At the start of the 2011 NFL season you would have been able to name your own odds on some of this weekends fixtures as few saw the Broncos & Bengals playing in the post season. The NFC games look to be the most interesting ones of the bunch and both games could go either way given the teams involved are pall good enough to win the Superbowl with a little good fortune. In the AFC Denver somehow find themselves in the playoffs having won a rather mediocre AFC West by the virtue of going 7-5 in common games ahead of the Chargers and Raiders who were 6-6. The wooden spooners KC were only a game back showing how easily things could have been different. Last season Seattle also sneaked in with a 7-9 NFC West record but pulled off a shock beating the Saints. However we dont thing lightening can strike twice and we think the Denver offense could struggle against the Steelers. Still with no Mendenhall and Big Ben still not fit Pittsburgh are not likely to set the scoring alight so this could be a low points game.
Congratulations are in order for the Houston Texans who will be playing their first ever playoff game when they host the Bengals. The Texans have a few injury problems and will probably start with T.J Yeates at QB, although it is possible they may choose the experoienced Jake Delhomme, who guided the Panthers to a Superbowl runners up spot in the early 2000s. However Yeates engineered a nice 4th Quarter comeback win against the Bengals during the regular season and probably deserves to take the starters job. The Bengals have to be one of the biggest over achievers in the NFL managing to go 9-7 in an incredibly tough AFC North, with a rookie QB and Wide Receiver. Andy Dalton looks like a steal as a second round pick and he should be their first choice for years to come injury permitting. This game is real hard to call and again defenses could be on top. Overall we think that the Texans are in the post season thanks to Peyton Manning being injured and we expect the Bengals to edge this one.
In the NFC games we have what should be high scoring and hugely entertaining fixtures with the New Orleans Saints who with a 13-3 record would normally have expected a 1st round bye taking on the much improved Detroit Lions, who are snapping their post season drought thanks to a 10-6 season in a pretty tough NFC North. Both QBs have piled up the yards this season with the Saints being no1 for passing yards and the Loins being 4th. Neither are particularly good against the pass so this should be a spectacle. The Saints won their regular season meeting by a relatively comfortable margin and a similar result looks the most likely outcome.
Much less easy to predict is the clash between the NY Giants and the Atlanta Falcons, both of whom have failed to emulate last seasons winning records. The NFC East was surprisingly weak this season despite Phillys $100m free agency splurge however the Giants tend to come alive in January when they make the playoffs so they will be hard to beat and are on a nice run of form, largely thanks to the MVP performances by Eli Manning. The Falcons had a great season last year and splashed out heavily to acquire Julio Jones in the draft. However they have not looked like a Superbowl team to us this year and a trip to the Meadowlands in January is never easy. Atlanta’s seemed to come up short too often against the better teams in the regular season and we think the Giants may just good enough to win this one and save Tom Coughlin’s job; assuming he still wants it.
Saturday Jan 7th
Cincinnati at Houston – Bengals Score 21-13
Detroit at New Orleans- Saints Score 34-20
Sunday Jan 8th
Atlanta at NY Giants – Giants Score 27-20
Pittsburgh at Denver – Steelers Score 17-7