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Our regular season pick 'em contest is over, but APC's editors still got together to predict the outcome of the first round of the playoffs.
Just because it's the regular season doesn't mean that we aren't going to pick the games. Since you're probably (not, but whatever) wondering, Evan did the best job of picking the games this season. Congratulations to Evan. I've sent him a complimentary fruitcake. Without any further ado, here are our picks for the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs, with explanations from everyone, since there are only four games.
With the Bengals being on a serious roll lately, I get the feeling that people have forgotten that Houston is still a great team and has the best defensive player in the NFL in J.J. Watt. The Bengals should limit the Texans' passing game, but Arian Foster and company are plenty talented and should be able to carry Houston to victory.
The Texans are an interesting team right now. They have played like gangbusters against the lesser opponents and have struggled when playing the better teams in the league...especially on a large stage. The Bengals have surged lately by comparison. As a result I expect the big upset.
I feel a bit silly for picking against a team with J.J. Watt, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, but the Texans haven't been good against top competition, like Devin said. I think the Bengals are a better team than they were last season. I think A.J. Green has developed into a truly dominant force who can take over a game. The Bengals are hot, and I don't trust Matt Schaub.
I simply can't see the Vikings beating Green Bay in Lambeau Field this season. With Christian Ponder's struggles outdoors and a pumped-up Packers defense that will be motivated to atone for their poor performance last week, the Vikings' offense should start out fairly one-dimensional. My guess is that Aaron Rodgers and company will come out with guns blazing and put up an early lead, allowing the defense to take advantage of some turnover opportunities and hold on for a win. Packers win 27-19.
The last two games have been close, but I expect the stadium change will slow down the Viking pass rush just enough for the Packers to pull ahead this time. Now the big question is if the Packers can tackle Adrian Peterson.
I don't think the Packers can stop Adrian Peterson. I also don't think they have to. On the road, when the Packers were already in the playoffs and the Vikings were desperate, with Christian Ponder playing the best game of his career, with Randall Cobb sitting out, the Vikings won on a last-second field goal. Does that sound repeatable to you? Another 200 yard, 6.0 YPC won't be enough for Peterson. He'll need to improve on that for the Vikings to win the rematch.
Andrew Luck has been impressive, but he's also made his share of mistakes as his 18 interceptions indicate. The Ravens' defense isn't what it once was, but Ed Reed is still a great ballhawk in the backfield, Haloti Ngata is still a monster up front, and the whole unit should be pumped up to get Ray Lewis one last shot at a second Super Bowl. Combine that with the Colts' poor defense and I just don't see Baltimore dropping this game at home.
I love me some upsets in the AFC, but this is the one I feel very confident about. The Ravens tanked the last half of the season about as bad as the Bears while the Colts have rode a wave of emotion unlike any other team in the league. I expect the hotter team to pull ahead this week as well.
Do I trust Joe Flacco in the playoffs? No, absolutely not, but I don't have much reason to trust Andrew Luck either. I think he's an exceptional talent and that he's going to win a few playoff games in his career, but here's a newsflash: He didn't have a good season. He was solid for a rookie, sure, but he wasn't actually good. While Luck was solid by rookie standards, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin were good by true professional quarterback standards.
Not that I want to bet against Chuck Pagano, but seriously, Andrew Luck's completion percentage was worse than Mark Sanchez, Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Cassel and Jake Locker. He's not a good quarterback yet.
I believe in Russell Wilson. More importantly, however, I believe in the Seahawks' defense. That unit is the difference here: they'll be able to limit the Redskins' rushing attack, which will severely limit Robert Griffin III's effectiveness. Despite their decent stats against the run, the Redskins' defense won't have the same success against Marshawn Lynch, and the Seahawks will take this game on the road.
The Seahawks are at full strength defensively but does that matter against the Skins? The Redskins are going to run, not pass, and their triple option will give the 'Hawk pass rush fits all day.
I like Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin, and I find it hard to separate the receiving corps and pass defenses of these two things. This game will come down to who runs the ball better. I am fairly certain that Marshawn Lynch can get 4.5 - 5 yards per carry against the Redskins' run defense. I am not confident that Alfred Morris can do the same against the Seahawks.