Friday Forecast: Wild-card picks

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
11:00
AM ET
This is Friday Forecast, where we'll see how my predictions hold up against our readers'. This week, I will go against lawdogg1214 (who correctly matched my total points for the Bengals-Texans game). The other reader who qualified, Phat1963, didn't record picks.

Here are our predictions for AFC North games on wild-card weekend:

Jamison Hensley

Texans 24, Bengals 17

Steelers 20, Broncos 6

lawdogg1214

Bengals 24, Texans 17

Steelers 35, Broncos 13

PREDICTION BREAKDOWN

Texans 24, Bengals 17: While most of the attention has been on the rookie quarterbacks, this one will come down to the running game. If the Bengals can stop the run, they win. If they can't -- like the past six games -- they're going to be in trouble. I just can't see Cincinnati patching up that run defense against the likes of Houston's Arian Foster and Ben Tate, both of whom helped the Texans run for 144 yards against the Bengals last month. In the Bengals' past five losses, they've allowed eight rushing touchdowns.

Steelers 20, Broncos 6: Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hobbled by a high ankle sprain. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. And Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey has been out all week with his ankle injury. This is the time where the Pittsburgh defense steps up and takes over the game. Expect the Steelers to force some turnovers (which has been a rare occurrence this season) against Tim Tebow, who has lost five fumbles in his past five games, and keep a team out of the end zone for a third consecutive game. Those takeaways will lead to some easy scoring opportunities for the banged-up offense.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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