January 05, 2012
With fantasy football over and your team out of the postseason, you may think there's no good reason to tune in to the first round of playoffs this weekend. You are wrong. There's nothing like playoff football, and there are four doozies of games lined up for Saturday and Sunday. Here are five storylines to watch:
Will the new kids on the block hang tough? The Texans have never been in the playoffs. The Lions have not been in the postseason this century. Both teams are young and inexperienced, with quarterbacks and coaches who have not seen an NFL postseason. The way they handle the pressure will shape both the playoffs.
For the Lions, it will be a chance to show that they have the discipline to handle the seasoned Saints. Ndamukong Suh promised to keep the game from turning into a shootout, but stopping Drew Brees' streak is a tall order. Cincinnati has a shot to show that its dream season was not a fluke.
Can Giants keep up momentum? The Giants' berth in the playoffs was earned with wins over their stadium rival and division rival. Though they have the worst record of any NFC playoff team, both were decisive wins that gave New York momentum. With injuries limiting Osi Umeniyora and Jake Ballard, will New York have enough in the tank for a win over Atlanta?
Is the Broncos' magic gone? Denver astonished the NFL by going on a run of late-in-the-game comebacks, but those heroics ended against the Patriots. They ended the season on a three-game losing streak, and will face the peaking and experienced Pittsburgh Steelers. Will Tim Tebow and Company be able to win again?
Which quarterback will shine in Houston? Andy Dalton gave the Bengals the spark to get to the postseason, but now he has the flu. T.J. Yates kept the Texans alive after Matt Schaub went down with an injury, but now he has a separated shoulder. Both men are expected to play, but which one will be able to forget his infirmities to bring his team to a win?
Will the Falcons win the big game? Mike Smith and Matt Ryan have a record in Atlanta of 43-21 over four seasons, but no playoff wins. This time, Ryan has a deep receiving corps and is playing against the third-worst passing defense in the league. Will that be enough for the Falcons to remove the playoff monkey from their back, or will they continue to be a team that is good, but ... ?
Don't like these storylines? Tell us what you are watching for in the comments or on Facebook.
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