Buying or Selling Each Underdog's Shot at Pulling off Wild Card Weekend Upset
First-round upsets are a staple of the NFL playoffs, and after the way parity ruled the league in 2012, we're bound to see some surprising defeats at the early stages of 2013.
Can the Indianapolis Colts continue their magical and rather inspirational ride with Chuck Pagano back as head coach against a jacked up Baltimore Ravens team?
Do the Cincinnati Bengals have what it takes to enact revenge on the Houston Texans team that destroyed them in the postseason a year ago?
How about that rookie quarterback showdown in Washington D.C.?
Let's list each underdog's upset chances in a buy-or-sell format.
The Cincinnati Bengals were severely overmatched 31-10 in Houston in last year's playoffs against the Texans, as Andy Dalton threw three interceptions and backup quarterback T.J. Yates led Gary Kubiak's team to its first postseason win in franchise history.
The experience from that game will help Dalton this time around, and as a whole, the Bengals are much more equipped to stick with Houston.
Geno Atkins anchors a vastly underappreciated but powerfully threatening defensive line, and A.J. Green has already emerged as an elite pass-catching target.
We saw how susceptible the Texans secondary was over the last half of the season and that their defense lost some of its intimidating flair when middle linebacker Brian Cushing was lost for the season.
However, at home, with Arian Foster controlling the tempo and J.J. Watt disrupting Dalton's rhythm, Houston has just enough overall talent to sneak past Cincinnati in what should be a much more competitive game than it was in early 2012.
Bengals' Upset Shot: Sell
Adrian Peterson has run for nearly 205 yards on average against the Green Bay Packers this season, so it's easy to envision the defensive coordinator making some schematic and game-planning adjustments for their playoff tilt with the Minnesota Vikings.
Unfortunately for Green Bay, a team can't simply game-plan for Peterson and expect to completely shut him down.
Playing in what likely will be a classic, cold-weather playoff game on Lambeau Field, trying to tackle the MVP candidate will be even less inviting than it normally is.
Though Minnesota will clearly have an advantage in the running game, Aaron Rodgers has his full arsenal of wide receivers back and should significantly outplay Christian Ponder.
That will be the difference.
Vikings' Upset Shot: Sell
The Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens enter this opening-round playoff game heading in opposite directions.
Joe Flacco's team lost four of its last five down the stretch, while Andrew Luck's club won five of its last six.
Then again, with Chuck Pagano back on the sidelines, Indianapolis certainly will be inspired as well.
But, as is often the case in the playoffs, the team with the better quarterback has a better chance at victory, and would anyone take Flacco over Luck right now?
Colts' Upset Shot: Buy
The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins run nearly identical offenses and have tremendously mature rookie quarterbacks operating their tricky systems.
The read-option has utterly baffled defensive ends, from situational guys to DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul and Julius Peppers, and has kept opposing defenses on their heels when facing Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.
Also, both signal-callers are backed by effective power runners Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch.
While the Redskins defense has greatly improved from its vulnerable start to the 2012 season, the Seahawks defensive unit is superior from defensive tackle to safety.
Seattle's front seven should limit the effectiveness of RG3 and Morris, and the intimidating and ultra-physical secondary will make it difficult for guys like Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson to get open downfield.
Seahawks' Upset Shot: Buy