The last weekend in the NFL season lacked the drama that you normally see as the regular season ends. Most of the playoff spots were already accounted for and all that was left was the seeding, except in Minnesota as the Vikings were chasing the last playoff spot and Adrian Peterson was chasing Eric Dickerson’s rushing record. Minnesota’s win pushed the Green Bay Packers to the third seed, enabling my San Francisco 49ers to secure the second seed and a much needed bye week which hopefully miraculously mends Justin Smith’s triceps.
Helping me with the wildcard predictions is KJ, who has written a couple of 10 Yard Fights for us this year. I took the Saturday games and he took the Sunday games.
Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Houston Texans
This is a rematch of last year’s first round match-up, which was a 31-10 shellacking by the Texans.
Interestingly enough, the Bengals were a better road team than home team this year (6-2 on the road vs. 4-4 at home). Also interestingly enough is the fact that they gave up less points than the Texans all season long. The Bengals also had a better point differential than the team who won their division, the Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals went 7-1 to end their season and they are the much hotter team.
After starting to season on fire, the Texans closed the season going 5-3, though, two of those wins were in overtime in back-to-back weeks against teams who collectively won six games all season long – Jacksonville and Detroit. Houston really needed the bye week to get their act together and didn’t get it.
I think having BenJarvus Green-Ellis is vital for the upset to happen. He’s questionable, but there seems to be hope that he plays. And Andy Dalton was able to get the playoff butterflies out of his system last year.
Arian Foster doesn’t look the same. In his last five games, he’s had games where he’s rushed for 38, 46, and 15 yards. During those same five games, three of which Foster struggled heavily, Matt Schaub has thrown three touchdowns. The Texans have one of the worst special teams units in football. The team isn’t on a roll and they look to be ripe for an upset.
GG’s prediction: Bengals 33, Texans 30
KJ’s prediction: Texans 31, Bengals 17
Minnesota Vikings Vs. Green Bay Packers
There are a couple questions that need to be answered positively in Minnesota’s favor in order for me to believe that the Vikings have a shot to beat Green Bay in Green Bay. Can Christian Ponder throw the ball downfield in an open field stadium? By my count, he played in an outdoor stadium three times during the regular season and lost all three games. Secondly, can the Vikings continue to pound the ball with Adrian Peterson to offset any other offensive deficiencies they have? In two games against the Packers this season, Peterson has gained 409 yards rushing. If both answers are yes, I think the Vikings have a shot. But if either one is a no, the Pack probably win by more than one touchdown.
If you remember last season, the Packers gave up the most passing yards to opposing quarterbacks per game. They are vastly improved by that statistic this season. But they are also not as offensively dynamic as they’ve been in the past. You can stop them somewhat offensively if you can just shut down their running game like the 49ers and Seahawks did earlier this year. But the Packers did close out their season strong, going 9-2 after losing to the Indianapolis Colts in week five.
Both KJ and I have the Packers winning, and winning fairly easily.
GG’s prediction: Packers 31, Vikings 20
KJ’s prediction: Packers 35, Vikings 14
Indianapolis Colts Vs. Baltimore Ravens
News broke Wednesday that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis announced that this will be his final NFL season. Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and future Hall of Famer, is hoping that this season, which is now the postseason, isn’t short-lived. Lewis loses; Lewis done.
The Ravens have been one of the more inconsistent football teams all season. They put up 44 against Cincinnati and 55 against Oakland but struggled against the worst team in the league, defeating Kansas City 9-6 and got crushed by the Houston Texans (43-13). What Ravens team will show up on Sunday? Will Lewis inspire them to victory? They might need it because on the other side of the field is a team that built its entire season on inspiration.
The Inspiration-apolis Colts (11-5) finished their surprisingly successful regular season with a 28-16 victory over the Houston Texans Sunday. What made the victory special was that it came with their head coach Chuck Pagano on the sidelines, the first time he’s been there since Week 3.
The Colts, led by likely Coach of the Year, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, rallied behind the #ChuckStrong cry and rattled off nine wins in 12 weeks, clinching a playoff berth a year after winning two games and earning the No. 1 pick in 2012 NFL draft.
That No. 1 pick, Andrew Luck, who will be the first No. 1 pick to start a postseason game in his rookie year, has stepped right in leading the Colts to an incredible turnaround, including seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Yes, I know Luck has thrown 18 interceptions, but did you know he hasn’t thrown any in his last three games? Just sayin’.
A couple more “Did You Knows” … Pagano was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator last year. Jim Caldwell, the Ravens recently hired offensive coordinator, was the Colts’ head coach last year. And we all know about how badly Baltimore hates the Colts after the Colts up and moved in the middle of the night back in 1984. Joe Flacco has taken his team to the postseason in all five of his seasons, an NFL first. He’s also won in every postseason he’s been in.
The Ravens have lost four of five. I think Lewis will help inspire his team. I think Ray Rice will run the ball well. I think the Ravens defense will keep Luck somewhat in check. But I also think the Colts have one more stage to perform on. The national stage where we can all see these “clueless” Colt newcomers feel no pressure because they know that their coach fought a bigger battle on a bigger stage.
Just think, the chance of Peyton Manning playing against these Colts could be on the very near horizon.
I love the Colts’ story and for KJ’s sake, I will be pulling for them to upset the Ravens. However, I think the Ravens are built for the playoffs and would love to see New England again sometime soon. Now that’s a team they can beat. The Colts also have a propensity to give up long runs on the ground. I think Luck gets picked off three times and Ray Rice runs for 120 yards.
GG’s prediction: Ravens 27, Colts 20
KJ’s prediction: Colts 24, Ravens 20
Seattle Seahawks Vs. Washington Redskins
Expect a shootout in DC on Sunday.
You have Russell Wilson showcasing to the world why he deserves Rookie of the Year honors. You have Robert Griffin III trying to prove why he deserves the award. Then there are the running backs that will make you pay if you try to focus your attention on the quarterbacks – Redskins’ rookie Alfred Morris (1,613 yards rushing, 13 TDs) and Seahawks’ back Marshawn Lynch (1,590, 11).
It’s going to be fun, but where the difference will be made is in defense and special teams, and there aren’t many teams right now that can match Seattle’s defense (a league-low 15.3 points given up per game) and special teams play.
Cornerback Richard Sherman has been a beast on defense with eight interceptions this season and one famous meme. On the other side is cornerback Brandon Browner (all 6-feet-4 of him) who will be making his return from a four-game suspension.
We’ll get some “oohs” and “ahhs” from RG3, and a couple “That boy good!” from Morris but we’ll also get a “What a hit!” from the ‘Hawks D, a couple of “Beastmode” plays from Lynch and a “He’s the real deal!” from RW3.
And how about an “Oh by the way”? The last two playoff games the Redskins have played were against the Hawks and both were losses (2005 and 2007).
Even though Richard Sherman is a drug test cheater, I pretty much agree with KJ. The difference between the two teams to me is that Seattle is much too tough for Washington. Add that to the fact that RG3 is playing with a bad wheel and I think that by the 4th quarter, Washington will be beat up and tired. Expect a huge second half from Marshawn Lynch. And maybe Richard Sherman will stop smoking that stuff (or injecting that stuff; whatever it is).
GG’s Prediction: Seahawks 30, Redskins 20
KJ’s Prediction: Seahawks 29, Redskins 21
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