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

Adam LufranoCorrespondent IIIJanuary 8, 2012

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos rushes witht the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 7-3 as the Broncos advanced to the AFC playoffs.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Yesterday, the Houston Texans won their first playoff game in franchise history on the back of Arian Foster. Foster is quickly turning into one of my favorite players, and if he keeps playing the way he is, the Texans will not be out of any game they play this postseason.

The Texans have a remarkable defense led by Wade Philips, and the return of Andre Johnson has incredibly helped T.J. Yates.

The Texans play the Ravens next week, and I would hesitate before you make Baltimore the lock. The Texans defense can limit Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense and make the game close.

After that, who knows? A big game by Foster can go a long way for the Texans.

Also, yesterday saw the New Orleans Saints beat the Lions handily, 45-28. It seems like the Saints are unstoppable right now—considering they broke the playoff record for total yards in a game with 626.

It is unfortunate for the Saints that they are unlikely to play another game at home this year, because they average 42 points and over 500 yards in New Orleans. That is unreal.

The Saints travel to San Francisco next week to play the 49ers in what should be a good game. The Saints will not be playing in a dome and the 49ers are going to want to prove to the world that they are one of the best teams in the NFL. 

There are two other games next weekend that matchups will be decided today. The Packers and Patriots still don't know who they will play. The Packers will play either the Falcons or the Giants, and the Patriots will face off with the Steelers (most likely) if they can beat the Broncos.

Here are predictions for today's games before they kick off.

Falcons @ Giants

Brent Grimes, who has had an incredible season playing corner back for Atlanta, will not play today because of a knee injury, according to the Wall Street Journal.  That is bad news for Falcons fans because Eli Manning is having a career year and Grimes has played very well.

The Falcons still have plenty going for them in this game. Matt Ryan, who started very slow this year, has come around near the end of the season. Julio Jones has also emerged as a big play threat, while Roddy White has kept his role as the receiver working underneath. 

Michael Turner should also have a huge game: He is still one of the better running backs in football. The Giants are not known for their secondary, but the Falcons will have to be weary of their pass rush.

The Giants should cause problems for Matt Ryan if he cannot get rid of the ball early.

For the Giant's offense, Eli Manning has had what many believe to be his best season. The running game for New York did not have a good year, but Ahmad Bradshaw is still able to come through with a big game every week.

When I look at this game, I see a Falcons team able to score points on this Giants defense, and the same thing on the other side of the ball. The difference, to me, is that the Giants pass rush forcing a still young quarterback, Matt Ryan, into mistakes.

I have not forgotten that the game is in New York, where home-field advantage should help the Giants. 

Giants, 31-27.

Steelers @ Broncos

Why even write about this game? The Steelers, 21-3. There, done. Right?

Well, I don't necessarily see it that way.

I think the loss of Ryan Clark will hurt the Steelers, but it won't make a huge difference. The Steelers defense will be playing for Clark, and his loss won't make the difference in the game.

The loss of Rashard Mendenhall will make an impact, however. Isaac Redman is a fine backup running back, but he is not the playmaker that Mendenhall is. Also, Redman fumbled twice last week and he is facing a Denver defense that lives off of opportunities created by the offense's mistakes.

I would just say turnovers, but for anyone that's watched Denver over the past nine weeks knows what I mean.

Redman can do a fine job for the Steelers, but I don't see him making any huge plays in the running game. That means Big Ben will have to make a lot of throws under a great deal of pressure. Usually, that is not a problem in the slightest, but with Ben's leg injury, I think he'll be forced into some mistakes.

Denver can rush the passer with Von Miller and Elvis Dumerville, so Roethlisberger better be ready to throw quick and easy passes.

Obviously, those quick and easy passes for the Steelers should be enough to outscore the Broncos. Many people see the Bronco's over/under for the amount of points they score is seven. While that could definitely end up happening, I'm going to go with the upset and wait to see if I'm a genius or a moron.

Willis McGahee is capable of making a big impact and Tim Tebow can make some plays on the ground if he gets out of the pocket. Denver can limit the Steelers offense, and if they force mistakes from Roethlisberger, it would sure help to return a pick for a touchdown.

If none of that happens, maybe Brady Quinn comes in and throws three touchdowns in the second half?

Broncos, 20-17.