Wildcard Weekend- Sunday

Posted: 01/05/2014 by levcohen in Football

Well that was kind of exciting. Both games yesterday went down to the wire. They were won by a combined three points. The Colts came back from 38-10 down in the third quarter with an offensive explosion, and made a stand, which they hadn’t really done before, at the end of the game with the Chiefs at their 43 yard line. They won 45-44 with one of the two or three best comeback wins in NFL playoff history, and while most will credit Andrew Luck, I think it was just the very best way to embarrass Andy Reid. Give Reid a big lead, and he’ll be sure to blow it. Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton proved that yesterday, putting up 35 points in the second half even after Luck threw an interception on the opening drive of the half. Now, we have to give the Chiefs some credit. They lost a lot of players to injury in this game. Jamaal Charles, their biggest, and perhaps only, offensive weapon went down with a concussion on the first drive of the game. Later, key players like Donnie Avery, Brandon Flowers, and Justin Houston also went down. It’s a pity, because Charles almost definitely would have led the Chiefs to a win. But it wasn’t to be.

The Colts, in all likelihood, will travel to Denver to face Peyton Manning next weekend. This assumes that Cincinnati defeats San Diego, which, as you will see later, I think likely. I think Indy will have a chance to upset Denver. In Denver. The way they won yesterday was unsustainable; they can’t fall that far behind, not against a competent coach and healthy team. But they can beat the Broncos by getting to and sacking Peyton Manning. They already proved that they can do it, as they defeated Denver earlier in the season. In that game, they got after Manning. They sacked him four times (twice by Robert Mathis), and forced an interception, one of three times that they turned the ball over. And that will be their recipe for success again next week: turn the ball over, get to Manning, and get the offense going. They did all three in week 7 at home, and still won by just 6. So it’ll be tough. But it’s possible.

The other game kind of went the way I expected it to. It was close, albeit a little lower scoring than I thought it would be. In the end, it came down to two things: the kicking, and the team that had the ball last. Shayne Graham, a kicker who the Saints signed midseason, hit all four of his field goal attempts, including the game winner as time expired. Alex Henery missed one of his two attempts. That was the difference. If I were the Eagles, I would have let the Saints score a touchdown on that final drive to salvage some time. The Eagles defense couldn’t stop New Orleans, who kept getting first downs and were able to let the clock tick all the way down before kicking the game winner. The Saints will be in Seattle next week. We know what happened in Seattle weeks ago. They dismantled New Orleans. So the Saints will probably be close to a touchdown underdogs. But with Drew Brees, anything can happen. The scariest thing is that New Orleans was able to beat the hottest team in football even without Brees and Jimmy Graham playing anywhere near their best football.

San Diego Chargers (9-7, 9-6-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-5, 10-5-1):
Line: Bengals favored by 6.5
Over/under: 46
My prediction: Bengals- 31, Chargers- 17.. The Bengals have sneakily been one of the best, if not the best, home team in football this year. Not only are they undefeated at home, but they also have covered every single home game. Their point totals at home: 20, 34, 13, 49, 41, 42, 42, 34. They are getting hot at the right time, and only two of their home games have ended with a single digit win. They have more talent than the Chargers, so all they need to do is protect the football and win the battle in the trenches. If they do that, then they’ll win the game.

The Chargers had to win four games in a row to sneak into the playoffs. Their last lost came at home against these Bengals, which was one of only three Bengals road wins. They’ll have a tough time keeping it close if Phillip Rivers doesn’t play his best game this season. Rivers has been terrific, and he’ll need to be even better. The defense, which has struggled mightily this season, needs to force turnovers. They also need to stop the run and somehow neutralize A.J. Green. It’ll be tough.

Bengals cover
Over

San Francisco 49ers (12-4, 11-5) at Green Bay Packers (8-7-1, 7-9):
Line: 49ers favored by 3
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: 49ers- 24, Packers- 20.. It’s going to be cold. Super cold. All time record cold. With windchill, it’s going to be at least 30 degrees below zero. Normally, that favors the home team, because the home team is more used to the weather. But the 49ers, who might be the most well rounded team in football, have the perfect team for this weather. They can run the ball. They are stronger in the trenches. They have hard hitting linebackers. All of those things are important in the cold. The Packers can run the ball, but they rely on Aaron Rodgers and his arm, and their defense is suspect. I’m picking the 49ers because their team is better all around. Aaron Rodgers can definitely make something happen, and that might be the Packers best, and only, chance. But I’m picking San Fran in the cold. Besides, doesn’t the NFC Championship game of 49ers at Seahawks seem inevitable? The winner of this game will have a shot in Carolina, and I’d bet that the Panthers are pulling for the Packers.

49ers cover
Under

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