Jobu previews the 2012 NFL playoffs… who is going to win the AFC games this weekend?
Now that the NFL season is finally over and done with, we can finally get to the real party, which is the playoffs. This year’s playoffs won’t be as exciting for me as last year’s, because my Giants farted away their season in weeks 15 and 16. While they crushed the Eagles in Week 17, it didn’t matter because they were eliminated. Now, I’m not bitter about it or anything, so I will still provide a totally unbiased and intuitive playoff preview. Because I am a professional, and it doesn’t matter how terribly the Giants blew their season, nor does it matter that they didn’t fire Perry Fewell, here we go.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Houston Texans, Saturday, 4:30 PM
For the second year in a row, the Bengals and the Texans kick things off in the first round in the 4:30 PM Saturday game. Last season, I picked the Bengals because they had good momentum, and Matt Schaub was out for the Texans. I couldn’t have been more wrong, as the Texans ended up crushing the Bengals 31-10, and I was humiliated. So what’s gonna happen this year?
Well, the Texans finished the year 12-4 and won the AFC South, just ahead of the Colts, but they didn’t end the season on a very high note. They lost three out of four to close out the year, and Matt Schaub simply didn’t play very well at all in those contests. Overall, though, the 6’5″ QB out of Virginia had a decent year, putting up 4,008 yards, 22 TDs and only 12 INTs. Andre Johnson (112 catches, 1,598 yards and 4 TDs) is going to have to catch a lot of passes for the Texans to succeed, which he did during the regular season. Houston’s main weapon, however, is running back Arian Foster. Over the last couple of years he’s become one of the top backs in the league. This year, Foster ran for 1,424 yards and 15 TDs and caught 40 passes for 217 yards and 2 more scores. If he’s on his game, and Schaub makes the right passes, the Houston defense should be good enough to take this game.
The Bengals, meanwhile, went 10-6 this year and just missed winning the AFC North to the also 10-6 Baltimore Ravens, although they won their last three games to get to where they ended up. Second year QB out of Texas Christian University Andy Dalton really came into his own this season after an impressive rookie season in 2011. Dalton threw for 3,669 yards this season, with 27 TDs and 16 INTs and his 62.3% completion rate was equally as impressive. While Benjarvus Green-Ellis handled the bulk of their running this season, he missed the last game of the season with a hamstring injury he suffered in warmups. It is unclear as of yet whether he’ll play or not (he’s listed as probable as of press time), or if he’ll be limited by the injury if he gets on the field. If he’s out, Brian Leonard or Cedric Peerman will have to step it up. I think the Bengals will hold their own as long as Dalton keeps his cool and doesn’t make any big mistakes behind center.
Overall, I think the Texans, despite their recent struggles, are the better team. Schaub will have himself a good game, and this game will be a mini-shootout, but The Texans will win 27-18.
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens, Sunday at 1 PM
This game features the Ravens, whom are pretty much a lock to make the playoffs every season these days, and the upstart Colts, who had the season I think everyone assumed they’d have in 2014 or 2015, and not in Andrew Luck‘s rookie season. I think this game will steal the one to watch in the AFC, and here’s why.
Is Joe Flacco that good? As I was researching this post a bit, I came across a statistic that boggled my mind. Did you know that Flacco has more wins in his first five years in the NFL than everyone in history except for Dan Marino? I mean, I know football is a team game, and the Ravens’ D has carried them to their success over the last 10 years, but still. I’m impressed. While I don’t quite think Flacco is Trent Dilfer, I don’t think he’s Dan Marino either. He had a solid year this year (3,817 yards, 22 TDs, 10 INTs), and has had a pretty solid career behind center, but can he carry a team to success on his own? For the first time in Flacco’s career, the Ravens’ defense is not ranked in the top ten in either defending the pass or the run. This means that Flacco Tuesdays, as my friends and I know him, is probably going to have to win this game himself.
Luckily for Flacco, he has some help around him. Torrey Smith (49 catches, 855 yards, 8 TDs) and Anquan Boldin (65 catches, 921 yards and 4 TDs) are an unspectacular, yet formidable, 1-2 punch at receiver, and Dennis Pitta (61 catches, 661 yards, 7 TDs) emerged as a solid third option throughout the course of this season. Throw Ray Rice (1,143 yards, 9 TDs and over 400 receiving yards himself) into the mix, and rookie RB Bernard Pierce (532 yards, 1 TD), and the Ravens’ running game becomes a solid option too.
The Colts, on the other hand, have been one of the special stories of the 2012 season. It started this off-season, when they Jettisoned Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning because of a big, fat $28 MM roster bonus. Because of Manning’s absence in 2011, the Colts had the number one pick, and they took Andrew Luck out of Indianapolis. Just a couple of games into the season, Head Coach Chuck Pagano found out he was dealing with Leukemia and had to take a leave of absence from the team. Despite all that, the Colts clicked, got motivated and won 11 games to make the playoffs. How did they do it? Why… with a little Luck (ah? see what I did there?).
Luck had one of the better rookie seasons of any quarterback ever, setting the record for attempts and yards by a rookie signal caller. He finished with 4,374 yards, 23 TDs and 18 INTs. Sure, maybe he threw a few too many picks, but wins are wins, and that’s all that matters in the end. One advantage Luck had this season was the fact that he could throw the ball to one of the best receivers in NFL history, Reggie Wayne. Wayne hauled in 106 balls from Luck, racking up 1,355 yards and 5 TDs, proving that he’s not yet getting too old for this NFL stuff. The rest of the receiving corps is pretty solid too, with Donnie Avery (60 catches, 781 yards, 3 TDs) and surprising rookie T. Y. Hilton (50 catches, 861 yards, 7 TDs) helping Luck rack up all those yards. Those receivers are going to need to keep getting open, because the Colts lack that impact runner to move the ball down the field. I’m not knocking Vic Ballard (814 yards, 2 TDs) or Donald Brown (417 yards and 1 TD), but the Colts win games with their passing.
This is a pretty tough call to make. Part of me knows that the Ravens are probably too good for the young Colts at this point. Even with a slightly depleted defense, the Ravens should be able to throw some weight around the field, stop the running game and possibly pick Luck apart, but can you really root against a Colts team with so much momentum and karma on their side? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Colts, in a shocker, will upset the Ravens 23-20. There. I said it.
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