NFL Playoffs 2013: Predicting Winners of Wild Card Weekend
For eight NFL teams, the second act of their NFL seasons is about to begin.
It's playoff football—Wild Card Weekend to be exact—and the stakes have never been higher than they are right now.
No longer can a team rebound from a loss, for losing now brings with it a long offseason that nobody is eager to get under way.
Which teams will be able to stay away from the doldrums of having no football left to play?
Let's take a look.
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) at Houston Texans (12-4)
The mere fact that the Texans are playing in the Wild Card Round tells you nearly everything that you need to know.
A team that was once 11-1 and a lock for a first-round bye in the playoffs has dropped three of its last four games, a run that has seen the Texans outscored 110-65.
Houston's pass defense is shaky, while its quarterback, Matt Schaub, is a game manager, not a playmaker.
Cincinnati will look to take Arian Foster away from Schaub, forcing him to win the game with his arm.
Cincinnati has won seven of its last eight games, including its last three, and enters the playoffs with no glaring weaknesses on either side of the ball.
When these two teams met in last year's AFC Wild Card Round, the Bengals fell to the Texans.
But Cincinnati is a far better club than it was last time around—and the Bengals will prove it on the field.
Cincinnati 27, Houston 17
Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at Green Bay Packers (11-5)
The NFC North foes meet for a third and final time this season as the rivalry shifts back to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson has carried the ball 55 times for 409 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Green Bay's defense this year. The Packers could stick all 11 defenders in the box and still wouldn't be able to stop Peterson from doing his thing.
Despite Vikings QB Christian Ponder having a solid game against Green Bay in Week 17, throwing for 234 yards and three touchdowns, Minnesota's offense rests on the legs of Peterson.
Green Bay's fate, however, lies on the arm of Aaron Rodgers, who has completed more than 70 percent of his passes for 651 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception against Minnesota this year.
Peterson is a lock to run wild on the Packers once again, but Ponder is simply too erratic to rely upon—and that lack of a difference-maker under center will ultimately doom the Vikings.
Green Bay 38, Minnesota 27
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
The game is being played at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, one of the most difficult and intimidating places for a road team to play.
While Andrew Luck is used to hostile environments—and has found success in some—he has yet to experience the charged-up atmosphere of an NFL playoff game.
Baltimore doesn't typically lose at home, owner of a 22-3 record in front of the Ravens faithful since 2010 (playoffs included).
Couple that with the expected return to the lineup of Ray Lewis, the team's heart and soul, and Baltimore will have little in the way of an issue trying to clean things up.
Baltimore 28, Indianapolis 18
Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Washington Redskins (10-6)
A head-to-head showdown between two of the brightest young stars in the NFL, Seattle QB Russell Wilson and Washington QB Robert Griffin III, caps off an exciting weekend of football.
Both rookie quarterbacks have shown poise beyond their years, leading their respective teams to victories that nobody once thought possible.
Both teams have dynamic running games as well, with both Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and Washington's Alfred Morris picking up more than 1,500 rushing yards on the season—not to mention that both quarterbacks also have the ability to get out and run.
Defensively, however, is where the similarities end.
Seattle has an outstanding defense, one that is strong against both the run and the pass, while Washington's pass defense leaves much to be desired. The Seahawks will attack Washington's secondary early and often.
Seattle 34, Washington 21
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