Archive for the ‘Washington Redskins’ Category

Number #10 joins forces with #10

Number #10 joins forces with #10

Signing the likes of Tracey Porter and Jason Hatcher, and even one of my favourite under-the-radar linebackers Daryl Sharpton were all good off-season business for the Washington Redskins, but the moves lacked that big splash.

That splash, well more like a tidal wave, eventually came earlier this week when the Redskins invited recently released former Philadelphia Eagles wide-out DeSean Jackson, better known as D-Jax, for a visit to Fed Ex Field. They knew how important the visit was, and as a result said enough sweet nothings into Jackson’s shell-likes, making sure he did nor leave until he signed on the dotted line.

Being a lifelong Redskins fan I have had my fair share of low-lights in the past 20 years, including a stretch where bitter division rivals the Eagles were the class of the division. I have also witnessed two Super Bowl wins by another division rival the New York Giants in the last ten years, wins by a combined seven points.

Some divisional players have been a real thorn in the Redskins side, from Brian Westbrook to DeSean Jackson. Signing one of these prickly pears is a real relief, as it means one less speedster to man mark. I think DeAngelo Hall will lose less sleep over covering Riley Cooper that he will against D-Jax.

The Redskins combination of wide receivers now moves from top 20 to top 10 in one signing. Jackson will be a spectacular #2 to accompany Pierre Garcon (the NFL leader in catches in 2013), and they will both be joined by another new signing, former Arizona Cardinals number 3, Andre Roberts.

Robert Griffin III will be a happy man, but he does have some extra pressure now as he has needy wide-outs wherever he looks. This is a nice problem to have for any NFL quarterback, but for RG3 he does not strike me as a 4,250 yard (or more) passer so I am not expecting a stat line for Jackson that will not get close to his 2013 output of 82-1332 and nine touchdowns.

I will predict a decent 70-850-5td stat line, as RG3 and Alfred Morris will be pounding the pigskin, and the nest of birds (including a former Eagle and Cardinal) will be cheeping loudly for the ball. One of those making the noise will be Jordan Reed the tight-end who has the potential to be a Pro-Bowler in his second season if he plays for the full season.

It’s not a legitimate off-season in the NFL until the Redskins make a big move, and I feel a lot more optimistic that 2013 was irregular and 2012 was what we will aim to beat in terms of 10 wins.

The number I love the most out of this is not #10, which D-Jax has absolutely no hope of wearing in 2014, its 17.2. That is the lifetime yards per catch average of DeSean Jackson. 17.2 yards per catch is phenomenal. Maintaining this average in burgundy and gold will mean a phenomenal season for D-Jax and a big bag of wins.

This move also makes up for a lack of no first round draft pick this season, better the devil you know right?

Lets hope Jackson’s former team mates don’t gang up on him when he faces the Eagles twice in the 2014 season, after all that wont be a good sign.

Anyone following North American sport cannot fail to acknowledge the NCAA College basketball tournament, where it is all about surviving in order to move on.

Unlike the debacle that is the current NCAA College football post-season, the basketball post-season is at least simple to follow. It is a simple knockout tournament. You win you stay alive. You keep winning you get to the ‘final four’ and then a chance to lift the shiny trophy.

The NFL have tried to capitalise on this wave of ‘bracketology’ discussions by launching their own knockout competition to decide the greatest ever NFL play.

With the parallel timing of the ‘final four’ NFL plays and the ‘final-four’ NCAA College Basketball games it’s all about getting to the final this weekend.

I am a little saddened that the final four NFL plays are dominated by modern-day plays; Marshawn Lynch running ‘beast-mode’ (2011); DeSean Jackson’s game winning punt-return touchdown (2010); Troy Polamalu’s ‘over-the-top’ tackle (2010). The remaining play is from 1988, Steve Young’s insane run through the entire Minnesota Vikings defense, and it is without doubt the best of the four (in my eyes).

If I had it my way I would have made the top 64 plays far more eclectic, with one play from every year over the last 64 seasons.

So where would I go with my top plays of all time? It’s a tough call and I don’t know the order quite yet, but here I go with some of my personal favourites…

  • Leonard Marshall forcing a fumble by Joe Montana in the 1991 NFC Championship game. I was 17 at the time and thought Joe Montana was invincible. That single play knocked the stuffing out of ‘Joe Cool’ and it was five Giants field-goals that gave the visiting team the win.
  • Darrell Green’s punt-return in the 1987 Divisional playoffs. Withe the scores tied 14-14 and a minus 10 wind-chill factor Green picked up a punt around midfield and ran it back for a score. Green had been playing cornerback all game and even tore his own rib cartilage half-way through the return after hurdling over a wannabe tackler.
  • Eli Manning’s 10 yard touchdown run at Wembley in 2007. For the 81,176 fans at the first ever regular season NFL game played in England it was the realisation of the dreams of fans like myself, who fell in love with the sport at a very young age but never even imagined they could see real NFL teams in a real NFL regular-season game. Manning’s scramble and the whole game may have been soggy and scrappy, but right there and then the NFL had truly ‘touched-down’ in England. 
  • Santana Moss’s 70 yard touchdown catch in 2005. Under four minutes left, down 13-0 and in Texas, Redskins wideout Moss caught not one but two bombs delivered by Mark Brunell. The second, a 70 yard catch, was the winner and helped his team to make it into the playoffs (later in the season).

More to come soon, but what do you think so far?

#83 Brandon Myers - some shrewd business for the New York Giants

#83 Brandon Myers – some shrewd business for the New York Giants

With NFL Free Agency 2013 calming down somewhat (unless you are the Baltimore Ravens) it’s time to reflect on some of the key moves.

Now most pundits will focus on the impact of Wes Welker moving from the New England Patriots to the Denver Broncos or the ‘Fax-Gate’ scandal that saw the Baltimore Ravens snag Elvis Dumervil.

Myself, having played a season in England for the Crawley Raiders II as a tight-end, I want to spend some time looking at some of the Free Agency movement involving this position, and look at some very early projections for those who have moved and those who have inked deals in the past month to remain with their current team.

Before looking at some of the deck shuffling it’s worth reflecting on the rise of the importance of the tight-end.

We have witnessed the evolution of a two tight-end set from the old-school two tight-end set of five or so years ago when the Kansas City Chiefs would deploy Tony Gonzales as a real weapon and Jason Dunn as essentially a sixth offensive lineman to the almost unstoppable combination of New England Patriots duo Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (when both are fit).

I’m unable to do more than guess here but it sure feels that proportionally the number of catches made by the tight-end position on all 32 NFL teams has risen over the past five years. The majority of NFL teams have factored in the tight-end as a core offensive weapon and not a secondary or dump-off target for a quarterback looking for a cheap completion on a busted play.

So here are my top five tight-end free agency moves (in no particular order):

#1 – Brandon Myers – Oakland Raiders to New York Giants

I had the privilege of seeing Myers play live against the Dolphins just six months ago and despite not being anywhere near a household name he was the most reliable target for Carson Palmer. Myers deserves a bigger, brighter stage and there is no better place than the Big Apple to show what you are made of. After 32 catches in his first three seasons Myers pretty much exploded onto the scene in 2012 with 79 catches for 806 yards. Big Blue fans love a hard working reliable tight-end – names like Mark Bavaro and Jeremy Shockey are pretty hard to live up to, but Myers has the skills to settle in immediately. Eli Manning will be happy that he has a safe pair of hands to throw to as he looks to get the Giants back into the postseason.

2013 prediction – 75 catches for 750 yards and 7 tds

#2 – James Casey – Houston Texans to Philadelphia Eagles

Casey was woefully misused by the Houston Texans as a hybrid fullback and despite only 66 career catches, and similar to Myers, he enters his fifth NFL season with a huge opportunity to make a big impact with his new team. That team, the Philadelphia Eagles has a new coach, a new philosophy and a quarterback who is returning for his fifth season in the home of Rocky Balboa. this equates to the ‘land of opportunity’ for Casey, much like the ‘line’ given to Rocky by that greasy haired promoter.

2013 prediction – 57 catches 520 yards and 5 tds

#3 – Delanie Walker – San Francisco 49ers to Tennessee Titans

Without doubt an unsung hero on his old team, Walker had a habit of coming up with big catches in big situations. Having spent seven seasons on the West Coast, Walker never had a real chance to shine, providing a support role to Vernon Davies over every one of the past seven seasons. With Jared Cook’s locker not even emptied Walker will be hoping to slot in as a starter. It’s quite a rare situation to be a backup tight-end for seven seasons before moving into a starting role. Walker is the kind of player you root for, but Jake Locker is a significant downgrade on Colin Kaepernick. Walker will not be going back to a Super Bowl anytime soon with the Titans, but he should have his best career statistical output in 2013.

2013 prediction – 48 catches for 580 yards and 3 tds

#4 – Dustin Keller – New York Jets to Miami Dolphins

When you are being targeted by Mark Sanchez, and have a backup who is better known for kneeling down than throwing a forward pass then being able to escape that situation must be like a breath of sweet Florida sunshine air. Talking of Florida sunshine that is exactly where Keller is now plying his trade as a Miami Dolphins starter. Keller will replace, and upgrade the play of Anthony Fasano. Now Keller was injured for half of 2012, but he is not known as injury prone. He has averaged 48 catches a season over five years, but he has been held back by average to poor quarterback play. In Miami Ryan Tannehill was the forgotten man as other 2012 rookie quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck commanded the headlines. Keller and Tannehill need to set up a strong bond in camp, and if they do it could mean very good news for Fish fans.

2013 prediction – 66 catches for 670 yards and 5 tds

#5 – Jared Cook – Tennessee Titans to St Louis Rams 

Potential is a funny old word. To me its a way of saying expectations being unfulfilled. A bit like the career so far of Jared Cook, all 6 ft 5 inches of him. Cook has again been let down by some average quarterback play and some bad play-calling. In St Louis he will need to work alongside Lance Kendricks. Both had almost identical stats in 2012, so something will have to give. I think Cook will get around 65% to 70% of the tight end targets from Sam Bradford. The Rams are going to be intriguing to watch in 2013 with a new look backfield and the marauding Cook exploiting any safety coverage mismatches.

2013 prediction – 65 catches for 740 yards and 4 touchdowns

Other notable moves include Tony Gonzales remaining at the Atlanta Falcons for one more shot at a Super Bowl, and Martellus Bennett (Giants to Chicago Bears) which could work if Jay Cutler realises that there is actually another offensive target aside Brandon Marshall.

There is also the rather low-key saga of where current Washington Redskins tight-end Fred Davis will end up in 2013 – Buffalo, New York or back in D.C being the three main contenders.

How do you rate your teams tight-end depth and would you have liked to have seen one of my top five free-agent tight-ends joining your team?

Please - no more doubt(hy) in the Redskins secondary

Please – no more doubt(hy) in the Redskins secondary

Drafting the saviour of your team, winning your division and having three players in the same defensive position play in the Pro Bowl, all in the same season, should be cause for celebration for Washington Redskins fans.

But scratch under the surface and you have yourself a team that has its anointed deity currently recovering from major surgery, last actually won a playoff game in 2006, and has already lost one of its Pro Bowl linebackers to Free Agency (special teams ace Lorenzo Alexander, picked up by the Arizona Cardinals).

The Redskins 10-6 record was a lot to do with leading the entire NFL in team rushing, and a lot to do with an extremely underrated offensive line, especially center Will Montgomery and Guard Kory Lichtensteiger – hardly household names, but without their consistency there is no way Alfred Morris gains a remarkable 1,613 yards as a rookie.

Robert Griffin III (RG3) – the other rookie Redskins sensation – well to put it bluntly, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, was a complete sensation, some of his performances transcending that of any mortal NFL rookie. Problem was, after a nasty but not malicious hit by eventual Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, it turned out that Griffin’s  mythological status was not going to perpetuate into the playoffs.

Talking of playoffs if the Redskins have a post-season bogey team, well more like a mutated Fungus the Bogeyman the size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon, it is the Seattle Seahawks. With only six playoff performances in the past twenty seasons, and two wins in that span, three of four Redskins post-season dismissals en-route to the big dance have been courtesy of the Seahawks.

The most recent playoff loss to the Seahawks will forever be remembered for the ‘questionable’ decision made by Redskins two-time Super Bowl winning (with the Denver Broncos) head coach Mike Shanahan to start an unhealthy RG3. The fact of the matter was that even if RG3 lasted a full 60 minutes the Washington defense would have remained porous. Conceding 380 yards of offense against a team led by another rookie quarterback (Russell Wilson) will never get you to a conference championship game.

This is where the Redskins need to draft wisely and draft defense. This is how I would like the Redskins to draft with their seven picks, minus of course a first round pick which they gave to the St Louis Rams for the honour of grabbing RG3 as the second overall pick last year.

Redskins 2013 NFL Draft slots (as it stands March 26 2013) and positions of need

Round 2 – No. 21 – 51 overall – Cornerback or safety – a day 1 rookie starter
Round 3 – No. 32 – 85 overall – Cornerback or safety – a day 1 rookie backup
Round 4 – No. 22 – Wide receiver – a slot WR to take over from Santana Moss in 2014
Round 5 – No. 21 – Outside linebacker – special teams ace and hard hitter not necessarily a pass rusher
Round 5 – No. 29 (from New England) – tight end/h-back who could get playing time as a rookie
Round 6 – No. 23 – Cornerback prospect with return skills
Round 7 – No. 22 – Defensive lineman prospect with tentacle arms

The Skins may well bring back veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall at a reduced salary cost, but this is only papering over the cracks. When you enter a season with safety Reed Doughty as your longest tenured defensive back (8 seasons with the team) then you know you are in big trouble.

Doughty may be a D.C fan favourite for his pluckiness, call it the Charlie Brown factor (not to be confused with former Redskins Super Bowl winning wide receiver who also went by the name Charlie Brown) but this is a player who has two career interceptions in 92 NFL games played, one every 46 games.

With Josh Wilson regularly burnt in the second half of the season the Redskins have not had anything near a defensive backfield wow factor since Sean Taylor was laying wood harder than a lumberjack on crack. Taylor (R.I.P) has been gone from the Washington secondary over five years now, but there has not been anyone to even come close to shining his shoes in terms of quality.

Yes former Redskins safety Laron Landry was a very high pick and did a decent job, but the fact of the matter was he did not make the Pro Bowl in five seasons in Washington, and he is now on his third team in three seasons, having just signed with the Indianapolis Colts. It grinds my gears to think that he somehow became a Pro Bowl player in 2012 with the New York Jets, but the validity of those selected to the Pro Bowl is a giant joke as we all know (how else is Jeff Saturday chosen).

The Redskins have had their hands tied behind their backs in 2013 Free agency because of supposedly abusing the way they managed contract signings during the ‘non-cap’ 2010 season. This is a team that has learnt that big names does not equate to big amounts of wins, but their signings so far have been primarily looking after their own (with the regretful exception of losing Lorenzo Alexander and likely Fred Davis the team’s top tight-end) and some relatively low-key pickups – Jeremy Trueblood the monster sized offensive tackle, fellow tackle Tony Pashos (a 32-year-old former Clevaland Brown – yuk) and E.J Biggers the cornerback.

At the time of writing Biggers is penciled in as a starting cornerback,  a guy who has never started more than 75% of games in his four seasons in Tampa Bay and has 0, yes 0 career interception return yards in his NFL career.

The Redskins need a corner and a safety that can start as rookies, but with no first round pick this will be a pretty steep hill to climb to make happen in 2013.

This situation with an inexperienced backfield does sound scary, but I am reminded of the 1981 San Francisco 49ers, a team that started three of four defensive backs as rookies (cornerbacks Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson and safety Eric Wright).

Now I am not saying the Redskins will find the next Ronnie Lott in the second or third round of the 2013 NFL draft, but any situation that removes Reed Doughty from the Washington secondary has to be a positive one.

Who do you think the Redskins should target early in the draft?

S-Jax - will he be be the man to finally get the Falcons back to the Super Bowl?

S-Jax – will he be be the man to finally get the Falcons back to the Super Bowl?

It’s been a crazily busy week as 2013 Free Agency in the NFL has been in full effect.

Starting with some big wide-receiver moves, including Wes Welker (going from catching bass from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another) and Mike Wallace moving to the Florida sunshine, its been tough keeping up with all the moves.

One team that I think has been a big winner is the Atlanta Falcons.

The NFC Championship losers just two months ago, they grabbed the best free-agent running back on the market in the form of veteran punisher Steven Jackson.

Jackson has been a loyal servant to the St Louis Rams, whilst the talent around him has been pretty atrocious over the past decade.

Jackson came into a Rams team that was fresh from two Super Bowl appearances, but has been about as competitive as Mother Teresa in the time he has been there.

Like Barry Sanders, Jackson was the brightest shining star on a team of grubby meteors (always descending), so to be picked up by a team that was less than a touchdown from the Super Bowl will be one almighty relief for him. S-Jax will be a significant upgrade on the chunky thighed plodder Michael Turner, and he will provide a formidable backfield partner to third-year back  Jacquizz Rodgers.

Rodgers has not had the chance to prove himself as a three-down back, and wont get the chance now Jackson is signed, but he is a great receiver in the backfield with 74 catches in his first two seasons in the NFL.

In addition the Falcons persuaded future Hall of Fame enshrinee Tony Gonzales to come back for one more season.

There are some excellent tight-ends available in the 2013 NFL Draft, and the Falcons may pick one up as the heir-apparent in Round Two or beyond, but to have Gonzo back, with his 70-90 catches is going to have Matt Ryan smiling.

Atlanta have also re-signed safety William Moore and offensive linemen Garrett Reynolds and Sam Baker. No superstar names here, but keeping your own garden tidy is always important if you want to grow sweet smelling roses.

With the free-agency market showing  few signs of slowing down we can expect more movement this weekend, and I will be spending time reviewing every move.

A few of the quieter free-agency moves, beyond those taking place in Georgia, that have caught my eye  include:

  • Lorenzo Alexander (LB) Washington to Arizona – Alexander is not a household name, nor a starter even, but he went to the 2013 Pro Bowl as a demon special teams tackler. The Redskins could not afford him because of salary cap penalties, but they will miss him for sure. In Arizona he will get the chance to start at outside linebacker, but I doubt he will become a Pro Bowler again in the desert.
  • James Casey (TE/FB/HB) Houston to Philadelphia – Casey moves from a Texans team where he should have featured as a 50-60 catch tight-end, but instead was used as a fullback. In Philly he should be moved all over the field and could have a huge 2013 being the safety blanket for Michael Vick in new head coach Chip Kelly’s explosive offensive scheme.

More free-agency commentary to come, after I get a decent coffee.

JJ Watt will be one eager beaver (well badger maybe) this weekend

JJ Watt will be one eager beaver (well badger maybe) this weekend

Eight to four this weekend, simple maths but the likelihood I predict all four NFL Divisional Playoff games correctly is the same as me solving a Rubix Cube in 3.98 seconds.

This weekend is the equivalent of   a Shakespeare Festival, full of comedy and tragedy, different acts, highlights and lowlights, but above all chock-a-block with awe-inspiring drama.

On the surface the eight remaining teams cannot look beyond this weekend, but the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ray Lewis will be thinking two more wins and we are back in the final, the big dance, the Super Bowl.

Four contests and four mini previews below…

Texans @ Patriots

Fact #1 – the last time the New England Patriots won a Super Bowl was eight years ago. It doesn’t sound right but it is fact. For all their dominance the last time they picked up a Vince Lombardi Trophy was against Donovan McNabb’s Philadelphia Eagles in 2005. Fact #2 the Houston Texans have never played in a conference championship. The time is right for the Texans to cause a major upset in New England and this time around the Texans have a veteran starting quarterback and a fit number one wideout in Andre Johnson. The Pats have done what they always d0 – blow out the water about half the teams they play. They have also lost to the Cardinals, barely topped the Jaguars and were beaten by two current  NFC playoff teams (49ers and Seahawks). JJ Watt the Texans defensive end has been playing like a man possessed all season long, and will be after Tom Brady all day long. This game will come down to the team that can best run the ball. Both teams have quality passing games and lots of targets, but without a running game, any of the play action will be ineffective. Tight-ends will play a big part in this game, and I would not be surprised to see three tight-ends score Sunday (Hernandez, Gronkowski and Owen Daniels).

Texans to win 31-28 on a come-from-behind Arian Foster rushing touchdown.

Ravens @ Broncos

Fact #1 If I had a £1 for every column inch written about Peyton Manning’s neck I would have enough to buy one expensive scarf. Fact #2 this could be the last professional football game that Ray Lewis ever plays in. There is a distinctly eerie feeling that we could see a Manning Brothers consecutive Super Bowl win streak like we did in 2007-2008. Peyton has been Peyton all season – leading the Broncos from the front with accurate swift passing and a low number of turnovers. The Ravens are riding on the emotional wave that is Ray Lewis and his peacock display dance. Baltimore’s team has itself been peacock like, spending most of the season quietly winning where it needed to and then on occasion making big noise. Thing is a peacock is not a bird of prey, it uses its feathers to make a grand gesture that ultimately flatters to deceive. Too many times I have seen Ray Lewis amped up at the start of a big game only for his rallying cry magic to last about a quarter of football. Second chances may be the theme for this game, but the team to take home the bacon will be Denver. Knowshon Moreno has taken his second chance by the horns and will have a big game pounding the rock in between Manning dismantling a Baltimore secondary that simply is not a stud unit (Ed Reed is of course a legend but he cannot defend an offense on his own).

Broncos to win 33-19 on the back of Manning throwing three touchdowns.

Packers @ 49ers

We have a Super Bowl winning quarterback against a second year passer, who for all concerned is playing in his first real NFL season. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has already got a ring. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick has never played in the NFL playoffs before. This game is a case of momentum, and that belongs to the team from Wisconsin. The Packers have all of their wide receivers fit (Jennings, Jones, Nelson and Cobb) and even their tight-end Jermichael Finley is coming up with big plays after a sub-par regular season. The Niners can run the ball and play solid football behind the ever-reliable Frank Gore, and in the last few weeks we have seen glimpses of the rookie tailback LaMichael James who can return kicks and be a spark on offense. 49ers defense will play hard but without a fully fit defensive tackle Justin Smith the team will not be able to cope with a razor-sharp Aaron Rodgers. I expect this to be low scoring, and to some extent a scrappy game.

Packers 24-19 with James Jones getting two touchdown catches and Randall Cobb tormenting the Niners linebackers all game.

Seahawks @ Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC, and have had a week to rest weary limbs, but due to their disappointing playoff pedigree in recent years they are listed as the upset special by many prediction prognosticators. The Seahawks are already playoff winners this season, but they fought against a Redskins team that had an injured quarterback and a very average defense. Atlanta have the rather huge monkey, well gorilla, to shake off their backs that equates to the fact their future Hall of Fame tight-end Tony Gonzales has never won a playoff game in his illustrious NFL playing career. It’s one of those statistics that seems completely bonkers, but is true. It is also a statistic I believe that will finally vanish on Sunday afternoon. The Falcons know what they have in front of them, a possible two home wins leading to a Super Bowl appearance. Big ol’ Michael Turner has slowed to a crawl but he still manages to collect six point bonuses (10 this season).  Roddy White and Julio Jones will be the difference in this game as they may be able to be man marked if one is on the field, but having both on the field has been near enough impossible to stop, even for the hulk like cornerbacks in Seattle. It will take a superhero effort from Matt Ryan and a relatively low-key Falcons defense but it will be possible.

Falcons to win 30-20 with Matt Bryant kicking three field goals – all when the mattered.

So I have a Texans @ Broncos and Packers @ Falcons conference championship round next week. Back before the season started I predicted the Packers and the Texans to be in the last four. Lets see if my ball gazing is any good……..(crystal variety only mind you!)

luckk Wild Card weekend is akin to being let loose in a Belgian chocolate factory. You get to taste the quality (8 of the NFL’s top 12 teams)and get to gorge (on four NFL games over two-days) but the bonus ball is that you don’t count the calories.

That’s not strictly true as I can pretty much guarantee that any NFL fan watching all 240 minutes of live playoff football will likely dine out on pizza and crisps and a few litres of suds.

All four games this weekend have great story lines  from what maybe Ray Lewis’s final NFL contest against a coach who has fought Leukemia to two of the most efficient rookie quarterbacks in NFL history facing each other in a venue that has not hosted a playoff game for 13 seasons.

Let me get straight into it and offer my predictions – with a soupson of insight.

Bengals @ Texans

The Texans sure know how to walk backwards dragging their bruised and battered limbs into the playoffs, having suffered a late regular season collapse, and instead of having a week off, have to face a very respectable Bengals team that have quietly returned to the post-season for a second consecutive year. Arian Foster will want to impress in what is Matt Schaub’s first ever playoff game. Talk is that the Bengals defense has done a very good job, but this game will come down to Houston’s defense shining on a national stage. J.J. Watt is an absolute beast and will get a couple of sacks and a forced fumble.

Texans to win 19-13

Vikings @ Packers

Weird one as the teams only met last week in Minny, with Adrian Petersen running so hard the Packers wished they had gone to a three-day New Year party starting on 29 December. I absolutely loved it when Packers WR Greg Jennings was asked this week if he enjoyed playing at Freezing Lambeau Field and he said that he would rather play in a dome – at last someone who is honest. This game will be heavily influenced by the fact it will be played in Green Bay, that and Aaron Rodgers will be hellbent on making a playoff run after last season’s debacle. Keys here will be Packs ability to establish a running game and Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder’s ability to stay upright. I say this gets ugly as AP fails to establish himself and is held under 100 yards rushing.

Packers to win 37-14

Colts @ Ravens

Forget all the emotional crap about Ray Lewis coming back from an injury to inspire the Ravens to a playoff run. This is not the time for a Ravens revival. People have forgotten how devastating the loss of cornerback Lardarius Webb was earlier in the season. The Colts have defied all the odds, going from 2-14 to 11-5. Andrew Luck (see pic) has slotted into the Indy QB position like a seasoned veteran, and done what other great quarterback have done – performed alchemy to turn the rest of the team from base metal into gold. An old Reggie Wayne and a young T.Y Hilton should not be enough to get a team 11 wins, but that is why the guy went #1 in the draft in 2012. Look for the Ravens to hold a lead for the majority of the game only for Luck to get the winning td or final drive that leads to the sealing field goal.

Colts to win 24-20

Seahawks @ Redskins – see my preview here

Stat Attack – my predictions for Wild Card stats leaders

Passing yards – Andrew Luck – Colts

Rushing yards – Alfred Morris – Redskins

Receiving yards – Andre Johnson – Texans