Cincinnati (10-6) at Houston (12-4)
When: 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday
This game will include a matchup of the two best interior defensive linemen in football: J.J. Watt and Geno Atkins. Houston drummed the visiting Bengals, 31-10, in an opening-round playoff game last season. With the Texans forced to start a rookie quarterback in T.J. Yates, running back Arian Foster carried the offense with 24 carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Defensive end J.J. Watt also scored on a 29-yard interception return in the first postseason game in Texans history. In the span of a month, Houston slipped from having the AFC’s best record to squandering a first-round bye by dropping three of its final four games. Particularly alarming are the struggles of quarterback Matt Schaub, who has one touchdown pass and three interceptions in the past four games. For the first time since 1981 and 1982, the Bengals have reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The next goal will be winning in the postseason for the first time since 1990.
Minnesota (10-6) at Green Bay (11-5)When: 8 p.m. ET Saturday
It's a quarterbacks league, and the Vikings don't exactly have a dominant defense. There aren't many bigger upsets possible than a Christian Ponder-led team beating an Aaron Rodgers-led team in back-to-back weeks. The Vikings have won four consecutive games since their Dec. 2 loss to the Packers but must snap a three-game losing streak at Lambeau Field to advance. The Weather Channel forecast calls for temperature at kickoff at around 20 degrees but with no snow. The Packers can’t ask much more from Rodgers, who threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns without an interception Sunday. Rodgers, though, did lose a fumble that led to a Vikings touchdown and was sacked five times as rookie right tackle Don Barclay struggled in pass protection.
Indianapolis (11-5) at Baltimore (10-6)
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
The Ravens have won at least one playoff game in every year of the John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco era. But this is the worst defense they've had by far, and the offense was poor enough to get the coordinator fired in December. Baltimore hardly is a heavy favorite. Harbaugh has led the Ravens to an NFL-best five consecutive playoff appearances and is yet to lose an opening game since taking the reins in 2008. With negative differentials in turnovers (12) and points (30), the Colts are the NFL’s most improbable playoff team. Indianapolis, though, is among the league’s best when it comes to winning close games. Nine of 11 victories have come by seven points or less.
Seattle (11-5) at Washington (10-6)When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Redskins beat Seattle, 23-17, in Week 12 last season but both teams have changed radically since then with the addition of Wilson and Griffin at quarterback. The Seahawks struggled on the road for much of the season, but their victory in Chicago was the biggest win of their season. Seattle followed that up with a blowout win over Buffalo in Toronto. The Seahawks aren't the same team away from home, but they are good enough to be the favorites next week in Washington. The Redskins simply can't match the Seahawks' defensive talents. Three rookie quarterbacks will start in Sunday's wild-card game. Two will face off in this matchup. It's the battle of the read option. It's the most intriguing game of the weekend, and it comes last.
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