By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Let the games begin! The road to New Orleans starts with Wild Card weekend. There’s a mix of new and old, as three rookie quarterbacks make their playoff debut, while legendary linebacker Ray Lewis announced this will be his last “ride.” Here’s how I think this weekend’s action will play out.
Bengals 24, TEXANS 23 – Saturday 3:30 PM
Given the fact that the last two Super Bowl winners weren’t high seeds, rather, teams that entered the playoffs with momentum, the Texans should be concerned. They’ve lost three of their last four games, slid from the No. 1 to the No. 3 seed, their offense has scored three touchdowns in their last four and a half games, and have surrendered 12 sacks. The Bengals, on the other hand, finished the season 7-1. Neither offenses are clicking at the moment, but I’m taking the Bengals for two reasons: their defensive line, and AJ Green should have his way with the slumping Texans secondary.
PACKERS 27, Vikings 20 – Saturday 7:00 PM
These two teams played just a week ago in a game that determined the playoff fate of three NFC North teams, when the Vikings rode the sturdy, surgically repaired legs of Adrian Peterson to victory. This week, they do the reverse commute and play a one-game season in Green Bay. In their two meetings this year, the Packers let Peterson rush for 409 yards. That total would’ve made him the Arizona Cardinals leading rusher. Playoff football is about quarterback play, and Aaron Rodgers should pick apart a weak Vikings secondary.
RAVENS 30, Colts 24 – Sunday Noon
There’s no shortage of storylines for the networks to beat you into television submission in this game. Cancer-beating Colts head coach Chuck Pagano returns to the city where he cut his teeth led by a rookie quarterback, facing a Ravens team emboldened by the announcement that their emotional leader Ray Lewis will be retiring. As far as the football aspect, I think very little of these two teams. The Ravens are underachievers, led by a quarterback who is good enough to break your heart, and the Colts are overachievers who did a lot of bum-slaying this year. I am reluctantly endorsing the Ravens, who should capitalize on a weak Colts defense.
Seahawks, 23, REDSKINS 20 – Sunday 3:30 PM
I wonder if the front offices in Seattle and Washington anticipated their teams responding as quickly as they did to rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III? Their growth this season was nothing short of amazing. Neither are game managers, in fact, they’re both leaned upon to win games. Griffin’s knee injury is a concern, as he was clearly hobbled last weekend against the Cowboys, laboring in the open field. Playing at less than 100% health against a defense that can collapse the pocket, and a physical secondary to disrupt the timing of routes, makes me side with Seattle.
(Regular season final record: 170-85-1)
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.