My NFL Wild-Card Weekend Preview

The Broncos, Patriots, or Seahawks may not be playing this weekend, but this is still an exciting weekend for football. The last three Super Bowl winners have started their playoff run on wild-card weekend. While most people aren’t predicting any of the teams to win the Super Bowl, history says it could happen. Here are my NFL wild-card weekend predictions.

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts, Saturday 4:30 p.m. eastern
These two teams played two weeks ago and the results weren’t pretty. The Colts drubbed the Kansas City 23-7 at Arrowhead Stadium. While we’ve seen the opposite team win in playoff rematches, I’m not so sure it will happen this time. The Chiefs are 2-5 since starting the season 9-0. The Chiefs defense, which was getting praised the first nine weeks, has really struggled in their last seven games. Even in their last win against the Oakland Raiders they allowed 31 points. I see Colts quarterback Andrew Luck having big day against a Chiefs defense that is 25th against the pass. I like the Colts in this one, but I do expect it to be a much closer game this time.

Winner: Colts

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday 8:00 p.m. eastern   

What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Eagles finished 4-12 and appeared like a team that had a dilemma at the quarterback position. In 2013, the Eagles won 10 games and now have found themselves a quarterback in Nick Foles. The second-year quarterback from the University of Arizona went 8-2 as the starter, as he threw 27 touchdowns to only just two interceptions. Foles’ 0.6 interception percentage was the lowest among quarterbacks this season that played in more than half of their team’s games.
I believe Foles and running back LeSean McCoy will be the difference in this game. While the Saints are second in the NFL, they aren’t the same team away from the Superdome.  They are 3-5 on the road this season and they’ve been outscored 78-36 in their last three road games (all losses).  The Saints are also averaging 17.8 per game on the road this season. Because of all those reasons, I like the Philadelphia Eagles to win this game.

Winner: Eagles

San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday 1:05 p.m. eastern

The Cincinnati Bengals will seek to end their 23-year drought without a postseason win Sunday when they host the San Diego Chargers. The Bengals last playoff win came against Houston Oilers during the 1990 season. During their last two playoff games, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been mediocre to say the least. He has thrown four interceptions and zero touchdowns in his two playoff losses against the Houston Texans. While I believe the Bengals are Super Bowl contenders, much of that will depend on Dalton’s play.

The Chargers won four straight victories to close the regular season to get into the playoffs. Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for nine touchdowns and 845 yards, with a passer rating of 109.8 during the Chargers four-game win streak. The last time the Chargers lost a game was to the Bengals on December 1, 17-10. Rivers was held to a season-low 80.0 passer rating and the Chargers turned the ball over three times.
The Bengals have been impressive at home this season as they went 8-0.  The Bengals defense has 24 sacks and 15 interceptions in those eight wins. This as well as the Bengals having a top five defense is the reason I’m picking them to finally end their playoff drought.

Winner: Bengals 

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers, Sunday 4:40 p.m. eastern

Despite losing  going 0-4-1 at one point during the season, the Green Bay Packers rallied to win three of their last four to claim a third straight NFC North title. Aaron Rodgers returned last week at Chicago and in the first two quarters looked a man who missed near two months with a broken collarbone.  In the first half Sunday, he was 14 of 22 for 145 yards with two interceptions. However, in the second half, he was 11 of 17, throwing for 173 yards and two touchdowns (including the game winning 48-yard TD pass to Randell Cobb with 38 seconds left). While the Packers have had their problems defeating the 49ers in the last three matchups (0-3), I do think this one will be a bit different.
Running back Eddie Lacy has given the Packers a dimension that they haven’t had in a long time, a running game. The rookie from Alabama rushed for nearly 1200 years and had 11 rushing touchdowns. I expect Lacy to play a big role in a game that’s projected to be one of the coldest games in NFL history.  Sunday’s projected forecast is a high of minus-3 and a low of minus-19. This could make it very difficult to throw and catch the football. Despite the 49ers are fourth in rush defense, I like the Packers to win behind the legs of Eddie Lacy.

Winner: Packers