Saturday, January 7, 2012

NFL Playoff Predictions - Wild Card Weekend

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-Digger's Daily-

The time has come. The road to the Super Bowl kicks off this weekend. Some have said it often doesn't matter how a team qualifies for post-season play. This line holds true for a few teams preparing for a run at Super Bowl glory. Giants, Bengals & Broncos earned their right to play on the final weekend of the regular season. Funny thing is only the New York Giants won to secure the NFC East while Cincinnati and Denver backed in on tie-breakers after losing their final games.

Now, the slate is clean. Let the best team from here on in win. Here's what to expect...

Saturday - January 7
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) @ Houston Texans (10-6) These two met on Week 14. Houston scored with :03 remaining to stun Cincy 20-19.
Texans were rolling along early in the season before devastating injuries hit key players. QB Matt Schaub had his club looking like Super contenders after a dominating 7-3 beginning to 2011 before an injury ended his season. His replacement, Matt Leinart, got hurt in his only start replacing Schaub opening the door for rookie T.J. Yates. Texans defense has been tremendous and represent reason #1 this team finished on top of AFC South. It's been a team effort in the second half of the season - this needs to continue. Offense is on the shoulders of RB Foster (averaging 94.2 yds/game).
Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis and his team cleaned house in the off season dumping many locker room distraction players from recent seasons. The Bengals are lead on offense by rookie QB Andy Daulton. This rook has been a superb team leader. Bengals rejuvenated defense allowed 30+ points only two times all season long.
It's a match-up of rookie quarterbacks and hard hitting defenses. Turnovers & special teams might rule the day.
Prediction: Cincinnati 20 Houston 17

Detroit Lions (10-6) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Saints dominated their only match-up of the year winning 31-17. Expect more of the same on Saturday night. Saints high powered offense will be too much for Lions to handle unless an over confident New Orleans club doesn't take their opening round opponent seriously. NFL single season record breaker Drew Brees will shred Lions.
Lions deserve credit for their first winning season since 2000. Obscene penalties & lack of on field discipline could turn this game ugly unless these guys finally learn to win and lose like professionals.
Prediction: New Orleans 38 Detroit 10

Sunday - January 8
Atlanta Falcons (10-6) @ New York Giants (9-7) (first meeting of the season).
Giants won NFC East on final game of the year by beating up rival Dallas 31-17 on Sunday Night Football. Giants outclassed and over matched a banged up Cowboys squad. Atlanta brings a new challenge - and low down dirty football tactics - into the Meadowlands. The Giants are ready. Not many teams play better playoff football than New York. Eli Manning has been tremendous between the 20's this year. Hold your breath when he's inside the 10 if he starts forcing throws. Giants offensive line has done fairly well pass protecting, but, they've been less than stellar opening running lanes for Bradshaw & Jacobs.
Falcons looked great against weaker NFL teams and not so hot against playoff bound teams. Expect a not so hot performance as Giants defensive line causes havoc rushing Matt Ryan. Key for Falcons is RB Turner. Can Atlanta shut down Giants pass rush with effective running? Stopping the run hasn't been one of New York's strong suits in 2011.
Prediction: New York 31 Atlanta 23

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) @ Denver Broncos (8-8) (first meeting of the season).
Talk about a complete mismatch. Pittsburgh is no stranger to making a Super run as a wild card entry. QB Roethlisberger should be well enough physically (ankle) to perform usual playoff-like magic of years past. Pittsburgh's defense should have no trouble whatsoever containing QB Tebow. I'm feeling a shutout coming in this game. Steelers too strong on offense, defense, special teams & coaching staffs. Only turnovers can doom Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Steelers 31 Broncos 0

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