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Sunday, June 24 2018

NFL Predictions 2013: Wild Card

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So it ends with a thud. I’m reaching for good news. I suppose the best I can come up with it picking 155 winners before the season started when I made a selection for every game. Heck, 61% isn’t all that bad without seeing any team in regular season action. I also went 13-3 straight up last week, which is odd for a final week and it left me 168-87-1 overall or two picks short of my annual goal. It’s frustrating. John Halpin of FOX won the media title with 177 winners and I tied for 14th discounting the computer pickers. I was 7-9 against the spread, finishing a dismal 118-132-5 overall. I did manage to go 9-7 on the over/under, winding up 130-124-4 overall there but in total I was -8 against Vegas for the season, so I lost.

Kansas City (11-5) @ Indianapolis (11-5): I have thought a lot about this pick, from many different angles. Playoff games often come down to quarterback play and in this battle of former top picks it ultimately should be a matter of the opposing pass rush. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Tamba Hali is iffy to play and while Justin Houston is expected to return to action he has been off for so long it’s hard to say how effective he’s going to be. I know how good Robert Mathis is going to be, and with Eric Fisher out of action I think you can see where this is heading.

 

Not too long ago the Colts whipped these guys 23-7 in their stadium, but Andy Reid is a sly fox. He figured a possible matchup in the playoffs was coming so I’m not looking at that outcome as the end-all for this rematch. Plus, the Chiefs lost the turnover battle 4-0 and that’s not going to be repeated here. I also suspect Jamaal Charles will be handed the ball more than 13 times in the dome where his speed will be on display. Last time he touched the rock 18 times and had 144 yards. He might get it closer to 30 times in this one.

 

My biggest concern with Kansas City is their inability to beat anyone good. In week 3 they went to Philadelphia and won 26-16, but that was before the Eagles got hot and of course before they had Nick Foles at quarterback. In the second half of the season they lost all five times to the other playoff teams on the schedule. Perhaps their most impressive effort was their backups taking San Diego to OT in Week 17. On the other hand, Indy has beaten San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver plus the Chiefs and their lone loss to a playoff team came at Cincinnati. It’s hard to overlook a 4-1 mark versus a 1-5 ledger. I think Andrew Luck is ready to shine in his home playoff debut. He has adjusted to losing Reggie Wayne and his running back Donald Brown is starting to play well. I’m positive the Chiefs are going to make a game of this somehow, but with the pass rush out of whack due to injuries and crowd noise I can’t call for the upset: Indianapolis 22, Kansas City 17 (IND +0/under 46.5)

 

New Orleans (11-5) @ Philadelphia (10-6): I think the Saints remember going on the road with a superior record to Seattle and losing. I also think they are a little mad at everyone who says they can’t win a playoff game on the road. They haven’t yet, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. The Eagles are a good team, but far from a great one. Granted it was before they unleashed Nick Foles at quarterback, but they lost to all three AFC West playoff teams leaving their lone win over a playoff team at Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers. New Orleans is only 2-3, but it’s a much more impressive mark considering they lost a tough one at New England at the end, and recently went to Carolina and let a lead slip away in the final moments. Their biggest challenge here is shuffling the backfield work up now that Pierre Thomas is out.

 

LeSean McCoy, on the other hand, is very healthy and ready to roll. He’s going to give the New Orleans defense fits. Rob Ryan’s unit has been very good most of the season, allowing just four teams to post more than 20 points and wouldn’t you know it the team lost all of those games. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them allow that many here and it’s up to the offense to step up on the road. The Saints have really struggled to score outside of their dome. Their point totals are 16, 26, 27, 20, 17, 7, 16 and 13. It doesn’t get much more pedestrian than that. The Eagles are rolling on offense having scored 24-plus in eight straight games including a three game stretch putting up 34, 30 and 54.

 

I can see Philly winning this game because New Orleans is so iffy on the road and their offense has been so suspect. However, this is Nick Foles and Drew Brees. Thus far Foles has been pretty unflappable, but the playoffs are a different animal. He is going to see things from this defense he hasn’t seen yet and might choke. Brees has Jimmy Graham and a slew of offensive options against a defense that a few weeks ago let a bunch of scrubs on the Vikings put up 48 points. I don’t trust them in a playoff situation. I also think I’m more comfortable with Sean Payton and his Super Bowl ring over rookie wild card Chip Kelly thinking he’s smarter than everyone else. I can see Kelly blowing a challenge call, or making a stupid error in judgment eschewing a field goal to try for a fourth-and-two somewhere along the line. Little things add up for a win here: New Orleans 21, Philadelphia 20 (NO +3/under 54)

 

San Diego (9-7) @ Cincinnati (11-5): It’s kind of funny that these teams hooked up in this city three decades ago for one of the coldest games in playoff history, and on the same day they get it on again there will be a game played later that might be the very coldest in NFL history. I’m sure Philip Rivers is just fine playing in typical cold compared to epically cold. His Chargers really don’t belong in this game. They benefited from a missed call and a lot of luck although in fairness they did win five of their final six games. The loss was at home to these Bengals 17-10. It was a messy game with five turnovers and pretty even statistically down the line. Defenses obviously ruled the day and the Bolts couldn’t generate enough from their running game to get over the hump.

 

For San Diego, it was one of just two losses to playoff teams against five wins although in fairness their second Kansas City game came against some backups. Still, that’s a pretty intense schedule facing playoff squads in almost half of their games. Factoring in 8-8 teams Dallas (win) and Miami (loss) it’s actually over half against pretty good opposition. Their problem was beating bad teams, going just 3-4 versus teams with losing records. I’m starting to think these guys are pretty dangerous. On the other side there are people who think Cincinnati is overrated. I’m not so sure. They were 4-0 against playoff teams and it doesn’t get any better than that. Mixing in the 8-8 or better teams including those who didn’t make the tournament, the record is still a solid 7-4 so they played plenty of good teams as well.

 

I like how the Bengals attack the passer. They are not the same defense without Geno Atkins, but they have had time to adjust and I’m all for Mike Zimmer dialing up a way to shut down Rivers who doesn’t have unlimited offensive weapons. Keenan Allen is a nice rookie, but he’s going to be swamped here. Antonio Gates is over the hill. Ryan Mathews might be healthy enough to do a little damage, but I doubt it. Opposing them is an all-star group of skill position players. Andy Dalton is ready to win a playoff game after two losses in Houston. Their offense is on fire at home, closing with totals of 41, 42, 42 and 34. I like them to keep it up. Sure, the Chargers have nothing to lose and should be loose, but mostly they have been at home down the stretch. The cold weather on the road is going to be rough on them: Cincinnati 31, San Diego 17 (CIN -6.5/over 46.5)

 

San Francisco (12-4) @ Green Bay (8-7-1): The field is going to be frozen and it’s going to make life more difficult for the home team I think. The Packers have a running game now with rookie Eddie Lacy, but clearly they want to throw the ball around now that Aaron Rodgers is back. This is usually the way to beat the 49ers, but the weather is probably not going to allow it. San Francisco doesn’t care. They will just run the ball at will against a defense that can’t stop them. Their time of possession could be a playoff record when all is said and done. This isn’t a beauty contest, there are no style points.

 

These teams have met three times since the start of the 2012 season and none of those games mean anything here. Colin Kaepernick has shown he can beat the Packers with his arm and his legs, but here it’s going to be his ability to hand the ball off. I’m looking for Frank Gore all day long plus his backups to get into the action. On the other side, the 49ers have the defense to make stops and force Rodgers into converting third downs. Some of those won’t be successful and Green Bay will be playing from behind all the way. They also will be trading field goals for touchdowns.

 

It’s a nice story for the Pack fighting into the dance, but they have allowed 36, 38 and 28 points over the past three weeks. The run stops here for a team that has given up 26-plus points on eleven occasions. Their opponent hasn’t allowed that many points in any game since week 3. This is a mismatch to me. I like the 49ers to flex offensive muscle at times throwing to Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, but mostly stick the run while winning this one easily: San Francisco 27, Green Bay 17 (SF -2.5/under 46.5)

 

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