After another amazing football season in the NFL, the best time of the year is now here – the playoffs. The final games have been played & we know the matchups for next Saturday & Sunday, & here is our preview & schedule for NFL Wildcard Weekend –
Kansas City Chiefs vs Indianapolis Colts (Saturday at 4:35 P.M, NBC – AFC Wildcard)
The Kansas City Chiefs have completed one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history, from being 2-14 last season to 11-5 this year and a wildcard berth. The Colts are again back in the playoffs – this time as an AFC South Division winner – & will host their first playoff game in the Andrew Luck era.
The key to this game will be whether the Chiefs defense, with a healthy Tamba Hali, Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson and others can get pressure on Luck & make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Luck hasn’t been the same quarterback since WR Reggie Wayne was lost for the season in the Denver Broncos game earlier this season. While Luck does have T.Y Hilton to throw to as a regular target, as well as former Stanford teammate TE Coby Fleener, Im not so sure that Luck will have enough offensive weapons to go up against a very talented & healthy Chiefs defense.
On the opposite side, Chiefs QB Alex Smith has shown himself to be a strong game manager and with Jamaal Charles having a possible MVP season, the Chiefs may have enough to hold off the Colts in this game. I don’t see any blowouts either way but its going to come down to the managing skills of Smith against the franchise player & skill set of Luck.
Im going to go with the Chiefs 24-17 over the Colts.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (Sunday at 4:40 P.M. on Fox)
This could possibly be the best game of the weekend, as it is not only a rematch of last years NFC Wildcard game but also a rematch of Week 1 of the regular season, where San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick quite possibly had his best game of the season.
The 49ers should be able to power through a weak Green Bay run defense & defense overall with the power game of Frank Gore and Kaepernick’s ability to run the read option with LaMichael James. The 49ers will also have great options lining up one-on-one on the outside with Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis & Anquan Boldin, who won a SuperBowl last year with the Baltimore Ravens.
Where the Packers are going to be very formidable is that they have their leader back, Aaron Rodgers, who just happens to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, & the running style of Eddie Lacy, who has proven to be one of the most physical and sometimes violent running backs in the NFL this season.
But, in order to win a championship & even advance in the playoffs, you have to be able to play consistent, physical defense and the 49ers defense is built for cold weather & playoff football with Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Navarro Bowman & the rest of that elite defensive unit. I think that the 49ers can scheme against Rodgers and the main weapon the team has in Jordy Nelson and can shut down the run against Lacy.
Never count out the Discount Doublecheck though, but this might be a bit too much for Rodgers to overcome.
49ers 31-17 over Packers.
Cincinnati Bengals vs San Diego Chargers (1:00 p.m Sunday on CBS – AFC Wildcard)
The Bengals have finally put it altogether this season with their offensive & defensive playmaking & all led by quite possibly the best 1-2 tandem in the league in Andy Dalton & A.J. Green, along with the great running of Giovanni Bernard.
The Chargers have been an up & down team for some years now, but certainly not because of a lack of effort from Philip Rivers. Rivers has been the one consistent weapon in San Diego & now Ryan Matthews has given the team a consistent running game and the strong offensive output of Keenan Allen & Antonio Gates.
However, the Chargers defense may have an issue with shutting down the potent Bengals offense. With Jermaine Gresham & Tyler Eifert able to extend the field & take pressure off of A.J. Green, I do believe that Dalton is ready to take the next step into moving up into the next level of NFL quarterbacks.
Bengals – 35, Chargers 13.
New Orleans Saints vs Philadelphia Eagles (8:00 p.m. Saturday Night on NBC – NFC Wildcard)
The Philadelphia Eagles just came off of an emotional, hard-fought victory against their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, to win the NFC East in Chip Kelly’s first season as Head Coach. Everyone wondered if Kelly’s Oregon offense would work and once the team got used to the offense and the pace/tempo of the plays, very few teams around the league could stop them, even in a blizzard.
The New Orleans Saints are without question one of the best offenses in the NFL, but the team has struggled this season on the road, and even worse in cold weather. In order to win in the cold, the Saints have to be able to effectively run the football with Mark Ingram and operate play-action well enough with Drew Brees to stop the aggressive defense of the Eagles.
For the Saints defense, even though they have been far better under Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, will be under serious pressure with Kelly’s high tempo offense. The Saints will need to excel at the little things – managing timeouts, quick & efficient substitutions, great communication on the field with each other & the coaches on the sidelines.
The Eagles will continue to lean on Nick Foles & LeSean McCoy to steady their attack and will test that improved Saints defense often.
For the Eagles, they will have to match up against the best tight end in football, Jimmy Graham. Graham will have size advantages if Brees will throw up top and a linebacker simply can’t keep up with Graham in the open field.
I think this will be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend, but because the Eagles can play in cold weather & have the ability to beat the Saints up on the line, that will give the Eagles the ability to win this game.