NFL Wildcard Round Playoff Game Predictions (Hanson)
Here are my predictions for this weekend's NFL playoff games:
Houston Texans 21, Cincinnati Bengals 17
Unfortunately for the Texans and their fans, they are playing their worst football at the worst time of the year. Despite their hot start to the season, the Texans have limped into the postseason by losing three of their final four games.
Can they right the ship in time to make a postseason run?
If so, it will have to start against one of the hotter teams in the league. The Bengals have won seven of their past eight games and their loss during that stretch was by only one point.
Perhaps I'm a little stubborn and/or biased as the Texans were my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl. (How dare you tell me that they won't beat the Eagles next month just as I predicted?)
The Bengals have an underrated defense and one that ranks slightly better than the Texans. The Bengals are sixth in team defense (319.7 YPG allowed) and the Texans are seventh (323.3 YPG). The Bengals are eighth in scoring defense (20.0 PPG allowed) and the Texans are tied for ninth (20.7 PPG).
Ultimately, I think this comes down to one of Houston's playmakers (Arian Foster or Andre Johnson) making a play down the stretch and the Texans escape in a close one at home.
Green Bay Packers 35, Minnesota Vikings 17
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had one of the most amazing seasons of any player in the history of the NFL. Despite tearing his ACL at the end of 2011, he finished only eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson's single-season record.
And as great as he's been all season, Peterson has been his best against the Packers. In those two games, he had a total of 409 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
On the other hand, the Packers have an explosive passing offense led by Aaron Rodgers, who led the NFL in passer rating. (And who is the all-time leader in passer rating.) Even with multiple-game injuries to various receivers, Rodgers still posted a 39:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
All four of the team's receivers are healthy enough to play and no team has as dangerous of a quartet at the position as Green Bay does.
For the Packers to win, they will obviously have to slow down Peterson.
Assuming the Packers can slow down Peterson to, say, 125 rushing yards, the Vikings do not have an offense built to play from behind. I expect the Packers to establish an early lead at home and to never look back.
Baltimore Ravens 20, Indianapolis Colts 17
This could be the last game for future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis. Earlier this week, he announced that this will be his final season.
What the Colts, Andrew Luck, Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians have done is absolutely remarkable, but their feel-good story will end here.
The Colts play much better at home than on the road and so do the Ravens for that matter. The Ravens are 6-2 at home this year, but they were 8-0 at home last year and 7-1 the year before. Meanwhile, the Colts were only 4-4 on the road this season.
With a dynamic duo of Ray Rice and rookie Bernard Pierce, the Ravens will establish the run game against the Colts' mediocre run defense. Between them, they have three 100-yard games in the past four weeks.
Meanwhile, I see the defense forcing Andrew Luck, who leads the NFL in game-winning drives (seven), to make a costly turnover down the stretch. Thirteen of Luck's 18 interceptions have come on the road this season.
The Ravens move on to face the Broncos in Denver.
Seattle Seahawks 24, Washington Redskins 23
Both rookie quarterbacks are playing great football and both teams can really run the ball. Not only do they have mobile quarterbacks, but Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch rank second and third in the NFL in rushing, respectively.
Since Week 9, Wilson, the team's third-round pick, has thrown 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions plus he has run for all four of his touchdowns in that eight-game span.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have the league's top-ranked scoring defense. In addition, they have the league's best secondary, which does not bode all that well for Pierre Garcon and the ultra-dynamic Robert Griffin III.
This game could be a back-and-forth battle to the delight of all NFL fans as we close out the Wild Card weekend worth of games with this gem.