Wild Card Weekend Preview! Spectacular! Extraordinaire!

I’ve never been so happy to have it be the playoffs and NOT see the Seahawks on the schedule.  Ahh, BYE weeks.  Is there anything more glorious?

Still, is there even a small, childlike part of you that sort of longs for the Seahawks to be playing football this weekend?  Won’t you miss watching them play, at least a little bit?  Obviously, we all know this is for the greater good:  we want our guys to get rested and get healthy.  But, still, the world seems a little less bright without the Seahawks in our lives.

Anyway, here’s the deal.  I’m going to talk about the games this weekend, because some of these very teams may end up facing the Seahawks this postseason.  I’ll start with the AFC, because we won’t see this conference until the Super Bowl, so might as well get them out of the way now.

Kansas City (5) @ Indianapolis (4), Sat, Jan 4th, 1:35pm

All season, the Chiefs were one of the best teams in football.  Then, they started losing to Denver and it all kind of unravelled.  In Week 16, they hosted and lost to the Colts, by a considerable margin (23-7).  Now, everyone is down on the Chiefs.

Conversely, the Colts started their season pretty on-fire, beating the likes of Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver.  Then, they lost Reggie Wayne, and their defense started shitting the bed.  Andrew Luck looked human, and the Colts were in something of a free-fall.  They couldn’t be trusted.  They finished their season – post-BYE – going 6-3, but losing to good teams (Arizona, Cincinnati, St. Louis) and beating, for the most part, bad teams.  Nevertheless, that Chiefs victory opened some eyes, especially since it was in Kansas City, and the Chiefs were still playing for the AFC West title at the time.

It would stand to reason:  if the Colts beat the Chiefs in Kansas City, SURELY they’ll beat the Chiefs in Indy!  To which, I would say:  not so fast.  I have no evidence to support this, but I have to say that my gut tells me look for a Chiefs upset to kick off the weekend.  I think the now well-rested Chiefs starters come back with a balanced offensive attack, and I think the defense does just enough to prevent Indy from scoring in the 30s.  Look for a 28-24 type of game.

San Diego (6) @ Cincinnati (3), Sun, Jan 5th, 10:05am

I said it before, and I’ll say it again:  this game has a CHANCE to be the best game of the weekend.  That is, if you like relentless offense.  On the one hand, I could see this ending up in the 43-38 realm.  Of course, on the flipside, this could be the worst, most lop-sided game of the weekend; with either team taking the other out by 31-7 or some damn thing.

For the record, I have a feeling we’re looking at a blowout, but I hope to holy hell that I’m wrong.

If I had to rank what I think is going to happen in this game, it would look something like this:

  1. Cincinnati blowout
  2. Cincinnati comfortable victory
  3. Cincinnati close victory in a high-scoring game
  4. San Diego blowout
  5. San Diego close vicotry in a high-scoring game
  6. San Diego comfortable victory
  7. Cincinnati close victory in a low-scoring game
  8. San Diego close victory in a low-scoring game

No way this game lands on the Under.  That’s what I’m getting at.  Unless the Over/Under is set ridiculously high, in which case, don’t look to me for gambling advice, I’m pretty bad at it.

I think either one of these quarterbacks is capable of completely falling apart in this game.  Throwing multiple interceptions and just killing his team’s chances.  But, they both also have the capability of being brilliant and giving the world a fun game to watch.  I don’t know how to pick this game, but my gut says more often than not, Cincy prevails.  I’m going to side with the “comfortable victory” and say the Bengals win 24-10 in a relatively ugly contest for both teams.

This puts the AFC Divisional round at:

  • Cincinnati (3) @ New England (2), Sat, Jan 11th, 5:15pm
  • Kansas City (5) @ Denver (1), Sun, Jan 12th, 1:40pm

New Orleans (6) @ Philadelphia (3), Sat, Jan 4th, 5:10pm

The Eagles finished the season as one of the hotter teams in the league, finishing the season on a 7-1 run, though none of those teams were on the level of the Saints (they did play the Packers, but that was without Aaron Rodgers, a week after he went out with his collarbone injury).

The Saints started off as one of the top teams in the NFC, but starting with their game in Seattle (where they came in with only two losses), the Saints have gone 2-3 to close the season.  Shockingly, they were almost eliminated from the playoffs entirely by the upstart Cardinals, but held on in the final week.

Regardless of where these two teams’ fortunes lie coming into the playoffs, one thing is certain:  the Saints are the better football team.  Of course, they’re not necessarily as good on the road as they are at home (going 3-5 on the road vs. 8-0 at home), so there’s that to take into consideration.  The Saints were also the better team coming into Seattle in 2010, and look at what happened.

The Eagles have the type of offense to hang with the Saints.  In fact, aside from the Packers, the Eagles would be the ONLY team that could hang with the Saints in a shootout (for you Seahawks fans out there, trust me when I say that, with our defense, there would NEVER be a shootout with the Saints; we would stomp their offense into the ground just like we did in Week 13).  A small part of me thinks the Eagles will, indeed, hang with the Saints.  But, a much larger part of me thinks that the Saints’ defense is much improved and will do just enough to fluster Nick Foles & Co.  33-13, Saints win.

San Francisco (5) @ Green Bay (4), Sun, Jan 5th, 1:40pm

Again, this is another case of the road team being flat-out better than the home team.  Such is the NFC in 2013.  Eventually, the league is going to re-align into two divisions per conference, or otherwise work on re-seeding these Wild Card games so a 12-4 team doesn’t have to go on the road to face an 8-7-1 division winner.  But, right now?  This is what we’ve got.

The 49ers lost 2 games on the road this year.  There’s no real good split to look at when you’re talking about the 49ers at home vs. on the road.  What you see is what you get, no matter where they play.  Their defense is as stout as it ever was, their running game is solid, their offensive line is still tops, and their offense itself will go as far as Kaepernick will take it (as it goes with most every offense).  To his credit, Kaepernick has gotten better as the season has gone on.  This coincides with Michael Crabtree coming back, I have no doubt in my mind.  Unlike Percy Harvin, Crabtree has made a flawless recovery.  Unlike Percy Harvin, Crabtree has successfully increased his reps over these last few weeks of the season.  Unlike Percy Harvin, Crabtree can be counted upon to be at least NEAR his 100% level of effectiveness. 

Unlike Percy Harvin, Crabtree is actively making his team better with his presence.  I’m not saying I’m down on Harvin.  I’m just saying that I’m irritated that the 49ers get their toy back, and ours is still at the manufacturer for warranty repair.

As for Green Bay, I don’t know what to tell you.  Before Aaron Rodgers was injured, the Packers were 5-2 and well on their way to a division title.  He went down early in a Week 9 loss to the Bears and it all looked like it was going to unravel.  Including that Week 9 defeat, the Packers went 2-5-1 without Aaron Rodgers.  And yet, thanks to the uber-bungling of the Lions and Bears, all the Packers needed to do was beat Chicago in Chicago in Week 17 to win the division.  They did so, thanks to some utterly atrocious defense, and here we are.

Obviously, the Packers are a completely different team with a healthy Aaron Rodgers.  What they have going for them – that they normally wouldn’t – is that Rodgers doesn’t have any aches and pains anywhere else on his body.  His legs should be as fresh as they can be, in case he needs to avoid defenders.  His arm should be as strong as ever.  As long as there’s no danger of that collarbone re-breaking, the Packers might as well consider themselves at full strength.  That goes double for their receiving corps, which has Randall Cobb back.  Now, they have their big three (Cobb, Nelson, Jones) as well as their other guys (Boykin & such) who have gotten quality reps in the second half of the season.  Eddie Lacy is the only question mark (on offense), but you’re not really expecting the Packers to run the ball on the 49ers, are you?

I don’t think there’s any way the 49ers lose this game.  I’m just glad they have to PLAY it!  They have to go halfway across the country, suffer in the bitter cold, and hopefully endure some unnecessary injuries thanks to playing on frozen tundra.  I want the 49ers tenderized!  I want them aching when they have to go into Carolina, to play another hard-hitting foe!  49ers 30, Packers 24.

Understand, my predictions for the NFC are entirely wishful thinking (well, actually, if it was REALLY wishful thinking, I’d have the Packers beat the 49ers, but I’m going for the perfect post-season predictions here).  But, they’re steeped in logic, because if there was EVER a year in which the Wild Card teams are better than the 3/4 division winners, it’s this year.

This puts the NFC Divisional round at:

  • New Orleans (6) @ Seattle (1), Sat, Jan 11th, 1:35pm
  • San Francisco (5) @ Carolina (2), Sun, Jan 12th, 10:05am

I’ll return with another one of these preview posts next week, but as a sneak preview, if everything goes according to plan THIS weekend, here’s what I see happening going forward:

AFC Championship Game:

  • New England (2) @ Denver (1), Sun, Jan 19th

NFC Championship Game:

  • San Francisco (5) @ Seattle (1), Sun, Jan 19th

As much as it both terrifies me and excites me to no end, I think Seattle is on a collision course with the 49ers.  It’s bound to happen at one point or another.  And, in that environment, with Seahawks fans on another level with their hatred of the 40-Whiners, I don’t think the oppressive loudness will ever abate in that game.

Super Bowl:

  • Seattle (1) vs. Denver (1)

A 1-seed vs. a 1-seed almost NEVER happens, but it’s happening this year.  I can feel it.

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