Last Week: 12-4 (.750); This Season: 169-86-1 (.662)
Saturday, Jan. 5
4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) at Houston Texans (12-4)
I want to pick Cincinnati, because I'd like to find a way to pick against the Texans. But I can't. I could if Andy Dalton had been a bit more dynamic in December. But what would you say if I told you Dalton and A.J. Green hooked up on one 20-yard pass in five December games? What would you say if I told you Dalton had four touchdowns and five interceptions in those five December games? This is a game the Cincinnati defense is going to have to win, because Dalton will be pressured all day. As will Matt Schaub by the Bengals front ... but I trust Arian Foster to make more plays than the Law Firm.
8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at Green Bay Packers (11-5)
All of a sudden this week we heard Christian Ponder was limited with a sore elbow, and the Vikings just can't afford one more injury to add to the groin and abdominal strains nagging at Adrian Peterson. Because even though we all think Peterson is the Vikings' only hope, and Vikes offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave wants the world to think the only way he can win Saturday night is for Peterson (two games versus Green Bay this year: 55 carries, 409 yards, 7.4 per carry) to carry the ball 30 times, I believe Minnesota thinks Ponder can make six or eight plays worthy of his first-round status. That is, of course, assuming he's healthy enough to do so. He'd better be, because Aaron Rodgers is quite healthy, and he's getting Randall Cobb back to give him one more weapon he might not even need.
Sunday, Jan. 6
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
I was at the January 2007 Colts-at-Ravens playoff affair, when Peyton Manning (Indy) outdueled Steve McNair (Baltimore), and somehow, I find it fitting that what could be Ray Lewis' last game comes against Manning's heir in his first playoff game. And Andrew Luck is going to make it hot for the Ravens. With seven second-half comeback victories (either from behind or from a tie) this year, Luck is going to test the aging Ravens D. "People have to realize it's not just Andrew doing this for us," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. He's right. T.Y. Hilton, the rookie wideout, has been as much of a coverage nightmare as Reggie Wayne, and rookie tight end Dwayne Allen has had some Gronk moments. But I think Baltimore will play keepaway with Ray Rice touching the ball 30 times. That's their best chance to make a run in these playoffs.
4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Washington Redskins (10-6)
One of the most anticipated Wild Card games I can remember. How stunning it is to see two rookie quarterbacks ranked 3-4 in quarterback rating (ahead of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger), meeting in the postseason in their rookie years, piloting non-playoff teams from last year with a combined 21 wins? I pick Seattle because of quarterback health and defensive secondary. Each team has a bruising running back who could take over the game and rush for 150. Each team has enough front-seven weapons to make it hot for the rookie QBs. But Russell Wilson will be more evasive, if recent play stands up, because Robert Griffin III is slightly slowed from his Dec. 9 knee sprain against Baltimore. And with Brandon Browner returning to pair with the non-suspended Richard Sherman, the Seattle secondary is back at full strength just in time.
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