2012 NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Preview
I love the NFL playoffs. For one, I love the NFL, so that certainly helps learning to love its postseason format.
Unlike football and hockey, less than half of the teams make the playoffs, and unlike baseball, it is seen as a suitable finale to the arduous, yet fairly short, 16-game season (a five-game series in the first round to settle a 162-game season? Please.)
But the 2011-12 NFL playoffs are very intriguing, perhaps more so than recent years. The game thrives on star power – aka quarterbacks – as does every pro sport, but this weekend, four faces taking snaps will be brand new to the postseason.
Getting new quarterbacks in the playoffs is generally a wash but often predictable – a meltdown loss and limited playoff success. Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez were quarterbacks of AFC Championship-bound teams, but its novice quarterback limited each team. It is highly unlikely one of the four quarterbacks will go the Super Bowl, not just because history is against them, but their teams are inferior to others featuring veteran QBs.
So, for fun, I feel like ranking these new QBs not on their talent – the order is pretty obvious – but the chances they will win their game, starting with the most likely.
Now, this is more a comment of how the Bengals are not crashing hard like Houston currently is. Sans Matt Schaub, they’ve pulled a Jason Bourne: lost their identity. The Texans defense has softened up, too, after Wade Phillips had surgery and missed a few games. But the Bengals have a strong side that could upset the Texans. Despite splitting their last four games, the defense allowed a maximum of 24 points to Baltimore. Cedric Benson will have to do work against the Houston defense, but the effectiveness of Dalton passing to future star A.J. Green will determine Cincy’s chances of victory. He has the best chance of notching his first playoff win.
This game confuses me. I am quite unsure of what to make of the Bengals and the Texans. On one hand, the Bengals have fewer key injuries. On the other, Houston probably has more talent and playmakers on both sides of the ball – heck, its two running backs are better than the Bengals’ starter. But man, have they looked poor the past four weeks – barely beating Cincinnati and losing to Carolina, Indianapolis and Tennessee.
For what it’s worth, the Titans game didn’t matter, but the others did at the time for playoff seeding. The one thing that could wreck Yates’ chances of winning is if his injury hampers him and prevents him from playing, and allowing one man to be quarterback. That man? The feared, the hated, the terrible Jake. Delhomme. The very possibility of Delhomme playing scares me away from Houston. Sorry, Texans. It must feel sweet to finally reach January football, but the visit will be short and bitter.
There is no doubt that Stafford is the best of the new faces entering the playoffs. How did this guy not make the Pro Bowl with the type of season he was having, ending up with over 5000 yards and 41 touchdowns? Well, the Pro Bowl does not matter, but the recognition is much deserved for Stafford. Why is he third on this list? Well, the whole playing-the-Saints-at-home thing is why. Oh. I think the Lions can put up points on New Orleans; yet Stafford will be more susceptible to make a mistake or stop his own drive compared to Brees. Plus, the Saints have yet to lose at home this season. Not going to start now.
Timothy Richard Tebow
If there was any doubt that Tebow would be last on this list, then you need to have your life examined. Or listen to the old Biggie Smalls classic “Hypnotize” with this new hook:
Timmy Timmy Timmy, can’t you see, sometimes your passes just infuriate me. And I just hate your crappy throws, I guess that’s why they’re good and you are a bad bad quarterback.
Oops, that last part didn’t rhyme. Needless to say, watching Tim Tebow throw the ball is maddening. He cannot do it consistently, and that’s exactly what Denver will have to do to upset the Steelers. The run game featuring the 30-year-old Willis McGahee can only take the Broncos so far. On the other side of the ball, the defense has not been the same since rookie standout Von Miller injured a ligament in his thumb and has had to wear a cast, which will not be removed before the Steelers game.
It does not matter that the Steelers are banged up or on the road. They will win, easily. Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be akin to a Roman coliseum after the gladiators are eaten by a bunch of lions. It will be ugly, and there will be blood.
With the new QBs figured out, here are my first round playoff picks.
Cincinnati (6) over Houston (3)
Just a gut feeling on this one. This may be too obvious of an upset pick, but Houston has not played well in a month. I’ll pick the hotter team.
New Orleans (3) over Detroit (6)
As described earlier, New Orleans at home is as close to a sure thing as one can find.
Pittsburgh (5) over Denver (4)
This Denver team could be the worst playoff team ever.
New York Giants (4) over Atlanta (5)
This is the one game not featuring a green quarterback. The Giants get after the opposing quarterback better than most teams. Thus, I think Matt Ryan will be spending some quality time with Jason Pierre-Paul on the turf of the New Meadowlands Stadium. Eli Manning had one of his better seasons and showed the aptitude to be clutch this season. Though I just learned his first name is Elisha, which just sounds girly, my opinion will not be swayed of a Giants victory. Though they won ten games, none of the victories the Falcons posted was quality. Manning’s new deep-threat toy, Victor Cruz, third this season in receiving yards, will tear the Atlanta secondary a new one along with Hakeem Nicks. Fun times, Atlanta. Fun times.
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