Here’s where I’d normally open a post by assessing the chances of the Pittsburgh Steelers to win a big game … except that, for the first time in three years, the Steelers get to see the playoffs the same was as the Cleveland Browns do every year (sorry, Hugh!). The wild-card games look pretty competitive, though, and we should be in for a fun afternoon and evening watching the Bengals taking on the slumping Texans in Houston, and the Vikings trying to win two in a row over the Packer in Green Bay.
I still have my Terrible Towel out, though. Wait ’til next year! This year, though, I finished the regular season at 69-36 after going 5-1 on picks in Week 17. Not bad, but now I have to pick every game in the playoffs…
- Bengals at Texans (4:30 pm ET, NBC) – A few weeks ago, this would have been a no-brainer. Houston looked set for a first-round bye after dominating the AFC. Then they lost three of their last four games, including an embarrassing near-rout to Minnesota at home two weeks ago. Cincinnati has only lost once in the last eight weeks, a close one against Dallas at home, but they’ve only really dominated doormat teams like Philadelphia, Oakland, and Kansas City. They had to beat Pittsburgh the road and Baltimore at home to finish the season, though, so I’m giving the edge to the former Bungles in this one. Cincinnati 27, Houston 24.
- Vikings at Packers (8 pm, NBC) – I watched last week’s game and came away impressed with Minnesota’s gut-check performance … at home. They were a different team on the road most of this season, going 3-5 (with that big win in Houston coming late), and Green Bay is a different team at home, too, only losing once in the season opener to San Francisco. They bested Minnesota in Green Bay on December 2nd in a close game, 23-14, even after giving up an 82-yard run to Adrian Peterson. The Pack are too good at home and the Vikes are too mediocre on the road to see Minnesota take two in a row, even with AP running over the Green Bay line. Packers win this one 31-22, and Peterson gets 150 yards.
By the way, Andy Reid got the first new job of the 2013 season yesterday, signing with the Kansas City Chiefs after 14 seasons as head coach at Philadelphia. There are still a half-dozen jobs still open. That job in San Diego looks pretty tasty, especially with Philip Rivers still having top-notch skills and a decent Southern California venue. I’m wondering if that’s attractive enough to bring Bill Cowher out of retirement.