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Take the Redskins and feel good about it

Texans, Packers, Ravens good as gold too, NFL fans

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Pro football's wild-card weekend is upon us, and just in time too with the NHL and its players desperately in need of an example of how billionaires and millionaires can co-exist in relative harmony.

That being said, Saturday's first wild-card matchup is an AFC repeat of last year's game, with the Cincinnati Bengals travelling to Houston to play the Texans.

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In researching this contest, I was surprised to discover that the hottest team in the NFL right now is actually the Bengals, as they have won seven of their last eight. I did not realize this because the Cincinnati football franchise is kind of an afterthought in the NFL, and four of these seven wins came against the Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, and Eagles, which impresses no one but the stat line.

Conversely, all the talk in Texas is how the Texans are hobbling into the post-season, having dropped three of their last four.

Well, when you are 11-1, like Houston used to be, it is pretty easy to lose focus. Yet instead of this manifesting with a first-round exit, I'm taking the Texans to regroup at home and play with a greater purpose. The Texans are one of the most well rounded teams in the league and that should propel them to victory over the most irrelevant team in the NFL.

Saturday's NFC tilt will be a repeat of the regular season finale as the Minnesota Vikings will travel to fabled Lambeau field to play Green Bay. The Packers were once one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winning five of their last six until they lost to the Vikings as time expired with a field goal two days ago.

Offensively, Minnesota is not too good outside of running the football, and to no one's surprise their chances on Saturday rest on the shoulders of workhorse Adrian Peterson, who came up nine yards short of putting together the most prolific rushing season of all time.

Both these teams held court in the regular season, winning their respective games against each other at home, and I expect more of the same from Green Bay, a team that always plays better when they have to work for it.

Sunday will see the Indianapolis Colts travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens. Everyone is talking about the emotional edge that the return of head coach Chuck Pagano has brought to the Colts, but that will pale in comparison if Ray Lewis returns to the roster of the Ravens as expected, especially since he has had ample time to come up with a new pre-game address for the ages.

The Colts are not the same Manning-led team we once admired from afar, but they still have the familiar calling cards of a porous defence and an accomplished passing attack.

It is always a gamble to pick a team with a rookie QB that is going on the road, even if his last name is "Luck," so I'm taking Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and the Ravens at home, as long as Ray Lewis plays the entire game.

Lastly, the Seattle Seahawks will travel to Fed Ex Field to play the Redskins on Sunday, in a game where we have no choice but to pick a rookie quarterback to win.

The Redskins have been out of division contention for so long, the last time they actually won the NFC East was when yours truly was playing for them, but back to the upstart quarterbacks.

Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning's rookie record for TD passes this year with 26, but RG3 should win NFL rookie of the year honors with the number of highlight reel plays he has authored.

The Seahawks were the only team to go undefeated at home in the NFL this year, but they have been a completely different team on the road, winning three and losing five.

If the Seahawks have a problem traveling, they could not have been paired to a worse combatant as the Redskins are as East as Eastern teams get, and the 'Hawks are of the Pacific variety. Seattle has the best defence in the NFL, in terms of points surrendered, but I don't think they will be much of a match for a Redskins team that head coach Mike Shanahan has been trying to forge into the mold of his 1998 and '99 Terrell Davis and Jon Elway-led Denver Broncos.

Take Houston, Green Bay, Baltimore, and Washington this weekend, and feel good about it.


Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, usually appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 2, 2013 D4

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