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NFL Playoff Schedule 2015: Final Bracket and TV Info for Sunday's Games

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2015

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 27: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions participates in pre game warm ups prior to playing the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on November 27, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Sunday, Wild Card Weekend's closing act, saves the best for last.

The early game pits two AFC hopefuls in need of the proverbial next step against each other. Andy Dalton vs. Andrew Luck is not exactly the next-generation quarterback feud most dream of, but the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Indianapolis Colts offers plenty of intrigue.

The late contest features a pair of serious contenders with questions in need of answers. As hosts, the Dallas Cowboys need to prove they can win at home and move the ball against a top-tier defense, while the Detroit Lions need to prove they have game when it matters.

Remember, the four Sunday teams will leave it all on the field for a chance to move on to face, in theory, even better competition.

The path to the Super Bowl is no joke.

2014-15 NFL Playoff Bracket

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Wild Card Sunday Predictions and Viewing Info

DateTimeMatchupWatchStreamPick
Sunday, Jan. 41:05 p.m. ETCincinnati at IndianapolisCBSCBSSports.comIND
Sunday, Jan. 44:40 p.m. ETDetroit at DallasFOXFox Sports GoDAL
ESPN

Queen City Deja Vu

The Bengals know this path all too well.

Back in Week 7, the Bengals hopped on the highway and made the short trip to Indianapolis for a dance with the Colts.

The route back home was a sour one thanks to a 27-0 loss.

These Bengals are different in a few ways. Rookie back Jeremy Hill is now the starter, and he has rushed for a minimum of 100 yards and totaled three scores over the course of his last three games. Against the Colts, he received just four carries.

Many problems persist, though.

In that ugly loss, the Bengals were without star wideout A.J. Green. The result was Dalton throwing for 126 yards, Mohamed Sanu catching 3-of-9 targets and Jermaine Gresham leading the team with 12 targets.

Green looks like a scratch Sunday, too:

Bleacher Report NFL @BR_NFL

A.J. Green (concussion) is officially listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game http://t.co/ot5IBhgQ4d http://t.co/sCztVzE0DP

There is also the four-year running narrative that Dalton and the Bengals cannot win in the postseason, which is fair given their mostly putrid performances when things matter most.

"Winning in general is how quarterbacks are judged," Dalton said, per STATS LLC (via ESPN.com). "If you win a lot in the regular season but you haven't won a lot in the postseason, then they're going to say that you couldn't do something."

The outlook for Cincinnati seems bleak because it is.

An offense likely without its top weapon does not just compensate for a defense that ranks 20th against the pass and rush. Luck had few problems throwing for 344 yards and two scores the last time he encountered the unit, and even Trent Richardson got in on the action with 77 rushing yards.

No matter which way it is sliced, the hosts seem ready to advance.

Prediction: Colts 27, Bengals 23

Motor City Controversy, Struggles

Ndamukong Suh was suspended. Now he is not after winning his appeal.

Controversy stems from the whole saga, but from a football standpoint the Lions could not be happier—especially with other top defensive tackle Nick Fairley likely out for Sunday's game, as NFL Network's Albert Breer points out:

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

Lions DT Nick Fairley officially listed as doubtful. Which almost always means a player is not playing.

"I'm just pleased with the decision and glad I have the opportunity—I can go against Dallas and help my teammates win the game," Suh said, per ESPN.com. "I think that's most important."

Suh on his own might not be enough, though.

The Cowboys may be 4-4 at home this year, but a top-ranked rush defense does not look as formidable without one of its key cogs. This is especially the case for the league's second-ranked rushing attack, led by DeMarco Murray (1,845 yards, 13 scores).

Truthfully, the visitor's main concern should rest with the offensive side of the ball.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is to blame for that, as ESPN Stats & Info details:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Including playoffs, Matthew Stafford is 0-17 in road games vs teams that finished season over .500. More here: http://t.co/8VHluXODNL

Then again, wins and losses are not a quarterback stat alone, but Stafford's play against solid competition leaves doubt about his ability to lead the Lions to a win Sunday.

That trend will continue. An eighth-ranked Dallas run defense will force Stafford into an uncomfortable, one-dimensional attack. Mistakes can and will happen, which means more touches for Murray.

Suh or not, that is bad news.

Prediction: Cowboys 28, Lions 20

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. Advanced metrics via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

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