2012 Wild Card Preview: Cincinnati vs. Houston

This is the first of four posts this week examining the Wild Card matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next few days for more previews:

The first matchup of the 2012 NFL Playoffs will see the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Houston to take on the Texans at 4:30 et. Saturday on NBC. The Bengals lost a tough game to the Baltimore Ravens yesterday in yet another loss to a team with a winning record. In fact, Cincinnati defeated just one team with a winning record the entire year. Houston, on the other hand, won four games against teams with winning records, including a 20-19 victory over the Bengals in Week 14. Since then though, the Texans have gone winless with losses to the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Titans. After the Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub went down with a season-ending injury in week ten, rookie TJ Yates took over and has performed okay during the final six games. However, left the Texans’ final game against the Titans with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, but is expected to play on Saturday. Here’s a brief look at how the teams matchup:

Offense: Yates hasn’t had to carry a huge load for the Texans but he may need to do more against the Bengals. Luckily for Houston, the injury is to his non-throwing shoulder so he should be in good shape come Saturday. Nevertheless, running back Arian Foster will have to carry the brunt of the load in the game as he has done, along with running back Ben Tate, for most of the year. Look for Houston to continue using its second-ranked rushing offensive to plow through the Bengals’ defensive line. If Yates isn’t 100 percent, the Texans will have to rely even more on their running backs, which could limit their effectiveness over the course of the game.

For the Bengals, rookie Andy Dalton threw for more than 3000 yards this year and 20 touchdowns to lead his team to the playoffs. At running back, Cedric Benson surpassed the 1000-yard mark for the third consecutive year. Cincinnati sits in the middle of the league in both categories, but the two-thronged attack gives head coach Marvin Lewis plenty of options on the offensive end. I expect an even mix of Dalton and Benson, but look for Dalton to go deep to wide receiver AJ Green as the combination has proven lethal throughout the year. Continue reading “2012 Wild Card Preview: Cincinnati vs. Houston”

2010 Wild Card Weekend Preview

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Wild Card Weekend is upon us and it’s time to give some predictions for those games and more. This year’s wild card games are particularly interesting because three of the four games are rematches from games in Week 17. With that, let’s look at the games: 

New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals – Saturday 4:30 

The Jets had a big victory last week when they beat Cincinnati in New York to secure their playoff spot. The Jets were dominant last week, but Cincinnati didn’t exactly put out its top players. Cedric Benson will be back this weekend after missing last week and he is the main component of the Bengals’ offense. Carson Palmer had an abysmal week in New York, but a lot of that was due to the injury to Chad Ochocinco which occurred during warmups. A combination of exceptional coverage by Jets’ cornerback Darrelle Revis and the injury made Ochocinco useless. He got open rarely and when he did, dropped the passes. Jets QB Mark Sanchez will be making his playoff debut, which could prove costly if his inexperience shows. I think Revis will be the difference in the game. He shutdown the opponent’s top receiver week in and week out and the playoffs will be no different. This will allow the Jets to focus on stopping Benson and packing the line. The Jets offense won’t light up the board, but RB Laveranues Coles will push the Jets to a 21-10 victory. 

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots – Sunday 1:00 

This is the only matchup that isn’t a rematch from Week 17. New England has a lot of injuries to deal with after losing Wes Welker for the season in a loss to the Houston Texans last week. The Ravens on the other hand held the Raiders to just 13 points last week in an eight point victory. Tom Brady has three broken ribs, a hand injury, and a shoulder injury, but will certainly be on the field come game time Sunday. The Pats are expected to get nose tackle Vince Wilfork back which will significantly upgrade their run defense. While QB Joe Flacco has struggled throwing the ball this year, RB Ray Rice has lead the offense on the ground. With Wilfork back, I expect Rice to struggle and Flacco doesn’t have the arm to carry his team to victory. New England also possesses homefield advantage which will lead the Pats to a 24-17 victory. Continue reading “2010 Wild Card Weekend Preview”

Can The AFC Playoffs Get Any Tighter?

Week 16 of the NFL season is upon us and the races are incredibly close.  

Photo Courtesy of AP

 

Historically close.  

The San Diego Chargers blew out the Tennessee Titans on Friday night to clinch the number two spot in the AFC behind the Indianapolis Colts who continue their pursuit for perfection Sunday against the New York Jets. Besides the Chargers and Colts, the rest of the AFC is effectively up for grabs.  

Here is the current playoff situation:  

Division Leaders
1. Indianapolis Colts (14-0)
2. San Diego Chargers (12-3)
3. New England Patriots (9-5)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)  

Wild Card Leaders
5. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
6. Denver Broncos (8-6)  

In the Hunt
Miami Dolphins (7-7)
New York Jets (7-7)
Houston Texans (7-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-7)  

The Patriots and Bengals are in the best place  as if either wins, they clinch their division. The Ravens and Broncos control their own destiny as well, but any slip up by them opens the doors for any of the Dolphins, Jets, Texans, Steelers, or Jaguars. So many things can happen, but let’s look at some of the games this week  

Jaguars at Patriots – The Jags travel up North into the Cold to face Bill Belichick’s Patriot team. After a couple of turbulent weeks, New England enjoyed its first real home win of the season last weekend and have put the Randy Moss saga behind them. Meanwhile, Jacksonville fought valiantly against the Colts last week, but came up four points short of the upset. This should be a great game, but I’m giving the Pats the edge mostly because New England excels in cold weather and Florida teams don’t. New England Continue reading “Can The AFC Playoffs Get Any Tighter?”