It’s “Wildcard Weekend,” and even though my team was done in November, I’m kinda fired up:
Let’s get right to the picks:
As a disclaimer, I’ll come clean here. I haven’t seen much of the Texans this season, and in the few times I have had a chance to check them out, I only watched them casually. Here are the games I remember seeing:
- Texans at Jets: On MNF, they beat a bad Jets team 23-17 and had all kinds of chances to bury them, but never really put them away. A better team would have beaten them that night.
- Packers at Texans: On SNF, the Packers absolutely destroyed the Texans in a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggested, 42-24.
- Texans at Lions: On Thanksgiving, the Texans needed overtime to beat the awful Lions, and probably would not have won if not for Jim Schwartz’s stupidity.
- Texans at Patriots: The Patriots smoked the Texans on MNF, 42-14.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen more Bengals games this season than I ever have in my life. They played all four NFC East teams this year, so they remained of interest all season long. Even before the Bengals won 7 of their last 8 games, I looooved this team.
When you think of the best defenses in the NFL, the first teams that come to mind are the Niners, Steelers, Bears, and now the Seahawks, Broncos, and maybe even the Texans. In my opinion, the Bengals are right there with them. For years, the Bengals have been accumulating players that other teams either passed on or gave up on because of character concerns. A quick list of those players: Carlos Dunlap, Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict, Reggie Nelson, and Pacman Jones. All of those guys always had talent, and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is getting the most out them this season. In the second half of the season, the Bengals are giving up just 12.75 points per game.
With those guys and some other great players like DE Michael Johnson and CB Leon Hall surrounding DT Geno Atkins, this defense has become a legitimate force. Atkins should be (but won’t be) considered for Defensive Player of the Year. He had 12.5 sacks from the DT position. That’s Warren Sapp-like. The Bengals as a team have 51 sacks this season, and Atkins has the ability to completely wreck a game. Atkins is a guy that has finally begun to get some attention this season as a star player, and it has become the popular thing to do to praise him whenever the Bengals are being discussed. The positive attention is not only warranted, but he’s perhaps still being undersold.
Both teams have similar offenses, in that they have good zone blocking OLs and a will to stick to the run game, with an extremely dangerous game-changing WR. Both have QBs that are good, not great. The Texans of course have the far better RB, or RB duo if you will.
But for me it keeps coming back to the D. The Texans have an absolute star in JJ Watt, but I’ll take the supporting cast around Geno Atkins any day over the supporting cast the Texans have around Watt.
The Texans were likely a better team in many games that I didn’t see. In other words, you’re crazy if you make bets based upon my recommendations in the first place, but even more so for a game like this. I like the Bengals in the upset, 23-17.
Adrian Peterson is an absolute scientific marvel, and I’ve seen some arguments made that the Vikings DL could give the Packers fits. Personally, I’m not going to over think this one.
Is that oversimplifying it? Yeah, maybe. Still, I’ll take the Packers. 38-20
Chuck Pagano’s story this season is Hollywood worthy, and it was announced this week that Ray Lewis would be hanging them up after this season. There are no shortage of great story lines in this game, but in my opinion, these are the worst two teams in the playoffs.
The Colts just seem like a total anomaly to me, statistically. Consider these facts:
- There are 7 teams with a turnover differential of -12 or worse: Colts , Bills, Cowboys, Jets, Lions, Eagles Chiefs. The six teams other than the Colts had a combined record of 30-66.
- There are 7 teams in the NFL that gave up 130 or more rushing yards per game this season: Colts, Jets, Chiefs, Cardinals, Jags, Bills, Saints. The six teams other than the Colts had a combined record of 28-68.
- A list of teams that had better point differentials that the Colts this season: Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Chargers, Cowboys.
Credit the Colts for winning close games, but I simply don’t trust their OL, I don’t trust their running game, and I don’t trust their entire defense. This is a 7-9 team that managed to win 11 games. I’m going to do that super-condescending thing by saying “They’re a great story, but…”
In case you missed it, I broke down this game in thorough detail yesterday, and don’t have much to add. Didn’t read it? Seriously? Go. Go now.
Anyway, within that breakdown, the one thing that I just can’t get past has been the Seahawks’ recent hot streak has stemmed from their ability to force an inordinate number of turnovers, and score off those turnovers. In the last 4 games, if you include a FG block that went for a TD, the Seahawks have scored 71 points off of turnovers, or 17.75 points per game.
In the Rams game, that one turnover sealed the game, and led to a kneel down.
The Seahawks forced 14 turnovers in those four games. The Redskins have turned the ball over 14 times the entire season.
Is the Seahawks’ ability to force turnovers sustainable? For me, that’s the big question. Can the Skins continue their excellence in ball security? If they can, I think they’ll win. And I think they can. Skins 26-23.