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Sunday’s NFL Playoff Games: Previews and Predictions
The mighty Green Bay Packers will get their chance to take the field for the first time this postseason on Sunday, as they host the New York Giants in the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. The first game of the day pits two stingy defenses against each other, as the Houston Texans face the Baltimore Ravens. Here are previews and predictions for the two Sunday games.
Texans @ Ravens: The Texans, who are in the midst of their first ever trip to the playoffs, are naturally coming off their first playoff victory in franchise history. The story of 3rd-string QB TJ Yates filling in for injured starter Matt Schaub and his replacement Matt Leinart has been a true underdog story, but the real reason for the success of the Texans has been their stingy defense. Led by nationally-unrecognized and blue collar players such as Connor Barwin, JJ Watt, and Brian Cushing, the Texans defense has evolved into one of the league's best this season. On offense, the Texans will need to rely heavily on Arian Foster to have a big game on the ground. Through the air, Yates' primary weapons are Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, although Daniels is coming off an injury and may not be 100%.
Much like the Texans, the Ravens hang their hat on their stingy defense, but Baltimore's defense is known to be even stouter than Houston's with Pro Bowlers Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, and the enforcer Ray Lewis all playing great football this year. On the offensive side of the ball, Joe Flacco will look to mostly hand it off to Ray Rice and occasionally burn the Texans in the passing game by finding Torrey Smith and, if healthy, Anquan Boldin. In what is expected to be a low scoring game, I see the Ravens edging the Texans with the scoreline something like 19-13.
Giants @ Packers: The final game of the divisional round will take place in Titletown, as the New York Giants will brave the Frozen Tundra to battle the Green Bay Packers. The Giants' offense, led by signal caller Eli Manning, has been firing on all cylinders as of late. Victor Cruz is very much the man in form at reciever, while Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs share the load in the ground game. On defense, the Giants defensive line could pose some problems for the Packers with Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul rushing around the outside.
The Packers will certainly be well rested coming in to this one, as Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, Bryan Bulaga, and James Starks all did not play the past two weekends (rested versus Lions then had the bye week). One of the biggest questions heading into the game is how will the Packers perform on the heels of the recent tragic passing of Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin's son. Assuming the players can overcome that obstacle, another big uncertainty will be Greg Jennings. Returning from a knee injury, Jennings has said publicly that his knee feels great. However, he still has not played at full speed in weeks and could be a tiny bit slower than usual. When push comes to shove, I expect the Packers to take down the Giants in an offensive shootout, 48-41.
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