NFL Playoff Predictions: The Wild-Card Round

Published: Jan 04, 2014 03:51am EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Jan 04, 2014 @ 05:21am EST

 

The first round of the NFL playoffs begins in earnest today and we here at Konsume Sports take our playoff football seriously. So much so that we’re willing to put ourselves out there by making our picks and then backing those selections up. Here is the Konsume Sports staff Wild-Card round predictions and musings.

*Home team denoted by all CAPS and winning team in bold

Lance Rinker

COLTS over Chiefs

Neither of these teams has me convinced that they are good enough to make deep playoff runs, but the Chiefs have struggled over their last seven games of the season. Against some of the higher scoring offenses in the league the Chiefs defense has proven they can't necessarily handle that much heat and Alex Smith isn't the type of quarterback that can help you win in a shootout. 

The Colts on the other hand are about average across the board and greatly benefited by playing in the weakest division in the NFL, although the NFC East is a close second. However, the Colts will be able to take advantage of a Chiefs secondary that has had their fair share of struggles against the deep ball and a line-backing core that has been unable to consistently apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks. 

Saints over EAGLES

This has the potential to be a serious shootout, although I have my reservations about picking the Saints to beat the Eagles in Philly and in unfavorable weather conditions, because of how horrible the Eagles secondary is. It ranks near the bottom of the league according to Pro-Football Focus and they are very soft up the middle. I still believe the Cowboys could have beaten them had they abused them more up the middle. With Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham I think they can take advantage of the weak secondary, and with a little creativity on the ground I believe the Saints can keep them guessing by running it up the gut every so often. 

BENGALS over Chargers

On paper this is a game the Bengals should win by a comfortable margin. They have one of the best offensive lines in all of football, Andy Dalton typically has all day to complete his passes, they have a solid receiving core, solid running game, and there's really no reason for them not to be able to win this game. In the Chargers they get a team with one of the four most foul defenses in football, especially defending the pass. The Chargers have a punchers chance to beat the Bengals because of Philip Rivers and a passing attack that can't really be slowed down, but the Bengals should still win by a hefty margin.

49ers over PACKERS

Here is the game I'm most looking forward to this weekend. A lot is being made about the weather conditions in Green Bay for this game, we're talking wind chill as low as -40 degrees and a high of maybe 10 degrees without the wind. Packers players were asked for their thoughts about the weather and the Niners coming to town and most just smiled, which tells you how they feel about it. They are confident they have the advantage but I'm not convinced.

The way the Niners are built, I don't believe the weather will impact their game plan much at all. They have a very physical, power-rushing attack and a quarterback that can roll out of the pocket and pick up a first down here or there when he gets in trouble. Further complicating matters for the Packers is that they can't stop the run, even if San Francisco let them, and they can't rush the passer. In a game that is likely to be a low-scoring affair, all about ground-and-pound, field position, and time of possession I just can't see the Packers pulling this off - even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. 

Shaun Merritt

Chiefs over COLTS

The Colts beat the Chiefs already once this year but Kansas City is coming into the game with fresh legs and Andy Reid will use Jamaal Charles to control the pace of the game. Look for this one to go back and forth.  

Saints over EAGLES

Nick Foles has the Eagles offense running on all four cylinders, but Drew Brees will have the Saints scoring too fast for them to keep up. 

BENGALS over Chargers 

Cincy's top ranked defense will be too much for San Diego to deal with.

49ers over PACKERS

Both teams will play to their strengths and this will be the closest match up of the week. SF will keep the ball on the ground by feeding Frank Gore the ball non-top. 

John Langley

COLTS over Chiefs

Chiefs are a team that could sneak a win in here, and the Colts are the team that could give one away, but the Colts have a bit too much on offense and have enough defensively to win a pretty close game.

Chargers over BENGALS

I may be speaking with my heart here, and not my brain, but I do not trust Andy Dalton. He cannot continue to throw interceptions and expect to beat playoff teams. He got lucky last week, but if they want to win, they will need him to play better, and more consistently.

EAGLES over Saints

Tough to bet against Drew Brees, but after the way this team played down the stretch, coughing up the division to the Panthers, it is tough to bet on them right now, especially heading to Philly. It will be a close game, but the Eagles edge them at home.

PACKERS over 49ers

This is a complete shot in the dark, but my gut tells me that the Packers, in the extremely cold weather, find a way to win this game. They may not be the better team, and nine times out of ten, the 49ers should win this matchup, but if the Packers find a way to contain Colin Kaepernik, that could spell trouble for the niners.

Mike Owen

COLTS over Chiefs

In what might be the best game of the weekend, these 2 teams stack up pretty evenly from a statistical standpoint.  Coming into the Wild Card Round the Colts have won 3 straight while KC finished the season losing 5 of 7 after a 9-0 start. 

Many will say that KC should win since they had the toughest road to the playoffs by being in the surprisingly tough AFC West, while the Colts went undefeated in the AFC South, what may have been the easiest conference in the league. 

The reality is that the Chiefs had the benefit of playing a last place schedule (.445 Strength of Schedule – 32nd) in the league) but the Colts played a 1st place schedule (.484 SOS – 22nd). KC was 1-5 against playoff teams in 2013 while the Colts went 3-2 against playoff teams with convincing wins over San Francisco, Denver and KC.

In the end, between having more talent at skill positions both offensively and defensively, plus being at home, the Colts play one more week and win this one by less than a Touchdown.

Saints over EAGLES

In one of the tougher games to call this post season I could go either way on this one.  While the Saints are not particularly good on the road (3-5), the Eagles are not particularly good at home (13-19 since 2010, 4-4 in 2013).  This game will come down to coaching & game planning, while the weather can play a major role in both.  In my opinion rookie Head Coach Chip Kelly showed his ability to make adjustments at the half in a mid December matchup against Detroit in blizzard conditions.  In the 1st half of that game he stubbornly forced a passing game to an 8-0 deficit going to the half but adjusted to a run first offense in the 2nd to pick up the 34-20 win. 

On New Orleans side of the ball they have a time and playoff tested head coach that will make adjustments on the fly and knows how to hold a lead when he gets it.  Weather will play a big part in this game and while both teams have to play in it, the Saints will be the team better prepared for the game itself. 

Simply put; it’s veteran Drew Brees & a HC with a ring, Sean Payton vs 2nd year QB Nick Foles and rookie HC Chip Kelly. Who would you take?

BENGALS over Chargers:

For me, this is the easiest pick to make.  I have yet to do much research on it (be on the lookout for my PLAYOFF PREVIEW) but I don’t know that there’s much of a question how this will turn out.  In another game that could be affected by the weather the Bengals seem to be the easiest choice in this round. 

Playoffs are won with defense and the Bengals have proven to have a stellar one that’s ranked 3rd in the NFL (1st in the AFC) compared to the Chargers 23rd ranked D.  Most interesting to me is TCU alum Andy Dalton’s 2013 coming out party that led to the #8 passing offense in the league and what it can do against the #29 ranked passing defense.  Again, coming down to the offensive skill positions, the Bengals are loaded with 2 solid WR’s, a 2 headed monster at RB, a top 10 TE and one of the league’s future stars at QB. 

Consistency has not been the Bengals strength this season; however they did put up a nice 11 win season in one of the historically toughest divisions in the NFL. The Chargers on the other hand, backed into a playoff spot and in my opinion, did not deserve to win their season finale, much less get in the playoffs.

PACKERS over 49ers

Ah yes, the Frozen Tundra.  How could anyone pick against the Pack in this one?  The Kelly Green and Yellow in Ice Bowl II (yeah, there’s been more, but I’m trying to make sure this game is a sellout). 

All kidding aside, this game is probably the one I am the most interested in.  On the offensive side of the ball, with the exception of the IR’d Jermichael Finley, the Packers will finally play with the offense that they expected to come out of training camp with.  As they proved last week in a thrilling 33-28 road win at the division rival Chicago Bears, this team is dangerous when Aaron Rodgers is healthy and has his full accompaniment of receivers. 

Throw in that their O-Line is playing at a higher level than they have in years and they have their first 1,000 yard rusher since 2009 and I just don’t know how this offense can be stopped. At home. In the snow.  On the tundra.

As for San Francisco:  This team may be the most Jekyll & Hyde team I’ve ever seen.  One week there are stellar passing but can’t run, the following, they can’t pass but can SERIOUSLY run.  In my opinion, the league has caught up with Colin Kaepernick (as editor Lance Rinker predicted), but he’s still a very dangerous player. Another colleague (that will go unmentioned) spoke of the 412 yards passing Kaep had against the Pack in week 1.  But he also didn’t mention however that he only threw for over 252 yards twice after that. 

This team wins with running and defense.  Their total offense ranked 24th in the league and their team passing was a lethargic 30th.  Unfortunately for the Niners, this is the Packers defensive weak spot and if they cannot take advantage of the opportunities that are given to them, especially if they have to pass the ball playing from behind, this could be a very long and cold day for the 49ers.

Jason Neal

Chiefs over COLTS

I think KC, Jamaal Charles,and Alex Smith will do just enough on offense to let the defense make things happen for the Colts. I think Andrew Luck is a fantastic QB, but the Chiefs D and the Colts average run game will allow the Chiefs to walk out of Indy with a victory, 31-20.

Chargers over BENGALS

Andy Dalton is Tony Romo of the AFC. He has poor decision making ability and Eric Weddle is one of the best safeties in the league. Keenan Allen, Ryan Matthews, Phillip Rivers, and the rest of the Chargers offense will be too much for the Bengals defense to handle. Dalton will try and force some throws and look silly in his attempts. San Diego 27 Cincy 20. 

PHILADELPHIA over New Orleans

Drew Brees and the Saints are 3-5 on the road, but they do boast the 4th ranked scoring defense in the NFL. The Eagles are running a high powered offense and Drew Brees will have a chance to throw the ball all over the field in what will likely be a shoot out. I'll take Philly, 35-31. 

San Francisco over GREEN BAY             

The Niners come into this game with one of the most underrated running backs in the league and a defense that is playing the best in the NFL. Forget that the Niners allowed massive yards to Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer in back to back weeks, the majority of those yards came while both teams were down 10+ points and were throwing to catch up. The cold weather figures to favor the team with the best defense and the best running game, both of which belong to the Niners. I'll take SF, 34-20. 

Eric Polnoff

Chiefs over COLTS:  34 - 24

The Chiefs learn their lesson from the last meeting of these two teams. Good old Alex Smith continues his amazing game management skills and hands the ball off to Jamaal Charles. The Colts can't get Donald Brown or Trent Richardson going in the running game and Andrew Luck won't be able to do it on his own. The Chiefs ride Charles and their defense to a Wild Card win over Luck and the Colts.

Chargers over BENGALS:  27 - 19

Which Andy Dalton do we get to see? My guess is we get the Jekyll-Hyde combo; Dalton comes out swinging in the first half and can't keep up with Philip Rivers toward the end of the game. A few 3rd quarter mistakes from Dalton will make it impossible for the Bengals to catch up to a surging Chargers offense. Ryan Mathews has a big game.

EAGLES over Saints: 45 - 38

Chip Kelly and Sean Payton lead two high powered offenses going after each other in the playoffs; this is going to be a high scoring game. The 27 TD, 2 INT regular season from Nick Foles is impossible to overlook. The kid doesn't make mistakes. The Drew Brees led Saints have a terrible road record and aren't built to play in the elements. They're going to wish they had a roof over their head this weekend.

PACKERS over 49ers: 27 - 23

This could turn out to be one of the coldest games in NFL history; right up there with the Ice Bowl, another page out of Green Bay lore. I don't anticipate the ball seeing much air time and with Eddie Lacy and James Starks living in the cold that is Green Bay, WI, they'll have much more familiarity with the inclement weather than Frank Gore and the San Francisco offensive line. Packers eek out a frigid victory and send the 49ers home without the Lombardi again.


 

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Lance Rinker
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