And just like that, the regular season is over. The NFL playoffs always guarantee some sort of fireworks and with two games Saturday and another two Sunday, we shouldn’t have to wait long for the insanity to, well, kickoff. Paying homage to the pigskin and the excitement that is January football, the Crew decided to do something a tad different for our usual preview. Six teams in each conference means the collective of Gotty, David, Whitt, AJ, Raj and Tins were assigned two squads each. They offered three to five reasons why their respective team will come away victorious. Rinse and repeat next week.
By February, they’ll be one team standing and one writer with bragging rights. Maybe we’ll get ‘em a gift card to Walmart or something. We haven’t decided yet. Below are today’s wildcard games – Houston/Cincinnati and New Orleans/Detroit – and be sure to check back tomorrow for our thoughts on the Giants/Falcons and Steelers/Broncos.
5 Reasons Why The Cincinnati Bengals Will Win (Raj)
1. The Bengals defense has played consistently well and is more or less the same as it was at the beginning of the season. The group has a great chemistry together and with 28 forced turnovers during the regular season, they’ll be hounding the inexperienced Yates all day.
2. Their rookie group consisting primarily of Andy Dalton and AJ Green is hungry, and will capitalize on their rapport with each other. Green is a big play receiver, and Dalton will take advantage of Houston’s injury-depleted defense for at least one long touchdown. Not mention, there’s always the acrobatic Jerome Simpson.
3. Cincy will be playing with a chip on their shoulder, out to prove that TJ Yates’ last second comeback drive was just a fluke and it will not happen again.
4. The Bengals forced two crucial fumbles in their Week 14 matchup versus Houston. Barring any last second heroics, if they force turnovers again, they’re walking out the Lone Star State with a W.
5. The Texans injury woes will finally catch up to them. Playing without their top two quarterbacks, linebackers, and various other positions (and Andre Johnson with one hammy), Arian Foster will be unable to carry the team by himself.
Prediction: 20-17, Bengals
5 Reasons Why The Houston Texans Will Win (Gotty)
1. Houston’s defense has been their moneymaker all year long and it at least carries them one more game making life hell on Andy Dalton.
2. Alleviating the pressure on TJ Yates, Arian Foster and Ben Tate will run wild. A productive running game gives a quarterback confidence, so don’t be too surprised if Houston throws in a few deep pass, play action plays.
3. Ending the season on a three game skid will prove to be a non-factor. There’ll be confidence on Houston’s side seeing as how they beat this Bengals team less than a month ago.
4. Big players show up in big games. And while he’s been dinged up much of the season, Andre Johnson could and should have one of those games that remind the world he’s one of the better receivers in football.
5. Maybe not an actual factor, Houston knows they better make the most of their playoff chance with the inevitable return of Peyton Manning and even more inevitable arrival of Andrew Luck. This chance may not come around too often.
Prediction: 22-17, Texans
5 Reasons Why The New Orleans Saints Will Win (AJ)
1. New Orleans will tame the Detroit Lions, sending 2011′s feel-good story home for a frigid mid-west winter.
2. Look for a fired-up Drew Brees to use the 2012 playoffs as a reminder that he, not Rodgers, and certainly not Tom Brady, is the best muthaphukking quarterback on the planet, period.
3. In successive years, Sean Payton’s squad won the Super Bowl and got upset by a mediocre Seattle team. Having lived through the ups and downs, this year’s squad should prove to be one of the more cerebral squads in the playoffs. Can’t say the same about Detroit, featuring a squad full of playoff virgins.
4. Between Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, the Saints feature an offensive attack more diverse than a Swiss Army Knife. They can beat you any way imaginable, and several ways that you probably can’t imagine. Look for the Saints to ride the best offense in football to another deep playoff run.
5. At the end of the day, they’re still the Detroit Lions.
Prediction: 42-35, Saints
5 Reasons Why The Detroit Lions Will Win (Whitt)
1. Detroit was without Ndamakong Suh and starting cornerback Chris Harris when these two teams last met (New Orleans won in a 31-14 rout). Expect the volatile Suh to show up in the New Orleans backfield as much as those Chrysler commercials of his show up on my TV.
2. Megatron. ‘Nuff said.
3. Matt Stafford leads one of the highest scoring offenses in football against a defense that allowed the hapless St. Louis Rams to score 31 points.
4. At this point, Detroit’s playing with house money. They’re familiar with N’awlin’s offense and the environment, so they’re really not going to be surprised by anything. Playing a team with nothing to lose is the most dangerous team there is.
5. A blue collar city confronting disaster being galvanized by their historically awful but suddenly great football team? That story sound familiar to you? Detroit is the new New Orleans.
Prediction: 35-31, Lions