The expert picks are in, and as a whole, they have no idea who will win Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. The New York Giants are hot at the right time, invoking memories of their incredible 2007-2008 playoff run and Super Bowl victory. Much of what had been lacking on defense all season has finally gelled, and their pass rush is finally achieving the expectations we have had all season. It is this unit that will be the deciding factor in this game. If they play the way they have in recent weeks, the d-line will be able to keep Matt Ryan uncomfortable all afternoon and make it difficult for that offense to get anything going.
If ever there was a time for the running game to step up, now has to be it. As good as the passing game is this year, no team can become world champions only earning double digit yards on the ground. I think they have enough talent in other areas to overcome this deficit on Sunday, despite Atlanta’s talents on offense.
I truly think the Giants will win this one, and not just because I am a fan. Atlanta is a good team but they traditionally do not play well in the playoffs, their last victory coming in 2004. Plus, the Giants traditionally play well against Atlanta and seem to have Matt Ryan’s number. It’s anyone’s game because of the way the Giants have played this year with their Jekyll and Hyde act. If the good Giants show up Sunday, they will win this game.
While the experts are in agreement that the Saints and Steelers will win their playoff games, they are also torn in the Bengals/Texans matchup. So, let’s start there.
Bengals vs. Texans
Call this one the rookie bowl, with both teams starting rookie quarterbacks. Add the fact that this will be Houston’s first playoff experience ever, and we have a lot of green players taking the field today. This is a tough one to call because these teams are built similarly, not only with the inexperience on offense but both have powerhouse defenses. It should be a low-scoring affair with both defensive units dictating the outcome of this game.
Unlike the Giants, Houston is cold at the wrong time. They have lost their last three games and are suffering due to injuries. But despite having a third-string rookie QB and several injuries, their defense and running game are better than Cincinnati’s, and I think home-field advantage will give them the spark they have been lacking recently. It’s anyone’s game, but I give the edge to Houston.
Lions vs. Saints
Let’s do a complete 180 from the previous game, because this one should be an offensive shootout. In a season filled with gaudy passing yards, two of the biggest gunslingers will face off in New Orleans tonight. I do worry about the Saints a bit here after last season’s surprising loss to Seattle in the wildcard round, only one year after winning the Super Bowl. But I can’t see that happening again. They are just too talented and too mentally tough, and they do not have the world champion pressure on their backs anymore. I think this will be a close one, much closer than their regular season matchup a few weeks ago sine the injuries that plagued the Lions at that time are no longer a factor. But Drew Brees will have the ball last and he will not let his team lose.
Steelers vs. Broncos
Will Tebow-mania continue after Sunday? Call it divine intervention if you’d like, but the reality is a young quarterback with a unique playing style often starts off strong, only to slump a few weeks later once teams figure them out. This is what has happened in Denver, accounting for their three-game losing streak. But unlike Houston, Denver has little hope of winning this game. The Steelers are just too good on defense and will completely suffocate Tebow.
Granted, the Steelers are in trouble with the amount of injuries they are suffering among key players, especially the one to Roethlisberger. Denver has a strong defense and will be looking to take Big Ben out, but Roethlisberger is a veteran who is famous for playing injured and adjusting any way he needs to in order to win. I can’t see them getting far this offseason, but the defense will carry them through this one. Another low scoring game should be anticipated here.