Well, the playoffs are upon us, and that means that only 12 teams are left to battle it out for the most prized trophy in all sports, the Lombardi. The post season opens this weekend with some games that won’t be anything less than spectacular. Some of the teams haven’t been in the playoffs for a while (or ever, in the case of the Houston Texans). The games are a mixture of both AFC and NFC games; each weekend day has one of each.
Bengals vs. Texans
Saturday opens with the Cincinnati Bengals at the Houston Texans at 4:30 p.m. The Texans won the regular season meeting this year at Paul Brown Stadium 20-19 with a really late touchdown to win the game. But the Bengals look better now than when they played then, and they’re looking to come out of Texas with Cincinnati’s first post-season win since the 1990 Wild Card game over the Houston Oilers (present-day Tennessee Titans) 41-14.
When the Bengals last won a post-season game, they were in the AFC Central. Here are some other fast facts about the last time the Bengals made the playoffs:
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton was just 3 years old.
Wide receiver A.J. Green was just 2 years old.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched.
George Bush (the elder) was the president.
A first-class stamp cost 25 cents.
East and West Germany reunited.
The Texans will play another week without their normal quarterback Matt Schaub, so that means rookie T.J. Yates will get his first-ever playoff start. As a matter of fact, both quarterbacks in this game will be making their first start in the playoffs. It will come down to who can best handle the pressure, and Andy Dalton has played in a big game in his college career (winning the 2011 Rose Bowl). Both quarterbacks have had their fair share of fame this year, and to be in the playoffs is a big accomplishment for both of them.
Lions vs. Saints
The second game on Saturday is the battle in the Bayou, and I’m not talking about the BCS National Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers, but the playoff battle between the Detroit Lions the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints’ Drew Brees not only set a new record for NFL passing yards in a season (5,476), but he also led the NFL in touchdowns (46) and the most completions this year (468 of 657), so that also gives him the highest completion percentage with 71.2 and the most average yards a game with 342. Brees has the experience to win a playoff, so the Saints will probably walk away with the game like they did in their first meeting, which ended with a score of 31-71.
Falcons vs. Giants
The first game on Sunday is the between the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants. The Giants won the division with a dominating fashion over the Dallas Cowboys, winning 31-14. The Giants made history, though, by being the first team in NFC East history to win the division without having a 10-win season.
I know a lot of people think Dallas should have won the game, but I think the hand injury of Cowboys QB Tony Romo played a role because he did seem a little off in that game.
Steelers vs. Broncos
The final game of the NFL Wild Card round is the between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos. The Steelers have a lot of people out for this game and for some interesting reasons. One that has really been the talk of the town on ESPN’s SportsCenter is that Steelers safety Ryan Clark will sit out this weekend’s game because of a rare blood disorder. That’s too bad because the Steelers need him against the explosive Broncos offense.
There also has been a lot of talk about Denver QB Tim Tebow being too conservative, and it’s true. John Elway, Broncos Executive vice president of Football Operations, says Tebow sometimes needs to pull the trigger and throw the ball. Even though he isn’t going anywhere next year, Tebow had better turn that around or he might be gone in a year or two.
The Steelers also need to step up their game for this weekend’s matchup, especially in the offensive line area because if Big Ben Roethlisberger takes a big hit on the ankle in the game, he could be done. The Steelers beat the Broncos the last time they played back in 2009 (28-10), but the Broncos own the rivalry with an astonishing record of 13-7-1 all-time, with a 3-3 record against them in the post-season.
My winning picks
I didn’t have a column the last two weeks, but I did still make my picks. You’ll have to trust me when I say that over the last three weeks of the season, I went 8-8, 11-5, and 8-8 putting my overall record at 151-109, which is an average of .722.
Here are my winning playoff picks, in orange.
Saturday, Jan. 7
Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans – 4:30 p.m.
Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints – 8 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 8
Atlanta Falcons @ New York Giants – 1 p.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos – 4:30 p.m.