NFL Wildcard Schedule 2013: Rating the Underdogs With Best Shot at Pulling Upset
The underdogs for the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs are the Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins, per OddsShark.com.
Besides the Redskins, all of the underdog teams are on the road.
The Skins are listed as just 2.5 point dogs to the red-hot Seattle Seahawks, so that game is expected to be a nail biter. Of all the underdogs in action on Wildcard weekend, which team has the best shot at pulling the upset?
Let's take a look.
Redskins Will Defeat the Seahawks
I think the oddsmakers are selling the Redskins short by making them underdogs at home. We must remember, even though the Seahawks finished the season on a high note, they still haven't won on the road regularly.
They are 3-5 away from CenturyLink Field, and those three wins came over non-playoff teams. The win over the Buffalo Bills actually took place in Canada.
The Redskins have the most balanced offense in the NFL, and the read options are great to victimize a fast and aggressive defense like the Seahawks.
Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris have been a spectacular rookie tandem for the Skins this season.
Washington is the only team in the NFL with a running back with 1,600 rushing yards and QB with over 3,200 passing yards this season. The Seahawks are close with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, but they won't be facing themselves on Sunday.
Not only do I think the Redskins have the best chance to pull the upset, I predict that they will indeed win this game.
Minnesota Vikings Have Proven They Can Beat the Green Bay Packers
The Vikings pulled off a must-win over the Packers in Week 17 in the Metrodome, but can they do it in the playoffs at Lambeau Field?
I'm thinking no, but it's hard not to say they have the second best shot at pulling the upset, considering they just beat their opponent a week ago.
An effective Vikings' pass rush and continued positive play from Christian Ponder is pivotal. If Minnesota can continue to get pressure from their front four, the defense will keep the Packers' from running away with the game.
They sacked Rodgers seven times in the teams' two games this season.
On offense, a steady diet of Adrian Peterson—which is a given—and timely throws from Ponder will be the difference between a win or a loss.
The formula is there, but I don't believe the Vikings will be able to compile the mixture on the road.
Can Bengals Score Enough Points to KO a Reeling Texans Team?
This could be the easiest upset win, if the Bengals can move the ball consistently. This is a big "if" because Andy Dalton has been less than stellar lately.
He's had a QB rating above 76 only one time in his last five games, and during that span he's thrown four touchdown passes and five interceptions. He'll need to be better than that to guide his team to a road playoff win.
The Texans are seemingly ripe for the pickings, though. They've lost three of four, including a 23-6 home loss to the Vikings. They fell from what seemed like a certain bye in the first round into the third seed in the playoffs.
The Texans' linebackers must step up against the run. It is the key to contain the Bengals' offense. If BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a solid game, it will open the play action pass, and the Bengals will be effective with the ball.
From there, their pass rush that generated 51 sacks in the regular season could take over the game. I'm taking the Texans in this game, but it wouldn't shock me to see the Bengals win.
Colts Magical Season Will End
This Colts' team has been the most inspiring story of 2012, but the fact is, they have overachieved. That said, the Ravens have largely underachieved this season.
Much of what the Ravens haven't accomplished is due to injury, and because of that, they've had to re-invent themselves a bit. This is not a team that can rest on its once dominant defense.
That unit ranked just 17th against the pass and 20th against the run during the regular season.
This team needs Joe Flacco to make plays and they need to ride legs and versatility of Ray Rice to move the ball.
Though the Ravens are banged up on defense, they will have their emotional leaders present for this game. Most importantly, Ray Lewis will return to the team for one last playoff run.
The greatest MLB in the history of the game announced his impending retirement at the end of the Ravens' playoff run, per ESPN. Lewis is already one of the greatest emotional leaders in the league, can you imagine the pre-game speech before this game?
There is a lot to like about the Ravens' chances to win this game.
They are at home, where they were 6-2 during the regular season. Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs will also play alongside Lewis, and though he's been amazing, Andrew Luck is still a rookie QB.
Lewis will play at least one more game after his Ravens knock off the Colts.
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