The NFL playoffs. The most wonderful time of the year. Win and move on towards the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl championship. Lose and go home.
Who will emerge victorious in this year’s playoffs? The answer to that question starts Saturday in the Wild Card round.
(Home teams in CAPS. All lines per Sportsbook.com as of 5:00pm on Friday, January 3rd.)
INDIANAPOLIS (-1.5) over Kansas City
After starting out 9-0 this season against one of the weakest schedules in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs finished 2-5, including one meaningless loss in the Week 17 game against San Diego and two losses against the Denver that sealed the AFC West crown for the Broncos.
Indianapolis, on the other hand, recorded wins at San Francisco, home against Seattle, home against Denver, and at Kansas City in Week 16.
Playing at home at Lucas Oil Stadium, I like Andrew Luck and the Colts to come away with the victory.
Prediction – Indianapolis 28, Kansas City 20
PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) over New Orleans
In playoff history, dome teams are 3-22 all time in road playoff games against outdoor teams where the game time temperature is 35 degrees or below. The forecasted high temperature in Philadelphia on Saturday? 29 degrees.
In addition, check out this little tidbit courtesy of Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell:
The chart above displays the Saints’ DVOA for offense and defense at home compared to on the road. DVOA is a statistical metric that adjusts for down, distance, game situation, and quality of opponent in order to rank the 32 NFL teams.
Based on the chart, New Orleans has the #1 offense and #7 defense at home, compared to just the #16 offense and #21 defense on the road. Needless to say, the Saints have been an entirely different team at home in 2013 compared to on the road.
Don’t forget about the Eagles either. They have the #1 rusher in the NFL in LeSean McCoy, as well as the highest rated quarterback in the NFL in Nick Foles. Since taking over for Michael Vick, Foles has thrown for 27 TDs and only 2 INTs in 12 games!
I think the Eagles high-powered offense, along with the Saints struggles on the road this season, add up to an Eagles win.
Prediction – Philadelphia 34, New Orleans 27
CINCINNATI (-7) over San Diego
The Bengals success in this postseason is likely going to come down to the performance of its quarterback, Andy Dalton. The Bengals are 6-0 this season in games where Dalton posts a QB rating of greater than 100.0 and just 5-5 when his rating is below 100.0.
Even if Dalton struggles, however, the Bengals could hang around because of their defense, which ranks third in the NFL this season. Compare that to the Chargers defense which ranks 23rd overall and an abysmal 29th against the pass. Those numbers seem to favor Dalton at home versus Philip Rivers.
Lastly, the Bengals were 8-0 at home this season, which doesn’t guarantee they’ll win this game by any means, but further pushes the pendulum in their favor.
Bill Simmons mentioned that the Chargers are this year’s ‘Nobody Believes in Us’ team. He’s right. At least until they beat the Bengals, I don’t believe in them.
Prediction – Cincinnati 27, San Diego 17
San Francisco (-3) over GREEN BAY
Green Bay vs. San Francisco in the playoffs. It seems as though we’ve been through this before. In fact, we have.
I went there, 2 Chainz was there, and I wrote about it here.
The Packers have struggled to stop the 49ers offense in their last three match ups dating back to the opening week of the 2012 season.
Here are the total yards allowed by the Packers in each matchup:
Week 1, 2012: 377 yards
Divisional Playoff, 2012: 579 yards (including 183 yards rushing by Colin Kaepernick)
Week 1, 2013: 494 yards (including Kaepernick’s 412 yards passing)
In addition, in each of the previous three games, the Packers lost the turnover battle to the 49ers and also were dominated in terms of time of possession.
The Packers will win if…
– They win the turnover battle
– They control the clock and keep time of possession closer to even. Eddie Lacy having a successful game on the ground will be key to this.
– They limit the big plays of Colin Kaepernick and his dangerous targets (Crabtree, Boldin, Davis)
– Aaron Rodgers goes all ‘FU Aaron Rodgers’ on the Niners D
The 49ers will win if…
– They put pressure on Aaron Rodgers and force him into making turnovers
– Frank Gore runs for over 100 yards
– Keep pressure off Colin Kaepernick, which will allow him to find Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis for big plays
After the miraculous, last-minute touchdown against the Chicago Bears sealed the Packers’ playoff fate, some are beginning to label them as this year’s ‘team of destiny’. However, the Packers have done nothing in their past three games against the 49ers (or against the other teams they’ve faced this season) to suggest that they’ll be able to stop Kaepernick, Gore, and Co.
Until I actually see them beat the 49ers, I’m not buying it.
Prediction – 49ers 31, Packers 24