this electrifying touchdown

     

    What to like about the Houston Texans

    The Texans have found stability with rookie quarterback T.J. Yates, who has surprised many with his ability to step in and set up the Texans playoff berth (which they clinched in their win over the Bengals).

    The team's rushing attack, led by backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, should help make things easier for the rookie.

    Their defense has also been solid, and will surely cause some major problems for Dalton and the Bengals offense.   

     

    The difference: I can't imagine the Texans pairing of Foster and Tate being held to just around 100 yards again, and the team will surely avoid the turnovers which plagued the team in their last meeting in Cincinnati.

    For the Bengals to win, they will have to find ways to benefit while deep in Texans territory. Last meeting, kicker Mike Nugent attempted and completed four field goals.

    The score: Texans win 24-17

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

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    What to like about the Denver Broncos

    He may be critiqued for his poor statistics and unorthodox throwing style, but quarterback Tim Tebow has rallied the Broncos fanbase and become the face of a highly unlikely turnaround in Denver.

    The team may have backed into the playoffs—particularly with their ugly loss to the Kansas City Chiefs—but they have the pieces to make things tricky for opposing offenses. Rookie linebacker Von Miller has a knack for bringing pressure and the secondary, led by veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, can always pull in a turnover. 

     

    What to like about the Pittsburgh Steelers

    The Pittsburgh Steelers may be troubled by injuries, but this squad still has a boatload of talent from their talented offense, led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, to a defense that has managed to overcome age and injuries to remain a major threat.

    Don't be surprised if the Steelers physicality is a huge advantage this weekend.   

     

    The difference: The Steelers have way too much talent, and the Broncos won't be hanging around in the fourth quarter to spark a comeback like they were able to do in the regular season.

    The score: Steelers win 27-9