NFL Playoffs Leave Much to be Desired

Well, that was fun (not really).  The NFL Playoffs opened with a resounding thud, and the coming weekend may not be much better.

It started with a snoozer in Houston as the Texans limped in to the postseason and beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 19-13, in a game that “featured” six field goals and only one offensive touchdown.  The Bengals couldn’t even muster 200 yards of total offense.

The Minnesota Vikings were predictably hammered at Green Bay, 24-10.  It was 24-3 until a garbage-time touchdown late in the fourth quarter.  A one-dimensional offense that relies solely on Adrian Peterson was even more woeful with back-up quarterback Joe Webb having to fill in for an injured Christian Ponder.

The Indianapolis Colts were a feel-good story, but it was all smoke and mirrors.  They were the only playoff team to have scored fewer points than they allowed (minus-30) during the regular season, and they only beat two teams all year with a winning record.  Predictably, a Baltimore Ravens defense fueled by the emotion of Ray Lewis’ last home game of his storied career propelled the purple and black to an easy win.

After three boring playoff games, the weekend’s main event was up:  the Seattle Seahawks at the Washington Redskins.  Two exciting rookie quarterbacks with two similar playing styles, two of the top three rushing offenses in the league, and already some ill will between the two clubs.  It was going to be great.

But then Robert Griffin III got hurt again, Mike Shanahan inexplicably left him in the game anyway despite having a very capable backup in Kirk Cousins, and it was all Seattle after the first quarter.  Yawn.

Unfortunately, at least half of the upcoming NFL weekend will likely be just as boring.

The Texans inspire confidence in no one as they head into the buzzsaw that is the New England Patriots at Foxboro.  If the Patriots don’t utterly destroy Houston – as they did during the regular season, 42-14 – it will be something of a shock.

A similar fate awaits the Ravens, who have to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Colorado.  The Broncos aren’t a team full of rookies, and Manning is elite.  The Ravens also won’t have the warm fuzzies of Ray Lewis’ last home game to fuel them.  Dead birds walking.

No, the playoffs don’t start in the AFC until the Broncos and Patriots meet in the Conference Championship Game.  The interesting games to watch this weekend are in the NFC.

The Atlanta Falcons have no running offense to speak of (fourth-worst in the NFL), but the Seahawks will likely be without their top pass rusher, Chris Clemons, who injured his knee on Sunday, putting a serious crimp in their ability to defend the pass – something that Atlanta executes quite well.

Meanwhile, the Falcons’ below-average defense will have to figure out a way to contain Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and the rest of the Seattle offense that averaged 50 points per game during a three-game stretch late in the season.  This game could easily turn into a shootout.

And the Packers will travel to San Francisco, where they’ll try to avenge a 30-22 home loss back in Week 1.  This game will be about the inconsistent Packers offense facing the stout Niners defense and young Colin Kaepernick starting his first playoff game of his career against a fairly decent Packers defense.

There is some promise there for a reasonably competitive game.

Our picks:

Denver 31, Baltimore 14
Green Bay 17, San Francisco 14
Atlanta 28, Seattle 20
New England 48, Houston 10

Give us your predictions for this weekend’s games in the comments below!