Thursday, January 2, 2014
NFL Weekly Predictions: Wild Card
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Kansas City @ Indianapolis (-2½)
The Chiefs are well-rested after sitting nearly all of their starters in last week's 27-24 overtime loss in San Diego. Sunday's wild card round game is a rematch of a week 16 game, won 23-7 by the Colts in Kansas City.
"Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles," Andy Reid said. "And congratulations for me are in order, as well. I was responsible for two teams making the playoffs this year.
"We really didn't try to win last week in San Diego. It will be different in Indy. As Herman Edwards once said, 'You play to win the game.' Apparently, Herm's coaching record of 15-33 didn't reflect that. He was good for a quote, but not for a quota.
"We're trying to do something that this franchise hasn't done since 1993, and that's win a playoff game. That's 20 years of futility, and an equal number of next year's resolutions."
The Colts are in the playoffs for the second-straight year, this time as the AFC South champions. Andrew Luck seeks his first playoff win, and will have the backing of a loud and hungry home crowd.
"We're thrilled to be playing at home," Luck said. "Indianapolis should be rocking. The playoff atmosphere will be so palpable, you'll be able to cut it with a knife. In Lucas Oil Stadium, that's called 'viscosity.'
"Of course, LOS is the house that Peyton Manning built. And, if you know anything about our owner Jim Irsay, you know he likes a 'clean house.' Plus, he's really into remodeling. Irsay's made a personal plea to me that sounded a lot like his television pitch for a show on Home and Garden Television: 'Pimp That Trophy Room.'"
Andrew Luck will be the best player on the field, but don't discount Alex Smith. He manages games so well, even Whitey Herzog would be impressed. But Luck can not only manage games, he can take them over. Plus, he's got the home crowd behind him. But that's not all. Luck's got an entire network on his side, because CBS wants nothing more than a Colts/Broncos divisional round game, a game which will give new meaning to the term "quarterback rating."
Luck throws for two touchdowns, and Indy survives a shaky start to win, 30-24.
New Orleans @ Philadelphia (+2½)
The Saints downed the Buccaneers 42-17 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last week. Drew Brees passed for 381 yards and 4 touchdowns, and topped 5,000 yards passing for the fourth time. New Orleans is 8-0 at home this season, but only 3-5 on the road.
"We're untouchable at home," Sean Payton said, "and so is Brees. Just ask Ahmad Brooks. Unfortunately, we're playing on the road, where we are anything but untouchable. But don't forget, the Eagles are only 4-4 at home. So, it's like Sunday's game will be played on a neutral field. But there's no way a Philly player would use the word 'neutral' to describe their home-field advantage. Fans would go nuts. Heck, not even Riley Cooper would get away with saying the 'N' word.
"We're expecting a tough game in Philly. Our offense may be the NFL's most pass-happy, but the Eagles have a dangerous aerial assault in their own right. Nick Foles is not afraid to throw from anywhere on the field, and neither are the Eagles' fans. Whether it's snowballs, batteries, artificial limbs, bottles, IEDs, IUDs, or RPGs, those fans have tossed it. What's most amazing about it is that they throw spirals."
The Eagles held off the Cowboys 24-22 to lay claim to the NFC East crown and the NFC's No. 3 seed. Brandon Boykin intercepted Kyle Orton late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"That interception verified what everyone knew," Chip Kelly said. "Orton is a 'Tony Romo substitute.' Surgery can alleviate a bulging disc in a back, but it can't remove monkeys.
"This is an interesting matchup. It's the Saints and the Eagles, two teams known for their bounty scandals. Interestingly enough, Buddy Ryan, who was involved in Bounty Bowls I and II, is the father of Saints' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Rob has crafted the NFL's fourth-ranked defense, which just goes to prove you should put money on your defense instead of their opponents' heads. Gregg Williams is responsible for a lot of concussions, but only one repercussion."
Brees has never won a playoff game on the road. Foles has never played in a playoff game. That's got to put a lot of pressure on the head of the Eagles' trigger man. And the Saints' defense will use that against him. There's no need for a bounty on Foles. New Orleans doesn't want to get upside his head, they just want to get inside his head. And there's no rule against that. But I'm sure Roger Goodell is working on that.
Foles throws 2 interceptions, and Brees picks apart the Philly defense. Brees throws for 2 touchdowns, one to Jimmy Graham, whose celebratory windmill dunk brings down the crossbar, drawing comparisons to 76er great Daryl Dawkins, who later dubs the red-headed offspring of a mixed-race couple "Neopolitan Thunder."
New Orleans wins, 27-23.
San Diego @ Cincinnati (-7)
San Diego beat the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime Sunday and qualified for the playoffs, thanks to losses by the Dolphins and Ravens. Philip Rivers threw 3 touchdown passes and will lead the Chargers into Paul Brown Stadium, where temperatures are forecast in the 40s.
"Compared to the 1982 AFC Championship Game," Philip Rivers said, "that's downright balmy. That 1982 game featured temperatures in the single digits. That's cold. You don't often see single digits in San Diego, but when you do, it's usually in the win column.
"The Bengals were perfect at home this season. What wasn't perfect at home? The officials in San Diego last week. But what do you want me to do, apologize? Okay. I'm sorry, Pittsburgh Steelers. Those are 'The Breaks.' I know hearing that from me is little consolation, but give a listen to Kurtis Blow's version of 'The Breaks.' That should make them feel better."
The Bengals hold the AFC's No. 3 seed after finishing the season atop the AFC North with an 11-5 record. With a win, Cincy would head to either Denver or New England for a divisional round game.
"Our focus is strictly on the Chargers," Marvin Lewis said. "They're a lot like an illegal formation penalty for overloading one side of the line of scrimmage — they shouldn't be overlooked. Rivers is one of the most potent quarterbacks in the league. He's got the statistics, and the offspring, to prove it.
"We need Andy Dalton to limit his mistakes. He threw 33 touchdowns this year, but also tossed 20 interceptions. That's a 3.3-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In layman's terms, it means for every 3.3 TDs he threw, he tossed 2 interceptions. That doesn't bode well for us. There's not a chance in hell Andy throws 3.3 touchdowns against the Chargers, but there's a good chance he'll throw 2 interceptions."
Cincinnati wins 23-20.
San Francisco @ Green Bay (+2½)
The Packers, charged by the return of Aaron Rodgers, beat the Bears 33-28 in Chicago to claim the NFC North. Rodgers threw for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game-winning score to Randall Cobb on fourth down with 38 seconds left.
"Unlike that other 'A-Rod,'" Rodgers said, "there was no denying me. I'm not sure what happened on that play, but there was a breakdown in coverage. In any case, it was a great play by Randall. Luckily, we were both thinking the same thing. You could say our thoughts were homogenous, but I won't, because I'll have to reaffirm my sexuality.
"The 49ers spanked us 45-31 last year in the divisional round. We haven't forgotten that game, especially our defense. One thing they can hold is a grudge.
"But revenge is a dish best served cold, and it will be cold at Lambeau Field. The low is expected to be 5 degrees. Those fellows from California are susceptible to exposure. We've got a player with a similar problem. Clay Matthews has a nasty case of overexposure. He's been in more commercials than games."
The 49ers have won six straight and enter the playoffs as the league's hottest team. Jim Harbaugh and company are looking for their second-straight trip to the big game.
"We're thinking nothing short of the Super Bowl," Jim Harbaugh said. "And speaking of 'shorts' and the 'Super Bowl,' there was a blackout in last year's title game. And guess what? We're playing 'lights out' right now. We're excelling in all phases of the game; even Aldon Smith is playing at a high level, almost twice the legal limit, according to some.
"We plan to attack the Green Bay defense right where it's weakest — on the field. I assume they'll try to take away our running game and force Colin Kaepernick to throw. We ranked 30th in passing offense this season. That could be attributed to our running game, but I like to think it's because we only played the Packers once this year."
San Francisco wins, 26-20.