Playoffs Preview- AFC Wildcard Round
The AFC Playoffs kick off tomorrow with the first of two wildcard games as the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Houston to take on the Texans.
The second wildcard game takes place on Sunday with an exciting matchup in store as rookie quarterback Andrew Luck leads his Indianapolis Colts on the road in Baltimore against veteran linebacker Ray Lewis and the Ravens.
Now without further ado, here are my previews and predictions for the games.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Keys to the Game
When the Bengals have the ball…
Andy Dalton vs Texans Pass Rush
- Andy Dalton may not be among the elite when it comes to the quarterbacks on show in the Playoffs but he is still a solid quarterback nonetheless. Back-to-back 3,000 yard passing seasons have been an impressive start to his career for the second-year player out of TCU.
- Dalton’s favorite target is wide receiver A.J. Green who was drafted in the same draft class back in 2011. Green has also had a fantastic start to his career with 162 catches for over 2,400 yards in his first two years in the NFL.
- The success of the Bengals offense in this game will largely depends on how they handle the Texans fearsome pass rush. Led by star pass rusher J.J. Watt, the Texans defense will look to put pressure on Dalton throughout the game.
When the Texans have the ball…
Arian Foster vs Bengals Defense
- When it comes to the ground battle in this one, these two teams are pretty evenly matched with the Texans offense averaging just over 132 yards per game and the Benglas defense giving up a little over 107 yards per game.
- The Texans rushing attack is led by star running back Arian Foster. Foster has been one of the league’s most consitent backs in recent years and is arguably the best running back in the NFL outside of Adrian Peterson.
- The Bengals defense will have to be at their best to contain Foster but they certainly have the players capable of doing so. Linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga along with standout defensive linemen like Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson will all be looking to put on a big performance.
The Bengals have never won a Playoff game under head coach Marvin Lewis and face an uphill battle to do so on the road in Houston.
With an exciting offense led by standout players Arian Foster and Andre Johnson along with a defense which includes the league leader in sacks in J.J. Watt, the Texans are favorites to win this game and progress to the next round.
Bengals 19 Texans 27
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
Keys to the Game
When the Colts have the ball…
Andrew Luck vs Ravens Defense
- Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has been fantastic for the Colts this year and he is my pick for the Rookie of the Year award. Luck set a new NFL record for most passing yards in a season fro a rookie with a 4,374 yards. He has also been effective scoring for the Colts this season with 28 total touchdowns.
- As for the Ravens defense, veteran linebacker Ray Lewis announced news of his impending retirement this week and he will hang up his cleats once the Playoffs are finished. There have been reports that #52 will join the ESPN crew as a member of their “Monday Night Countdown” program.
- Back to matters on the field however and Luck faces a very tough test against Lewis and the rest of the Ravens defense. The rookie is facing his first postseason test and he will need to be wary of the Ravens blitz packages along with keeping a close eye on safety Ed Reed.
When the Ravens have the ball…
Joe Flacco and Ravens Passing Attack vs Colts Secondary
- In my humble opinion, Joe Flacco is not an elite quarterback. But with the Ravens defense on his side, he doesn’t need to be. Flacco just needs to step up in the clutch and stop making mistakes in key moments of games to take the next step in his development.
- However, getting close isn’t good good enough with a team this talented and so the Ravens will be looking to get the win in the AFC Championship Game this year. Flacco will need more help from his wide receivers this postseason with players like Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith on the outside.
- Looking at the opposite side of the ball now and the defensive backs tasked with stopping Flacco and co. are led by cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Darius Buter. These two starters will need to be sharp and they will also have to keep an eye on running back Ray Rice who will be used as a receiver out of the backfield in the passing game.
The Colts have overcome tremendous adversity this season due to the illness of head coach Chuck Pagano and they deserve great respect for getting to this stage with star rookie quarterback Andrew Luck under center.
Ray Lewis announced this week that he will be retiring after the Playoffs end but the future Hall of Famer won’t want to walk away from the game just yet and I see the Ravens led by veterans Lewis and Ed Reed getting the victory and advancing to the next round.
Colts 17 Ravens 20
So those are your previews and predictions.
For all NFL fans it is now time to get ready for postseason football as the Playoffs are back.