Tag Archives: wild card weekend

2016 Season: Wild Card Weekend Preview

At last, we have arrived with the playoffs.  This wild card weekend will feature four teams who have recently won Super Bowls over the past decade; that is half for those of you counting at home, two teams who have never won a Super Bowl, and two who are hoping to return to relevancy.  Cooky things can happen in the first round of the NFL’s post season, and I am here to try to sniff them out.  Here are my picks for the Wild Card round.

Eli Mannings

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 144-105

Saturday, January 7th, 4:35 e.t.

#5 Oakland Raiders (12-4) @ #4 Houston Texans (9-7)

We get our traditional Texans game to kick off the playoffs, and this matchup will feature Connor Cook versus Brock Osweiler.  Consider that battle a wash.  When determining the outcome of this game we have to look elsewhere, and I really like what Houston brings on defense against a rookie QB  At home, look for the Texans to take out the Raiders and put an end to their once very promising season.

Houston 24, Oakland 13

Saturday, January 7th, 8:15 e.t.

#6 Detroit Lions (9-7) @ #3 Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

The big story coming into this game is how the Seahawks have not been playing good football lately and that is uncharacteristic of them.  I can see them turning things around a bit in this contest.  At home in front of an always rowdy crowd, the defense could be swarming.  It will be on the offense in future games for the ‘Hawks, but I think their “D” will be enough to slow down an inconsistent Lions’ offense and earn them the win.

Seattle 27, Detroit 10

Sunday, January 8th, 1:05 e.t.

#6 Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

The Steelers come into this game tied with the Patriots for having the longest winning streak in football (seven straight games).  They seem to be peaking at the right time and that feels like bad news for a Miami team that sort of backed its way into the playoffs.  You get the feeling that there are only three true Super Bowl contenders in the AFC, and Pittsburgh is one of them.  No way do they drop this game at home.

Pittsburgh 40, Miami 20

Sunday, January 8th, 4:40 e.t.

#5 New York Giants (11-5) @ #4 Green Bay Packers (10-6)

This weekend’s best game will be saved for last, and it is fitting that it will feature two teams with storied pasts and two former Super Bowl winning QBs.  The Giants are the sexy pick for this one because the last two times they won it all, they had to go into Green Bay and knock off a heavily favored Packer team and they did it.  There were a lot of experienced players and coaches then, and that is not the case now.  The Packers could be “that team” going forward and I think they get the job done at home with their defense playing much better and the Giants offense still struggling to score points.

Green Bay 21, New York 16

Hope you all have a good weekend and a great time watching the games.  I’ll be back next week with my Divisional Round predictions.

 

2014 Season: Wild Card Round Predicions

It is the first weekend of the NFL playoffs and there are four intriguing match-ups.  To start, we have a battle of the Cardinals and Panthers.  Many people believe that neither of these teams are good enough to make a run at the Super Bowl, but one of them is going to advance to the divisional round.  Next up the NFL’s best rivalry is renewed when the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to take on AFC North Champs in the Steelers.  This one should be a bloodbath.  On Sunday, the Bengals try their postseason luck on the road with the Colts.  Cincy has lost in the Wild Card round for three straight years and are hoping to snap that streak.  Finally, two teams that watched their seasons collapse last season only to rebound and post remarkable seasons in ’14 will square off in Big “D”.  The story-lines are thick and the action should be great this weekend and the race to Super Bowl XLIX is officially underway!  Here are my predictions on these four games.

Last Week: 12-4

2014 Season: 161-101-1

Saturday, January 3rd, 4;35 e.t.

Arizona Cardinals (11-5) @ Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)

The Panthers have been on a roll as of late and they are arguably one of the hottest teams in the playoffs, despite having a losing record.  Ron Rivera’s squad finished the year on a four game winning streak plus a takeover of the NFC South crown, in convincing fashion.  The defense has rekindled the magic that they had last season when they were one of the top units in the league.  This is because the front-four is getting after the quarterback once again.  Cam Newton has caught fire and the running game, behind the legs of Johnathan Stewart, has begun to truck up and down the field.  Carolina is clicking on all cylinders right now.  The same cannot be said about the Arizona Cardinals.  This team has gone 2-4 since Carson Palmer went down with an ACL injury in Week 10.  Drew Stanton has been okay, and Ryan Lindley has been pretty feeble (although he did have a decent game Week 17 against San Fran).  Stanton should get the nod on the road in a game that is going to come down to defense.  The Panthers seem like the obvious choice here since they are so hot, but I’m going to lean toward Arizona here.  Their defense should be able to shut down the running game of Carolina and I trust Bruce Arians to draw up a game-plan on offense to attack the Panthers’ secondary.  The game should go to the team that can make the big play, and I see the Cards doing that.

Arizona 25, Carolina 18

Saturday, January 3rd, 8:15 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

This game should be the best game of the wild card round.  It features two teams that hold a legitimate grudge and opponents that always play entertaining, competitive games in the post-season.  Saturday night should be no different.  Even though the Ravens barely squeaked into the dance, they are a team that is capable of going on a run behind Joe Flacco.  The Baltimore defense has been playing well lately and their task becomes a bit easier in this game if the Steelers are going to play without Le’Veon Bell in the backfield.  Justin Forsett had slowed down over the past month, but then exploded again in Week 17 against Cleveland.  However, the Browns had the worst run defense in the league.  The Steelers are much better.  Also, with Big Ben putting up his finest statistical season of the year, it is hard to pick against them at home.  Antonio Brown is a full go, and he is a play-maker.  I don’t think that there is anybody on the Ravens who can cover him.  He goes 10-130-1 in the game.  The two teams will brawl at some point in the game as well, just adding to the intensity.  Pittsburgh wins on the strength of a late field goal and an interception of Joe Flacco.

Pittsburgh 26, Baltimore 24

Sunday, January 4th, 1:05 e.t.

Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

The Colts will be hosting the Bengals for the second time this season.  The first time they were able to blast the cardiac cats 27-0.  It took Cincy nine drives before they could manage a first down against the Indy defense.  However, this time they have #32 toting the rock in the backfield (at a full clip) and he is rolling right now.  I expect the Bengals to put up quite a fight on the road.  However, remembering back to the 2013 Wild Card game between the Chiefs and the Colts, it is going to be hard for me to pick against Andrew Luck.  the Bengals pass defense has been exposed at different points in the season and this seems like a game where it can be had again.  Although, Dre Kirkpatrick has been on fire to end the year; so don’t discount Cincinnati quite yet.  That said, the Colts have a more explosive offense, and I expect Coby Fleener to exploit the middle of the field in this one.  Meanwhile, the Bengals have A.J. Green on the outside, who is less than 100%.  I don’t like their chances to keep up with the Colts, thus I am rolling with the home team here.

Indianapolis 33, Cincinnati 22

Sunday, January 4th, 4:40 e.t.

Detroit Lions (11-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

Record-wise this is the best game of the Wild Card round.  After getting taken apart by Philadelphia on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys rebounded to finish the year 4-0 and dominated in the month of December.  Tony Romo has been playing the best ball of his career, DeMarco Murray has been the catalyst for a very effective offense, and Dez Bryant hauled in an average of one touchdown catch per game on the season.  To top it all off, the Dallas defense has been remarkable over the final month.  The Lions have had a great “D” all year long but the offense has been inconsistent.  That does not bode well for them in a game like this.  Detroit has been quite undisciplined over the final two games of the season and probably should have lost both of them.  I simply can’t trust them to go on the road to Dallas and play a complete game.  Unless Matthew Stafford has a beast of a game, it might be hard for the Lions just to keep up with the Cowboys offense.  It will be interesting, though, to see if the Detroit defense can neutralize DeMarco Murray.  If they do, it will be up to their front-four to get pressure on Tony Romo.  On the road I see them struggling a bit.  Simply put, Dallas will have too much for the Lions to deal with on offense and their defense should hold their water for four quarters, giving them the win.

Dallas 31, Detroit 20

Feel free to leave a comment stating what you think will happen in this weekend’s games!

Wild Card Round: San Francisco 49ers 23, Green Bay Packers 20- Post Game Recap

Much like the New Orleans Saints, the San Francisco 49ers go on the road in cold weather and kick a game winning field goal as time expires to pull off a narrow victory.  The temperature really didn’t seem to have a major effect on this game.  A couple of the throws that were made were under-thrown, but for the most part the ball came out clean and got to the intended receivers.  Michael Crabtree was the man for the Niners in this game.  He, as he has been all throughout his career, was Mr. Third Down; converting on third and long situations on a couple of times in the game.  When these two teams first played, Anquan Boldin was the man who killed the Packers.  This time around it was Crabtree.  Vernon Davis also chipped in with a nice touchdown in the middle of the field in the fourth quarter.

The Packers’ offense was pretty stagnant through the first quarter.  They were unable to do anything, until they got their ground and quick pass game going.  Aaron Rodgers was under duress for a majority of this game (when he was forced to hold the ball).  There were a couple of instances where he was able to move around in the pocket, escape the pressure, and either scramble for a first down or throw the ball down the field.  There was an instance on a 4th and 2 (13:28 in the fourth quarter) where Rodgers was able to escape a sure sack and then toss the ball down the field to Randall Cobb for a 26-yard gain.  This set up a one yard fullback dive by John Kuhn for the go-ahead touchdown.  Rodgers played well in this game, but unfortunately for him and his team, they were not the last team to possess the ball in this one.  That was San Francisco, and Colin Kaepernick did a great job putting together a championship drive in the waning moments of the game and sealing away the victory.

That final drive was a thing of beauty as far as San Fran is concerned.  They held on to the ball for the final 5:06 of the game and drove it 63 yards in 14 plays for the “W”.  The converted three different 3rd down situations, including a 3rd and 8 where Kaepernick was able to scramble for 11 yards.  Had he not picked up the first down in that situation, this game almost certainly would have gone to overtime, a situation that probably would have favored the Packers, as their offense was beginning to heat up.  Anyways, it was a good job by “Kap” to use his athleticism and escape to the outside and kill Green Bay’s dreams for the second year in a row and the third time in his career.

These 49ers are going to be a tough out for the rest of these playoffs.  They can beat you in so many different ways.  I have seen them run the ball, throw the ball, and play good defense.  They may be the most complete team in football, and right now they are the hottest team in football.  Carolina will have their hands full next Sunday when they host these guys.  To me, the Niners are simply playing some good football, and they are probably the team to beat this January.  It will interesting to see if these guys can get the job done on the road two more times.  If they do make it to the Super Bowl, I can’t find any reason why they would not be able to win it all.  Going on the road and clipping the Packers in icy weather says a lot about these guys and it gives them a lot of momentum as the head to the Queen City next week.

Wild Card Round: San Diego Chargers 27, Cincinnati Bengals 10- Post Game Recap

As Mike McCoy would say, “It is us against the world”.  As Philip Rivers so aptly put it, this game was simply “Round five” as the team has been in playoff mode since Week 14.  These San Diego Chargers were able to ride into Cincinnati and blow out the Bengals in the Jungle en route to a berth in the divisional round next Sunday in Denver, 27-10.  I’ve gotta tell you, this team is scary.  They are beginning to fill the slot of “that team you don’t want to play” and are looking like they could be those guys who can get hot and win it all at the end of the year, much like the Packers, Giants, and Ravens have before them.  This was a statement win on the road for the Bolts, and one that they will keep in mind when they head to Denver for the second time this season.

Andy Dalton did not play at an all-pro level in this game.  We have seen him perform well during stretches this season, and I kind of figured he was going to do so in this game.  However, he was baited into a couple of bad throws and outside of a stellar second quarter, Dalton played very poorly.  The Bengals had their chances to make this a game.  It was only 20-10 in the fourth quarter when the “red rifle” threw an interception (with 10:33 left).  The team also failed to cash in on a drive later in the game when they failed on a fourth and three at the San Diego 41 yard line (with 4:50 left), and again on a fourth and 13 at the San Diego 40 (with 3:13 left).  After passing up on two golden opportunities to cut the score to a one possession deficit, the Chargers stuck a dagger in them when Ronnie Brown ripped off a 52-yard touchdown and put the Bolts up by three scores.  The bottom line is that Cincy had their chances to make this game close again and they failed to do so on three different occasions.

San Diego’s game plan (as it has been lately) was to run the ball and control the clock.  They were able to do so in the first and third quarter as the team began to create some separation on the score board.  I thought that Ken Whisenhunt and Mike McCoy devised an excellent game plan, allowing all three backs (Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, and Ronnie Brown) to get involved in the game.  While the Chargers ran the ball well, Philip Rivers quietly picked the soft secondary of the Bengals apart; completing 12 of his 16 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.  He was very accurate all day long and made a lot of smart decisions on the afternoon.  The Bolts elected to keep the ball on the ground for a majority of the game, but when Rivers was asked to air it out, he made some nice, accurate throws and was able to keep the chains moving.  San Diego came into Cincinnati with a game plan in mind and they executed it, hence their 17-point victory.

After another sub-par post-season performance from Andy Dalton, the topic of conversation in Cincy will likely be focusing on how he is not a clutch performer.  However, before we all jump on the third year quarterback, I would like to point out the fact that his go-to receiver did not offer him much help in any of the team’s three post-season games over the last three years.  He has failed to make more than five catches and 80 yards in any of those games and has totaled just 13 grabs for 161 yards and no touchdowns in his three playoff appearances.  So while people may be quick to criticize #14, I think that the finger of blame can be pointed elsewhere as well.  Dalton is not a good enough quarterback to carry the team all on his own.  He is going to need help from his key players and a strong running game to make hay in this league.

With this win, the Chargers proved to be a playoff worthy team.  Their 9-7 regular season record may deceive you, but I think that this is a good team.  Remember, they lost a couple of heart-breakers in the regular season and were a few plays away from being an 11 or 12 win team.  These guys have beaten Denver on the road this year and I have reason to believe that they can do it again if they run the ball well and avoid the costly turnovers.  We know who the Chargers are; they are an efficient offense that is capable of sucking the life out of your defense by sustaining drives and controlling the tempo.  I’d be quaking in my boots if I were a Bronco fan.

Wild Card Round: New Orleans Saints 26, Philadelphia Eagles 24- Post Game Recap

The New Orleans Saints notch their first ever playoff victory on the road as they down the Eagles in Philly, 26-24.  Each defense played surprisingly well for a majority of this game.  The Saints were able to shut the Philadelphia running game down all night long, something that few teams have been able to do this season.  At the same time, they were able to get their own ground game going and by the end of the game you realized that they won the battle at the line of scrimmage.  New Orleans ran for 185 yards on the night, and 30 of those yards came on their final drive of the game.  It was a nine play drive, eating up the remaining 4:44 of the clock.  Sean Payton dialed up eight run plays on the drive and before you knew it the Saints were able to chug along into field goal range and ice the game away.  Possessing the ball last was the key for them and they proved that they could win a physical battle in the trenches on the road.  It truly was a statement win for them.

Nick Foles played pretty well in this game.  He did not turn the ball over and threw two touchdown passes.  However, there were a couple of instances where he held the ball too long and took a sack.  A few of his passes were off the mark as well, but for the most part it was a nice playoff debut for the former Arizona Wild Cat.  It was tough for him to get the ball down field for a majority of the game because he was under a lot of pressure.  Additionally, Keenan Lewis did a masterful job shutting down DeSean Jackson on the outside; preventing him from being a factor for the whole game.  That is, until he left with a concussion.  As soon as Lewis dropped out of the game, Foles was able to go to work on his replacement (Rod Sweeting) and began picking up first downs by the handful.  New Orleans was able to put an end to that momentum surge by possessing the ball all the way to the end in the fourth quarter, not allowing the Eagles to move down the field and respond with a score of their own.  With the way this game had gone, if Philly got the ball back with some time on the clock, there was not much doubt that they would have been able to get the job done.

Drew Brees was not sharp in this game.  He was picked off twice and nearly threw a third interception in the third quarter.  This is partially because of the fact that the Eagles did a good job taking Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles out of the game.  Surprisingly, the guy who was able to help out in those assignments was Connor Barwin.  He mugged Graham on a couple of occasions and did a nice job shadowing Sproles.  He also batted a pass down that was intended for the scat back along the perimeter and made four tackles.  Philly did not blitz Brees a whole lot in this game, in fact they brought a three-man-rush on a lot of their plays.  This was because they wanted to dedicate extra men in coverage so that way they could not be beaten by a tight end or running back.  Because of this, the middle of the defense was left exposed to a few Mark Ingram runs.  He had a nice game and ran with a punishing intent.  Taking advantage of a light box when it was presented was the key in this New Orleans victory.

With this hard-earned win the Saints will be making a return to Seattle to play the #1 seeded Seahawks.  Luckily for them, they were able to prove to themselves that their defense could play well when it had to and that they could run the ball in key situations.  Being able to win this game even though Drew Brees was not posting an A-grade performance has to give the team a lot of confidence going forward.  They now believe that they can win when their quarterback is having a down game, something that they may not have thought was possible heading into this one.  For the Eagles, their surprising season comes to an end in heart-breaking fashion.  They did, however, do some nice things this year and proved to the league that they are a team that is to be reckoned with in the upcoming years.  While Chip Kelly’s coaching debut did not get them very far into the playoffs, it did rejuvenate the franchise and now has them looking forward and headed in the right direction.

Wild Card Round: Indianapolis Colts 45, Kansas City Chiefs 44- Post Game Recap

The Indianapolis Colts rally from a 28-point third quarter deficit to defeat the Chiefs 45-44 behind some late heroics from Andrew Luck.  Luck’s afternoon was not pretty through two and a half quarters.  He was picked off three times and misfired on a couple of his passes.  Indy, as a team, turned the ball over an astounding four times through the first 37 minutes of this game.  That statistic alone is a big one because they had only given the ball away 14 times during the regular season.  Given the fact that the Colts were careless with the football against a team that has thrived on takeaways this year, you would have thought that they had no chance to win.  That is, until Andrew Luck unscrewed the training wheels and unloaded four touchdown passes and 443 yards on Saturday afternoon’s game.  He added a fumble recovery for a touchdown to the old résumé as well giving him five on the afternoon.  After throwing his third pick, Luck was marvelous and was easily one of the biggest reasons why Indianapolis was able to win the game.

As pristine as #12 was in this contest, credit has to be given to the Chiefs on a couple of different levels.  First of all, the Colts would not have had to erase a 28-point margin if Kansas City had not been so effective on offense.  Simply put, Alex Smith was amazing in this game.  He threw four touchdown passes and racked up 378 yards on the afternoon and was not intercepted.  He did, however, fumble once (the loose ball was recovered by Indy accounting for the team’s lone turnover).  The Chiefs were able to score on their first five drives of the game; four touchdowns and one field goal.  They did this after losing their offensive superstar, Jamaal Charles, on the sixth offensive snap of the game.  Later on in the game, KC lost their backup running back Knile Davis to injury and before long they were down to Cyrus Gray.  The revolving door at the running back position did not seem to bother Andy Reid any.  He continued to dial up pass plays and Alex Smith constantly made the correct reads while remaining mobile in the pocket.  The straw that broke the camel’s back for the Chiefs was the ball that was slightly overthrown by Alex Smith on the first play of the fourth quarter.  Cyrus Gray had popped wide open on a wheel route when Kansas City was up 41-31 and was unable to catch up to the long ball launched up the right sideline.  Had Gray been able to haul the pass in, he would still be running and his team would have gone up by 17 again.  When that play was missed, it gave the Colts a bit of a momentum boost and from that point forward, a comeback seemed inevitable.

T.Y. Hilton played a heck of a game.  He was Andrew Luck’s primary target all afternoon long, grabbing 13 balls for 224 yards and two touchdowns.  When Luck was in trouble in the pocket or moving around to create a bigger play, it was always Hilton who he was able to find open down the field.  Of course, a part of the reason why the Chiefs lost this game was because of the way their defense failed them down the stretch.  They were only able to sack Luck once in the game and after the pick parade (beginning late in the second quarter and lasting midway through the third quarter), Kansas City had no answer for the Colts’ offense.  This game was truly a story of two halves.  The Chiefs scored 31 points in the first half while Indy was able to drop 35 in the second half.  Indianapolis scored six touchdowns and one field goal and KC scored only five touchdowns and three field goals.  Scoring touchdowns was key in this wild shootout, and the home team was able to gain the edge in that department, hence their thrilling one-point victory.

The heart that the Colts showed in this game was admirable.  They never showed any quit, even when down by 28 in the third quarter.  However, that defense has to leave the fans a bit concerned.  When Indianapolis travels to New England next Saturday night, I am not sure they can feel very confident that their defense can hold Tom Brady and the Pats back.  This weekend the team had the benefit of playing in front of a friendly home crowd, cheering them on.  Next week they will be in a cold, hostile environment where the defense will really be tested.  This was a major win for the Colts, but if the defense does not turn it around in a hurry they could get throttled.  With that being said, I think that Andrew Luck proved to the world that he has what it takes to be an elite quarterback at this level in the NFL.  You can consider this win a signature one for him and his team.  Perhaps a few years down the road, we as fans will look back on this contest and realize that it was the first major game in a potential Hall of Famer’s career.  I really do believe he is that good, and this game proved that point.

Wild Card Weekend: Seattle Seahawks 24 Washington Redskins 14- The Post Game Review

An unhealthy Robert Griffin III was not enough to stand up to the red-hot Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.  It would have been quite interesting to see how the game would have ended had Griffin not re-aggravated his knee injury in the first quarter.  There was a noticeable drop off in production once he was hurt.  The Redskins had almost as many yards in the first quarter before he suffered the injury as they did in the three quarters after.  Washington was really unable to get a ground game going for most of the game, and that really hurt them.  Russell Wilson played the better game and thus the ten point victory for Seattle.

When the Seahawks went down 14-0 in the first quarter (their biggest deficit all season long), it was a bit of a shocker.  However, after the ‘Skins kicked that second extra point, the Seattle defense kicked it into another gear and they dominated the game going forward.  Marshawn Lynch did fumble once (as he was going in to score the go-ahead TD when the game was 14-13), but other than that, Beast Mode had another Beast Game in the postseason.  He was able to run the ball well enough to keep the Seahawks out of those third and long situations where Jim Haslett would certainly be blitzing.  Even still, the Redskins’ defensive coordinator brought the house quite a bit and had some success at times.  This was very much like the defense that Jim Johnson had while he was the defensive coordinator of the Eagles a few years back.  Unfortunately for Washington, Darrell Bevell had great counters for this (mainly using Zach Miller as a chip and then having him release into the flat to give Wilson a fifth receiving option).  In the end, the Seahawks great defense and their smart offensive game-plan was too much for an injured RGIII to overcome.

There is a lot to like about Russell Wilson.  He shows 100% effort on every single play.  He has the innate ability to gas a defense during a scramble drill and he can escape pressure in the pocket in a very Mike Vick-like fashion.  The block he threw down field on Madieu Williams and the one he hustled to get on Josh Wilson in the fourth quarter to lead the way for the 27 yard touchdown really show how much of a competitor this guy really is.  Besides him, the Seattle D-line made life rough on RGIII.  Chris Clemons nearly forced a fumble before getting hurt, Bruce Irvin gave Griffin a shot after his second TD pass, and Alan Branch tattooed the rookie for a sack.  Will Montgomery seemed to have trouble snapping the ball a couple of times on the crappy field conditions.  Steven Hauschka can attest for that; he ended up hurting himself because of the field.  However, he did gut it out and kick three field goals (along with an extra point).  Hauschka proved to be the grittiest player of all eight teams in the wild card round with his endurance (who said kickers are not tough guys?).

Seattle now has a date with Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday down in Georgia.  If any team is built to stymie the Falcons’ aerial assault, it is Seattle what with their big, physical corners and fast defensive line.  Either them or Green Bay can be considered the hottest teams in the NFC right now and it should be interesting to see what goes down in the Georgia Dome next week.  That should turn out to be a really good game.