Sunday's NFL playoff games could be the best of Wild Card Weekend. The Cincinnati Bengals-San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers matchups could both be very close.
Big performances from the superstars will likely determine the outcome of both games.
Only two teams can win. Here are the high-profile individuals who will put on a show and push their teams to the divisional round.
Cincinnati Bengals, A.J. Green
Green is a handful when facing top-notch cornerbacks. Against the Chargers' less-than-stellar group, he will be even better than normal.
When the two teams met in Week 13, Green had five receptions, 83 yards and a touchdown. That production came with San Diego giving Richard Marshall and Marcus Gilchrist looks against Green.
Things have changed a bit for the Chargers since then. Shareece Wright, Derek Cox and others have struggled in coverage late in the season. When getting ready for a matchup against an elite receiver like Green, issues in the secondary is a bad look.
The Chargers will have to keep a safety helping over the top all game. That will weaken the team's run defense. Once the Bengals begin to take advantage of that, quarterback Andy Dalton will victimize the Chargers with play-action passes.
His primary target in these situations will likely be Green. This should be a big game for the 25-year-old superstar. He'll be the biggest reason the Bengals move on.
San Francisco 49ers, Frank Gore
It's going to be cold in Green Bay on Sunday. Per Weather.com, the temperature is only going to get up to three degrees. It'll get as cold as 20-below zero.
If there was ever a game where the rushing attacks will be key, it's this one. Gore hasn't had his best season. The 30-year-old did rush for 1,000 yards in 2013, but his total of 1,128 was the lowest since he missed five games in 2010.
Despite a slow year—by his standards—Gore is set to run over the Packers. Green Bay has the 25th-ranked run defense in the NFL and will play without its best defensive player, Clay Matthews.
The Packers haven't found an answer for the 49ers' offense in the teams last two meetings. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle talks about the Pack's fruitless adjustments in its Week 1 loss to the 'Niners:
The Packers defense went to extremes to ensure they didn’t reprise last season’s playoff embarrassment, when Colin Kaepernick (181 yards) and Gore (119) headlined a 323-yard rushing performance. The tradeoff, of course, was that Kaepernick torched their secondary for 412 yards and three touchdowns.
The adjustments this time around could lead to a bust out performance by the 'Niners all-time leading rusher.
Gore has averaged 96.4 rushing yards per game in five playoff games. That includes the 119-yard, two-touchdown performance he had against the Packers in last season's divisional playoff game.
Look for Gore to play big and lead the Niners to the next round.
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