Thoughts from the NFL’s wild-card weekend:
Cincinnati at Houston – I believe Dan Pastorini is playing quarterback for the Texans in this one. After that sentence, you probablyRookie quarterback Andy Dalton could be a difference for the Bengals against Houston.think I’m picking the Bengals. On the road. And you’re right. Houston’s quarterback situation is just too unstable. Andre Johnson has been out most of the season. Ditto for defensive end Mario Williams. Houston has lost three in a row but the Bengals have also struggled down the stretch. I like Andy Dalton at quarterback, though. I like Cedric Benson to at least come close to matching the ground output of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. I like rookie receiver A.J. Green. I think I like the Bengals in this one, 24-20.
Pittsburgh at Denver – If Tim Tebow were the stock market, we’d be talking about how we’re going to avoid a depression. Has anyone fallen father, faster? But I’m not throwing in the towel on Tebow just yet. Did you ever think that perhaps he was saving his best for the playoffs? OK, probably not, since the Broncos needed a lot of good things to happen just to make the playoffs because of their late-season collapse. Still, why not Denver? Because Pittsburgh’s defense, while aging, is still one of the best in the league? Because quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger, banged up as he is, still has those Super Bowl rings? Because they’re the Steelers, for crying out loud. Pittsburgh wins, 20-6.
Detroit at New Orleans – This is the most intriguing game of the weekend between two high-powered offenses. One quarterback, Drew Brees of the Saints, has been at the elite level for a while now. The other, the Lions’ Matt Stafford, catapulted toward that rarer air with an incredible 2011 season. Balls are going to be flying inside the Superdome on Saturday night. We might just be getting warmed up at the four-hour mark. Now that I’ve said that, watch the defenses steal the show. Nah, that’s not gonna happen. Not against these offense. Detroit won’t be intimidated by playing inside a domed stadium because the Lions play in one themselves. Still, the Saints are a best at home. New Orleans 40, Detroit 34.
Atlanta at New York Giants – Another good one. And probably a close one. I think Atlanta could make a run in the playoffs but the Giants are tough at home and Eli Manning is having maybe the most underrated season of any player in the league. And receiver Victor Cruz is on fire. But as I’m writing this, I’m having trouble thinking New York wins this game, even at home. The Falcons have had a quiet season, really. They never were a threat to New Orleans in the NFC South and were blown out by the Saints in an important Week 16 game on the road, 45-16. So how can I pick the Falcons? I can’t. Giants 31, Falcons 27.