NFL Playoff Picks: Playoff Predictions for Today's Games

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IJanuary 7, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 01:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 1, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 45-41.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Today's slate of NFL playoff action features evenly matched teams with similar makeups that should yield two tightly contested games. 

Bring on the drama. 

I see today's showdowns shaking out like this. 


No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals at No. 3 Houston Texans 

This game shouldn't be as ugly as the Denver Broncos matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but both club's defenses shouldn't have a problem limiting the opposing offense. 

Andy Dalton had a respectable rookie campaign, throwing 20 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Cedric Benson averaged only 3.9 yards per carry in 2011, but his punishing running style will wear down a Texans defense that looked average over the last three weeks of the regular season.

Even if Arian Foster and Ben Tate can get going on the ground, which won't be easy, the instability and hesitant demeanor of T.J. Yates will prevent the Texans from consistently moving the ball down the field. 

The Bengals defense allowed opponents to convert on 35.5 percent their third-down attempts, good for 12th in the league. 

The team's receiving corps are eerily similar—with one big-play threat and a handful of unheralded guys.

A.J. Green is the ideal dynamic safety valve for Dalton and he'll be featured down the field. 

In a lower-scoring battle, Cincinnati's aggressive defense will do enough to force Yates into bad decisions that will lead to a Bengals road victory. 


No. 6 Detroit Lions at No. 3 New Orleans Saints 

Are 900 total yards out of the question in this game? With Drew Brees and a blistering Matthew Stafford (averaging 428 passing yards in his last three outings), definitely not. 

Although Calvin Johnson deservedly grabs the majority of the headlines for the Lions, Stafford has flourished by finding his other talented pass-catchers of late. 

Tight ends Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew create matchup issues with their deceptive speed and the duo of Nate Burleson and Titus Young are perfect, speedy complements to the enormous Johnson. 

We all know about Brees and his stunningly explosive offensive weapons. Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Robert Meachem have been reoccurring matchup nightmares for opponents this season. 

However, the Saints running backs will be the difference. 

They finished the year sixth in the NFL rushing the football and Darren Sproles broke the single-season all-purpose yardage record. 

He's quite the terror in the screen game. 

Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are capable between-the-tackle runners that have ability on the outside, too. 

In a back-and-forth battle, the Saints get it done inside a charged up Superdome with big plays, both through the air and on the ground.