Breaking down the NFL, it’s wild-card weekend

Manning is sort of clutch in the postseason.

Matchup

Bengals (9-7) at Texans (10-6)
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. (NBC)

The Scoop

Defense and defense
Texans finished second in yards allowed (285.7) and fourth in points (17.4). Meanwhile, Bengals ranked seventh in yards (316.2) and points (20.2). Expect Houston to rely heavily on NFL’s second-best ground game.

Player to Watch

Andy Dalton, QB, CIN
Rookie of the Year candidate if not for Cam Newton. Dalton, recovering from flu-like symptoms, is the first rookie signal-caller taken outside of the first round to start all 16 games and make the postseason.

Matchup

Falcons (10-6) at Giants (9-7)
Sunday, 1 p.m. (FOX)

The Scoop

Giant expectations
Which Giants team shows up? The one that lost four straight in the heart of the season? Or the one that won its last two to get in? In NY, they’re talking about Eli Manning dialing up that 2007-08 Super Bowl magic. We’ll buy in — for a round.

Player to Watch

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NY
On a Giants team loaded with elite pass-rushers, Pierre-Paul is emerging as their most disruptive. The second-year pro had 16.5 sacks on the season, with six in his final four games. And it doesn’t hurt having Justin Tuck on other side

Matchup

Steelers (12-4) at Broncos (8-8)
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. (CBS)

The scoop

Respect the logo
Steelers could have been the AFC’s No. 2 seed, if not for two losses to BALT. They enter banged-up — RB Rashard Mendenhall is out — but their defense, No. 1 overall (8th vs. run, 1st vs. pass), should carry them. 

Player to Watch

Tim Tebow, QB, DEN
After going 7-1 as the starter initially, the “winner” has struggled recently throwing four picks and coughing it up three times as Denver backed its way in after losing three straight.

Matchup

Lions (10-6) at Saints (13-3)
Saturday, 8 p.m.

The scoop

The Big Easy factor
Lions put up a fight early in the teams’ Dec. 4 meeting, a 31-17 Saints win. But Drew Brees and Co. are clicking on all cylinders now. Besides, they enter unbeaten at home, including a 4-0 night-game record — beating opponents by an average of 41-16.



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