Yesterday I previewed the Chiefs-Texans wild card weekend matchup taking a look at both teams and offering up a prediction.
With the start of the NFL playoffs quickly approaching, its time to preview what you can expect for the other 3 playoff games this weekend.
Feel free to disagree with my picks and analysis in the comments section. I I look forward to hearing from my readers and generating a discussion.
AFC Wild Card Game #2: No.6 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. No.3 Cincinnati Bengals
If you think the Bengals and the Steelers rivalry is intense during the season wait till you see these two physical football teams battle it out in the trenches during the playoffs.
It just gets better folks. This game in prime time on CBS makes it must watch TV. I mean come on whats better than Jim Nantz and Phil Simms?
I know this is the easy thing to say but its true: the Steelers chances to win this game hinges on QB Ben Roethlisberger.
The last two weeks have to be a cause for concern. Roethlisberger has started and completed 11 games this season, and has thrown fewer than 300 yards in just two of them.
It helps when you have the best WR core in the conference and along with the Cardinals the best WR group in the NFL.
However, that really doesn’t matter if we get the Big Ben of the last three starts.
Roethlisberger has thrown six interceptions in his last three starts, and he has thrown multiple picks four of his last six starts. His 16 INT’s in 2015 is the most since 2006 when he had 23.
RB DeAngelo Williams is still day to day, and even if he plays I’m not sure how effective he is going to be against the Bengals 7th ranked run defense.
When the Steelers loose the turnover battle they are 0-5, and when they win or tie the turnover battle they are 9-1. Meanwhile the Bengals have been +11 in the turnover margin this season.
The Bengals will start A.J. McCarron and he is going to have to play a lot better than he did last week. However, lets be honest McCarron isn’t a downgrade when you look at how horrible Andy Dalton has been this season. Lets not forget: McCarron has started three games and won two of them.
The Bengals WR core led by A.J. Green has the potential to be just as good as the Steelers group, and Jeremy Hill is underrated at the RB position. I don’t think either running game will be able to do much. The Steelers run defense is 3rd in the NFL.
Everyone is wondering if Marvin Lewis and the Bengals can finally get over the hump and win a playoff game.
This might be the unpopular pick, but I think Cincinnati gets it done. The Bengals have the most talented defense in football, and I think they will win the turnover battle. The Steelers are relying way to much on Big Ben and Brown right now.
Prediction: Bengals-23, Steelers-20
NFC Wild Card Game #1: No.6 Seattle Seahawks @ No.3 Minnesota Vikings
Congratulations to the Vikings on winning the NFC North for the first time since 2009 by dethroning the Packers on the road. It was a great win, and Coach Mike Zimmer has done a great job turning this franchise around in just two seasons.
That is where the fun ends for Minnesota.
The Seahawks, the two-time defending conference champions, and winners of Super Bowl 48 nearly won their second straight Super Bowl, a game that came down to the final play.
Other than loosing Percy Harvin in the offseason the same team coached by the game’s greatest motivator, Pete Carroll was back for 2015 ready to get back to the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks weren’t the same team for the majority of the regular season. Seattle lost four of their first six games by the slimmest of margins including two games in overtime.
Two months ago the Seahawks lost Marshawn Lynch and it looked like the team was done.
Instead, Seattle got even better. Since a loss to the 15-1 Carolina Panthers on October 18th, the Hawks have gone 8-2 including a 36-6 statement win against the Cardinals to close out the season. (I will say that one of those losses was to Arizona, and the other was to lowly St. Louis at home).
The Legion of Boom is back, and its only going to get tougher for opposing offenses with Kam Chancellor expected to return for the game this Sunday.
The Seahawks are making their fourth straight playoff appearance, and for the fourth year in a row the Hawks led the NFL in scoring defense. No defense has more talent and better playmakers.
This isn’t good news for Minnesota. If the Vikings hope to win the game, they will have to rely heavily on rushing champ Adrian Peterson to produce. That is going to be really hard against the league’s no.1 rush defense that will stack the box and take Peterson completely out of play.
The game will rest on Teddy Bridgewater, and while he has done a great job for most of the season, the Vikings just don’t have enough playmakers on offense to score enough against Seattle.
To make matters worse, Minnesota’s defense gets to go up against the league’s hottest QB. Remember when Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl MVP? He is playing better now than he was then.
That is scary folks.
This is all you need to know about Wilson’s performance as of late.
[Since WK11] We all know Russell Wilson has been good… but THIS good? pic.twitter.com/4g2DFAqMDT
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 8, 2016
Wilson is no longer a game manger, and the Seahawks don’t win by running the ball and defense. They win because of what Russell Wilson does passing the ball.
The Seahawks have one of the best and most underrated receiving cores in the NFL led by Doug Baldwin, and the x factor Tyler Lockett.
Combine that with Marshawn Lynch coming back and the Vikings won’t have much fun.
The weather might be the only thing on the Vikings side, and I don’t expect that to be a factor.
Prediction: Seahawks-28 Vikings-10
NFC Wild Card Game #2: No.5 Green Bay Packers @ No.4 Washington Redskins
I cant believe I am saying this but its true: I trust the Redskins offense and Kirk Cousins more than I trust Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Think about this: when Washington drafted Robert Griffen III Kirk Cousins wasn’t even talked about. Now he is one of the NFL’s hottest QB’s leading one of the NFL’s hottest offenses, and he will be starting his first playoff game.
This is why we love sports. I am firm believer in Kirk Cousins and you should be to.
After all since Week 8, Cousins is a better QB than Rodgers, the man many consider the best QB in the NFL.
— ESPN (@espn) January 6, 2016
TE Jordan Reed is going to create matchup nightmares for the Packers secondary, and Deseasn Jackson is going to have a big game.
The Packers have actually played better on defense than the Redskins as of late, but it comes down to which offense I trust, and right now everything looks hard for the Packers.
They are completely out of sync, and its clear how much the loss of Jordy Nelson has hurt this team. Pass protection has been horrible, and as a result the explosive plays just aren’t there.
I don’t trust anything the Packers are doing on offense. I will take Kirk Cousins and the Redskins in this game at home.
Prediction: Redskins-21 Packers-13