The Weekend Scoop  


Broncos' D up to the task; Falcons slippery when wet


The Viewer's Guide is getting simpler now that the playoffs are here -- you watch all the games! The only thing that could make this weekend better would be a joint Rex Ryan/Boomer Esiason/Mark Sanchez/Santonio Holmes press conference between games! On to the Viewer's Guide.

UPSET OF THE WEEK: Steelers-Broncos. I'm not on the Steelers bandwagon this postseason. I know they look like the Steelers, and act like the Steelers, but they're not the Steelers. They can't run the ball and Rashard Mendenhall's injury cements that. Are they really going to give it to Isaac Redman 20 times? Pittsburgh's only way out is through the air with a gimpy Ben Roethlisberger. His best talent is keeping plays alive long enough to find Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown downfield, but being less than 100 percent is going to make that harder. Throw in the fact they're going against a Denver pass rush that can get to the quarterback makes pulling out a win that much more difficult. Oh my God -- I've written six sentences about the Broncos and I haven't mentioned Tim Tebow yet! Believe it or not, Tebow is not the key to this game, Denver's defense is, and I think they keep it close until late, when Tebow wins it in the fourth quarter with a 98-yard Matt Prater FG.

GAME SOMEONE HAS TO WIN: Bengals-Texans. The Bengals are a great story. They've gotten rid of the negativity and also Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and T.O. They've remade themselves in one season. They're like a wrestler who's been a bad guy for a long time but becomes a good guy because he helped another good guy in trouble during Wrestlemania. I have to be honest: Football-wise, I'm not thrilled about either team. Cincinnati beat no one during the season (Tennessee doesn't count) and backed into the playoffs.

For Houston, I'm going to ask a simple question: Who is their starting quarterback? Is it: a) Tyler Yates, b) T.J. Yates, or, c) W.B. Yeats? The Texans are limited because eventually they'll play against a team with a quarterback who far outdistances Yates and Houston will go home. But for this moment in time, it will ride on the Texans defense, which deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as San Francisco's and Baltimore's. As many strides as Andy Dalton has made, he's still a rookie making his first playoff start. The Bengals defense is no slouch either, but with the Texans at home for its first playoff game, and having the two best players on the field in Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, they'll win a struggle.

LOOK-OUT-FOR-THE-TRAIN-THAT'S-HEADED-YOUR-WAY GAME: Falcons-Giants. Why does no one think the Falcons can win this game? Every expert is on the Giants bandwagon after their win last week against the Cowboys, and yes, I'm one of them. I think this team poses the most danger to the Packers. Eli Manning is having a charmed season, Ahmad Bradshaw is fresh, and I think he has a huge game even though the Falcons defense is pretty good against the run. I'm not as sold on Michael Turner. Yes, he ran for 172 against the Buccaneers last week, but everyone does that -- Tampa Bay allowed a league-worst 156 yards per game on the ground this season. But prior to that, Turner's last game with more than 76 yards was in mid-November. This is not to dismiss Atlanta, but in the end I can't get over a dome team that likes to throw playing outdoors in January, where it's supposed to be 35 degrees and rainy.

GAME THAT COULD SEE 100 POINTS: Lions-Saints. How bad do you feel for the Lions? Their first trip to the playoffs since "Eyes Wide Shut" was in theaters, and they have to pay a visit to the hottest team in football. A team they lost to 31-17 in Week 13. I think this game will see more points for the Lions. If the game were in Detroit, I could see an upset. But New Orleans is just a different team at home. Teams come into the Superdome with a sound defensive plan, but then the game starts, the Saints score, the crowd goes insane, and the opposition loses all sense of what it's supposed to do. It's happened to bottom-feeders and Super Bowl-caliber teams. Remember the first time you went to a nightclub? You were excited, you put on your best clothes and you couldn't stop thinking about all the hot women in sequined short skirts who would be there. Then you arrive, wait 40 minutes outside in the cold, fork over $20 to walk in the door only to find better-looking guys in more expensive clothes, overpriced drinks and no place to sit. You're out of your element and flailing. It will happen to the playoff-newbie Lions.

Jason Smith writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.



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