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NFL Pro Football 2012 Wild Card Picks

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Fearless Rick's NFL Week Wild Card Picks - Early Games

Rick Gagliano | January 5-6, 2013

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Saturday, January 5

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-4 1/2, 43 1/2) - Anybody backing the Texans should see the inherent danger of this team giving anybody points.

A month ago, the Texans were cruising along twoard what appeared to be an inevitable date with the #1 seed in the AFC, but following a wicked, 42-14 loss at New England, some of the luster was warn off. A win over the Colts put the Texans at 12-2, still with the inside track on home field throughout the playoffs.

Back-to-back losses to Minnesota and the Colts - both playoff teams, did them in, eviscerating any chance of a bye or home field except as the host of one of the wild card games, and here they are.

Houston had every opportunity to get a week off, and now find themselves in an unenviable position, playing a hungry, heathy Cincinnati squad that is playing some of the best football of any team in the playoffs.

The Bengals closed out the regular season on a three-game winning streak and were victorious in seven of their last eight, four of those on the road. Their lone loss through the second half of the season was on a last second score by the Cowboys in week 14, Dallas desperate for a playoff berth themselves.

Offensively, one would think the Texans have a big edge with the trio of QB Matt Schaub, WR Andre Johnson and running back Adrian Peterson, but that's about all there is to it. Stop one or more of these guys and Houston is largely reduced to a three-and-out offense.

The Bengals, conversely, get a lot of production from a variety of receivers and backs. QB Andy Dalton has improved every year he's been in the league and now gets a chance to prove his value in the playoffs. There are few stars on the Cincinnati squad, befitting their mode of being a lunch-pail type of team. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (the Law Firm) gets most of the carries out of the backfield, usually led by the hard-hitting blocks of fullback John Conner.

A.J. Green may be the emerging star of the receivers, but tight end Jermaine Gresham, and opposite wideout Brandon Tate can make game-busting plays as well.

Offensively, the two teams are nearly equal. Cincinnati scored an average of 24.4 points per game, to Houston's 26.0.

On defense, the Bengals are a shade better and may be more motivated. They allowed 20 points per outing, eighth-best in the league, while the Texans were two positions down, at 21 ppg.

If the game comes down to making plays in the crunch, which easily could develop, Dalton's your man, and the Bengals will move on to the next round.

Houston, losers of three of their last four, has plenty to prove, but they've run smack into a tough customer in the Bengals.

Prediction: Bengals 24 Texans 20

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Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-7 1/2, 46) - In on of the NFL's oddities, these two meet for the second week in a row, after the Vikings made the playoffs by topping the Packers, 37-34, knocking the Bears out of the playoff picture in the process.

Not only did Minnesota win their last four in a row to qualify as a wild card, but last week's win over Green Bay meant that the Packers would miss getting a bye for the first week of the playoffs. A win would have made Green Bay, 12-4, putting them ahead of the 11-4-1 49ers, so nobody can say that the Packers weren't motivated and likewise, should be worried about their prospects against a team that beat them just a week ago, albeit, on their own turf.

With the game outdoors at Green Bay, the Packers should be a little more comfortable, especially on offense, but, the climatic conditions could also work against them, as they rely heavily on the arm of QB Aaron Rodgers and his fleet of receivers. Wind, cold, snow or whatever nature provides could actually work against the home team.

The Vikings have no issues with whatever weather will be prevalent, because they have the ultimate weapon in running back Adrian Peterson, who just completed the second-best rushing season ever in the NFL, falling just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson's record of 2106.

Peterson is a beast of a running back and no team has proven capable of containing him for a full sixty minutes. The only way the Packers can nullify his effectiveness is by taking a large lead of 10 to 14 points, forcing the Vikings into a passing mode, something Green Bay is capable of doing. They finished the regular season fifth in scoring, at 27.1 points per game, most of them produced through the air. Green Bay rushed for 106.4 yards per game, less than Peterson's average alone.

The Vikings were second in the league in rushing yards, at 164.6 per game, to Washington (169.3), and scored an average of 23.7 points per game, but that figure was rising over their final four weeks of the season, when they averaged 29.3.

These two teams met back on December 2nd, at Green Bay, the Packers coming away with a 23-14 victory, but that was the last time the Vikings tasted defeat. Having already been to Lambeau once this season, the Vikings are not going to be awed by the crowd or the atmosphere and should do the things that kept them in the game last week and five weeks ago. A steady dose of AP mixed in with the occasional pass from Christian Ponder, should make this one closer than the line indicates.

The Packers may pull out a win and advance, but there's no doubt the Vikings want another crack at these guys and could pull off the stunning upset.

Prediction: Packers 31 Vikings 28

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2012, 2013, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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