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Saturday's NFL previews, predictions

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Saturday's NFL previews, predictions

Andre Johnson used the whispers saying he'd lost a step and that he'd never again be an elite receiver as motivation, and bounced back this year with a career-high 1,598 yards receiving. Now he's looking to do more as the Texans prepare for their Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals.


World-Herald NFL editor John Rodino breaks down the league's Wild Card matchups.

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AFC wild card

Bengals (10-6) at Texans (12-4)

Time: 3:30 p.m.

TV: NBC

Line: Texans by 4½

Last meeting: Texans won 31-10,Jan. 7, 2012 (AFC wild card)

Lowdown: What do you base a prediction on? If it's trends, the Bengals have been in postseason mode longer, clinching their berth Dec. 23 in a squeaker against the Steelers. They followed by beating the playoff-bound Ravens, another division rival. The Texans, on the other hand, clinched a playoff spot a month ago but have dropped three of their past four games — and laid an egg against the Colts last Sunday to drop from the top AFC seed to No. 3. Otherwise, these are surprisingly similar teams with highly ranked defenses. Rising young tackle Geno Atkins anchors the Bengals' tough front seven. Texans end J.J. Watt led the NFL in sacks. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green were rookies when the Texans bounced them from the tournament a year ago. And, finally, a gray area: Backup quarterback T.J. Yates directed that Houston win when Matt Schaub was injured. Schaub is ready for Saturday. Can his team flip the switch back on?

Prediction: Bengals 23-20

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NFC wild card

Vikings (10-6) at Packers (11-5)

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: NBC

Line: Packers by 7½

Last meeting: Vikings won 37-34 on Sunday

Lowdown: The Vikings have won four straight and seem like a different team since their Dec. 2 loss to the Packers. Adrian Peterson gouged Green Bay for 210 yards in that one and 199 more in Sunday's rematch that vaulted Minnesota into a wild card. Quarterback Christian Ponder has stepped it up, and he's building a connection with wide receiver Jarius Wright. The downfield passing game has been a weakness, especially with Percy Harvin injured. The Packers' defense had been making strides until last weekend and played a role in a 9-1 stretch that won the NFC North. The Packers have used five running backs — DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant are the healthiest ones — and hope leading receiver Randall Cobb (ankle) can rejoin Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson in the lineup. Vikings defensive stars Chad Greenway and Jared Allen have to disrupt Aaron Rodgers and avoid getting into a shootout at Lambeau Field. If it comes down to field goals, Vikings rookie Blair Walsh has been excellent and the Packers' Mason Crosby shaky.

Prediction: Packers 27-21

Compiled by John Rodino Last week: 11-5. Final regular season: 168-88 (.656)

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