NFL Playoff Predictions: Picking the Wild Card Games Slated for Saturday

Adam LufranoCorrespondent IIIJanuary 7, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 01:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions drops back to 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

On the first day of the 2011 NFL Playoffs, the games will be decided by very young quarterbacks. The first game puts two rookie quarterbacks in T.J. Yates and Andy Dalton against each other, and the second game features a 23-year-old quarterback—Drew Brees—that threw for 5000 yards this season.

It should be an exciting day for NFL fans, most of whom will be tuning in to watch the Saints host the Lions in the night game. Many experts are picking the Saints to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, while the Lions started out the year 5-0 and feature an explosive offense to counter Drew Brees.

This article will try to predict the two winners of today's games, no matter how difficult it is to determine who truly has the edge in NFL Playoff games. We'll start with the early game and then pick the game that everyone has waited all week to see.


Bengals @ Texans


The Texans would be Super Bowl contenders if Matt Schaub and Mario Williams hadn't landed on IR. The Texans have arguably the best defense in the NFL and an offense that is usually packed with play makers. 

Unfortunately, the Texans are starting T.J. Yates, a rookie drafted in the fifth round last year, at quarterback and have their best wide out, Andre Johnson, recovering from a hamstring injury. They still have Arian Foster, who is definitely one of the best running backs in the league, and Ben Tate, who is a phenomenal compliment to Foster. Also, they have home field advantage.

The Bengals, on the other hand, have an offense that is also led by a rookie, Andy Dalton, but does not have a great rushing attack. Cedric Benson is not an elite back and the Bengals' best receiver is a rookie, A.J. Green. 

The Bengals do have a great defense, just like the Texans, and the two defenses in this game should really limit the opposing offenses. The way I see this game going is Arian Foster running wild for most of the game, but Andy Dalton playing well enough to outdo Foster. 

Dalton may have to make some big plays to Green in the fourth quarter, but Dalton has experience doing that this season already. The Bengals' season this year has been a good story, and I see that continuing.

Bengals, 21-17.


Lions @ Saints


Here's the match up everybody wants to see, at least for this weekend. Fans want to know if the Saints will keep rolling once the playoffs start and if the Lions will get manhandled in their first playoff game since 1999. 

Can the Lions live up to the occasion and keep this game interesting?

Yes, and I believe they can do a little more than keep it close.

The Lions have a very good offense, just like the Saints, and if the Lions don't make mistakes like committing costly turnovers or racking up the penalties, they can keep score with the Saints until the game's over. The question is, which team has the most points by the game's end?

In a game like this, the winner is probably going to be the team that gets the final possession. That usually doesn't happen because the team with the ball last can throw a pick or the winning team can close it out before the last drive. But in this game, I see the winner as the team that gets the game winning drive with a minute left.

So, what happens if the Lions get the ball last?

I like the Lions' chances of scoring with the Saints. They can keep it close, or maybe even lead, for the majority of this game. All it takes is one bad pick by Brees, or one costly fumble, to put the Lions on top, assuming the Lions don't commit that one costly turnover themselves.

Am I saying there's only going to be one turnover in this game? No. But the Lions actually beat the Saints in a lot of the major categories except points in their 31-17 loss earlier in the season. If the Lions don't have the turnovers and penalties this time around, they can win this game. 

This is a season where a bunch of teams can win it all, and while the Lions are not likely to go the distance, they are capable of pulling off some upsets. This is a game where I think the Lions will shock the world.

Lions, 38-34.