Wild Card Round Matchup Predictions
Bengals (10-6) @ Texans (12-4): Despite the Texans' 12-4 record, they really don't have many impressive victories. The standout game on their schedule was a 43-13 home win over the Ravens, but the Ravens are a completely different team on the road and were playing their first game without middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Another good win was against the Broncos, but that was in Week 3 - remember that the Broncos were getting pummeled to start off each of their games before their bye week. Finally, we have their win over the Colts, but they've lost to Andrew Luck and company more recently than they've beaten them.
The Bengals have been on a tear to finish the season, led by impressive defensive efforts. They have won seven of their last eight games, the lone loss coming by one point to the Cowboys. They've also held teams to 17 points or less in seven of their last eight (gave up 20 to the Cowboys).
What bodes well for the Texans is that they take care of the ball better than the Bengals do. However, if the Bengals can avoid dumb turnovers, they can win this game. Their defense has been a stone wall over the past two months and the Texans are averaging 11.0 points per game over their past two, both games being against average defenses.
Bengals win 23-20.
Vikings (10-6) @ Packers (11-5): These two teams certainly know each other pretty well by now - they'll be facing off on Saturday for the third time in the past five weeks. Getting a chance to learn each other's tendencies, make adjustments, and find ways to take advantage of weaknesses, I have to say that Aaron Rodgers is the biggest beneficiary of how frequently these teams have played. Finishing his second straight season with the best quarterback rating in the league (108.0), Rodgers can study defenses and figure out how to manipulate them just about as well as anyone in the NFL. You saw the offense's improvement last week when the Packers scored 34 on the Vikings, compared to 23 in their first meeting.w
Adrian Peterson was the best player in the NFL this season, but it's very difficult to put the entire weight of an offense on a running back's shoulders and win a playoff game, considering the high-powered nature of modern offenses. If Peterson can carry his offense to another 30+ points to top the Packers in Lambeau, he's even better than I thought - and as I said, I already think he's the best player in the NFL.
The Packers beat the Vikings by nine in Lambeau earlier this year, and the Vikings managed a rare turnover-less game in their three-point win over the Packers last week. With all the playoff experience on the Packers, and the the lack thereof on the Vikings, I like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and Charles Woodson (returning from injury) to make some big time plays and win this game for Green Bay.
Packers win 35-27.