NFL Playoffs: Predicting the Wild Card Round
The NFL postseason gets underway this Saturday with four very interesting games in the Wild Card Round.
While the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants missed the playoffs, three rookie quarterbacks, including the first and second overall picks in the draft, guided their teams into the postseason.
So who will advance to join Denver, New England, Atlanta and San Francisco in the next round? Click forward to find out.
Cincinnati at Houston
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The NFL playoffs get started with a rematch from last year's Wild Card Round when the Bengals visit the Texans.
Houston won 11 of their first 12 games this season and had the best record in the AFC for much of the year. But after losing three of their last four games, they let the No. 1 seed and a playoff bye slip away and fell down to the No. 3 seed. Now, they face a Bengals team that made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1982.
These two teams seem to be going in opposite directions, so an upset is possible. Still, the Bengals haven't won a playoff game since 1990 and under head coach Marvin Lewis, they are 0-3 in the playoffs.
Having home-field advantage in this game will be a huge factor for Houston, who comes into the game with the probable defensive player of the year in J.J. Watt. In case you forgot what he did against Cincinnati in the playoffs last year, here is a reminder.
If the Bengals are to win this game, they will have to make some electric plays. With A.J. Green, one of the best receivers in the league, that is possible. However, the Texans will regain their composure to look like the team they were most of this season.
Prediction: Texans 24, Bengals 13
Minnesota at Green Bay
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The Minnesota Vikings had to defeat the Green Bay Packers to qualify for the playoffs and once they did, their reward is to face the Packers again... this time at Lambeau Field.
In two games against the Packers this season, Adrian Peterson ran for 409 yards and two touchdowns. But if they are going to win a game in the playoffs, it will have to be the result of Christian Ponder having a good game and making plays at quarterback. In their previous meeting in Green Bay, Ponder completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions.
On the other side of the ball, Green Bay has an explosive offense, but they still have trouble protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay allowed 51 sacks this season. Only Arizona gave up more.
The Vikings possess a good pass rush led by defensive end Jared Allen. The Packers are the better team, but because of their deficiencies on the offensive line and their lack of a running game, the score will be closer than it should be.
Prediction: Packers 24, Vikings 17
Indianapolis at Baltimore
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After going 2-14 a year ago, the Indianapolis Colts have exceeded everyone's expectations. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck looked like a seasoned veteran as he threw for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns. The Colts have also rallied around their head coach, Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with leukemia in the beginning of the year.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who served as the interim coach while Pagano was out, did a tremendous job leading this team to an improbable 11-5 record. But how much longer will their run last?
Baltimore is a team trending in the opposite direction, losing four of their last five games after a 9-2 start.
Still, the Ravens are an experienced team in the postseason, coming within a dropped pass of being in the Super Bowl last season. Joe Flacco is the only quarterback in NFL history to make the playoffs in his first five seasons. Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, John Elway, none of them did that.
Indianapolis has allowed big plays in the running game this year and the Ravens are a team with one of the top running backs in the league. When Ray Rice carries the ball 20 times, they are 20-3. That will be the difference in this game. Rice will get 20 carries and will run for over 100 yards, leading to a Ravens victory.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Colts 17
Seattle at Washington
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The final game of Wild Card Weekend has all the makings of a great matchup.
Rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson will battle each other in a game between two of the NFL's hottest teams.
The Seahawks have been piling on the points and never looked more impressive than their 42-13 victory over San Francisco on Sunday Night Football in Week 16. They have one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL and went 8-0 at CenturyLink Field this year. On the road, they were just 3-5.
Despite having the better record, Seattle will be the road team against the Washington Redskins, making their first playoff appearance since 2006, a game they lost to Seattle.
The offense the Redskins have designed behind the talents of Griffin III has been a headache for teams, to say the least. The read-option attack keeps defenses on their heels and with a guy like Griffin who can run and throw the ball equally well. Seattle will have their work cut out for them.
The game will be decided by whichever quarterback makes more plays and despite not getting anywhere near the praise that Griffin has, it will be Wilson that does that.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Redskins 23