Well, here we go, now we're at the business end.
All games on Sky Sports from now on:
9:30PM - CINCINNATI BENGALS @ HOUSTON TEXANS
Repeating the first game of the play-offs last year the Bengals travel to Houston who this time last year achieved their first ever play-off win. Houston were as of 3 weeks ago dead certs as the number #1 AFC team and the play-offs running through their gaff. But the play-off bound Colts made a statement and now Houston find themselves deposited in a game week later at #3. Houston have been on poor form, but they are still pretty good at home, and have survived plenty of scraps this year. Cincinnati are on championship form; their defence has been fantastic recently, but they are one dimensional offensively and Houston's D will be fairly fired up for this. Expect a cagey, low scoring affair, but I think Houston will (just) stop the rot tonight. (HOU by 3)
1AM - MINNESOTA VIKINGS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS
Well last week's game was something close to a classic, one of the games of the season, and this should be no different. Adrian Peterson had a monster day and was just 9 yards shy of Eric Dickerson's season yards record, but more importantly, he carried the team (though Ponder was pretty good too) to the playoffs. So why won't they win again today? Partly because we're outside in Lambeau this time, but also because the Packers rested potential injuries and had less to play for. It should be a fantastic game, and AP will still be hugely effective, but the Pack will get at Ponder a lot more tonight, and conversely, Green Bay have way too many options to get themselves through this. Should be close though (GB by 4-5)
6PM - INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS
Ugh, I'm dreading this one. The Colts have had an incredible, inspirational year. The Ravens, like Houston, started off incredibly strong and then have fallen apart when our Luck (yeah, take it) ran out. The thing is, as great of a year the Colts have been, they are almost like a new team who have just joined the NFL (after moving from Baltimore, again) because Peyton Manning's era was so dominant that it feels the Colts have completely started again. What I mean by this is, THIS Colts team have no idea what the play-offs entail, (though Chuck Pagano has some idea of how Baltimore work) whereas Flacco-Harbaugh have won a play-off game every year they've been in charge AND Baltimore are at home where we just don't lose. Indianapolis are the far more form team and they have lots of young talent,but they are a rookie team; they are useless against the rush and are going against one of the best runners in the game, Luck has turnover issues and has been sacked A LOT, Flacco has a fantastic record in the playoffs and in his last game dismantled the still alive New York Giants at home. Sometimes (lot's of times) games come down to a set of circumstances sometimes outside of individual ability. This is Ray's last stand, and we're doing this for him. (BAL by 3 - yes I'm deluded)
9:30PM - SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS
And now, the game of the weekend. There is so much going on in this game it's a little hard to start. Ultimately this is between two incredible rookie quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III who have had amazing years, but also two very strong, top running backs in Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris, and two of the best defences in the league, though Seattle's is somewhat younger than Washington's veterans D'Angelo Hall and co. This game has everything, and they've both ended the season in spectacular form. This has the potential to be a game for the ages (akin to Saints/Niners last year and Saints/Seahawks the year before that). I think Seattle are the slightly more complete team, so I'm giving them the edge but there's not a whole lot in it, which is why it should make it so damn fascinating. (SEA by 3)
So we are finally here, thoughts? Predictions?