Saturday, January 5th 2013 4:30pm NBC
Reliant Stadium- Houston, Texas
They seemed to be the Bungles of old. Starting the season 0-4 they were easily written off by the quick jerk reactions of those who watch for a living. By all accounts they should have been. Instead they turned an 0-4 start to a wild 10-6 record, ending the season on a 10-2 run behind the arm of Andy Dalton, the hands of super receiver AJ Green, the legs of off season signing BenJarvus Green-Ellis and an oppressive running attack on defense by Geno Atkins. Coming just shy of winning the AFC North (losing the tie breaker to the Ravens) the Bengals are back in the playoffs for the second season in a row. The last time that happened? 1981 and 1982.
Starting off on a tear and being, according to many (myself included) the top team in the NFL for the majority of the year the Texans came in with high expectations. Widely thought that if last year's injury bug hadn't beaten them they'd hoist the Lombardi trophy they were expected to be a dominant force in this year's season. And they were. Until the last month. Losing three of four, their offense sputtering to just 16 points per game, their defense becoming porous allowing over 27 points per game the once high and mighty are suddenly very vulnerable.
The Texans come in as flat as a stabbed tire, losing three of four to close out the year. The Bengals, shedding their Bungles moniker, have won seven of eight going into their first time in back to back playoff appearances since the early 1980's. A floundering Texans defense and sputtering offense have many in Houston worried. They should be worried. From Number One to One and Done for the early Super Bowl favorites and what I long considered the best team in the NFL. The Bengals move on, getting vindication for last years first round ousting.
Madden Says: Bengals 16 Texans 6
I say: Bengals 23 Texans 17
Green Bay Packers
Saturday, January 5th 2013 8:00 NBC
Lambeau Field- Green Bay, Wisconsin
Few could have seen it coming. Adrian Peterson, coming off of a blown out ACL and MCL, came just nine yards shy of the all time single season rushing record at 2,097 yards on the season. Few have had as impressive a comeback from a completely disabled knee in the NFL. Any talk of MVP, and any handing out of MVP, is a joke if he's not at least sharing the award. Without Peterson a previously 3-13 Vikings Squad is back taking in the top of the draft. With his bionic knee the Vikings, with a little help from an anemic Christian Ponder, are in the post season.
That last year's MVP Aaron Rodgers isn't getting a sniff for his work this season is stunning. 4,295 yards passing. Only eight interceptions to go with 39 TDs. The lack of recognition is the sort of thing which lends one a chip for their throwing shoulder. One that just may be enough to overcome a running game that's not dependable and a middle of the pack (no pun) defense. One that is on a mission to add another ring to his fingers. Starting now.
It's all up to Peterson to rule the day. This game comes down to All Day. If he can put up over 200 yards in the Frozen Tundra and have an all out dominating day the Vikings can manage to pull this out. The likelihood of ANOTHER game at or near 200 yards for AD (210 in the first meeting, 199 in the second) is exceedingly unlikely and as such the edge goes to the other MVP player in the fold.
Madden Says: Packers 16 Vikings 13/OT
I Say: Packers 27 Vikings 17
Tomorrow: The Sunday games