NFL Weekly Predictions: Wild Card

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Cincinnati @ Houston (-4½)

With a chance to lock up the AFC's top-seed, the Texans folded in a 28-16 loss in Indianapolis. Houston tumbled to the third seed in the AFC, and will face the surging Bengals.

"Many naysayers thought we would be the first No. 1 seed to fall," Gary Kubiak said. "Well, they were wrong. As they say, 'Everything's bigger in Texas.' And that includes the nooses.

"But we'll have to make do with what we have. Not only is that the No. 3 seed, it's also Matt Schaub. Matt's been slumping lately, and his struggles seem to have coincided with taking a foot to the groin on Thanksgiving Day. And people need to understand that. 'ChuckStrong' bracelets raise awareness for cancer; 'Matt'sDong' bracelets raise awareness for quarterbacks who have been kicked in the balls."

With a playoff spot wrapped up, the Bengals were able to rest several starters in last week's 23-17 win over Baltimore. The Bengals met the Texans at Reliant Stadium in last year's wildcard game, won by Houston, 31-10.

"We owe the Texans," Marvin Lewis said. "Not for beating us last year, but for keeping us from playing in New England.

"The key to our success is keeping J.J. Watt away from Andy Dalton. Watt led the league in sacks with 20.5, as opposed to Ndamukong Suh, who led the league in nut sacks, with one."

Watt doesn't kick a Bengal in the balls; on the contrary, he kicks the Texans in the ass, with a stirring pre-game speech that incites the home team, particularly the defense, to get their head out of their ass."

Watt sacks Dalton twice, deflects a pass, and forces one fumble. Schaub throws for 2 scores, and Arian Foster rushes for 112 yards and a score.

Houston wins, 27-16.

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-9½)

The Vikings earned the NFC's last playoff spot with a thrilling 37-34 win over the Packers last week, winning on Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal as time expired.

"This game could again come down to the kickers," Leslie Frazier said. "That's where we have the edge. Walsh has been a godsend for the Vikings. On the other hand, Mason Crosby is the Packers' 'miss-iah.'

"Adrian Peterson has rushed for 409 yards in two games versus Green Bay this year. I see no reason not to rely on him again. Obviously, Dom Capers didn't learn anything from the first game. It's a case of 'Dom and Dom-er.' If I didn't know better, I'd say Dom Deluise was calling the shots for the Pack defense."

Instead of a first-round bye, the Packers again face the unenviable task of stopping Peterson, who powered through the Green Bay defense for 195 yards last week.

"Peterson may have rushed for 195," Clay Matthews said, "but he didn't get Eric Dickerson's record. To 'All Day,' we said 'Not Today.' That is what the Green Bay defense has become — we consider holding a running back to 195 yards a 'success.'

"The Vikings may have Peterson, but we have Aaron Rodgers. He's the NFL's reigning MVP, as well as a spokesman for State Farm. Aaron's really taken an interest to State Farm. He's not guaranteeing victory over the Vikings, he's insuring it. When fans ask for an autograph, Aaron just signs his first name and says he's an 'underwriter.' If you ask him for a sound bite, he'll give you a good 'quote.'"

Peterson will get his yards, mostly between the 20's, and the Packers will force Ponder to make the tough throws in the red zone. That's when it all falls apart for the Vikes. It's January, in the playoffs, at Lambeau Field. One doesn't need to "Ponder" that long to see the likely outcome.

Green Bay wins, 31-19.

Indianapolis @ Baltimore (-6½)

The AFC North champion Ravens host Andrew Luck and the fifth-seeded Colts, with the winner likely facing the top-seeded Broncos. Indy tuned up for the playoffs with a 28-16 win over South rival Houston last week.

"Despite it being meaningless game," Luck said, "we treated last week's game with the Texans like it was a playoff game. Apparently, the Texans did too, because they lost.

"Joe Flacco calls himself an 'elite' quarterback. He's better than elite; he's 'one of a kind,' because he's the only person than calls Joe Flacco 'elite.'"

The Ravens have numerous injury issues, particularly on defense, but may have Ray Lewis in the lineup on Sunday. Lewis has not played since tearing his triceps on October 14th.

"Seventeen years of spastic pre-game dances finally caught up to me," Lewis said. "Trust me, it really pains me when I can't play. I never wanted to be compared to FOX's Tony Siragusa, but, unfortunately, I'm just taking up space on the sideline.

"Hopefully, my retirement announcement will spur the team to a long playoff run. I'm known league-wide for big hits, but this is the biggest impact I've made in the NFL in years."

Luck threw 18 interceptions during the regular season. That's about one per game. And it's one that will cost the Colts dearly in Baltimore. With the Colts in Baltimore territory in the fourth quarter, Ed Reed grabs a deflected pass and races towards the end zone, plowing through Luck on the way. Reed finds pay dirt, and a $50,000 fine for roughing the passer, waiting for him in the end zone.

Baltimore wins, 34-17.

Seattle @ Washington (+1)

The 11-5 Seahawks are the NFC's fifth seed and have beaten three playoff teams this season. In the year of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has been equally impressive, and tied Peyton Manning's rookie record with 26 touchdown passes.

"This Seattle team reminds me a lot of my 2005 NCAA championship team at USC," Pete Carroll said. "We're young, motivated, and on a payroll.

"Russell has been brilliant this year, and so has our defense. But we haven't seen anything like Griffin this year. When I told my defense that they could expect to be 'tested' on Sunday, they panicked. Some have already filed appeals.

"Despite rumors to the contrary, my team is not a bunch of dopers, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin is not a dealer of PEDs, hence the mistakenly-applied nickname 'Performance-Enhancing Doug.'"

The Redskins won the NFC East with a 28-18 win last Sunday over Tony Romo and the Cowboys. Washington has won seven straight, and are looking for their first playoff win since 2006.

"Jim Haslett devised a great game plan to confuse Romo," Mike Shanahan said. "It involved a great deal of blitzing. We knew that if we put Romo 'under pressure,' he would provide the 'crack.' However, Romo surely won't be charged with possession … of a career-defining victory. He's certainly 'not black enough'; he's a 'cracker.'

"RG3 basked in the afterglow of glory after Sunday night's game, and it lasted well into the next day. It was far from a 'Black Monday' for Robert. In fact, ESPN talking head case Rob Parker said it was more like a 'Not Black Enough Monday.'"

Like the 'Skins, the Seahawks can run, they can pass, and have a quarterback with mobility. Unlike Washington, Seattle has an overpowering defense with the speed to contain Griffin, and the muscle to stop Alfred Morris.

Seattle wins, 27-21.

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