Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 NFL Wildcard Playoff Appetizer

Saturday’s Wild Card match-ups provide us with two rematches from the regular season. In the early game the Cincinnati Bengals will travel down to Houston to face the Texans (Texans beat the Bengals in Week 14, 20-19 in Cincinnati). In the prime time match-up the New Orleans Saints will host the Detroit Lions (Saints winning the Week 13 match-up, 31-17). In my preview I’ll breakdown the two match-ups and give you a “BOLD” prediction. ENJOY!

#6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) vs. #3 Houston Texans (10-6) Line: HOU by 3

In a game that features two solid defenses (Texans 285.7 yards/game, 2nd in the NFL & Bengals 316.3 yards/game, 7th in the NFL) any sort of offense will be key. The Texans, who will be guided by 3rd string QB (T.J. Yates) feature two outstanding running backs (Arian Foster 1,224 rushing yards, 10 TD’s, Ben Tate 942 rushing yards, 4 TD’s). The Texans Offense will lean on both RB’s to provide some offense for the Texans (which after a 10-3 start, lost their final 3 regular season games). The Bengals have to be THE surprise team of the NFL playoffs. After dumping some bad eggs, this was suppose to be a rebuilding season for Marvin Lewis and the young Bengals. However, rookie QB Andy Dalton (3,398 passing yards 20 TD’s) and his stud of a rookie WR A.J. Green (1,057 receiving yards and 7 TD’s) teamed up with veteran RB Cedric Benson (1,067 rushing yards 6 TD’s) to lead the Bengals back to the playoffs (2nd time in 3 seasons). Factoring in revenge (Bengals blew a 9-point lead in the 4th quarter of the first meeting) it will be a challenge especially on the road, but the Bengals might just become the next #6 seed to have success in the playoffs (see, 2010 Green Bay Packers, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers). Prediction: Bengals 23, Texans 17

Fun Fact: The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, when they beat the previous franchise from Houston, the Oilers, 40-14. This is the 1st playoff appearance for the Texans (franchise since 2002).

 #6 Detroit Lions (10-6) vs. #3 New Orleans Saints (13-3) Line: NO by 11

Unlike, the first game of the day, this one should have plenty of scoring (Saints 34.2 ppg, 2nd in the NFL and Lions 29.6 ppg, 4th in the NFL). The Saints, which are led by record breaking QB DREW BREES! (5,476 passing yards and 46 TD’s) will try to continue the success they had in the regular season during the playoffs. The Saints were 8-0 at home this season scoring 40 or more points in 5 of those 8 victories. The Lions, which are making their first playoff appearance since 2000, are led by QB Matthew Stafford (5,038 passing yards and 41 TD’s) and his freak of a WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson (1,681 receiving yards and 16 TD’s). It will be interesting to see if the Lions will be able to keep up with the Saints in this one. What sort of factor will Ndamukong Suh have (missing the 1st meeting due to suspension) for the Lions defense? I think the Saints’ are on a mission and will have their way with the Lions. Prediction: Saints 35, Lions 24

Fun Fact: The Saints have a playoff record of 4-2 (Super Bowl XLIV Champions) with Drew Brees as there starting QB (Pre-Brees: the Saint made 6 playoff appearances, with ZERO victories (0-6). The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since the 1992 Divisional Round, beating the Cowboys, 38 to 6 (6-game playoff losing streak).

Now on to the Sunday match-up’s for the weekend:

#5 Atlanta Falcons (10-6) vs. #4 New York Giants (9-7) Line: NYG by 3

Both teams ended their regular seasons on high notes (both winning 3 out of 4 games). The Giants have shown some grit this season (5 comeback victories in the 4th quarter), led by Eli Manning (you know Peyton’s younger brother) passing for 4,933 yards and 29 TD’s, the Giants had the 5th best passing attack in the NFL (296 passing yards per/game). With the surprise emergence of WR Victor Cruz (1,536 receiving yards, 9 TD’s), it will be interesting to see if the Falcons will be able to slow him down (Falcons’ DB Brent Grimes if healthy will have that responsibility). The Falcons, who are led by Matt Ryan (Matty Ice) 4,177 passing yards and 29 TD’s have one of the best WR core’s in the NFL with some great weapons (Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez). Looking at this game, it was really hard picking a winner, but I went with the underdog Falcons factoring in, the Giants are only 4-4 at home this season.
Prediction: Falcons 28 Giants 24

Fun Fact: The New York Giants are making their 7th playoff appearance since 2000, with a playoff record of 6-5 (two Super Bowl trips, Super Bowl XLII Champions. The Falcons have lost their last 3-playoff road games and 4 out of 5 overall in the playoffs.

#5 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) vs. #4 Denver Broncos (8-8) Line: PIT by 9

The question I have for all of you, “Is there anymore Tebow magic left, in Denver?” I guess time will tell, but I really think this one out of the four Wild Card match-ups will be the easiest to predict. The Steelers come in with the #1 ranked defense (271 yards/game), which will face a Tebow-ran offense that has faded down the stretch losing 3 straight games (scoring only 40 total points). Even without the aid of Ryan Clark, who is sitting this one out due to a sickle-cell trait that almost killed him the last time in “Mile High”, will still have plenty of tools to shutdown Tebow and the Broncos offense. I want to see what the Broncos defense can do to keep them alive in this one. With “Big Ben” still nursing a injured ankle (did I mention my hatred for that guy) and the lose of leading-rusher Rashard Mendenhall for the playoff run (torn ACL), I want to see if the Broncos can force any turnovers and either score off of them or help out there offense with field positioning. With all that said, its just like last year for the AFC West Champion vs. the AFC North #2 team (Ravens housed Kansas City @ Arrowhead, 30 to 7). Prediction: Steelers 27 Broncos 10

Fun Fact: These teams have split their six-playoff meetings, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl five times.