Back of the Jersey Wild Card Picks & Playoff Predictions

It’s hard to argue with this time of year as being one of the best times in sports. You have College Football Bowl games on each night of the week, with last night’s Oklahoma and Alabama game being the biggest surprise Bowl game to date. College Basketball has kicked into high gear with Conference Play starting and the NBA and hockey are each entering the midpoints of their respective seasons.

With no further ado (I know you’re waiting with bated breath), our Back of the Jersey team takes a stab at this week’s divisional round games and makes our predictions for the rest of the postseason.

Chiefs vs. Colts Preview – By Drew Morris

The 2011 San Francisco 49ers went 13-3 and clinched the number 1 seed in the NFC. Those Niners were similarly built to this years’ Chiefs: great defense built around rushing the passer, a new head coach that has breathed life into a struggling franchise and

Alex Smith

Image courtesy of www.zimbio.com

most obviously, both were/are led by Alex Smith. I didn’t think that San Fran was as good as their regular season record indicated that year, and I didn’t think that Alex Smith was capable of putting up enough offense to beat the Saints to make a run in the playoffs. I was proven wrong on both accounts as that team came within a few unlucky breaks of making the Super Bowl. I have felt the same way about the Chiefs this year, although I also think it would be wrong to say that they are as talented as the 2011 49ers. It is fair to say that when they have been at their best this year, the Chiefs have looked like one of the best teams in the NFL. Were it not for the Denver Demigods dominating the division, this year’s Chiefs likely would have locked up the number one seed and could be sitting at home this week on a bye.

Speaking of Peyton, can we imagine a world in which Andrew Luck eventually creates a bigger legacy in Indy than the aforementioned older Manning brother? That’s wildly speculative of me, but I think few would argue that it’s not outside the realm of possibility. He has already proven this year that he can win big games, including a miraculous comeback win against his predecessor. I’m sure its been painful at times for Colts fans to watch Peyton tear up the league, but I also have a feeling that watching Luck helps to ease that pain. That pain would be further eased if Luck can bring home a few Super Bowls.

That is looking a little too far into the future, so let’s refocus on what we know from this year. Looking specifically at week 16 when the Colts went into Arrowhead, Andrew Luck was given time by his offense line and he made the Chiefs pay on multiple third down conversions. Those conversions allowed Donald Brown to make some big plays in the open field, which broke the game open for the Colts. Donald Brown’s play is going to be a big deciding factor in this game, something not many people imagined when the Colts traded for Trent Richardson. Quick side note: I once tackled Donald Brown in a high school football game, so I’m not sure why the Chiefs struggled so much with the concept. By once I also mean just once, in the whole game, probably because I just happened to be in his way and he had gotten bored with running around me and decided to go through me. Still, that’s better than what the Chiefs did. I’m ready to go Coach Reid, if you need me.

On the flip side, the Colts D was able to pressure Alex Smith into making multiple turnovers, and so my doubts of a few years ago have resurfaced. Both of these teams were in the top half of the league in sacking the quarterback, and its fairly easy to say that the team that puts more pressure on the quarterback will have a much more likely chance of winning this game. I have to believe that the Chiefs will be a much more motivated team this time around. It felt like they sort of conceded the AFC West to the Broncos at the end of the year to allow their team to get healthy for the postseason. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali should both be available for this game, and as a result, I don’t think Luck will have the same amount of time he had a few weeks ago.

Sure, the Colts are at home this time around, but the Chiefs have more playoff experience at head coach and quarterback, and I think Alex Smith has more to prove. The Colts have shown they will not be an easy out, and Sportscenter did just run a riveting segment on Andrew Luck’s ability to yell his cadence really loud. That’s the type of world class analysis that will make us common fans second guess our playoff picks, but I learned my lesson two years ago in doubting Alex Smith. I think I’ll stick with the dainty voiced Chiefs FTW.

Rest of Round 1:

Chargers vs. Bengals

Age over beauty here. Age being Philip Rivers. Beauty being Andy Dalton. Yeah, so definitely age.

NFC

Saints vs. Eagles

Nick Foles and Chip Kelly have no experience in the playoffs for me to base a decision off of, but Drew Brees is terrible in bad weather, that has been definitively been proven. The Eagles win this in stinky, smelly, rotten fashion….Philly sucks.

49ers vs. Packers

Green Bay has not been good in recent history at home in the playoffs. Maybe because their fans won’t buy tickets to the game. Niners run game dominates, Aaron Rodgers prays that the Smith brothers don’t break his other collarbone, San Fran moves on.

Divisional Round

AFC

Chiefs vs. Pats

Death. Taxes. Brady in the playoffs.

Chargers vs. Broncos

Death. Taxes. Peyton chokes in the playoffs.

NFC

49ers vs. Seahawks

These teams hate each other, and I love it. This will be my favorite game of the playoffs, and the 49ers will continue to roll towards the Super Bowl once again.

Eagles vs. Panthers

I never thought I would say it, but Cam Newton is one of my favorite players in the NFL, at least in terms of watching him play on the field. Luke Kuechly is quickly becoming one of my favorite players on the other side of the ball. Panthers win 174-0. Or at least I hope so.

Conference Championship

AFC

Chargers vs. Pats

I almost want to pick the Chargers, because they made it in by the skin of their teeth and I believe they will ride the intensity of Philip Rivers further than people think. The Pats are also decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball. And Brady, despite still being an absolute killer in crunch time/the playoffs has lost a step, especially with his deep ball. And no Gronk. Soooo I guess screw it, lets get weird…Chargers to the ‘ship.

NFC

49ers vs. Panthers

These two teams are mirror images of each other. I want to pick the 49ers, but only ten wild card teams have ever made it to the Super Bowl, and never have two wild card teams met there. And I just picked one. So SuperCam muscles his way to the Super Bowl.

SUPER BOWL

Chargers vs. Panthers

I love the NFL because it is unpredictable, but the better team wins this game, and Cam takes a step forward into superstardom.

49ers vs. Packers Preview – By Rory Goulding

Colin Kaepernick

Courtesy of www.cbssports.com

This season, the Green Bay Packers were 6-2 in games started and finished by State Farm pitchman and occasional football player Aaron Rodgers, while with backups at the helm, the Pack were a paltry 2-5-1. One of those two Rodgers losses was to the 49ers in Week 1.

So despite the 49ers recent success against Green Bay[1], when I sat down to watch the games on Sunday I had one thought in mind: I don’t want anything to do with the Rodgers-led Packers in the playoffs this season. Not a thing. Seriously, the other possible options were Drew Brees on the road, Nick Foles in his first career playoff game, Smokin’ Jay[2] or the ghost of Tony Romo. Oh, right, or Carson Palmer.[3] I’m good with going against any of those guys in a playoff game. Fast forward eight hours and two Rodgers-to-Randall-Cobb touchdowns later, the Niners are now squaring off against the Packers this Sunday afternoon. Awesome.

1 2 3

You may be asking, “Rory, if the 49ers have been so dominant against Green Bay over the past two seasons, why are you so worried?” That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked. Let’s address that now.

Week 1 against the Packers was the only time this season that Colin Kaepernick threw for more than 310 yards in a game. He’s only eclipsed 300 yards once more, and that was Week 17. So take those two games out, and Kaepernick has averaged 177 passing yards per game this season. Add in that both meetings against the Pack were home games for Kaepernick and Sunday he’ll be on the road at famed Lambeau Field, where temperatures are slated to be below zero[4] with the wind chill. Does that answer your question? I sure hope so.

4

Still, fears about Rodgers aside, I can’t pick against my own team. I still feel confident that the 49ers can gut this one out, and hopefully with the ghost of Uncle Phil on our side. 49ers 33, Packers 27

Of all this weekend’s Wild Card games, this one seems to be surrounded by the most unknowns. What Colin Kaepernick are we going to get? What Aaron Rodgers are we going to get? Can Eddie Lacy find success against San Francisco’s defense? Can Dom Capers figure out Kaepernick? How much “Adderall” have Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb taken over the past few weeks?

I hope you had a great 2013, and none of you felt the need to post on Facebook about it.[5] Happy New Year everyone!

5

The Rest of Round 1:

Saints 23, Eagles, 21

Bengals 35, Chargers 23

Colts 21, Chiefs 20

Divisional Round

Seahawks 38, Saints 17

Patriots 20, Bengals 13

49ers 17, Panthers 13

Broncos 41, Colts 23

Conference Championship

Patriots 34, Broncos 24

Seahawks 22, 49ers 17

SUPER BOWL

Seahawks 27, Patriots 21[6]

6

Saints vs. Eagles Preview – By Tyler Michels

“Wild Card Weekend” is one of the best in all of sports, featuring four NFL playoff games (two Saturday, two Sunday) that is guaranteed to provide plenty of excitement and entertainment for football fans nationwide.

In the second game on Saturday, the Saints will visit the Eagles, in a game which may be deemed the most even of the weekend.

Drew Brees

Image courtesy of live.drjays.com

The Eagles are coming off a dramatic must win finale versus the Romo-less Cowboys to win the NFC East, and the Saints enter the postseason feeling slighted that they didn’t come away with the NFC South divisional crown.

This is one that most likely will come down to the wire, however, I don’t expect this game to be high scoring. New Orleans defense has actually played slightly better on the road this season, and it is going to be a frigid day in Philadelphia, with high’s topping out at about 32 degrees. The Eagles have been poor against pass-catching tight ends all season (ex. Jason Witten last week), and I expect nothing different this week as Saints tight end Jimmy Graham may be the NFL’s best.

Ultimately, I have the Saints edging out the Eagles 23-20. Although the Saints have struggled on the road historically in the postseason (0-3 all-time in the Brees era), and are just 3-5 on the road this season, I do believe they are the better overall team, which is why I have them narrowly edging out a victory over the 3-seeded Philadelphia Eagles. Foles, McCoy and Jackson will be a formidable force for the Saints defense, but I think Drew Brees’ leadership and experience will be the difference maker and push New Orleans over the top.

In my other weekend predictions:

Chiefs 24 Colts 27

Chargers 26 Bengals 21

49ers 23 Packers 30

Divisional Round:

Colts 25 Patriots 31

Chargers 20 Broncos 24

Packers 20 Panthers 16

Saints 22 Seahawks 28

Championship Round:

Patriots 27 Broncos 30

Packers 17 Seahawks 27

SUPER BOWL:

Seahawks 24 Broncos 18

Chargers at Bengals Preview – By Jim Armstrong

Phillip Rivers

Image courtesy of blog.betdsi.com.

In a lot of ways the Chargers have been the Dallas Cowboys of the AFC. They consistently enter each season with enough talent to make the playoffs but each of the last three seasons they have squandered opportunities with untimely turnovers, interminable losing streaks and bone-headed play calling. For the first time in recent memory, the Chargers entered the 2013 season with little to no expectations. Many picked the Chargers to finish 3rd in the division (which they did) and fail to sniff .500 on the season (they finished two games over .500).

How did the Chargers sneak into the playoffs at 9-7, after finishing 7-9 and 8-8 in each of the previous two seasons? The answer: career years from both Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews (285 carries, 1,255 yards, 6 TD’s, 189 receiving yards), and an out-of-nowhere potential offensive Rookie of the Year season from Keenan Allen (71 receptions, 1,046 yards & 8 TD’s). Philip Rivers torched opponents and set all sorts of personal records this year:

  • Completion percentage – 69.5% (best in NFL, best completion % of his career)
  • Yards per completion – 8.23 (3rd best of career)
  • Touchdowns – 32 (2nd best of career)
  • QB rating – 105.5 (tied for best QB rating of his career – this excludes the 2004 season when he suited up for only two games and had a 110.9 passer rating)
  • QBR – 71.7 (2nd best mark of career)
  • Fumbles – 1 (tied for a career low)

Do the Chargers have enough this year to win their first playoff game since the 2008 season (when LT was at the tail end of his prime)? I say they do.

The Bengals scare me in a lot of ways. They have a nice two-headed running back tandem in Gio Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and a formidable duo at tight end in Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. I haven’t even mentioned A.J. Green yet, who is one of the top 3 most explosive receivers in the NFL (Josh Gordon & Megatron are the other two). A.J. racked up 98 receptions, 1,426 yards (good for 5th in the league) and 11 TD’s this season.

With all this being said, I take Philip Rivers over Andy Dalton this season. In 2012 I would have selected Dalton every time but this year he’s Jekyll and Hyde. He’s thrown 20 picks on the year (against 33 TD’s) and is completing a pedestrian 61.9% of his passes. Dalton’s had 5 games where he’s thrown multiple interceptions with 4 of these 5 games occurring in the final 8 games of the season. This SCREAMS regression and I don’t like quarterbacks who get worse as the year goes on.

My pick is the Chargers in a tight one: 31-28 (they just have that 2011 and 2007 Giants feel to them)

Rest of Round 1:

(6)New Orleans 28, (3)Philadelphia 20

(4)Indy 28, (5)Kansas City 17

(4)Green Bay 21, (5)San Francisco 20

Divisional Round

(2)New England 24, (4)Indy 14

(1)Denver 34, (6) Chargers 20

(1)Seattle 30, (6) New Orleans 27 (OT)

(2)Carolina 21, (4) Green Bay 30

Conference Championship

(1)Denver 31, (2)New England 20

(1) Seattle 21, (4)Green Bay 17

SUPER BOWL

(1)Denver 17, (1)Seattle 14

Speak Your Mind

*