Playoff Preview: Metta Chronicles Roundtable
This weekend marks the beginning of the NFL Playoffs, and unlike years past, it seems like there isn’t a clear favorite and that nearly every team has an opportunity of taking home the Lombardi trophy. This weekend includes four interesting matchups; the guys of Metta Chronicles have decided to preview the four games and predict the outcomes. Come back next week to see what we got right and see who’ll take the early lead in the Playoff Predictor.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (4:30pm ET):
Colin Kennedy: If I were to do a new power Playoff Power Rankings, these teams would occupy spots 11 and 12: they have little chance of going anywhere this year. Despite having the league’s best record heading into the 4th quarter of the season, Houston stumbled down the stretch and missed out on 1st round byes. I think they should be able to take care of Cincy at home, while quarterback Matt Schaub has been struggling, they still have a powerful run game with Arian Foster and a half-decent defense behind JJ Watt. The Bengals are still a youthful squad; they arguably have the best pass rush from their defensive line, defensive tackle Geno Atkins is an absolute beast. If the Bengals have a chance, Andy Dalton will have to aggressively attack the Texan’s subpar secondary with receiver AJ Green. Look for tightend Jermaine Gresham to have a big game due to the absense of Houston inside linebacker Brian Cushing. Although they’re not the same team from October, I don’t see the Texans loosing at home this year. Houston 27 Cincy 17.
Blake Dorfman: Houston sputtered to the finish line of the regular season, but it did so with Andre Johnson looking just fine. It was a late kickoff return and 70-yard Andrew Luck pass to T.Y. Hilton that did them in against the Colts, so as long as they can avoid huge plays from the likes of A.J. Green I think the combo of Johnson and Arian Foster will be enough to grind out a home win. Houston 31 Cincy 21.
Akash Pandey: We rarely see the same first round match-up two years in a row in the NFL but here we are again. Bengals at Texans. Houston’s coming off a resounding slide in a conference where they held serve all year while Cincy’s been lighting the league up with their offensive weapons, The Red Rifle and The Grenade (I made that second one up – AJ Green is tragically nickname-less). Unlike last year, I expect a close game. The Bengals pass defense poses big problems for that mediocre Houston passing game so Arian Foster will have to step up while Schaub does his best Alex Smith-impression by “managing the game” (too soon?). In the end though, I gotta go with the Bengals. I see my ex-boys Nate Clements, Manny Lawson, and Marvin Jones making the bigger plays in a narrow victory. Cincy 20 Houston 17.
Kevin Diefendorf: Houston has been largely disappointing since Week 9, narrowly defeating teams at the bottom of their division and getting blown out by New England and Minnesota. The Texan’s secondary has been a sieve and the loss of Brian Cushing has been devastating to their defensive unit. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton have been on a roll and will look to connect early and often. The Bengal’s Defense has been lights-out and has been a key contributor to their 7-1 record in the past 8 games. I predict Cincinnati will take this game and move on. Cincy 31 Houston 17.
Rohan Bhatia: The Texans, after starting out 11-1, stumbled down the stretch of the season, winning only one of their final four games. In reality, their troubles started before this, when they struggled to win close games against the lowly Jaguars and Lions. Also, a sloppy win against the Bears, which at the time was deemed a marquee victory against a 7-1 Bears team, proved to be not as impressive in retrospect as Chicago ended up missing the playoffs entirely. On the other side, we have a young Bengals team that has proved they belong in one of the hardest hitting divisions in football. Their 10-6 record tied that of the Ravens, but they were edged out of the division title through the tiebreaker. In the end, I think the Texans squeak this one out at home, with a steady dose of Arian Foster. The Red Rifle will have to wait at least one more year to get his first playoff victory. Houston 24 Cincy 13.
Metta Chronicles favors Houston 4-2 over Cincinnati.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers(8:00 pm ET):
Colin: Enjoy my game preview: Green Bay 34 Minnesota 16
Rohit: Minnesota won’t beat Green Bay two weeks in a row. There’s no doubt in my mind that GB wins this, but I’m not sure if they win by 10 or more. Peterson will do everything in his power to keep the game close but that QB of theirs needs to have a big game. I won’t even use his name ‘cuz he sucks, but he needs to play out of his mind if Minnesota wants any shot at the win. I’m taking Green Bay 24 Minnesota 17.
Blake: Christian Ponder is heading into the tundra of Lambeau Field in a playoff game — not a situation where you want a modestly serviceable second-year QB. In outdoor games this year, Ponder has averaged 1.5 interceptions to only .5 touchdowns… The win over the Packers in the Vikings’ home dome was a much different scenario. Expect Green Bay to focus everything on Adrian Peterson and let Ponder make mistakes on his own, having an abysmal game with at least two picks. Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, has plenty of targets he’s comfortable with, and he’s used to the chill. Green Bay 34 Minnesota 13.
Pandey: Are the Vikings this year’s Cinderella? Adrian Peterson tore the Packers defense apart last week and I don’t doubt that he can do it again. But the NFL isn’t NCAA Basketball. One player can only take you so far. Look for Aaron Rodgers and whoever he’s targeting (he can throw that back shoulder TD to anyone) to reassert their dominance in Lambeau. I see the Packers defense giving up points but winning the turnover battle as Ponder slips up in his first playoff appearance. Hard to see Rodgers absolutely shredding that formidable Vikings D but he’ll still get his two or three TDs as Randall Cobb take one to the house on Special Teams as well. Green Bay 31 Minnesota 20.
Kevin: This was a fantastic game to end the regular season. I think that playing in front of the home crowd provided just enough of a lift to catapult the Vikes into the playoffs. Adrian Peterson will run all over the Green Bay defense and if they are able to run effectively and keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers, they have a chance to win this game. However, since this game will be played in Green Bay, I predict the strong-armed Rodgers will guide his team to victory in front of the raucous Lambeau crowd. Green Bay 35 Minnesota 27.
Rohan: A fun divisional matchup here, and a rematch of a game that was played during the league’s final week. One striking difference: this game will be played in the Tundra of Lambeau Field, not in the Metrodome. I predict a somewhat high-scoring affair, although not to the extent of the one that was played last week, with the Vikings trying their best to control the clock by milking Adrian Peterson. Peterson crushed the Packers both times the two teams met this season, and there’s no reason to think he won’t again this week, the Packers’ run D being a modest middle of the pack in the NFL. However, Aaron Rodgers and crew will be up to the task as well. Last year left a sour taste in their mouth, after being ousted in their first playoff game by the eventual champion NY Giants. There won’t be any complacency from the Cheeseheads this year, and I see them pulling away at some point in the second half. Green Bay 34 Minnesota 21.
Metta Chronicles favors Green Bay 6-0 over their rivals Minnesota.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (1:00pm ET):
Colin: Behind rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the #chuckstrong philosophy, the Colts surprised most by finishing with the AFC’s 5th seed at an outstanding 11-5. The major headline this week has been the announced retirement of MLB Ray Lewis at the end of the season; I expect his return to the lineup to give the sagging Baltimore defensive unit a major boost. To me, it’s not going to be the Ravens winning this game but rather the Colts losing it; they’re not ready yet. They’ve had terrible offensive line play in recent weeks, and I wouldn’t trust their run game to be consistent, even against a bad run defense like Baltimore. Ray Rice may prove to be the game’s “x” factor; I think he could have a huge game against the sagging Colt’s run defense. Ravens QB Joe Flacco should provide a few big plays, wide receiver Torrey Smith could have a nice Sunday as well. Veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin looks to add an illustrious Super Bowl to his collection, this is the first start. Baltimore 24 Indianapolis 17.
Rohit: Here’s my pick for the upset this weekend. To be honest, as I write this, I’m pretty sure I’ll be proven wrong, but something inside me still thinks Indy pulls the upset. If Indy loses this game, it’s a result of a lack of experience. Just for one week though, I think experience gets thrown out the door and the Colts’ offensive line steps up enough to let Luck do his thing. Either Ballard or Luck will have an important run in the middle of the first quarter, setting the tempo for the game. I’m taking the Colts, Indianapolis 17 Baltimore 14.
Blake: Andrew Luck has had to pull some late-game miracles to get the Colts where they are this year. The only teams they beat on the road were Tennessee (by six points), Jacksonville, Kansas City and Detroit (by two points). This is a defense that gave up 35 points to Mark Sanchez and the mighty Jets on the road earlier this year. Then they allowed 59 points at Foxborough. Luck will make some big plays to keep it close, but the Ravens won’t let the Colts pull this one out. Balitmore 27 Indianapolis 21.
Pandey: The “Midnight Move” between the ’83 and ’84 seasons, where the Baltimore Colts jumped ships to Indy in the middle of the night, surely still lingers in the minds of residents of Baltimore. Coupled with Ray Lewis’ announcement earlier this week, M&T Bank Stadium will definitely be rocking Sunday afternoon. On the other hand, Andrew Luck has had a monster year and the Chuckstrong campaign has given the Colts fans hope after a miserable 2011-2012 season. But I’m not buying. The Colts defense has been exposed many times this year and the Ravens have shown the ability to explode offensively on the backs of Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and others. I see Rice having a big day as the veterans trump the rookie. Baltimore 30 Indianapolis 17.
Kevin: The Ravens are a team that has been decimated by injuries, especially on defense. They will receive a shot in the arm this weekend when their motivational leader Ray Lewis returns from a torn triceps injury. I expect the Ravens will play exceptional football in Baltimore, knowing that this could be the last time they play along side Lewis. The Colts have had an amazing season following the monstrosity that was last year and the support that Indianapolis and the NFL community has provided for head coach Chuck Pagano has been inspiring. The Colts have a bright future, but I think this season has an expiration date. I predict Baltimore 31 Indianapolis 27.
Rohan: Andrew Luck’s first playoff game. Potentially Ray Lewis’ last game of any kind, ever (if he even suits up). A team that finished with the worst record in the league last year (allowing them to get Luck) versus a team that has been a perennial contender since number 52 began prowling the second level of its defense over a decade ago. This one definitely has all the makings of a great drama, which is what all of us neutral fans are hoping to see on Sunday. Although Baltimore stumbled down the stretch in a manner similar to the Texans (they were 9-2 before going 1-4 to end the season), something tells me they’ll find a way to pull this one out at home, against the young quarterback. Although that defense may not be as scary as it once was, it’s still a formidable force, and you have to believe they’ll be playing that much harder for Ray. Luck will be a part of the playoff dance for years to come, but this year I think he’ll be taking an early exit. Baltimore 24 Indianapolis 13.
Metta Chronicles favors Baltimore 5-1 over Indianapolis
Seattle Seahawks at the Washington Redskins (4:30pm ET):
Colin: Despite saying Washington was the league’s most dangerous team just two weeks ago, I now believe their opponent deserves that title. Seattle has been on an absolute tear the past few weeks, they’ve looked downright nasty in recent victories. Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffith III still doesn’t look 100%, he completed just 9 of 18 passes against the Cowboys last week. I think all of their injuries will catch up with Washington, they’re at least another year away from being serious competitors for the Lombardi trophy. I expect a somewhat blowout by the league’s hottest team despite going on the road and playing in one of the league’s most hostile environments. I got Seattle 38 Washington 21
Rohit: Seattle is peaking at just the right time, and I think they take this this one game Sunday. I want to take Washington, but RGIII doesn’t look like he did pre-injury. I think he’ll throw an early interception and they’ll have to play catch-up the rest of the game. Seattle 27 Washington 21.
Blake: Russell Wilson will solidify his Rookie of the Year win over RGIII by beating him in Washington. I like the vastly underrated Marshawn Lynch and a stingy Seattle defense that will lay some hits on Griffin early. The Seahawks are much more scary at home, but Pete Carroll will have them ready for FedEx Field. This one will be close and will be the most exciting game of the weekend. Seattle 20 Washington 17.
Pandey: The last game of the 1st round happens to be the most exciting as well. Wilson vs. RGIII. Marshawn vs. Alfred Morris. Carroll vs. Shanahan. Two teams with cold starts but strong finishes to the season. Both offenses are explosive but lets not underrate their defensive squads. Both embody their Divisions to a tee. The Seahawks defense carries the hard-nosed NFC West persona with physical backs and a strong front four. The Redskins defense comes from the opportunistic NFC East where a bend-but-don’t-break approach mixes with a ball-hawking 3-4 linebacker core including, in this case, Ryan Kerrigan, London “Never Say Never” Fletcher (made up the nickname as well – but seriously the dude has been in the league for like 50 years), and Rob Jackson (see: Chase Blackburn). I’ve seen the threat the Seahawks pose, but they simply aren’t the same team on the road. You could point to their 33-point road win in Week 15 vs. the Bills but I can counter with losses to the Dolphins, Lions, and Rams in weeks prior. The Redskins, with a clearly tougher schedule, have reeled off seven straight since their Week 10 bye. Seattle has a three-week burst and too much hoopla. Washington 26 Seattle 20.
Kevin: The Seahawks have been on fire the past few weeks and the rookie Russell Wilson has been playing like a veteran, moving the ball with his legs and with his arm. The defense is young, but talented and athletic. They will be a great matchup against RG3 and the potent Redskins offense. I think they have the range and the speed to stop the ‘Skins’ pistol offense with a hobbled RG3 at the helm. I expect that this will be a shoot-out and will come down to the Seattle’s ability to stop Washington’s offense. If the game is close, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pete Carroll call another fake on a special team play. I predict the final score to be Seattle 31 Washington 28.
Rohan: The most exciting matchup of the weekend for me, and probably for a lot of other football fans. I say we just determine the rookie of the year by who wins this game because, let’s be honest, it’s a two horse race (sorry Andrew), and those horses will be leading their teams in this matchup. RGIII has been magnificent from day one of this NFL season, while Russell Wilson showed signs early and then played absolutely out of his mind down the stretch. The running games of both teams are also nothing to scoff at, with the Hawks’ Beastmode back and the Skins’ rookie, Alfred Morris. At the end of the day, the most discernible difference between the two squads is on the defensive side of the football, where the Seahawks sport the superior unit. And in the end, that makes the difference in this one. Seattle 30 Washington 23.
Metta Chronicles favors Seattle 5-1 over Washington.