Broncos vs. Steelers
Regular Season Matchup(s): Did not play in regular season.
Analysis: These two teams didn't play each other in the regular season so this will be their 1st matchup this season. The Steelers finished this season as the number 1 defense in the NFL in the major statistical categories. It is my prediction that the Steelers will win this game. I don't wanna say easily because the Denver defense has the ability to play well and when you combine that with the fact that Ben is still a little banged up and that their starting RB Rashard Mendenhall is lost for the season their is potential for the Steelers to struggle offensively which could keep the game close. However this is the absolute worst matchup that could have happened for Tebow having to play against this Steelers defense. The Steelers defense might honestly shut the Broncos out it honestly wouldn't surprise me. There's going to be all kind of confusing blitz schemes and coverages thrown Tebow's way by defensive guru Dick Lebeau which I just don't think he has the skill nor experience to be able to effectively deal with. Also the Broncos O-Line isn't great meanwhile Pittsburgh's D-Line might be the best 3-4 D-Line in all of football and they definitely have the best overall front 7 so I also expect the Steelers to dominate the line of scrimmage and stop the Broncos run game as well. Offensively the Steelers have one of the best receiving cores in the NFL and Ben normally plays big in big games so I expect them to be able to put up enough to win by a comfortable margin. Overall I just can't see Denver putting up more than 10 points on the Steelers and even not at full strength the Steelers can do enough offensively to at least score 14 so I got the Steelers going into Denver and getting this win and moving on to the next round.
Texans Vs. Bengals
Regular Season Matchup(s): Texans 20 @ Bengals 19
In their meeting during the regular season they played a close one just a couple weeks ago where T.J. Yates led the Texans down the field on a game winning TD drive. However Andre Johnson didn't play in that game and he will be playing this weekend. Yates played a good game as he threw for 300 yards and 2 TDs with only 1 interception. Dalton played ok but nothing special.
Analysis: There are some key differences in the factors of this game and the one they played in the regular season. The 1st meeting was played In Cincy and this game will be played in Houston where it will be the 1st playoff game in franchise history so you can imagine that place is going to be live and loud. Also Andre Johnson will be playing this time around. Both these factors benefit Houston who won without them in the regular season so I have to believe they'll win again. Even without Shaub the Texans are the better team. I've said it all season and I'm sticking with it the Cincinnati Bengals are FRAUDS. They played 7 playoff teams this season and lost to ALL 7 of them. Their best win of the season was against the 9-7 Titans which was the only team they beat with a winning record. The Bengals will play hard and make it interesting but their just too young and quite frankly not good enough to go into Houston and beat the Texans who even without Shaub is still a talented team that can cause it's share of problems. They finished 2nd in the NFL in total defense and 2nd in the NFL in rushing which means they do the two things that are key to winning in the playoffs at the highest level. I think the Texans will be able to run the ball with their 2 1000 yard backs in Foster and Tate and control the clock and keep the game manageable for Yates where he doesn't have to do too much. The Bengals on offense alot of times seem to be A.J. Green or bust and the Texans have a pro bowl corner in Jonathon Joesph who can matchup well with Green and play him tough. I think the Texans defense will be very effective and ultimately be the reason along with a strong running game that they win their 1st playoff game in franchise history and move on to play the Ravens.
Saints Vs. Lions
Regular Season Matchup(s): Lions 17 @ Saints 31
It's hard to use the regular season matchup to fully predict what could happen in this game because Suh didn't play in the 1st matchup and he's the player for the Lions that sets the tone on defense and just makes everything go. In this matchup the Saints did whatever they wanted on offense as they racked up over 400 total yards and scored 4 Tds. They had over 300 passing and a 100 on the ground which also shows good balance. Brees was 26/36 with 342 yards and 3 tds and 0 interceptions. However despite the 17 points the Saints didn't exactly shut the Lions down as they were able to move the ball they just couldn't score. They had 466 total yards and Stafford threw for over 400 yards.
Analysis: I expect this game to be a little closer than the 1st meeting but the result to ultimately be the same. The Saints were 8-0 at home this past season and that ain't gonna change this weekend. I'd go as far as to say there's not a team in the NFL that I think would be favored to win in New Orleans against this team they really are unbeatable at home. I expect this game to be a shoot out though as you have two QBs going at it that both threw for over 5,000 yards. The disadvantage the Lions have that the Saints do not is that they are 1 dimensional. The Lions don't run the ball very well and if you watch them you know that they normally don't even try to much. The Saints though not a running team when they need to can run the ball effectively. I just don't think the Lions have enough in the secondary to be able to stop the Saints. The Saints hit you from all angles with maybe the most all around athletic TE in the NFL who runs routes as agile as a WR, a solid possesion WR in Colston, they got deep threats in Henderson and Mecheam, and they have Sproles who is lethal in space. As great a season as Brees the running game of the Saints could be the X-factor because the Lions run that wide 9 with their D-Line and it has made them vulnerable against the run all year.
Giants Vs. Falcons
Regular Season Matchup(s): Did not play in regular season
Analysis: The Falcons finished 10-6 this season and got hot late but as I went back and reviewed their schedule it reminds me ALOT of the 10-6 Tampa Bay season from last season. The Falcons only beat 1 playoff team this season and that was the Lions which is a legit win but the Lions and Titans were the only teams with a winning record they beat and that concerns me. It means they haven't really been battle tested like the Giants have. I know the Giants went 9-7 and had their issues this season but they have signature wins against Dallas and the Patriots and they gave the Packers all they could handle. I've also seen Eli lead the Giants to victory multiple times this season proving that he is clutch and that he is elite. Had this game been in Atlanta I might have chosen the Falcons but I just don't believe the Falcons are mentally tough enough to go into NY in January in that weather and beat the Giants. Even though the numbers don't back it up the Giants have the ability to run the ball when Bradshaw is in the lineup and the Giants front 4 is looking very similar to the one that was the key factor in their super bowl run in 2007. I think Atlanta on paper is the better team so it certainly wouldn't surprise me if they won the game but I just don't like this scenario for Atlanta. Matt Ryan is still unproven in the playoffs and I'm just not as sure about him as I am Eli. Alot of times the playoffs are about coming in hot and the Giants have to be feeling good right now about how they ended the year.