Posted December 30, 2012

NFL Playoffs: Early look at Wild-Card Weekend

NFL Playoffs
Aaron Rodgers and Christian Ponder will go toe-to-toe for the third time this season. The QBs split their first two battles. (Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE)

Aaron Rodgers and Christian Ponder will go toe-to-toe for the third time this season. The QBs split their first two battles. (Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE)

In six of the past seven seasons, at least one of the eventual Super Bowl participants played on the opening weekend of the postseason. At first glance there appear to be some dangerous teams set to take the field early in this year’s playoffs, too.

We’ll have plenty of coverage to get you ready for Wild-Card Weekend between now and next Saturday, but here’s an early glance at the first four playoff matchups:

AFC

No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) at No. 3 Houston Texans (12-4)

Will a year make any difference for the Bengals? This also was the 3-vs.-6 matchup in last season’s AFC playoffs, with Houston erasing an early 7-0 lead and taking control after a J.J. Watt pick-6 in the second quarter. That Texans team did not have an injured Matt Schaub — T.J. Yates threw for 159 yards and a touchdown in the win.

But just like in 2011, the Texans will head into this game reeling. They took a three-game losing skid to the postseason last year and have dropped three of four this time around. Can Houston bounce back again to take down Cincinnati?

No. 5 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at No. 4 Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

If this comes down to the quarterbacks, as so many playoff matchups do, Joe Flacco would have the edge based on the location of the game alone — Flacco has been much better at home; Andrew Luck threw 13 interceptions and finished 4-4 on the road.

That said, the Ravens posted a measly 1-4 record (and fired its offensive coordinator) in December. Indianapolis, meanwhile, closed with a 5-1 run.

The key intangible here may be Baltimore’s injury situation. Terrell Suggs is playing hurt, Ray Lewis has not suited up since Week 6 and Anquan Boldin sat out Week 17 with a shoulder injury. All three of those players are critical to the Ravens’ game plan, so Indianapolis will try to take advantage if they’re playing at less than full speed.

NFC

No. 6 Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at No. 3 Green Bay Packers (11-5)

The trilogy concludes.

Green Bay rallied past Minnesota in Week 13, 23-14, despite a long touchdown run from Adrian Peterson. Then, Peterson and the Vikings scored revenge Sunday with a playoff-clinching, 37-34 victory. If those first two meetings are any indication, the rubber match of this series could be the game to see during the playoffs’ opening weekend.

The Packers have to find some way to at least slow down Peterson — much easier said than done, but Peterson posted 409 combined rushing yards in those two earlier matchups. A third game around the 200-yard mark would allow Minnesota to take a lot of heat off Christian Ponder, which is the ideal scenario since Ponder cannot go toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers through the air.

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at No. 4 Washington Redskins (10-6)

The Seahawks and Redskins share a lot of obvious similarities. Those start in the backfield, where Seattle boasts rookie QB Russell Wilson and bruising running back Marshawn Lynch, while Washington has probable Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III and 1,500-yard rusher Alfred Morris.

The two teams utilize similar styles on offense, too, where they use misdirection to free up their playmakers.

Washington’s challenge will be measuring up defensively — the Seahawks allowed fewer points during the regular season than any other team. The Seahawks, though, have not been the same team outside of Seattle (a December win in Chicago aside). A raucous Washington crowd, celebrating its franchise’s first home playoff game since 1999, could make a massive impact.

9 comments
TJMarks
TJMarks

Get back to work Amod.

jellis7707
jellis7707

How about game times and days, morons!

JasonMiltenberger
JasonMiltenberger

I have to say, for the only time in my life so far (and hopefully never again in the future), I was rooting for the Cowboys last night.  I believe Washington to be a far more dangerous team than Dallas.  As a Seahawks fan, I am a bit more nervous now after Sunday's 'Skins win....and the offensive performance of Seattle vs. St. Louis.  I guess, though, I can invoke the ghost of Al Davis and say "Just win, baby."  

MichaelHuff
MichaelHuff

The sports media, marketing, hype, hubris, blah blah, blah... Quarterbacks do not go "toe-to-toe." Unless, maybe, they hook up for a one-on-one basketball game, or ping-pong, or checkers, etc.

paintstheblack
paintstheblack

It’s nice to see a feel good story like the Redskins get into the postseason along with the Colts even though I would rather have seen the Cowboys win. RGIII has simply been outstanding this season and Alfred Morris has flown under the radar as arguably the 3rd best offensive rookie in the NFL. I’m betting that at least one of the Colts or the Redskins comes out on top on wild-card weekend and these next 10 years with Luck and RGIII at the helm should be unbelieveable.

 

http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/lacking-it/

 

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @jellis7707 Are you new to the www?   This is simply a synopsis of the matchups.  Game schedules are in, oh, thousands of other places, including on this site.   Keep practicing and you will get the hang of this here internet.

57chamorro
57chamorro

 @JasonMiltenberger  You are right to be a bit more nervous of the Skins.  First of all, the 12th Man no on the roster or anywhere near the state for that matter.  Chickenhawks will have to motivate themselves out of this one alone.

 

mickeyphil
mickeyphil

 @JasonMiltenberger St Louis has a much better Defense than Washington.  The Seahawks got unwound in the second half and controlled the game from there.