This year's NFL Playoff Predictions aren't as easy as years past. You have some tremendous matchups this weekend, including a big NFC North showdown between the Vikings and the Packers. Can the Vikings put their offense on Adrian Peterson's back? They have before. Can the Bengals get revenge from an early exit at the hands of the Texans from last year? With that said, lets get into this week's Wild Card Predictions and who will be moving on to the Divisional Round next weekend.
Saturday 1/5, 4:30 pm EST
Bengals @ Texans
The Bengals had to win out to claim a wild card spot in the playoffs. That's exactly what they did, ending the season on a high note with three-straight wins. On the other hand, the Texans failed to lock up the No. 1 seed and home-field throughout the playoffs by losing their last two contests. This game is a rematch of last year's Wild Card round that saw the Texans decimate Cincinnati 31-10. The Bengals have a tad more firing power than last year with Benjarvus Green-Ellis at running back. And we all know AJ Green will, or should, have a big game. But the Bengals have to get guys like Jermaine Gresham more involved. Relying on Green alone isn't going to get it done. There really aren't any surprises on the Texans side. Arian Foster should have a big game along with Andre Johnson. The Texans Defense slid hard down the stretch in the regular season, but I think they regroup and put the pressure on Andy Dalton. Turnovers are going to be the factor here. While I believe the Texans win again, I think the Bengals put up more points than last year. While also making this a close game until the end. Texans win.
Saturday 1/5, 8:00 pm EST
Vikings @ Packers
I absolutely love this matchup. NFC North. Adrian Peterson. Aaron Rodgers. This game could be the one that gets the most praise come Monday morning. The two teams split the season with a win a piece, with the Vikings eeking out a victory in Week 17 to put themselves into the playoffs. As I wrote in my intro, the Vikings have to get AD involved early and often in this one in order to keep Rodgers and company off the field. It's what worked during the regular season, with Peterson averaging a whopping 204 rushing yards a game against the Pack in 2012. If Christian Ponder can at least play "okay" and somehow get Kyle Rudolph involved in the passing game, Minnesota could pull off the upset. I see a close win by the Vikings ala Week 17, making this game the upset special of the weekend.
Sunday 1/6, 1:00 pm EST
Colts @ Ravens
As much as I'd love to see the Cinderella story of Andrew Luck and #Chuckstrong continue to thrive, I don't see the Colts winning on the road IN Baltimore. Not that I don't think they will make a game of it. The Ravens had an up-and-down year, but they wound up 6-2 at home. Not only that, but they get their defensive leader Ray Lewis back after he missed almost the entire season due to a triceps injury. His presence alone will help a Ravens Defense that had given up 122 yards on the ground during the season. Vick Ballard was already a so-so player who showed glimpses of some talent. But I can see him getting taken out of the game easily, which means Luck will have to shoulder most of the offense. History doesn't side with Luck in terms of rookie quarterbacks starting in a playoff game. According to the Indianapolis Star, only 11 rookie quarterbacks have started a playoff game. And those rookies put up a combined 7-11 record, 32 interceptions, 17 touchdowns and 57.8 passer rating. Plus, Luck is the only No. 1 overall pick to deliver his team to the postseason as a rookie. As much as I'd love to see the Colts move ahead, the Ravens with Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Torrey Smith will prove to be too much for the Indy Defense. And the Ravens D, with Lewis on the field, will do just enough to knock Luck around. The Colts make it competitive until the third quarter, where the Ravens win by 10 or more points.
Sunday 1/6, 4:30 pm EST
Seahawks @ Redskins
This might look like an easy win for the Redskins, but the Seahawks Defense is hitting it's stride. Never have we seen a rookie face another in a playoff game. Not to mention two that can make plays with their legs as well as their arms. RG3 figures to get the nod over Russell Wilson in the passing department. With Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss, Griffin is going to need to rely heavily on the passing game as I predict fellow rookie star Alfred Morris will be held in check by a very underrated Seattle Defense that ranked 10th in the league against the run (103.1 yards per game) and also has both Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner back manning both cornerback spots. If the Seahawks want to win, they will need plenty of help from their defense and to give Marshawn Lynch the rock as much as possible. Letting Wilson control the game on his own could spell disaster. In my opinion, this is the hardest game to predict. If the Seahawks can get their passing game going, which is a strong possibility given how low the Redskins ranked against the pass (31st), this should come down to the wire. But in the end, I think RG3 will be able to pull out some more of that game-day magic and get the Redskins to the next round of the playoffs.