2012 NFL Wild Card Picks and Predictions From WhatIfSports.com image

2012 NFL Wild Card Picks and Predictions

NFL Wild Card box scores and stats included

By Joel Beall and Ryan Fowler - WhatIfSports.com
January 1, 2013

Each Tuesday, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.

The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.

To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2012 NFL season.

Check out our 2012 NFL Season-to-Date page to follow our accuracy week-to-week and find Locks and Upsets of the Week.

Gridiron Dynasty - College Football Game

AFC Wild Card: Bengals at Texans

By: Joel Beall

For the Bengals, it's deja vu all over again.

Cincinnati secured a wild-card berth for the second straight season, and for the second consecutive year, the team takes on the Texans in Houston. Though such accomplishments might not seem especially noteworthy, it's the first time in 30 years that the Queen City franchise achieved such feats. Up next for the Who Deys: secure their first postseason win since 1990.

If the Bengals hope to attain this objective, the play of Andy Dalton will need to elevate. Judging by the stat sheet, the Red Rifle vastly improved in his sophomore campaign, enhancing his accuracy, yards, and end-zone excursions. Regrettably, this sentiment was not apparent in the final month of the season, as Dalton averaged just 180 aerial yards per game in December with six touchdowns and seven turnovers. Cincinnati still went 4-1 in that time period, and wins are really the only figure that matter to quarterbacks. Alas, the Bengals were winning despite Dalton's play, not because of it.

Fortunately for Marvin Lewis, his defense, engineered by mastermind Mike Zimmer, has been the best unit in the conference in the second half of the season. With a formidable front four, featuring Pro Bowler Geno Atkins, the Bengals have been suffocating opposing signal callers into rushed and ill-advised decisions. This force has been transparent on the scoreboard, as all of the Bengals' final eight opponents failed to surpass 21 points.

Scoring hasn't been a problem for the Texans this season. Armed with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Houston is just one of eight attacks to average 26 or more points in 2012. Most of these trips to pay dirt have come from the legs of Arian Foster. The two-time All-Pro led the league with 15 terrain touchdowns, and added another two scores in the receiving game. Though his production on the ground slightly slowed in the final two months, Foster still averaged 89 rushing yards per game, second-best mark in the AFC. As Foster goes, so goes the Houston offense.

Such a statement may seem to discount the contributions of quarterback Matt Schaub. Certainly the Houston field general has had his moments, most notably his record-setting performance of 527 yards and five touchdowns versus the Jaguars in Week 11. Yet, subtract this outing, as well as a four-score assault on the Broncos in Week 3, and Schaub is left with a meager 13 touchdowns in the other 14 games of 2012. Andre Johnson remains one of the most lethal wideouts in professional pigskin, and Owen Daniels has overcome an array of injuries to become an elite receiving tight end, but the Houston air onslaught is more terrifying in reputation than veracity.

This attitude also applies to the Houston defense. Through the first 11 games on the season, J.J. Watt and company appeared to be an unstoppable force, destroying all that stepped into their path. The same could not be said of the team's play in the past month, as adversarial air strikes have had their way with the Texans, with the secondary suddenly becoming susceptible. The return of Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph to full health should lighten the load. Nevertheless, what once was considered a shut-down squad enters the postseason as a question mark.

So who comes out on top in this playoff rematch? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Texans win the battle 62.3 percent of the time by an average margin of 27-22.

AFC Wild Card: Bengals at Texans
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Cincinnati Bengals37.722Boxscore
@ Houston Texans62.327Simulate Game

AFC Wild Card: Colts at Ravens

By: Joel Beall

Hosting a playoff game is usually reason for rejoicing in the NFL. Yet for a team that's reached January play for the fifth consecutive year, all is not right in the world of the Baltimore Ravens.

John Harbaugh's crew comes limping into the postseason, losing four of their last five contests. Worse, the Ravens weren't exactly strong in showings against a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers in Week 11 (13-10 win) and a pedestrian Chargers squad in Week 12 (16-13 OT victory), with the latter needing star running back Ray Rice converting a miraculous 4th-and-29 desperation play to save Baltimore. The lack of offensive cohesiveness led to the firing of coordinator Cam Cameron, an almost unheard-of move for a team leading their division.

Though Cameron's play-calling was suspect, the real culprit of Baltimore's uninspired play lies under center. Joe Flacco failed to illustrate signs of progression in his fifth season as the Ravens signal caller, still displaying a propensity of inaccuracy and ill-timed interceptions. Entering free agency this offseason, another disappointing display from the Delaware product could indicate the end of his tenure in Maryland.

While Flacco's residency may be ending, the Andrew Luck Era is off to an auspicious start in Indianapolis. With major expectations as the No. 1 overall pick, as well as the quarterback heir to a certain field general that now calls Denver home, Luck managed to exceed this amplified outlook, leading the Colts to an 11-5 record. Luck is not without fallacy, as he posted a disconcerting 23 turnovers, yet for a neophyte arm, the Horseshoe faithful have to be excited about the early returns from their new franchise face.

Not that Luck has been alone in this endeavor. Perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne proved there's still some gas left in his tank, submitting over 100 receptions for 1,355 yards. Wayne was complemented by the fledgling T.Y. Hilton, who found the end zone six times in the last two months. Add in the emergence of rusher Vick Ballard, who averaged over 77 yards on the ground in December, and Indianapolis is an offense not to be trifled with.

Opposing this assault will be a rejuvenated Ravens defense. Baltimore's resistance is usually perceived as one of the league's best, but this season, the unit was more bark than bite, as injuries to Lardarius Webb, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs translated to a middling performance. Luckily for the Ravens, the return of their venerable leader Lewis this week instantly adds credibility to the depleted crew. Throw in a raucous home-field crowd, and Luck and the Colts offense will have their hands full on Sunday.

So who emerges victorious and keeps their Lombardi Trophy aspirations alive? According to the WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Ravens come out on top 53.2 percent of the time by an average margin of 24-22.

AFC Wild Card: Colts at Ravens
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Indianapolis Colts46.822Boxscore
@ Baltimore Ravens53.224Simulate Game

Gridiron Dynasty - College Football Game

NFC Wild Card: Vikings at Packers

By: Ryan Fowler

I've heard it. You've heard it. My mom's even heard it.

The NFL is now a quarterback league.

Well, then how in the heck did the Minnesota Vikings reach the playoffs with the second-worst pass offense in the league (171.9 yard/game)?

Excuse the cliché, but it was truly a tale of two seasons. Christian Ponder carried the load the first six games, while Adrian Peterson and his bionic knee ran over opposing defenses the final 10 weeks.

The Vikings began the season 4-2 with Ponder averaging 239 passing yards with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions. In the 10 games that followed, Ponder passed for 239 or more yards only once (vs. Tampa Bay) with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. During that same 10-game stretch, Peterson flipped a switch, including eight straight games where he rushed for 108 or more yards. ADP wound up averaging a ridiculous 159.8 rush yards per game the final 10 contests of the season.

The Vikings defense finished 16th in total yards allowed and 14th in points allowed per game.

As for Green Bay, the Packers dealt with a slew of injuries on both sides of the ball throughout the 2012 season, but as long as Aaron Rodgers is standing upright, the team is in good hands.

With Greg Jennings banged up for most of the season and Jordy Nelson hobbled because of a hamstring injury toward the end, Randall Cobb emerged as Rodgers' favorite target in 2012 with 80 receptions (104 targets) for 954 yards and eight touchdowns. Oddly, James Jones finished the regular season as the league leader in touchdown receptions with 14.

The Packers managed to contain Ponder in their first meeting (41.9 QB rating), which ended in a 23-14 win at Lambeau Field. They failed to hold the second-year quarterback in check Week 17. Ponder finished with 234 passing yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions. The bottom line remains that ADP can carry 99 percent of the workload and the Packers can still win, but they must apply pressure on Ponder and force him into some bad throws.

We simulated the Packers and Vikings 501 times and it's the Packers winning 56.0 percent of the time by an average score of 23-22.

NFC Wild Card: Vikings at Packers
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Minnesota Vikings44.022Boxscore
@ Green Bay Packers56.023Simulate Game

NFC Wild Card: Seahawks at Redskins

By: Ryan Fowler

This season's rookie quarterback class has dominated on the field as well as the Monday morning headlines. Two members of the NFL's freshman quarterback class square off in this Wild Card matchup.

However, as great as Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have been, it's Washington's rookie running back, Alfred Morris, I'd like to focus on for a second.

For those who dabble in fantasy football leagues, Week 17 Morris showcased to casual NFL fans what fantasy football owners knew all along: this rookie can play some ball. More impressive than his 33 carries for 200 yards with three touchdowns against the Cowboys has been the consistency in which Morris ran all season long in a Mike Shanahan backfield (for those who aren't familiar, Shanahan has been known to rotate several running backs in and out during the 16-game stretch). Morris received 20 or more carries in 10 out of the Redskins' 16 games with at least 22 carries in each of the team's last six games. He finished with 76 or more rushing yards in 14 out of 16 games. All this accomplished with RG3, a running quarterback, behind center.

The Redskins lucked out because their 30th-ranked pass defense (281.9 pass yards allowed/game) shouldn't be tested too much as the Seahawks remain rush-first behind Marshawn Lynch (99.4 rypg.) and don't force Wilson to win the game with his arm (184.9 pass yards/game).

Wilson, the defense and special teams helped the team average 32.6 points per game in their five-game winning streak to end the season (finished +167 in point differential). However, they were 8-0 at home and 3-5, with plenty of East coast trips, on the road. Falling short of the NFC West title may cost them in the end.

If you look at the statistical DNA of both squads, the end result should come down to who takes better care of the ball. Imagine that. The Redskins finished +17 in turnover margin, second-best in the NFL, while the Seahawks finished +13, fourth-best in the league.

We simulated the Redskins and Seahawks 501 times and it's the Seahawks winning 53.8 percent of the time by an average score of 18-17.

NFC Wild Card: Seahawks at Redskins
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Seattle Seahawks53.818Boxscore
@ Washington Redskins46.217Simulate Game

Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at rfowler@whatifsports.com.

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