Here we go….
Cincinnati at Houston
Wow, the AFC features some real hot teams in the playoffs, eh? Cincinnati finished the second half of the season with a 3-5 record while Houston defined backing into the playoffs by losing their last 3 games. How about a new rule, NFL? If a team loses their 3 games and still qualifies for a playoff spot they lose any rights to a home playoff game.
As for the game itself – my key matchup is TJ Yates against the Bengals defense. At some time in the second half I have a feeling we’re going to hear
Al Michaels Tom Hammondfollowing:
“Third and six for the Bengals from their own 24. The snap. Yates drops back…he’s under pressure…rolls to his right…lets it go….PICKED OFF... Maualuga is at the twenty! The fifteen! Ten! No one is going to touch him! Touchdown Bengals!”
Normally I would hesitate to take a rookie quarterback on the road, but the alternative is TJ Yates or Jake Delhomme. Cincinnati’s defense sways my decision. Like Link wrote, they find a way to shut down Foster and put the game in Yates’ hands.
Bengals 23, Texans 17
Detroit at New Orleans
This game should be fun. Drew Brees is a machine whose sole goal is to put up offense. Calvin Johnson was put on this earth to make spectacular touchdown catches. The over/under on this game is at a ridicules 59. The Lions averaged almost 400 yards a game while the Saints were around 467 yards a game. Their defenses gave up 360 some odd yards a game. Both quarterbacks threw for more than 5000 yards this season. Holy Crap.
Why do I have a feeling it’s not going to live up to all of that potential? The two teams met in early December with the Saints emerging as the 31-17 winner. While Brees had his typical 360 yard, 3 TD game the Lions added to their own misery by racking up over 100 yards in penalties. Defensive menace Ndamukong Suh was missing in action as well due to his 2-game suspension.
If Detroit can get some pressure on Brees they can create some turnovers. If they can’t convert the turnovers into points at the very least they have to burn some time off the clock. The only way to really slow down the Saints offense is to keep them off the field. I think they do enough to keep it close, but Brees kills them with a last minute 78 yard touchdown drive.
Saints 27, Lions 24
Atlanta at New York Giants
Link touched on this yesterday. Who are the New York Giants? They were 4-4 at home and 5-7 in the NFC overall. Yet here they are hosting a home playoff game. On the other hand, you could say the same thing about Atlanta. Yes they have 10 wins, but 7 of those wins were Seattle, Carolina (twice), Indianapolis, Minnesota, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. Not exactly the cream of the NFL crop.
I do like Atlanta’s running game more than the Giants so I think I’ll give them the nod. Despite both teams being pretty similar I think we’re due for a blowout. Victor Cruz gets hurt early and Eli can’t adjust leading to an Atlanta rout.
Falcons 28, Giants 10
Pittsburgh at Denver
A team that has lost their last three games against a team that is missing 80% of its lineup. The final playoff matchup of the weekend might set the forward pass back 20 years. Tim Tebow can’t hit a pass longer than 15 yards with any type of consistently and Ben Roethlisberger can’t drop back more than 2 steps without getting hit by a linebacker.
The thing is, it seems like Roethlisberger has been hobbled and without options for the last 4 years and he still finds ways to win games. His career record is 80 and 33 which translates to a .708 winning percentage. Of the top fifty quarterbacks, win-wise, only Joe Montana and Roger Staubach have a better winning percentage*. Wins aren’t the greatest way to measure a quarterback, but still, that’s impressive.
Maybe I’m jaded because I’ve watched him shrug off Ravens tacklers and complete absurd third-and-twelve’s seemingly every year, but he just finds ways to get it done. Frankly it pisses me off. More so than the Tebow media hype. I don’t see why this should be any different. The Broncos will try and run the ball and win the possession/field position battle, but I still think Roethlisberger finds a way to get it done.
If I was the Broncos I would try and take some shots down field. After all, is anyone expecting it? Why not have Tebow fake an option to Willis McGahee, drop back and chuck an awkward, 40- yard duck off his back foot to Eric Decker? What’s the worst that can happen?
In all likelihood the Steelers get an early lead, Tebow bulls his way to a touchdown with a minute left and they fail to recover the on-side kick.
Steelers 13, Broncos 10
*I pulled these numbers off of Wikipedia. It's amazing how hard it is to find win/loss records for NFL quarterbacks.