MINNESOTA (+7.5) AT GREEN BAY
Adrian Peterson finished 8 yards shy of tying Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. That’s not where the story ends however. Eric Dickerson still holds the single playoff game rushing record of 248 yards on January 4, 1986 in a 21-0 Rams victory over the Cowboys. Peterson’s Vikings are 1-2 in his 3 playoff games. He has rushed 71 times for 268 yards (3.77 yards/carry) and 5 touchdowns in those games. Far from legendary, but not terrible. He has 409 yards rushing in two games against Green Bay this season and will need a similar effort it would seem to give the Vikes a shot at the road win. The outcome of the game is somewhat out of AD’s control, but his impact on the game isn’t. I know we think of quarterbacks first as far as wins and losses are concerned, but some running backs are thought of first for their excellent postseason game(s). Emmitt Smith, Terrell Davis, Larry Csonka, and Franco Harris spring to mind. Peterson isn’t exactly in need of good publicity right now, but it would be nice to think of him as an MVP performer come playoff time too.
As for the game, I think it hinges on Minnesota’s pass rush. The Vikings sacked Aaron Rodgers 5 times last week and 2 times in the loss at Lambeau earlier this year. Jared Allen and company must pressure Rodgers to throw him out of rhythm. Christian Ponder is at a crossroads as he must protect the ball, but needs to continue to press the ball down field like he did last week so the Vikes can have balance in their offense.
In the end, the Vikings were playing last week like a playoff game with so much at stake. On the road, I can’t help but think there will be a little let down emotionally. And Aaron Rodgers is really, really good.
* Joe Webb starting terrifies me. Not sure why everyone is talking him up. That changes my pick…
SEATTLE (-3.5) AT WASHINGTON
The Seahawks boast the top defense in the NFL, allowing only a little over 15ppg. The secondary will devour the Redskins fragile wide receivers, and a gimpy Robert Griffin III will have no where to run. Marshawn Lynch will have a big day, and Russell Wilson will beat the Skins blitz with some big plays.
CINCINNATI (+4.5) AT HOUSTON
All the numbers and analytics point to the Texans. What those numbers don’t account for is a defense giving up 26.9ppg over their last 7 games compared to just 15.9 over their first 9 games and an offense that has converted just 32% of 3rd downs in their last 7 versus 46% in their first 9 games. Matt Schaub has come under fire as well, sacked 13 times in the last 4 games. The Bengals front 7 will slow down Foster and pressure Schaub, and Andy Dalton will pick apart the Texans will underneath passes and hit AJ Green with some downfield throws in a road win.
INDIANAPOLIS (+6.5) AT BALTIMORE
Chuck Pagano will hear a loud ovation from the Ravens faithful, which will be touching, but that might be the high water mark for the overachieving Colts in this one. Look for Joe Flacco to have a big day throwing the ball, in particular watch the tight ends Dennis Pita and Ed Dickson. The Colts were an amazing -12 in turnover differential this year, and I believe the Ed Reed vs. Andy Luck matchup on deep passes (Luck threw down field more than any QB in the NFL this year) will be fascinating to watch. In the end, Ray Lewis will not lose his last home game.