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NFL Wildcard Round previews

Now it gets serious in the NFL, we are into the knockout games. There'll be a few previews floating around this weekend, I've gone with a recent addition to the blog contributors list, Simon Baird, @sbaird80, and his short, sharp look at each of the four games.

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NFL Wildcard Round Preview by Simon Baird

This weekend see the wildcard card round of the NFL playoffs. It also is the first time in history that 3 rookie quarterbacks are starting for their respective teams not to mention the other two second year quarterbacks taking part. There are two standout teams playing in this round with the others fighting to make it to the next round. Let’s take a look at the games in detail.

AFC

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans


This game is replay of the wildcard round from last season where the Texans were easily able to deal with the Bengals on their home turf. There are a few interesting difference this year however. The Texans have been on a slide of late winning only 1 of their last 4 games. The Bengals on the flipside have won their last 3 games including an impressive win over Baltimore. They also have an excellent defensive front four that get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Matt Schaub will need to get some bite on the play action to free up star receiver Andre Johnson for the big play over the top. If Arian Foster can run like he did early in the season it will open this play up for the Texans. Andy Dalton will have his hands full with line backer JJ Watt from the Texans defense. He has had an outstanding year with 20 odd sacks and plenty of balls batted down. Bengals star receiver AJ Green should expect a lot of double coverage which will open up lanes up the middle for the Bengals offense and tight end Jermaine Gresham. The law firm BenJarvus Green-Ellis will need to pop some big runs to ensure the chains keep moving for the Bengals. I expect the Texans to bounce back to form at home but in a much closer encounter than last year.

Score prediction 28-21 Texans

Indianapolis Colts v Baltimore Ravens

In this matchup we see veteran Joe Flacco go against rookie Andrew Luck in what should become a shootout. Both teams have big play ability and average defenses. Future hall of famer Ray Lewis who is possibly playing his last game will make life tough for the young Colts QB here. Andrew Luck has had some phenomenal games this season at home but has struggled away and will again in this game, his first trip to the post season, I don’t expect that to change. The Ravens are a proven commodity in the playoffs and only a catchable ball away from a Superbowl last year when they dominated the Patriots only to lose in the final minutes. They also have a strong running game in Ray Rice, a solid offensive line and talented wide receivers headlined by the speedy Torrey Smith. The Colts on the other hand have the wily veteran Reggie Wayne who is forming similar chemistry with his new QB to what he had with Peyton Manning. There will be too much firepower from the Ravens and a healthy home advantage will see them come out on top here.

Score prediction 31-24 Ravens

NFC

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers


Here is the game of the week. We get to see arguably the best QB in the game versus the best running back in the game. The Packers will be reeling from last year’s missed opportunity, will be hungrier than ever to win this game and won’t make the same mistakes as they did last week when they played. Green Bay will put extra work into stopping Adrian Peterson, the league’s top rusher who came 9 yards shy of the season rushing record last week putting up 199 yards on them. The astonishing thing about this guy is his yard after first hit. 1100 yards after first contact out of the 2097 he racked up this year which means the Pack will need to bring him down and not let him bounce and spin off defenders. He is the weapon for the Vikings and their hopes in this once again land on AP’s shoulders. A couple of top shelf line backers here for both teams with Jared Allen and Clay Matthews should see a fair bit of pressure on either QB. Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson will be too smart for the banged up secondary of the Packers and this will provide Aaron Rodgers plenty of options in the passing game.

Score prediction 29-10 Packers

Seattle Seahawks v Washington Redskins

Welcome to battle of the rookie QBs. Two outstanding young QBs go face to face in the wild card game with both showing poise and maturity beyond their years. The Redskins also boast the best rookie running back in the league. The draft steal Alfred Morris who has had a field day on some of the best defences running out of the zone read option playbook. This is a well-oiled machine that causes so much confusion as to who is running the ball, the RB or the QB. The flipside is the Seattle defense is one of the best in the league and contains a fantastic corner back in Richard Sherman. RG3 will need to keep the ball away from him as much as possible. Seattle’s chances hinge on RB Marshawn Lynch. I still recall back to the playoffs a few years back when he shredded the then Superbowl favourites New Orleans in one run, simply crushing defenders in his way. He has had another excellent season and will be keen to keep it rolling here. Russell Wilson has been nothing short of a revelation in Seattle beating out two veterans to take the starting job. He is as dangerous with his feet as his is in the air. This will be an exhibition of new age football and one all fans should make time to see. The Redskins will have too many plays for Seattle to handle here.

Score prediction 35-28 Redskins

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