NFL Playoff Predictions: Picking Winners for Postseason's Opening Weekend

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 1, 2013

With all the seedings finalized, the analysis for the first weekend of the NFL postseason can commence. The San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots will sit this week, per the spoils of their regular-season excellence.

Even with the teams with the best records out of action, there is plenty of intrigue to excite NFL fans everywhere. 

Here are the games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, along with predictions for each matchup.


Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

The Texans' defense has to get better fast.

It hasn't looked fierce in weeks and that has been clear in the last two weeks of the regular season. Houston gave up 25.5 points per game to the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts, and neither represent two of the more high-powered offenses in the league.

It will catch a break in this one, though.

The Bengals' biggest issue has been putting points on the board. The offense is ranked only 17th and 18th respectively in passing and rushing yards.

Andy Dalton hasn't exact been hot lately. His QB rating is just 75.5 over the last five games. The mid-70s is great if we're talking about game-time temperature, but it's a cause for concern in this instance. 

The Bengals' pass rush will keep them in the game, but in the end the Texans have too many weapons for the Bengals to contain. 

The Texans will advance to the divisional playoff round.


Minnesota at Green Bay

Sunday's game at the Metrodome was a great game to watch. The drama of chasing playoff spots, positioning and the single-season rushing record for Adrian Peterson was classic.

This time, the stakes will be even higher.

Heading back to Lambeau Field for part three of the saga, the Packers still have to be the favorites. The odds are against the notion that Christian Ponder can repeat what he did in Week 17.

Ponder's three touchdown passes were set up by the threat of Peterson, but they were just as important as AP's 199 yards on the ground.

That said, Ponder was much worse when the teams met at Lambeau Field. He completed only 12 of 25 passes, threw two interceptions and the Packers won 23-14.

It'll likely be colder and louder, and there will be more at stake this time. Ponder may be ready to produce in that type of environment, but the Packers will win the rubber game.


Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

It would be a great story if the Colts could knock off the Ravens, but it won't happen. 


There are three impact players on the Ravens' side that will turn the tide of this game. 

The first is Ed Reed.

The Ravens' future Hall of Fame safety will wreak havoc in the mind of rookie QB Andrew Luck. Reed has had a slow year by his standards with only four interceptions, but he lives for big moments.

He has eight interceptions in 11 postseason games. Even if he doesn't get a pick, his presence has to be accounted for.

The combination of Torrey Smith and Joe Flacco will also be huge for the Ravens. Flacco is not only playing for the Ravens' playoff lives—he's also playing to validate his worthiness of a major free agent deal.

Smith is his biggest deep threat, and the Colts secondary will have difficulty containing him on the outside. The Colts are ranked just 21st against the pass this season. This is a great matchup for Flacco and Smith, and they will exploit it.


Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

This will be an exciting matchup featuring two of the NFL's hottest teams and rookie quarterbacks. The Seahawks have grown the most of any team this season, but they aren't the same team on the road. 

They were just 3-5 away from CenturyLink Field this season, and one of those games was a neutral site win over Buffalo in Canada. 

Going into a raucous FedEx Field to take on another red hot team is a different story. The Redskins one-up the Seahawks' five-game run with their own seven-game win streak.

Seattle has amazing speed on defense which will help to contain Robert Griffin III, but the Redskins' appeal on offense is due to their amazing balance. Trying to contain RGIII on the edge opens up the middle and Alfred Morris will feast on cutback opportunities.

If you bring safeties up, RGIII will throw the accurate deep ball.

This has become one of the NFL's most complete offenses, and the numbers support the notion.

They are fifth in the NFL in total yards, and they are one of only three in the top five that made the playoffs.

The New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions' totals are a bit skewed because they were trailing in many of their games. Their 55/45 split in favor of passing yards is the most balanced of all the teams in the top five.

Russell Wilson won't embarrass himself in his playoff debut, but the Skins' offense is a tough act to stop, especially on the road.

The crowd noise factor will work against the Seahawks this one, and the 'Skins will win a high-scoring affair.


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