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January 5, 2013
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Wild Card Weekend: Saturday Thoughts
2013 is here and that means that the NFL playoffs have arrived. 12 teams still have a shot to hoist the Lombardi Trophy although many pundits are already giving it to one of three or four serious contenders. However, before we get to the Super Bowl, we've got to get through the first step: Wild Card Weekend. As always, the games are split with two on Saturday and two on Sunday, so here's a brief look at the first two on the docket this weekend.
#6 Cincinnati (+4.5) vs. #3 Houston (-4.5); Total set at 43
Since the NFL did realignment back in 2002, there have only been six instances where two teams that met in the postseason one year, came back and played in the "second season" the next year and the results aren't that encouraging for Bengals fans. Only twice in those six contests has the team that lost the first time come back to win outright the next year. The only time of the six when two teams met in the wildcard round in consecutive seasons was when Denver (as the #6) travelled to Indianapolis (as the #3) after the 2003 and 2004 seasons and was promptly blown out by Manning's Colts both times. Cincinnati took it on the chin last year in Houston (31-10) and that was with QB Matt Schaub out. Schaub hasn't exactly been great or even good in recent weeks but he is still a step up from T.J. Yates.
However, Cincinnati was such a young team loaded with rookies a season ago and while they are still young, the experience they gained from that loss can't be understated. The Bengals two best players (Dalton and Green) were both rookies last year and almost looked awestruck in the playoffs last year. This time around they aren't going in with the mindset of being happy just to get in, they want to make a run. They are 6th in the league defensively in yards allowed per game and 2nd best behind Denver of the AFC playoff teams. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will have his troops overly prepared to stop Arian Foster and Andre Johnson after learning quite a bit from their two meetings last year. Offensively the Bengals will be studying all the tapes of Houston's defeats because none of them were really close. Green Bay, New England destroyed the Texans for 60 minutes while Minnesota and Indy did a number on them in the final two weeks. As a franchise Cincinnati has never won a playoff game on the road but against a reeling team like Houston there is no better time than the present to change that.
Take the points with the Bengals.
#6 Minnesota (+7.5) vs. #3 Green Bay (-7.5); Total set at 46
This game is the rubber match between these two division rivals this year as each team won at home. Minnesota played with so much passion and emotion in last week's win over the Packers as they were chasing a playoff spot and Adrian Peterson was chasing history. Peterson ran for 409 yards against Green Bay this year and in the elements in Lambeau, Green Bay knows they will see a heavy dose of AP again.
But unless he goes off for a third time (and even if he does) it likely won't be enough for these Vikings. For them to get to the playoffs on AP's back alone is quite the accomplishment, but going deep into the post-season is a different story. QB Christian Ponder was 31st of the 32 QB's in the NFL this year that qualified for the yards per pass attempt statistic as he was only ahead Blaine Gabbert. 6.08 yards per attempt won't get it done in this league, especially when you are missing one of your best options in Percy Harvin. Green Bay's offense is too explosive not to put up 24+ points, and after last year's dismal performance at home in their playoff game, and last week's loss that cost them a bye, you know the Packers will be out for blood this weekend.
Take the Packers.
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