AFC Wild Card Game One: Bengals @ Texans
Saturday, 4:30 PM ET, NBC
The Bengals’ Side: Before the season started, the Bengals were said to be in rebuilding mode. 2011 First-Round Pick WR AJ Green and 2011 Second-Round Pick QB Andy Dalton have sparked this team, and they have exceeded their minimal expectations. The Bengals defense is ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL, and are looking to continue their solid play throughout the playoffs. In order to win on Saturday, Cincy’s defense needs to contain Texans RB Arian Foster on 1st and 2nd down, forcing the Texans to air it out on 3rd. Also, Cincinnati needs to maintain a steady run game to keep a balance.
The Texans’ Side: For the first time in their team’s history, the Texans find themselves in the playoffs. But battered with key injuries—DE/OLB Mario Williams, WR Andre Johnson, and QB Matt Schaub—Houston is not nearly at 100%. If Williams, Johnson, and Schaub were all healthy, the Texans would be a scary team that nobody would want to play. Currently, third-string rookie QB TJ Yates is the starter after the backup, Matt Leinart, went down shortly after Schaub. Yates started of miraculously but has fallen back to reality after a couple losses. To win, the Texans need to place a heavy focus on getting a lead early on and not falling behind, and also stopping AJ Green from having a big day by double covering him.
The Bottom Line: With all of these injuries for Houston, it is Cincinnati’s game to lose.
Prediction: Cincinnati, 24, Houston, 17
AFC Wild Card Game Two: Steelers @ Broncos
Sunday, 4:30 PM ET, CBS
The Steelers’ Side: Pittsburgh has the Number One ranked defense in the NFL, and are loaded all around the roster. The Steelers have superstars all around their roster, and are dynamic all three phases of the game. The Steelers, however, will be playing without S Ryan Clark because of a blood disorder and RB Rashard Mendenhall because of a torn ACL suffered last week. Pittsburgh could also be without OC Maurkice Pouncey and possibly QB Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger is known for his toughness, though, and should be set to go on Sunday. The Broncos have a tumultuous passing attack, and to advance in the playoffs the Steelers need to force Broncos QB Tim Tebow and Company to pass the ball frequently.
The Broncos’ Side: In a season defined by Tim Tebow—his comebacks, mistakes, rejuvenation of this franchise, and even Tebowing—the ups and downs have been many. The Broncos are on a three game losing streak featuring Tebow’s turnovers. The Broncos have had more than a tough time for throwing, but have the Number One rushing attack in the NFL, which features veteran RB Willis McGahee. On Denver’s defense, two pass-rushers, Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, have caused problems for opposing offense. However, Miller suffered a finger injury a few weeks ago and is in a cast. The cast is clearly affecting his play. To win the ball game, the Broncos need to run the ball consistently in all four quarters, and also to stop Steelers’ WR’s Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown of a big play.
The Bottom Line: The Steelers’ playoff experience compared to the Broncos is just unfair, and the Broncos’ offensive struggles will be a breeze for the Steel Curtain to defend.
Prediction: Steelers, 24, Broncos, 13