Wild Card Weekend predictions

I hope you didn’t miss us too much.

Last year, KJ and I tried our hand at playoff football forecasting and I’ll say that we did pretty good. It also helps that our favorite teams are in the playoffs yet again (Colts for KJ and 49ers for GG) and playing this weekend. We have a keen interest on wild card weekend.

The wild card slate of games features a Kansas City Chiefs team that started the season 9-0 playing a bi-polar Indianapolis Colts team who beat three of the best teams in all of football and three out of their five losses were to non-playoff teams. It features a San Diego Chargers team who stayed alive because of a missed field goal and a win against second stringers in overtime facing off against a sneaky-good Cincinnati Bengals team whose quarterback no one believes in.

On the NFC side of things, the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers travel to snowy Green Bay to play the most uneven Packers team since 2008. And lastly, the New Orleans Saints have to play outdoors in Philadelphia away from their home sweet dome.

KJ is going to tackle (go for the legs KJ or else you’ll get fined) the AFC games while GG is going to discuss the NFC games.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

I haven’t been able to figure this Colts team out. They defeated arguably the three best teams in the NFL in the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers, plus this same Chiefs team in Week 16. But they also got crushed by the St. Louis Rams, a pretty good Arizona Cardinals team, and barely eked out wins against the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans.

They’ve won three straight and their defense has allowed just 20 points in its last three games. Could they be putting something special together?

Kansas City meanwhile, went from being a top-ranked defense to one that’s given up at least 23 points in its last three contests. There’s something about the Chiefs that scares me. But there’s something about this Colts team (and especially Andrew Luck) that makes me think, when it comes to big games, they’re going to win them.

KJ’s prediction: Colts 27, Chiefs 21
GG’s prediction: Colts 24, Chiefs 21

San Diego Chargers (9-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)

Sure the Chargers are on a roll. But they go into Cincinnati where the Bengals haven’t lost all season and are looking to win their first postseason game in 24 years. The Bengals’ stingy defense ranked 5th in the league in both rushing and passing and while Andy Dalton gives the football up at least once a game, he also connected for 33 touchdown passes, 21 of them to AJ Green and Marvin Jones.

They should be able to move the ball through the air at will against San Diego and as long as Dalton doesn’t get too carried away with the interceptions, they should win.

KJ’s prediction: Bengals 31, Chargers 27
GG’s prediction: Bengals 31, Chargers 17

San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Green Bay Packers (8-7-1)

Their last two meetings have been barn burners. Last year in the divisional round, the 49ers beat the Packers in San Francisco 45-31 behind the legs of quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his first playoff start. In the first game of the regular season this year also in San Francisco, the Packers didn’t allow Kaepernick to run, so he passed instead to the tune of 412 yards and 3 touchdowns. What will Green Bay do this time?

Well, since the game is not in San Francisco and instead at a freezing Lambeau Field, the Pack hope that the weather slows down Kaepernick. The Pack give up yards by the bucket loads and actually gave up more points than they scored this year. That’s not usually a recipe for success. However, with the return of Randall Cobb and Aaron Rodgers last weekend, they are at near full explosiveness offensively. Eddie Lacy also has a full season under his belt, giving them a much bigger weapon in the backfield than they had last year during the playoffs. As long as Aaron Rodgers has time, the Packers will be in this game.

All that being said, this has the looks of a controlled 49ers victory. Expect them to take advantage of wherever the Packers cheat. If the Packers load up on the run, the 49ers can make big plays down field with Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, and Michael Crabtree. I don’t see the type of open field scoring to happen this time, but the 49ers should win this in true 49ers fashion.

GG’s prediction: 49ers 27, Packers 20
KJ’s prediction: 49ers 24, Packers 23

New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

So the Saints aren’t the same on the road as they are in the dome. Did you know that the Eagles went only 4-4 at home while going 6-2 on the road? So who has the true advantage?

All things being equal, I think there are two big factors that will determine who wins the game. The first is which secondary is actually able to make plays. Based on personnel, New Orleans has the better secondary. In fact, the Eagles gave up the most yards through the air than any team in football. But without standout rookie Kenny Vaccaro, Roman Harper has to play and he’s a big drop-off. The Eagles’ defense in general creates turnovers and has a bend but don’t break style.

The second thing is whether or not the Saints running game will be able to help Drew Brees at all. The Eagles play the run fairly well and the Saints were in the bottom 1/4th of the league in rushing yards. While they give up the most yards through the air in the NFL, the Eagles also had 19 interceptions. Brees had a fantastic passing season, but with all the ink about Peyton Manning, you’d never have known it. He threw for over 5,000 yards again and was one touchdown short of 40 TD passes.

I think we’re in for a shootout and it could come down right to the end. I think the Saints finally get over their road playoff hump and win a close one thanks to the magic touch of Brees. Shady McCoy could have a national TV breakout game of his own.

GG’s prediction: Saints 38, Eagles 35
KJ’s prediction: Eagles 35, Saints 33

Happy Wild Card weekend! KJ and I will be back next week for the divisional round.

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