GJ Sports Blog Playoffs - Saturday's Wildcard Games

Discussion in 'NFL Writer's Block' started by gjsportsblog, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. gjsportsblog

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    GJ Sports Blog: NFL PLAYOFFS - Saturday's Wildcard Games

    Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) @ Houston Texans (12-4)

    The NFL playoffs kick off on Saturday night with an AFC clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans.

    The Bengals are the AFC's sixth seed but they come into this game in better form than the Texans. Cincinnati have won seven of their last eight to reach the playoffs, including their last four on the road. Going on the road won't be a problem for this Bengals team as they have a better record than they do at home. They are 6-2 on the road and 4-4 at home. The Bengals faced four of their fellow playoff teams in the regular season and had a 2-2 record (1-1 home and 1-1 road).

    As good as the Bengals were on offense, their defense is the main reason they are in the playoffs. They ranked 7th in pass defense and 12th against the run. They also sacked the opposition's quarterback 51 times (3rd most in the NFL) and forced 30 turnovers (2nd most in the AFC). The offense has built on the success of the defense, ranking 17th in passing and 18th in rushing. A key part to this game will be how the Bengals offensive line copes with the Texans pass rush. The Bengals have allowed 46 sacks this year which is 26th in the league. The Texans have sacked the opposing quarterback on 44 occasions and it something the Bengals will have to deal with.

    Houston come into this game as the AFC's third seed but it's not something they will be proud of. The Texans led the AFC all year but three defeats in their last four games has saw them drop below Denver and New England, who now occupy the top two seeds and have the bye week that comes with it. The Texans have no time to feel sorry for themselves and have to sort the issues quick or their season will be over.

    Houston started the season very well and looked like the best team in the league. However, the bye week seemed to kill off the momentum they had built up and although they still won more than they lost, the level of performance dropped around that time. Over the course of the season the Texans played seven of their playoff rivals, winning only three and losing four.

    Statistically, the Texans had a good year. The offense was 11th in passing and 8th in rushing. The defense was 16th against the pass and 7th against the run. The defense sacked the opposing quarterback 44 times (5th in the NFL) and they managed to force 29 turnovers (3rd in the AFC). The offensive line done a good job this year and only allowed 28 sacks which was 7th best in the league. The offense done a good job of taking care of the football and only gave the ball away 17 times (3rd in AFC).

    Prediction - This is a tough one to call. Both sides are good on defense and sacking the quarterback is a strong point for both of them. Houston look to be better at protecting their quarterback than the Bengals so they should have the edge in that area. Cincinnati's chances will rest heavily on the availability of running-back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He is questionable for the game and if he doesn't play it would mean the Bengals will be a one dimensional offense. The Texans also have the edge in the turnovers battle, having turned the balled over nine times less than the Bengals. Ultimately, my decision is do I go with the in-form team or the better team? If both teams bring their best game, the Texans will win. They haven't been in great form but this is the time of year when you win or you go home. With everything on the line, I think the Texans will get it done and set up a trip to New England next weekend.

    Minnesota Vikings (10-6) @ Green Bay Packers (11-5)

    These NFC North rivals face off for the second week in a row in the NFC's opening playoff game on Saturday night. Last week the Vikings were at home and they got the win they needed to secure a playoff place. Minnesota's win combined with the 49ers win meant the Packers dropped to the third seed in the NFC and set up this game between two big rivals.

    Minnesota were 6-6 but won their last four to earn a playoff place. The Vikings got to the playoffs mostly because of a good home record where they won seven of their eight games. They didn't fare so well on their travels and they finished 3-5 on the road. In fairness to them, their five defeats were to four teams who reached the playoffs and the Bears who would have got there if the Vikings had lost any of those last four games. The Vikings final record against playoff teams was 3-4 although two of those wins were at home and as the sixth seed, the one thing I can guarantee is the Vikings won't host any playoff games.

    The Vikings biggest asset this season was Adrian Peterson who got to within nine yards of beating the single season rushing record set by Eric twinkyerson in 1984. There's every chance Peterson will break that record before the end of his career but if he doesn't and after his playing days are finished, he will no doubt be gutted at missing the record by such a small margin. Peterson already has his place in history as one of the greatest running-back's of all time but to break the record would have increased his legacy further.

    Peterson aside, the Vikings statistics weren't overly impressive. Their passing game was 31st overall, the defense was 24th against the pass and the run defense was 11th. They forced just 22 turnovers (12th in the NFC) and turned the ball over themselves on 23 occasions (9th in the NFC). One of their strengths was the pass rush and they sacked the quarterback 44 times which was 5th in the league.

    Green Bay finished the season 11-5 and won the NFC North. If they had won last week in Minnesota this game would be between the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears. However, the Packers lost and it allowed the San Francisco 49ers to pass them and earn a bye as the NFC's two seed. The Packers are in reasonable form, having won four in a row prior to last week's defeat. Like the Vikings they had a good home record and also won seven of their eight home games. The difference between the sides was the Packers picked up an extra win on the road to finish 4-4. The Packers didn't have a great record against teams who reached the playoffs, winning just two of their six games.

    This Packers side relies a lot on Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. Rodgers is a fantastic quarterback and when he is on song, he is the best in the league. The one problem he has had this year is getting protection from his offensive line. The Packers have allowed 51 sacks and only the Arizona Cardinals have allowed more. Their defense have been doing their best to counteract this and have managed to pick up 47 sacks which is 4th best in the NFL. One thing the Packers have been very good at is taking care of the football. They have turned the ball over on just 16 occasions this season which is tied for second best in the league.

    Prediction - The Packers are the better side here but they two issues. They need to stop Adrian Peterson and they need to keep Aaron Rodgers on his feet. In the two games this year with the Vikings they haven't done a great job of either. Adrian Peterson has ran for a total of 409 yards, two touchdowns and he also caught a touchdown pass in the week 17 game. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked a total of 7 times in the two games and the Packers can't afford that number to increase much higher. These two sides have a clear identity and it just happens that both teams preference on offense, is the other teams weakness on defense. The Vikings have the 2nd ranked running game in the league and they will go up against a Packers run defense that ranked 17th. The Packers will look to pass the ball and their passing game ranked 9th in the regular season. The Vikings pass defense was 24th in the NFL so they will struggle to cope with Aaron Rodgers if he finds his form. Generally teams will give a little bit more in the playoffs and if both teams play to their potential, which I think they will, then the Packers will win this one.

    NFL Playoff Challenge

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