Finley to find the end zone

  • By: David John (Twitter: @SLifeDaveJohn)
  • Last Updated: January 6 2013, 14:42 GMT

David John previews Saturday's NFL wild card games and thinks Jermichael Finley can score a touchdown for Green Bay.

Finley: Playing some great football currently

Cincinnati at Houston (2130 GMT Saturday)

If you are getting a feeling of deja vu about this one then you would be right as these two met at the exact same time 12 months ago.

Followers of Betting Zone will be rooting for the Texans as they were one of our outright picks for the Super Bowl back in September at 12/1 but they have rather backed into the post-season.

Having been virtually favourites all year and in pole position to take the number one seeding, Gary Kubiak's team posted a 1-3 finish to the regular campaign and they now trade at a best price of 16s having lost much of that early swagger and dominance as the likes of Denver and New England finished much the stronger in the AFC.

A win from either of their last two games would still have been good enough to give them a bye week and home advantage but they still were unable to achieve that. It is a worrying general malaise which is usually found out at an early stage of proceedings at this time of year.

That said, this is a team full of veterans who are still talking up their chances of a deep run through the play-offs and a clean slate with a "win and you're in mentality" may just be what they require to refocus their efforts.

The Texans will need to find their rhythm again on offense while this will be a step into the unknown for quarterback Matt Schaub as he missed last season's games at this stage with a foot injury.

Despite all the issues over recent weeks, the layers still make them 4.5-point favourites to sweep aside the Bengals as they did last year.

The latter are making their first consecutive appearance in the play-offs since 1981-82 and are finally beginning to hold their own in the AFC North against main rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Quarterback Andy Dalton threw three interceptions in this game in 2012 - one was returned for a touchdown - but he and his team-mates feel he has matured greatly since then and is ready to take this second opportunity.

The key for the visitors will be stopping the run and a very effective front four on the defensive line look well up to the task.

That in turn should put extra pressure in the face of Schaub, who has been hurried plenty over the past month having taken 12 sacks compared to just 15 over the previous 12 games.

And that could be where the best bet of the game lies. These are two fundamentally-sound defenses playing two offenses that can struggle - we have documented the problems of Houston while Dalton's top target AJ Green has been limited to under 60 yards in two meetings against this rival.

The game finished 31-10 in favour of Houston last year but I can't see it being anywhere near as comfortable for either - expect a clash dominated by the defensive side of the ball and go under to the total points line of 43.5.

Minnesota at Green Bay (0100 GMT Sunday)

These two met as recently as week 17 in a game of huge significance for both and it was the Vikings who came out on top to earn a swift rematch.

A must-win fourth straight success got them into the play-offs while defeat for the Packers in the Twin Cities saw them lose the chance to wrap the NFC's second seed and earn themselves a bye.

So the duo move on to an icy Lambeau Field for a chilly night encounter in Wisconsin with bookmakers predicting revenge for Green Bay (7.5-point favourites) back on their own manor.

Their home-field advantage in winter has been whittled away though over recent seasons. Prior to 2001, they were 13-0 at home in play-off games but have lost four of their last six so the Vikings will certainly have some optimism.

But how long will they be able to ride the runaway train that is Adrian Peterson, who has just about carried the offense on his back all season?

He has an incredible 409 yards rushing against Green Bay in their last two meetings and stopping him will be the latter's number one priority as they meet for a third time within 35 days.

Their hopes will be boosted by the return of Charles Woodson in the secondary and if Peterson's effectiveness can be limited, it would leave Minnesota requiring inconsistent quarterback Christian Ponder to try to win the game with a rather insipid passing attack.

Conversely, opposite number Aaron Rodgers could have a full complement of receivers on the field for the first time since September and the damage he could do with an increased number of downfield options is frightening.

He, his team-mates and coaching staff have shrugged off last week's minor setback and you get the distinct impression they are looking forward to exacting some revenge in front of their own fans.

Conditions will be frigid - ideal Packers football - and unlike Houston, I have more confidence that this particular pre-season tip for the Super Bowl will get the job done and progress to the divisional round.

In terms of a bet, uber-talented tight end Jermichael Finley has not always had his head in the game for the Packers but he is playing some of his best football right now in a strong finish over final three weeks of the regular season.

He has just two touchdown catches all year but Rodgers seems to be increasingly confident in going to him (18 catches for 203 yards since week 15) and it will only be a matter of time in this one before he zips a pass to him in the end zone.

  • The preview for Sunday's Wild Card games will be available on Saturday.

  • Preview posted at 1210 GMT on 04/01/2013.