Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans
Why Cincinnati Will Win: They’re the team with the least to lose in this playoffs. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are coming in with no expectations and a lot of talent.
Why Cincinnati Will Lose: It is a high pressure situation, and these guys are mostly unproven. They don’t have a stellar record against winning teams.
Why Houston Will Win: They’ve suffered through injuries to their starting quarterback and top wide reciever, amongst others, and done well. T.J. Yates has thrived in the system and it looks like he’ll play as will Andre Johnson.
Why Houston Will Lose: Their success this year has a lot to do with their division falling apart. As talented as their second string has proven this year, it’s hard to believe they can keep it up forever.
Prediction: Houston 31, Cincinnati 28
Two evenly matched teams who took advantage of good situations to secure unexpected playoff berths. Homefield advantage gives a very slight edge to the Texans.
Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints
Why Detroit Will Win: Both their offenses and defense are explosive. They play great on turf, which is well suited even for an away game in the Superdome.
Why Detroit Will Lose: Their high octane team is often conditional, as this defense will get burned trying to make plays, and Stafford is mistake prone. Their running game is very suspect.
Why New Orleans Will Win: Quite simply because Drew Brees has been lights out this year. Their running backs and defense are just good enough to let him run up points.
Why New Orleans Will Lose: As good as they’ve been this year, they’ve occasionally looked just dreadful, and it’s hard to trust any team that got blown out by the 3-13 Rams to win in the Playoffs.
Prediction: New Orleans 38, Detroit 30
I expect this one to be a shootout that goes down to the wire, but ultimately, the Saints are just a more complete team than Detroit and will pick up the win here.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants
Why Atlanta Will Win: They did a really good job this year of playing up to the caliber of their opponents, especially down the stretch. They have a lot of talent on offense.
Why Atlanta Will Lose: Matt Ryan and the defense have taken a lot of unnecessary risks this year. They also seem to consistently play poorly when their opponents are playing poorly.
Why New York Will Win: In a lot of other years, Eli Manning would be under serious consideration for the MVP. Victor Cruz has emerged as a playmaker.
Why New York Will Lose: Injuries have killed their defense. Their secondary is very exploitable.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, New York 13
Atlanta can score on this defense, especially if they ride the Michael Turner train and get Julio Jones and Roddy White open. It’d be hard to see New York winning, even at home.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos
Why Pittsburgh Will Win: Big Ben has made a career out of winning big post season games, and it seems the worse he’s hurt, the better he does.
Why Pittsburgh Will Lose: Ben might not even be able to play, and they’re already minus their top running back and corner, and there’s not tons of depth here.
Why Denver Will Win: Their defense will be able to keep it close against a sluggish Steelers offense, and the Broncos specialize on winning games by a field goal.
Why Denver Will Lose: Teams have pretty much proven that if you can get after Tebow, the Broncos have no offense. McGahee looks worn out.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 17, Denver 9
It’s just too hard to believe that Denver will be able to pull this one off, whether Ben plays or not. They just seem too worn down by the way their season slid to an end. There just aren’t enough field goal opportunities for them here.