Mark Kim: NFL Wild Card predictions
(4) New York Giants vs. (5) Atlanta Falcons
The Giants barely got into the playoffs and they’re not going to stay for long. If they want a chance at winning this game, they’ll have to get pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan using a four-man pass rush while containing receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons, as well, need to pressure Giants quarterback Eli Manning as well. Manning has had a Pro Bowl caliber season this year.
Player to watch for: Giants safety Antrelle Rolle. He needs to make sure the Giants don’t get beat deep or give up easy touchdowns. He will also need to help cornerback Corey Webster cover Jones, who is three inches taller than Webster.
Result: Falcons win by 17 points.
(3) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Detroit Lions
Prepare for an aerial shootout. Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford both threw over 5,000 yards this year. The problem with both teams is their rushing game. Running backs Kevin Smith and Pierre Thomas will start for the Lions and Saints, respectively. The Saints pass defense is still better than the Lions pass defense which is what puts the Saints over the Lions. But don’t count out the “Cardiac Cats.” The Lions have four-second half comebacks this year.
Player to watch for: Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He was not available for the game against the Saints and he needs to get pressure on Brees. The last time the Lions played the Saints, the Lions defensive line pressured Brees three times out of 49 drop backs. He needs to be a leader for the defense and not make immature and childish mistakes.
Result: Saints by 10 points. The Lions could make a comeback during the second half.
(4) Denver Broncos vs. (5) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Broncos have the number one rushing offense in the league with quarterback Tim Tebow and running back Willis McGahee leading the charge. The only problem is that the Steelers have the eighth best rushing defense in the league. If the Broncos think about passing the ball at all, they will go against the leagues best passing offense. The Broncos should have a shot in this game just off the fact they have Tebow, who has put together many unbelievable wins for the Broncos.. The Steelers offense, without Rashard Mendenhall, will face a good but slumping Broncos defense.
Player to watch for: Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. He needs to establish a passing game to make their running game more effective. The “Mile High Messiah” has to prove he can be a quarterback that can perform in the playoffs.
Result: Broncos by 3. I can see the Steelers possibly winning this game though.
(3) Houston Texans vs. (6) Cincinnati Bengals
This game depends on how both defenses can play. Texans quarterback T.J Yates and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will be making their first playoff starts and both teams have very good defenses to force pressure upon these quarterbacks. Both quarterbacks will count on their running backs to bail them out, but only the Texans have the superstar running back that can make an impact on the effectiveness of their passing game. Texans running back Arian Foster rushed for over 1000 yards this season while Bengals running back Cedric Benson has been inconsistent this year.
Player to watch for: Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap. He has had a disappointing season, but he needs to pressure Yates and force the rookie to make errant throws to Bengals cornerbacks Nate Clements and “Pacman” Jones.
Result: Bengals by 7. This game will go down to the wire.