AFC Wild Card Weekend!
This season, the AFC wild card weekend has a bunch of new faces ready to become playoff legends headlined by a rock star in Denver named Tim Tebow. Kaboom! Magazine goes in-depth into a hectic wild card weekend where we will preview each team and why each team has a shot of making it out of this weekend and into the divisional round.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at Houston Texans (10-6)
Game Preview: The surprise team of 2011 goes up against a team making their 1st playoff appearance in franchise history. Led by a rookie quarterback/wide receiver duo, the Cincinnati Bengals surprised everyone with a 9-7 playoff berth. The Houston Texans took advantage of a Manning-less Indianapolis Colts by having their best season ever going 10-6 and winning the AFC South.
Why will Cincinnati WIN this game: Head Coach Marvin Lewis took it back to his old school Baltimore Ravens and won games with stellar defense. The Bengals were 9th in the league in points allowed and 7th in the league in total offensive yards allowed. Even with a rookie quarterback, Cincinnati still has experience on their side as Marvin Lewis has taken the Bengals to the playoffs a few times and knows what it takes to win a playoff game on the road.
Why will Houston WIN this game: In 2010 the Houston Texans had one of the worst defenses in the NFL ranked 30th, but that all changed in 2011. The Texans brought in Wade Phillps to take over the defensive reigns and turned one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the best defenses in the league. The Texans are ranked 2nd in team defense and 4th in scoring defense lead by outside linebacker Brian Crushing. Even with all the major injuries on offense, one thing that stayed consistent and healthy was the running of Adrian Foster and Ben Tate. Foster and Tate combined for over 2,200 yards on the ground good for No. 2 in the NFL. They have carried the offense load since starting quarterback Matt Schaub went down for the year. A dominant defense and a great running game has proven many times before that it can win a super bowl so winning a wild card game at home shouldn’t be too difficult.
Why will Cincinnati LOSE this game: The Bengals have a great future with the QB/WR combo of Andy Dalton and AJ Green, but in today’s NFL, this team just doesn’t put enough points against good defenses. Since Nov. 13th, the Bengals are 3-5 and only averaging 18 points a game and are 0-7 all season long against teams in the Top 8 of total defense. The Bengals have a solid one-two punch and even making it into the playoffs has made this one of the best season in Bengals history, but the Bengals just don’t have enough gas in the tank on offense to go any further than this weekend.
Why will Houston LOSE this game: The Texans are wheeling themselves into the playoffs in a wheelchair as major injuries in the middle of the season have this team very vulnerable for an early exit. Matt Schaub was having another pro bowl year when his year was cut short with a foot injury, and Defensive standout Mario Williams was leading the team in sacks before a chest injury ended his season. All-Pro Wide Receiver Andre Johnson has been unstoppable when on the field, but he missed most of the year with hamstring injury. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates played great during his first two starts, but since then he lost three straight and lost all of his confidence. The defense will keep the Texans in the game but if a team is starting a third-string quarterback that lost three straight….anything can go wrong at anytime.
Wild Card Fun Fact: The last time the Bengals won a playoff game….Boomer Eiason was the starting quarterback.
And the winner of this game is: With two rookie quarterbacks and two top 10 defenses, this is a perfect set-up for an ugly playoff game. Both teams have a solid running game, but with two talented running backs in Adrian Foster and Ben Tate the Texans are primed to move on and win their first playoff game ever. Houston 17-10.
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Denver Broncos (8-8)
Game Preview: The Steelers are limping (literally) into Mile High to go up against an overachieving Broncos team led by a quarterback that has become the talk of the world with the last name Tebow. This should be the easiest pick of the wild card weekend, but with phenomena like Tim Tebow playing in this game….anything possible.
Why will Pittsburgh WIN this game: After making in to the super bowl last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers and ready for their second super bowl appearance in two years. In order for the Steelers to make it to the super bowl this year they will have to win three straight road playoff games starting in Denver. History is on the Steelers side; the last time the Steelers had to win three playoff road games to make it to the super bowl…they did winning the super bowl in 2006. The Steelers are the most storied franchise in NFL history, and no matter how the regular season goes when the playoffs comes around Pittsburgh never the underdog in Vegas.
Why will Denver WIN this game: In the middle of the season the Broncos made a change for the better. They released starting quarterback Kyle Orton and named fan favorite Tim Tebow the starter for the rest of the season. Tebow made head coach John Fox look like a saint as he won six games in his first six starts of the season and turned Tebow into a A-List celebrity. Denver's offense revolved around a ground game that led the league in rushing and set the franchise single-season mark with 2,632 yards. In his six game winning streak, Tim Tebow organized four fourth quarter comebacks. He may be the opposite of Lebron James, but I think most coaches will take a player that great only in the fourth quarter than a player that great for only the first three quarters.
Why will Pittsburgh LOSE this game: Ben Roethlisberger is hobbled. Rashard Mendenhall is done for the season. Ryan Clark will wisely sit out because of the sickle cell trait he carries in his blood, a condition that could become life-threatening in high altitude. The Steelers, of course, have a Master's degree in overcoming adversity, from injuries to off-field strife, but this postseason run could be especially tough on a proud but aging team. Big Ben has not been able to play effective placing weight on that ankle which has caused him trouble with his accuracy highlighted by the 3 INTs in a Monday night game vs. 49ers. He will play through the pain pretty well, but will it be enough is the question.
Why will Denver LOSE this game: Tebow could not have chosen a tougher defense for his maiden playoff game. At their best the Steelers linebackers fly, their defensive backs pound and their linemen suffocate. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has surely taken note of the last few weeks, as defenses have crowded Tebow's receivers at the line, forcing him to make near-perfect throws. They have spied Tebow with linebackers, keeping him from breaking runs down the sideline. And when given a chance, they have hammered him, trying to wear him down hit by hit. In other words, they have been doing everything the Steelers have done for decades.
Wild Card Fun Fact: Tim Tebow has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated six times.
And the winner of this game is: If this game was being played in Pittsburgh it wouldn’t be if the Steelers would lose but by how much the Steelers would win by. But, since the game is being played in Denver and the Steelers are playing without their No.1 rusher, No.1 cornerback, and Big Ben ankle still not right; this game looked primed for some “Tebow Magic”. Denver 21-14.