We are about to enter wild-card weekend. I am the 2013 NFL Playoffs Insider for Rant Sports and as such I have wild-card weekend game previews up, and wild-card weekend X-factors up. This article is a look at what the top seeds in each Conference are doing this week/weekend.
#1 seed in the AFC, Denver Broncos, will use their time off to get some rest for their 36 year old leader who was marvellous this season despite coming off of multiple neck surgeries. Brock Osweiler threw just four passes in relief of Manning so we know the future Hall Of Famer could use some rest.
Knowshon Moreno is going to use the time off to continue to get healthier and healthier. Moreno is going to have to be the guy to carry the load for the Broncos running game, and they are 7-1 when he plays.
Cornerback Tracy Porter will use the extra time to try to get better from his concussion issues. Chris Harris and Tony Carter have filled in very well, but Porter was added this off-season to be the man in the playoffs.
Whoever the #2 seed New England Patriots play will be a 2012 rematch. Bill Belichick will spend his extra time making things as close to usual as possible. He is a guy who wants things to remain on schedule and on routine.
If the Houston Texans win this weekend then they will head to Gillette Stadium for a week 14 rematch (NE smoked Houston 42-14 at Gillette Stadium). Belichick will have his team studying that game film.
He will also have the defense watching the Baltimore Ravens game film as A) the Ravens won that game 31-30 and B) even if the Texans win, or the Indianapolis Colts beat the Ravens, Belichick will still use that Ravens footage as examples of where his secondary has been beaten badly.
New England hammered the Colts 59-24 in week 11. If the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Texans then the Pats would play the winner of the Indy at Baltimore game.
The #1 seed in the NFC is the Atlanta Falcons. They brought in Mike Nolan to take their defense to a Super Bowl contender level like their offense is. Nolan last coached in a playoff game in 2004, and his defense was ranked just 23rd vs the pass and 21st vs the run so he will spend the extra time trying to clean up a few things on that unit.
The Falcons will play the Minnesota Vikings if the Vikes upset the Green Bay Packers. If the Pack win that game then Hotlanta will host the winner of the Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins game. Any team that the Falcons play next week will either be the #1, #2, or #3 run game in the NFL so Nolan will surely be working on run-defense with his extra time.\
The #2 San Francisco 49ers were in this position last season too. They were off wild-card weekend, and then needed a great finish from their passing game to beat the upset-minded New Orleans Saints 36-32.
Jim Harbaugh will be using his extra time to remind his players that they need to be ready for next weekend and keep them focused. The Niners are not a team that usually believes their own hype. I am sure Harbaugh has them preparing properly, and in particular getting extra time with new quarterback Colin Kaepernick to get him prepared for the biggest time of his early career.
The 49ers are 24-7-1 under Harbaugh, with two different quarterbacks, so I am certain he knows what he is doing with his extra time to prepare his squad.
Perhaps the biggest thing that San Fran can accomplish with their extra time is getting Justin Smith closer and closer to getting over his triceps issue. In the three games since he went down with injury their sack-machine Aldon Smith has zero sacks. These two work in tandem remarkably well so getting Smith healthy enough to play would be massive for San Francisco.
Bengals at Texans game preview is HERE
Vikings at Packers game preview is HERE
Colts at Ravens preview is HERE
Seahawks at Redskins preview is HERE
Wild-card weekend X-factors is HERE
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