After 17 weeks and 256 NFL games, the playoffs begin tomorrow afternoon with the first two of four NFL Wild Card games.
The first Wild Card game pits the AFC South Champion Houston Texans in their playoff debut against the last team they beat, the Cincinnati Bengals, who backed in to the sixth and final playoff spot.
The second Wild Card game has the NFC South Champion New Orleans Saints hosting the Detroit Lions, in a rematch of a game played last month, where the Lions were without star defensive tackle Ndamakong Suh (due to suspension).
On Sunday, the third Wild Card game has the NFC East Champion New York Giants hosting the Atlanta Falcons, and the fourth and final Wild Card game has the AFC West Champion Denver Broncos, who will have their hands full against the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
THE GAMES THEMSELVES:
# 6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at # 3 Houston Texans (10-6)- Saturday @ 4:30PM- Reliant Stadium (Houston, TX)
Trivia: How many NFL playoff games have been started by two rookie quarterbacks in the same game?
Answer: None...until now.
For the first time in the 90-plus years of the NFL, both teams playing in a playoff game will start two rookie quarterbacks. The Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1990, and the Texans are making their playoff debut. Not to mention, Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton will be playing in front of a home crowd, as Dalton is from the Houston suburb of Katy.
# 6 Detroit Lions (10-6) at # 3 New Orleans Saints (13-3)- Saturday @ 8PM- Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, LA)
How much durability can the field of Mercedes-Benz Superdome take? This will be the third of four football games played on this field (last Sunday's Saints game, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, this game, and the Allstate BCS National Championship game) in a nine day span. The Saints will be ready for this one. The same can't really be said for Detroit (making their first playoff appearance since 1999), who allowed Green Bay's backup quarterback to throw for six touchdowns.
# 5 Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at # 4 New York Giants (9-7)- Sunday @ 1PM- MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, NJ)
The Giants are peaking at the right time as they topped the Dallas Cowboys twice in four weeks to win the NFC East and secure the # 4 seed. The Atlanta passing and receiving game is one of the tops in the NFL.
# 5 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at # 4 Denver Broncos [8-8]- Sunday @ 4:30PM- Sports Authority Field at Mile High
If you thought Seattle's 7-9 record was good enough to win a division title, take a step back. The Broncos still manage to break a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West at 8-8 and clinch the # 4 seed. Unfortunately, the Broncos will play the Pittsburgh Steelers, probably the most stingiest defense in the NFL.
Houston 27, Cincinnati 14 (The Bengals defense will have a tough time stopping the one-two punch of Texans running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate)
New Orleans 42, Detroit 14 (Matthew Stafford is not yet ready for primetime)
NY Giants 31, Atlanta 28 (Somehow, someway, the Giants are now finding ways to win)
Pittsburgh 34, Denver 3 (Tebow Time...Over)
Based on those Predictions- Divisional Round:
# 3 New Orleans Saints (14-3) at # 2 San Francisco 49ers (13-3)- Candlestick Park (San Francisco, CA)- 4:30PM EST on Fox, January 14
# 5 Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4) at # 1 New England Patriots (13-3)- Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)- 8PM EST on CBS, January 14
# 3 Houston Texans (11-6) at # 2 Baltimore Ravens (12-4)- M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, MD)- 1PM EST on CBS, January 15
# 4 New York Giants (10-7) at # 1 Green Bay Packers (15-1)- Lambeau Field (Green Bay, WI)- 4:30PM EST on Fox, January 15