Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 NFL Playoff Preview: 'To the Dome'

Johnson should be ready no matter who is playing QB.
AFC Wildcard Playoff
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Saturday, January 7th, 2012 - Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX

This game will be decided by which rookie quarterback has the best performance despite not being at full strength.  Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has been the starter for every game this year and has put any conversations about Carson Palmer leaving town to rest.  Dalton has started all but one game for the Bengals (9-7) and has kept his team in every game; outside of a 35-7 thrashing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 13, Cincy's widest margin of defeat is eight points.  Dalton enters the game coming out of the flu.  On the other side, Houston Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates didn't get his first start until Week 13 versus the Atlanta Falcons after starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart went down with injuries.  All Yates did was lead the Texans (10-6) on a 4th quarter game-winning drive to knock off the Falcons 17-10 and then the next week he tossed the game-winner against this very Bengals team in Cincinnati for a 20-19 victory.  Yates threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns in that game, despite missing Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson, who missed most of the year due to injury.  But Yates seperated his non-throwing shoulder in the last game of the season and it remains to be seen how it will effect him in his first career playoff game.
Pick: Texans, 20-15

Key to game for Bengals:  Get six points in the redzone and not three.  Tight end Jermaine Gresham should pose missmatches on linebackers and tight ends while receivers A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson occupy space on the perimeter.
Key to game for Texans:  Pound the ground game early and often with running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate.  Success with the rushing attack will take pressure off of Yates and should open up playaction and possible big plays for Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels.

All the Saints have to do is stick to the script.
NFC Wildcard Playoff
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Saturday, January 7th, 2012 - Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA

The Saints literally limped into the playoffs last year (six starters DNP in the Wildcard loss to the Seattle Seahawks) after coming off of a Super Bowl winning season.  This year should be different for New Orleans as they head into the playoffs with the number one offense in the National Football League, in decent enough health, and riding a eight game winning streak.  Drew Brees has put himself in position to pass some guys on the list of all-time great quarterbacks after breaking Dan Marino's single season passing yards mark this year, and he already has one Super Bowl victory under his belt.  And with tight end Jimmy Graham (one of the six injured players that didn't play in the playoffs last year) and running back Darren Sproles playing at high levels, the Saints (13-3) look like they will cruise to the NFC Championship Game.  Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions are no strangers to putting up big offensive numbers in the confines of a dome stadium either.  Stafford started all 16 games this year for the first time in his three year career and had highs in passing yards (5,038) and touchdowns (41).  Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson also had a career year with 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 TDs.  Detroit hopes that its defense can play well enough that it doesn't have to get in a shootout.  The Lions (10-6) will have the best defensive player in the game for either team Saturday in the form of nose tackle Ndamukong Suh.  It might not matter though if his teammates don't help him create enough distractions to slow down Brees and a healthy Saints offense.

Pick: Saints, 38-31

Key to game for Lions: Limit mistakes.  In the regular season matchup between these two teams, Detroit missed two field goals and Suh committed a personal foul at a crucial point in the game.  The Lions ended up losing that game 31-17.  Can't afford to give away points and yardage to New Orleans; they're just too good.
Key to game for Saints: No looking ahead.  New Orleans knows its a good team and overlooking the Lions at a possible matchup with defending Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers could make for another bitter offseason.

No comments:

Post a Comment