NFL Playoffs 2012: AFC Wild Card Preview/Predictions

Cincinnati Bengals (6) 9-7 vs Houston Texans (3) 10-6           

Preview: For the first time in NFL history, 2 rookies will start for their respective teams in a playoff game. The ironic twist to this is that neither player was selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Andy Dalton has played the entire season for the Bengals and was the most effective offensive rookie in the entire league that wasn’t named Cam Newton. If not for injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, T.J Yates wouldn’t be in the position that he is in now. Yates actually led the Texans to a 21-19 comeback victory week 14 against the Bengals, so he has that going for him at least.

Texans star receiver Andre Johnson is set to return to the field on Saturday, but whether or not he is fully recovered from his recent hamstring injuries remains to be seen. The health of T.J Yates is also in question after the third-string quarterback separated his non-throwing shoulder during the final game of the season against the Titans.

Fun Fact: This will be the first Houston Texans playoff game in franchise history. This is also only the third playoff game in 21 years for the Cincinnati Bengals. They haven’t won a postseason game since 1990.

Big Question: Can the Cincinnati Bengals tenth-ranked rushing defense stop the combined attack of Arian Foster (1224 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Ben Tate (942 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns)?

Final Pick: If Matt Schaub was healthy and starting for the Texans, than this would be a different story. Unfortunately, they have a third-stringer running their offense in the most  important game in the history of the franchise. I expect the Bengals defense to load up the box and try to have T.J Yates beat them through the air. If Cincinnati can take Foster and Tate out of the equation, then they shouldn’t have a problem walking into Reliant Stadium and stealing a victory. Final Score: Bengals 21, Texans 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (5) 12-4 vs Denver Broncos (4) 8-8

Preview: Tim Tebow sure picked a horrible time to go on a slump. In his last 4 games, Tim has completed just 45% of his passes, thrown 2 touchdowns and been picked off 5 times. He has also fumbled the ball 7 times and been sacked on 15 occasions. The Broncos only win during that span was against an undermanned Chicago Bears squad. Now he has to contend with an injured, yet motivated Pittsburgh Steelers team who wants nothing more than to drive Tebow into the ground a couple more times.

The Steelers will be without lead running back Rashard Mendenhall after tearing his ACL  in the season finale against Cleveland. LB Ryan Clark will also be held out of the game for  precautionary reasons due to a sickle-cell trait that becomes aggravated in high elevation conditions. QB Ben Roethlisberger is nursing a sprained left ankle, but is expected to start for the Steelers on Sunday.

Fun Fact: Broncos RB Willis McGahee rushed for 1199 yards this season, becoming only the second player in NFL history to rush for 1000 or more yards with 3 different teams.

Big Question: How in the hell is Tim Tebow going to throw the ball against the number 1 pass defense in the National Football League?

Final Pick: This game isn’t going to be close. Tim Tebow is going to get a rude awakening on Sunday as to how intense playoff football in the NFL can be. Teams have finally started to figure out how to stop Tebow and his unique style of play. The Steelers have one of the most dominant defenses in the league and will find ways to keep Tebow in check. With Mendenhall gone for the playoffs, Roethlisberger is going to have to throw the ball a lot more. Even on one ankle, I trust Ben’s throwing ability A LOT more than Tebow and his wacky arm. This playoff game is going to show the world how overrated a quarterback Tim Tebow really is and always has been. For his sake, I hope he makes a game of this. If not, Denver might have to start looking for a more conventional NFL starting quarterback. Final Score: Steelers 27, Broncos 10

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