NFL Playoffs 2013: Higher Seeds on Upset Alert in Wild-Card Round
The Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs will not be an easy weekend for the top seeds in the AFC and NFC.
All of the lower seeds have quality quarterbacks who can be trusted or a star running back capable of dominating the best defenses. Having to face teams this talented in the first week of the postseason is why everyone tries so hard to earn a first-round bye.
Let's look at three higher seeds on Wild Card Weekend that are on upset alert.
Unfortunately for the Texans, they peaked too early and as a result, their performance is getting worse as they march into the playoffs.
Houston's opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, are going in the opposite direction. Six wins in their last seven games saved their season from massive disappointment and earned the team its first back-to-back winning seasons since 1982.
The Bengals are full of confidence and won't be intimidated by a Texans team that has looked awful over the last four weeks.
Houston's offense, which was one of the league's finest until the last quarter of the season, averaged only 16.25 points over its last four games. In the final two weeks of the season, the Texans scored a combined 22 points against two defenses not ranked in the top 10 (Vikings and Colts).
Starting quarterback Matt Schaub has thrown just one touchdown pass in the last four games, along with three interceptions. Star running back Arian Foster rushed for over 100 yards in a game in just two of the team's five December games. He had six 100-yard games before that.
If Schaub and Foster don't improve this week, the Texans will lose. Playing at a higher level won't be easy against the Bengals defense, which has improved quite a bit in the last two months.
Houston must return to its mid-season form or the Bengals will do what they could not last season, win a playoff game at Reliant Stadium.
Robert Griffin III has given Redskins fans playoff football to look forward to, which will be a new experience for many of the team's younger fans.
However, his postseason run may only last one game because the Seahawks defense is one of the best in the NFL.
Griffin can worry defenses with his arm and by running the ball, but Seattle excels in both of these areas on defense (sixth against the pass, 10th against the run). This will be one of the toughest defenses that Griffin will have faced all year.
Washington's defense finished third to last against the pass this season, which is bad news because Seahawks rookie QB Russell Wilson has played exceptional over the last two months.
The Redskins finished 23rd in sacks this season, and unless they can put pressure on Wilson, the Seahawks offense will have little trouble scoring points because of their impressive balance.
The Redskins need to play their best football of the season this weekend because the Seahawks are one of the league's hottest teams right now.
The Baltimore Ravens will be under immense pressure during the playoffs for a number of reasons, including Joe Flacco's subpar performances this season, the team's championship window getting smaller and the disappointment of last year's AFC title game loss to the New England Patriots.
The Ravens' playoff opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, is under no pressure whatsoever because it is led by a rookie quarterback and wasn't expected to even contend for a postseason berth.
Baltimore's defense finished the regular season ranked 17th against the pass and 20th against the run, and with so many injuries impacting their depth, the Ravens defense won't scare Colts quarterback Andrew Luck one bit.
After starting the year 1-2, the Colts went 10-3 in their final 13 games. They also have wins against playoff teams such as the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and the Texans.
Flacco must play well and not turn the ball over or the Colts' phenomenal season will continue into the divisional round against the Patriots or the Denver Broncos. This will not be an easy game for the Ravens.
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