Houston Texans 19 – Cincinnati Bengals 13
I picked Houston to win this game but I wasn’t totally confident in them because I didn’t trust Matt Schaub. But I didn’t trust Andy Dalton more. It was kind of like asking me to choose between a punch to the face or a kick to the “boys”. Either way, this is going to hurt and I’m not going to be happy with my decision. Schaub sucked but Dalton sucked that much more on Saturday. Nice season for Cincy but they just didn’t have what it takes to win a playoff game on the road, even if Gary Kubiak was coaching the opponent. Marvin Lewis had a great defensive gameplan to stop Schaub and Andre Johnson, but Arian Foster and his 32 carries and 140 yards killed the Bengals. Andy Dalton never looked comfortable and he played that way. He completed 14 of 30 passes and only averaged 4.2 yards per completion. You don’t need to do math to tell thats less than 50 percent right? The Bengals were 0 for 9 on 3rd downs and only mustarded up 198 yards of total offense. I knew they’d struggle to score and that’s why I didn’t pick them. All the Bengals had was AJ Green and he could only do so much.
Next Up: The Patriots smoked Houston at Foxborough, 42-14 (And it wasn’t even that close.) in week 14, in what Houston called, “the biggest game in franchise history”. Well I’d surmise to say this game is a lot more important. If Marvin Lewis, a guy that's never won a playoff game as a head coach mind you, can out coach Kubiak what do you think Belichick does, having had two weeks to prepare for the Texans.
Green Bay Packers 24 – Minnesota Vikings 10
“Joe Webb is a real x-factor” words said BY NO ONE UNTIL SATURDAY NIGHT. If I didn’t have faith in a guy with “Christ” in his first name, why the hell would I have any in a guy that didn’t throw a single pass all year long? I couldn’t believe the way Criss Collinsworth was talking up Joe Webb in NBC’s pregame broadcast. C’mon son, like he really had a shot to win. That was the greatest sell job since Daniel Day-Lewis tricked people out of their land in There Will Be Blood. I’d officially like to nominate Collinsworth for this year’s Best Actor Academy Award. Backups are backups because they suck. All you need to know about Joe Webb is this; no matter how bad it got, (And it got REALLY, REALLY BAD AT TIMES) Joe Webb COULDN’T beat out Christian “If I were wearing a Jets #6 you’d think I was Mark Sanchez” Ponder. NOT EVEN FOR A GAME, A HALF, OR A SINGLE DRIVE did Joe Webb challenge Christian Ponder for his starting job. Not much to say about Green Bay other than they had seen enough of Adrian Peterson to figure out a way to finally stop him. (He only ran for 99 yards and his longest rush was for 18 yards.) Even with Ponder, Peterson needed to go “Super Saiyan” for the Vikings to have a chance. The Packers bottled him up all night and forced Joe Webb to beat them. The Packers look just like they did in 2010 when everyone got healthy at year’s end and they won it all. Rodgers picked the Vikings apart all night to the tune of passing to a record ten different receivers in a playoff game. Green Bay looks ready to go and they have the best QB left on the NFC side of the playoffs by miles.
Next Up: The 49ers beat the Packers in Week One but I gave that no thought when I was picking this game. If Russell Wilson and Tom Brady could find holes in that San Francisco defense, you got to think Rodgers would. I’m still not sure if I trust Colin Kaepernick here. The more I think about it, I don’t. In the end, when a game feels like a toss up to me, I go with the QB I trust more. (See Cincy vs. Houston.)
Baltimore Ravens 24 - Indianapolis Colts 9
Ray Lewis playing his last game at home > Playing on the road for your cancer survivor head coach. Last week when I wrote that the Ravens would lose in the first round, I didn’t have the knowledge of Ray Lewis retiring before I made that pick. I still gave the Colts the edge for a few reasons. The Ravens looked like crap down the stretch, Andrew Luck stopped throwing INTs and even though I knew the crowd would be jazzed in the first quarter after Lewis’ pregame antics, I thought Indy would settle in, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this. (Hell, I wanted to hit somebody on Indianapolis after I saw it.) The Colts moved the ball pretty well (419 Total Yards vs. the Ravens 441) but they just couldn’t cash in with TDs. The Ravens showed a real commitment to running the ball by rushing for 172 yards on 32 carries. Anquan Boldin played out of his mind grabbing 5 receptions for 145 yards and one TD. When it’s all said and done, Ray Lewis’ passion and energy infused a level of urgency in the Ravens that I hadn’t seen in them all year long. I’ll save my thoughts on Ray Lewis’ career and legacy after the season, when, or IF he retires. (He better freaking retire. You don’t get to play THAT card more than once.) Ray Lewis, winner, champion, leader…cancer survivor… murderer? (Relax it’s a joke, it’s a joke!)
Next Up: I really wanted to see Luck go up against Peyton Manning but Ray Lewis going to Denver isn’t a bad consolation prize. Their "battles" were always legendary and its only fitting Lewis has to go through Manning to keep himself out of early retirement. The Ravens got man handled by the Broncos 34 to 17 back in week 15, but that was without Lewis and without this newfound motivation they have now. It’s an added dimension I didn’t know I'd have to account for but they aren’t going to be in Baltimore, where they feed off the AFC’s best home crowd. (Like I said, the Colts racked up a lot of yards, moved the ball easily and were on the field for 37 minutes but just they kept scoring FGs. Going out on a limb and saying Manning turns those into TDs.) The Broncos and the old Colts QB will be ready to go and I think the whole Raven’s team retiring wouldn’t help them get a win in Denver.
Seattle Seahawks 24 – Washington Redskins 14
This game will always be a great “what if” to me. I picked the Seahawks to win even before I knew RG3 wasn’t 100%. The Seahawks are the NFL’s most balanced team and I thought they had the athletes to contain RG3. He clearly wasn’t himself and the Redskins didn’t have a shot if he wasn’t the dual threat we’ve seen all year long. He looked even worst than he did last week. It’s clear the Redskins “sold their souls” to win against the Cowboys in the season finale and RG3 didn’t have enough to get it done on Sunday. RG3 is a grown man and if he says he’s good to go then you give him a chance to play. I don’t think Shanahan made a mistake by sticking with him because Griffin III said it himself, even when you’re healthy you’re taking a risk playing football. RG3 went on to say, he was the best option at QB for the Redskins and he was right. (People seem to forget that backup rookie QB Kirk Cousins had that great comeback against a then choking Ravens team and he played his only full game against the Browns.) Russell Wilson gets mad props for staying grounded and leading the Seahawks’ comeback. (24 unanswered points, 340+ Yards of offense after the 1st quarter.) Even though RG3 was hurt, Seattle made the changes on defense to shut the Redskins out for the rest of the game and held them to 74 TOTAL YARDS after the 1st quarter. That’s championship level defense right there and Wilson’s got to have all the confidence in the world now. The Seahawks aren’t going to be an easy out for anyone.
Next Up: It looks like the stars are aligning and we’re headed for a Green Bay vs. Seattle rematch at Lambeau Field because I have ZERO faith in the Atlanta Falcons at home. There’s a reason Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal have been "foaming at the mouth" to bet against them in the playoffs. The Falcons just aren’t a proven playoff team and for someone with the nickname “Matty Ice”, Matt Ryan hasn’t played very “icy” in the playoffs. (0-3 with more INTs than TDs and he hasn’t passed for over 200 yards in any of those losses.) The Seahawks have won seven straight now and will go into Atlanta being the first top-tier defense the Falcons have faced since week two against the Broncos. I’ll start believing in Atlanta when they give me a reason to and as of yet, they haven’t.