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Saturday NFL Playoff Previews

The Good and the Bad of these Playoff TeamsĀ 

CINCINNATI vs HOUSTON
Is it double revenge time for the Bengals? After-all, they lost twice to the Texans last season. In fact, they lost in the same scenario in the Wild Card game just a year ago. Talk about the sweet smell of revenge! But the Bengals only had three quality wins against playoff-caliber teams all season- vs the NY Giants, Washington Redskins, and Baltimore Ravens last week. But Baltimore really didn’t try very hard and rested starters. The Washington victory was in week #3, when they were a young inexperienced team- nothing like today’s Skins. And the NY Giants, while Super Bowl champs, aren’t even in the Playoffs. Defensively, the Bengals are getting the job done- averaging a league best 13 points per game last past two months. But offensively, Andy Dalton has had more INTs than TDs during that same period. It may be lucky they are playing the Houston Texans. Word coming from the Texans coaches to the management should be: “Houston, We have a problem!” These Texans were “the pick of the litter” preseason. And early in the NFL season too. But in the last four weeks they’ve managed to work themselves out of home field advantage and into a berth in the first round of the NFL Playoffs. It started with star LB Brian Cushing going down…and the defense went down with him. But the fact remains that New Orleans and Drew Brees hung 40 points on Houston. Brady and Rodgers put up 42 points this season. Maybe Wade Phillips is NOT their answer. But losing late in the season in a “need-to-win game” to Minnesota…at home…23-6…is UGLY!! Then the offense was supposed to pick up the slack, but they suffered running back injuries. The Texan offense completed just over 25% of the third down tries in the month of December. And now it’s left up to a QB that has never been in a playoff game. In playing the regular season against Playoff teams, Schaub is 10-23 in his career. So while both teams are focused on beating each other up on Saturday, does anyone think they have a realistic chance the following week at Denver or at New England? We’ll address that next week, but this week it’s all about revenge for the Bengals…and fulfilling expectations for the Texans.

MINNESOTA vs GREEN BAY
If you had the defense you once had with the Purple People Eaters, or a great defense like Baltimore or Pittsburgh of years past, or a great quarterback like a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers of today, then maybe you could make a run at the Superbowl. BUT, the Vikings have neither. Christian Ponder is not capable of taking a sixth seed and winning three straight games. He’ll be lucky to win back to back against the same team (Green Bay). Even with the best running back in the NFL. Note that in Adrian Peterson’s 2100 + rushing yards, he had 1100 of those yards AFTER the initial first hit by the defense. Talking about second and third effort!! On one side of the coin is that his top 2 games of the season were against this week’s opponent- the Green Bay Packers. But the other side of the coin is all black and blue. They are 0-5 playing outdoors this year. And last look in Green Bay, it’s not only outside but IT’S FREEZING COLD!! If Ponder can avoid INT’s this week then anything can happen. He is 5-8 on the road in his starting career and 3-9 in his career against playoff teams. But the reward for the Vikings winning against Green Bay this week…is a nice warm and cozy trip to the South where they can play indoors in a Dome against Atlanta. Aaron Rodgers will be the key to preventing a Viking trip to Atlanta. If the Packers don’t learn how to close out “the show” in the fourth quarter, they may be one and done- just like last season when they lost their first Playoff game (at home) to the New York Giants. If the Pack is behind, don’t look for any 4th quarter heroics from the man that plays the 4th quarter more like the original Mr. Rogers from PBS (in a yellow cardigan sweater). Aaron Rodgers is 5-22 in 4th quarter comeback tries. He is 0-18 in comeback chances against teams that are .500 or better. All four of the Packers losses this season were at the hands of teams now in the Playoffs. Which means Aaron feats off bad teams, and struggles versus good teams. Minnesota may now officially be one of those good teams! While the second half is no friend to the Packers when behind, there is no better QB or team when ahead in the second half. So Rodgers has to get ahead early, then play “hold the lead.” That’s how the Pack did it in their last Super Bowl run!!