It would be no surprise if the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints or New England Patriots made it to the big dance in Indianapolis. After all, they were the best teams during the regular season. However, every year there are unsuspecting teams that can pull off an upset and ride that momentum deep into the playoffs.
The most recent examples are the 2007 New York Giants, 2008 Arizona Cardinals and last season’s Packers. Let take a look at some teams that might make some noise and give the title favorites a run for their money if they can make it into the tournament.
The Cincinnati Bengals are currently in the sixth seed and will take on the Baltimore Ravens in the final game of the regular season. If Cincinnati holds on to that spot, they will be slated to face the Houston Texans in the AFC Wild-Card round. This would be a rematch of Week 14, where Houston won on a last-second touchdown reception by Kevin Walter. If the Bengals can beat the Ravens this week, they’ll be heading into the playoffs riding a three-game win straight while providing rookie QB Andy Dalton with a world of confidence.
Even though the Bengals lost to the Texans, they match up well with Houston. Unless T.J. Yates shows marked improvement in his passing, the Bengals will only need to focus on stopping Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Houston is ranked second in total defense, so the Bengals will need someone other than A.J. Green or Cedric Benson to step up.
Overall, the Bengals have a defense to keep them in games. They’re third in sacks and are stout against the run (96.9 rushing yards per game). Their underrated defensive line can put pressure on Yates or any quarterback they see in the playoffs. With a strong defense and promising quarterback-receiver combo, the Bengals could make some noise in the playoffs.
As for the NFC, the New York Giants will be the team to fear if they defeat Dallas this week. Over the course of his eight-year career, Eli Manning has proven to be a top-tier quarterback, recording 19 fourth quarter comebacks and 23 game-winning drives. While the Giants are no longer a dominant rushing team, they have made up for that weakness with the addition of Victor Cruz. Now, they are a more explosive team with three quality receivers that can spread the field. New York’s potential opponents (Atlanta/Detroit) will have a hard slowing down that passing attack.
The Giants’ secondary is susceptible to giving up big plays if their front-seven does not pressure the quarterback. It will be vital for Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora to perform at their best on every snap. If the G-Men want to make another Super Bowl run, the defensive line will be the key factor in taking them there.
Neither the Bengals and Giants have season records that are nothing to write home about, but if they get into the tournament, a valid argument can be made that they can win their first round game, and after that, anything can happen. While making the Super Bowl is a tall order for either team, stranger things have happened and that is what makes the NFL great on any given Sunday….
At 110 to 1 for the Bengals and 33 to 1 for the Giants, you just might strike gold placing a few widgets on these two teams before they play their Week 17 game.
From time to time we like to recognize our hard working interns by letting them shine in the field they aspire to work in. The article above was contributed by Travis Chan who is doing some fine work for us here at RotoExperts. Congratulations Travis, keep up the great work.