NFL Playoff Predictions: Game-Changers Who'll Lead Their Teams to Victory
It isn't always the case, but playoff games are often close affairs that come down to a couple of plays. That's going to happen in all four of this weekend's games.
When that happens, someone has to make those big plays that change the course of the game. Look no further than these players.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans—A.J. Green, Bengals, WR
Green had a stellar rookie season, and has a fantastic connection with quarterback Andy Dalton. We're going to be hearing a lot from that duo for years to come.
This will be a low-scoring game. Both teams rely a lot on their defense to win, especially with the injuries that have hit the Texans. This game is going to be low scoring. That's not a problem for either team.
How many road teams will win this weekend?
The problem for the Bengals will be Green. He'll have more of an ability to make big plays, given the quarterback that he has throwing him the ball. It won't take many, but Green will get the plays that he needs.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Texans 13
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints—Darren Sproles, Saints, RB
The obvious choice is Drew Brees, but there's something that needs to be considered. The Lions do have a strong pass rush that will put pressure on him. But you beat a good rush with screen plays, and the Saints have the best screen man in the game.
Sproles will get himself loose and into the Detroit secondary all game long. That's going to lead to a lot of points from the Saints, more than even the potent Lions offense can keep up with.
The Lions don't have much of a defense, aside from their front. So, screen plays and misdirection runs will burn them all game. Sproles is custom made for this kind of game.
Prediction: Saints 37, Lions 24
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants—Julio Jones, Falcons, WR
All things equal, who's the better receiver?
This will be the best game of Wild Card Weekend. Ultimately, it's going to come down to a battle of explosive receivers. Julio Jones vs. Victor Cruz. It's not that I like Jones more as a receiver, but I trust the Atlanta defense more.
The Giants have a secondary that's going to give them a lot of trouble here. Yes, they can score points and will do just that, but they won't do well enough on defense. Jones is an explosive rookie target, and that's going to win the day here.
When the Falcons need a big play, the Giants won't have the players on the field to stop him.
Prediction: Falcons 31, Giants 26
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos—Troy Polamalu, Steelers, S
The final game of the weekend will give us our only defensive game-changer.
Polamalu's combination of size and speed will be too much for the Broncos to handle.
The Steelers have 10 other guys who can worry about Denver's offense, but Polamalu just needs to shadow Tim Tebow to take the run away.
Tebow has never faced a safety like Polamalu, and his style of play will be too imposing for Tebow to deal with.
Neutralizing Tebow's big-play ability with his feet will change this game more than any long touchdown pass or run ever could. And when he has to force a turnover, Polamalu can do that.
Prediction: Steelers 16, Broncos 10
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