NFL Wild Card previews

Published On January 5, 2013 | By Alison Majikes


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

Saturday, 8 p.m.

Regular-season meetings:

Packers win, 23-14, Dec. 2; Vikings win, 37-34, Dec. 30

The Packers have a stellar passing game behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has an MVP-worthy season already with nearly 4,300 yards and 39 touchdowns. His job should only get easier now that all of his wide receivers are healthy. The team from Green Bay have also had a quiet season thus far, not shouting on the rooftops about their wins. Everyone loves a team who can keep it classy. The Packers are the obvious favorite of this game and having Clay Matthews on your line doesn’t hurt either.

The Vikings, the road underdogs, should have a boost of confidence after they defeated Rodgers and his Packers just last week, a win that got Minnesota into the postseason. The Vikings boast a threatening running game. Watching the two opposing offensive styles should make for an exciting styles.

Players to watch:

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Packers: QB Aaron Rodgers. As previously mentioned, Rodgers had 4,300 yards and 39 touchdowns up to this point in the season. Fans will be watching to see if he can avenge last weeks loss, which no doubt has been on his mind since Sunday.

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson. Peterson has 409 yards on the ground versus the Packers this season. Green Bay just can’t seem to figure out a way to stop him.

Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Washington Redskins (10-6)

Sunday, 4:30 p.m.

Regular season meetings: none.

Both teams are led at the helm by rookie quarterbacks. RGIII for the Redskins and Russell Wilson for the Seahawks. Both have been great to watch all season long, especially as they did so well in their freshman seasons in the big league. Making the transition from college to pro almost always proves to be tough for a new QB but Wilson and Griffin have made it look easy.

Seattle’s defense will be the most impressive unit on the field tomorrow, they’re ranked fourth overall in the league and are led by Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas.

Going up against a strong defense that he didn’t see at all during the regular season will also be a major test for Griffin. And it’s no secret the rookie quarterback hasn’t been back to 100% ever since he came back from a knee injury that sidelined him a few weeks back.

With Russel Wilson on top of his game and a strong defense to support him, the Seahawks are the favorite to come out with the W tomorrow. Coincidently, the Redskins last two playoff losses were to none other than the Seahawks.

Players to watch:

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III. With 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions, one would be hard pressed to say that the QB affectionately known as RGIII isn’t having a breakout season in the NFL. Everyone will be watching Griffin’s every move as he plays yet another game through a knee injury that is obviously still troubling his performance.

(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

Seahawks: QB Russell Wilson. Like RGIII, Wilson is having a breakout season in the NFL coming fresh off the bus from Wisconsin. No one thought at the beginning of the season that Wilson would be leading the team from Seattle to a potential playoff berth. Wilson had 3, 118 yards in the regular season and 26 touchdowns and is looking to capitalize upon that tomorrow afternoon.


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

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

Regular season meetings: none.

It’s déjà vu for the Bengals all over again. The Texans beat the team from Cincinnati last year in the same wild card round and the Bengals are out for some revenge in 2013. But Cincy head coach Marvin Lewis is 0-3 in playoff games, which not a promising stat for the Bengals.

If there is a ray of light for the Bengals, it’s that in the their past eight games, they given up more than 13 points only twice and averaged just 12.8 points allowed over that span. The Bengals also have the number one scoring defense in the league.

The Texans have home field advantage in the matchup. In home games this season,  Matt Schaub has thrown 13 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Houston is the favorite in this game, but nit by much.

Players to watch:

(Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)

Texans: DE J.J. Watt. Watt was knocking on the door to break Michael Strahan’s single season sack record, but with 20.5 when all was said and done, Watt came up short by a mere two takedowns. With 81 combined tackles on the season, Andy Dalton better hope his offensive line can stop Watt from getting too close or else the QB is going to be staring at the grass for a good portion of the game.

(Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports)

Bengals: WR A.J. Green. Green is more of a threat on the road, where 854 of his 1,350 receiving yards have come. He’s also averaging 13.9 yards per catch, which could be a deteriorating to Houston’s secondary if they can’t outrun him in the backfield.


Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.

Regular season meetings: none.

The Colts have undoubtedly had an emotionally straining season after head coach Chuck Pagano had to bow out for a good portion of the season to take time to get treatment for Leukemia. Sunday will be Pagano’s second game on the sidelines since he made his return and fittingly, it’ll be in Baltimore where Pagano had coached alongside John Harbaugh not too long ago.

“It’s going to be special,” said Pagano, 52. “Love all those guys, great relationships with so many people in that organization. They were so good to me and my family. I wouldn’t be sitting where I am today if John Harbaugh hadn’t given me the opportunity to join him when he first was hired as a head football coach there. To him and his family and the rest of those people, they know exactly how I and my family feel about them.”

The Colts are 7-1 at home, but a dismal 4-4 on the road, so Sunday could be a rough game for Andrew Luck and his team. Luck has also thrown two more interceptions on the road than he has touchdowns.

The Ravens and their fans will also have an emotional game to play, coming off the heels of the announcement on Wednesday that the beloved linebacker Ray Lewis will retire at the season’s end. Lewis, who had missed the past 10 games because of a tricep tear, was expected to miss the remainder of the season. The promise of Lewis returning for the playoffs has given Ravens fans new hope that he can lead them to Superbowl as he attempts to make his final few games in the NFL memorable ones.

Ravens are favorited in this matchup because of their home field advantage and the return of superstar Ray Lewis.

Players to watch:

(John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports)

Colts: QB Andrew Luck. The third rookie WB in these Wild Card games, Luck has also had a breakout season with a staggering 4,374 yards thus far this season. He’s also has 23 touchdowns and has proved to Colts fans that all is not lost after the departure of Peyton what’s-his-name.

(The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports)

Ravens: RB Ray Rice. The running back is a considerable threat when the ball is in his hands this season. Rice has scored eight of his 10 touchdowns at home in Baltimore. He aslo has a total of 1,143 yards on the season and is averaging just over four yards per carry.

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