Saturday, January 5, 2013

NFL Wild Card Round Preview

Aloha! It's time for the NFL's playoff "tournament" and since it's the national pastime (sorry, baseball), I figured I should break it down round-by-round. Let's go!

Wild Card Round
  • AFC - #6 Cincy @ #3 Houston (Saturday 4:30 on NBC) - I have no idea to make of this Texans team. After starting the season 11-1, they finished 1-3 in their last four games and looked bad doing it. There's a case to be made that all three losses were to playoff teams, but on the other hand, they weren't competitive in any of the three. Arian Foster doesn't look like the same player in 2012 (career-low 4.1 per carry) as he was in 2010 and 2011, and their defense is severely banged up. On the Cincy side, they've won 7 of their last 8 games after a slow start, and they feature a very potent defense. There's no question they're playing better than Houston at the moment, but the X-factor is that Houston is probably the more talented team and they're playing at home. I'm taking the upset with Cincy, but I don't feel great about it.
  • NFC - #6 Minnesota @ #3 Green Bay (Saturday 8:00 on NBC) - Remember when these teams played less than a week ago? I do. It took the best game of Christian Ponder's career and a super-human performance from Adrian Peterson for the Vikings to win... in Minneapolis. This game is outside in Green Bay, and I really think the Packers are a better team. Throw in Christian Ponder on the road against Aaron Rodgers, and I'm taking the Pack. Sorry, Adrian.
  • AFC - #5 Indianapolis @ #4 Baltimore (Sunday 1:00 on CBS) - The battle of the Colts and the former Colts. The fact that Indy won 11 games including 9 of their last 11 is absolutely staggering when you remember how bad they were last year. Andrew Luck has suddenly become the unsung rookie due to the praise for RGIII and Russell Wilson, but I still feel that Luck will be the best pro, and he's been electric as well. Throw in the fantastic story of Chuck Pagano (chuckstrong!) and his return, and they have mojo working. For Baltimore, they've lost 4 of their last 5, and backed into the playoffs in a big way. Seems easy to pick Indy, right? Well, I am going to pick the Colts, but not without reservation. Baltimore is playoff-seasoned, they are a different (read: much better) team at home including Joe Flacco becoming shockingly competent when inside his home stadium, and Indy has done much of the season with smoke and mirrors behind Luck and Reggie Wayne. I'm taking Indy because of Pagano and Luck, but I don't feel great.
  • NFC - #5 Seattle @ #4 Washington (Sunday 4:30 on FOX) - Best game of the opening weekend for me. Russell Wilson against Robert Griffin III? Come on! Wilson has a QB rating of 100 for the season (insane) and that number is over 120 in the months of November and December. He's playing out of his mind right now, and Seattle's offense has gone with him since the inception of their college-like read option offense. Throw in a very stout defense with a non-suspended Richard Sherman and Seattle is a gauntlet. On the Washington side, Griffin has looked a bit slowed since returning from his injury, but with Alfred Morris coming off of a 200-yard day against Dallas, that offense is scary in its own right. I think it'll come down to whether Washington can get Russell and company off of the field, and I frankly don't think they can with how he's playing right now. Take the Seahawks, even on the road. 
Just for reference (since the playoffs haven't begun yet), I wanted to get my overall playoff picks on the record... here they are!
  • NFC Wild Card - Green Bay over Minnesota, Seattle over Washington
  • AFC Wild Card - Cincy over Houston, Indy over Baltimore
  • NFC Divisional Round - Atlanta over Seattle (this one was close), Green Bay over San Fran
  • AFC Divisional Round - Denver over Cincy, New England over Indy
  • NFC Title Game - Green Bay over Atlanta
  • AFC Title Game - New England over Denver 
  • Super Bowl - New England over Green Bay

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