Friday, January 03, 2014

2013 TransGriot NFL Predictions- Wildcard Weekend

2013 was my worst ever  NFL prognostication season.   Like my hometown team I had high hopes of defending my title, but multiple .sub 500 weeks killed that for me. 

Like the Texans, i"m looking forward to the start of the 2014 NFL season and May's NFL Draft in which we have the first pick after a 2-14 meltdown.  We'll have a new coach in Bill O'Brien and a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. .

The winter of my NFL discontent could be worse.  I could be hearing it from the Harris County Arlington Cowchip Fifth Column about this revolting development.   But they won't go there.  All I have to do is ask them is what time does their playoff game start at Jerryworld, point out the fact they've now missed the playoffs for three straight seasons and that should be enough to shut them up about the Texans going 2-14.   Even better, our interconference division opponent next season is the NFC East.

Super Bowl XLVIII logoAhem, focus Moni.

Enough jibber-jabber about my Texans, the 2013-14 NFL playoffs have arrived. While it won't be as much fun for me because my hometown team isn't in the running to play in Super Bowl XLVIII in Met Life Stadium (why) on February 2, I need to get my NFL prediction skills recalibrated.   Mike and Eli's picks are here.

So it's time to dive into NFL Wildcard Weekend

Saturday NFL Wildcard Weekend Games

Kansas City (11-5) at Indianapolis (11-5)

Andrew Luck has been better without Reggie Wayne than you might imagine. (MCT via Getty Images)This AFC wildcard game is a rematch of a December 22 NFL Week 16 matchup in which the AFC South champion (yuck) Colts forced four turnovers and scored 23 unanswered points after exiting the first quarter trailing 7-0 enroute to beat the Chefs 23-7 at Arrowhead Stadium.

This time the rematch game is at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the trendlines aren't looking good for the Chiefs.

They enter this game having lost five of their last six games against Indianapolis. After starting the season 9-0, KC was 2-5 down the stretch including the 27-24 overtime loss against San Diego in which they rested 20 of their 22 starters, blew a 10 point fourth quarter lead and Ryan Succup missed a 41 yard field goal with :04 seconds left in regulation that would have secured the win. 

Even the protection of a retractable roof nearly didn't spare the Colts a TV blackout this weekend.Meanwhile Indianapolis comes into the playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on somewhat of a roll, having won their last three games.  So what if they were against the Texans, the Chiefs and Jacksonville, they still handled their NFL business. 

The Colts are determined to not only go deeper into this season's playoffs than they did last year, but win their first ever home playoff game for their sophomore quarterback (and Houston homeboy) Andrew Luck and the out for the season Reggie Wayne.

We'll also get to see tomorrow how well Andy Reid making the call to rest his starters in that final regular season game against San Diego game worked out.  

Be afraid KC, be very afraid.  

Indianapolis wins this one.

New Orleans (11-5) at Philadelphia (10-6)

Drew Brees New Orleans SaintsThis intriguing NFC wildcard nightcap game features a pair of offenses and (ahem) a pair of former Texas HS quarterbacks that can light up the scoreboard when they get rolling in the Saints' Drew Brees and Philly's Nick Foles.

Brees and Foles played for Texas 5A HS football power school Austin Westlake, but a decade apart.  Brees led Westlake to their only state title in 1996 while Foles is responsible for breaking Brees' high school passing records.   This will be only the second playoff game in NFL history in which QB's from the same high school confronted each other and the first time ever two from the Texas high school ranks have done so.

The Saints march into this matchup at Lincoln Financial Field as the number four ranked team in the NFL in total offense, the number two ranked passing offense in the league and five Pro Bowlers.

The defense in their first year under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wasn't too shabby either.  They were number four in the NFL in total defense and number two in passing defense.     

But the reason the Saints are playing this game in chilly Philly instead of the climate controlled raucous confines of the Mercedes Benz Superdome (where they were a spotless 8-0) is because they were 3-5 on the road.   As the Saints have been reminded all week, they have lost their last five road playoff games and Drew Brees is 0-3 in road playoff games.

Hi-res-454297875-nick-foles-of-the-philadelphia-eagles-signals-to_crop_northThe NFC East champion Eagles after starting 1-3 under new head coach Chip Kelly, caught fire and went 9-3 to capture the division crown.  

They were the number two team in the league in total offense and number one in rushing offense thanks to 2013 NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy who finished the season with 1,607 yards.  Foles after taking over as the starter for Michael Vick threw for 27 TD's with only 2 picks.

The Eagles are the flipside of the Saints in terms of they did their best NFL work away from home.  They were 6-2 on the road, but only 4-4 at Lincoln Financial Field.   However, Philadelphia did win their last four consecutive home games as part of their 5-1 finishing kick in the second half of the season, including that 54-11 prime time Sunday Night Football blowout of the Chicago Bears.   
They also clinched the NFC East title by beating the hated in Philly (and everywhere else) Dallas Cowboys 24-22 at the Jerrydome
My pick for this game comes down to location, location, location.  It's also going to be cold with the predicted 8:10 PM EST kickoff time weather expecting a low temp of 21 degrees, 5-10 mph winds, and a 20 chance of precipitation. 

Not what Who Dat Nation wants to hear when they are already nervous about the Saints chances of winning this playoff game and overcoming their playoff road woes.

Since this game is not in Orleans Parish and the Eagles have already proven their offense works in bad weather conditions, going with Philadelphia.

Sunday NFL Wildcard Weekend Games

San Diego (9-7) at Cincinnati (11-5)

Cincinnati Bengals v San Diego ChargersThe AFC North champion Bengals for the first time in two seasons are playing somebody in January besides the Texans in a wild card playoff game. 

They are also doing so at home against a San Diego Chargers team that had to come back from a 10 point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game, then go deep into overtime in Week 17 to eke out a controversial 27-24 win against a Kansas City Chiefs squad that was resting their starters.

AndyDalton.jpgAnother Texas HS quarterback from a perennial Class 5A championship powerhouse in Katy's Andy Dalton leads Cincinnati into this rematch of a Week 13 game in San Diego in which the Bengals came storming out of their bye week to beat the Chargers 17-10.courtesy of a late third quarter 21 yard TD pass to a wide open A.J. Green that turned out to be the winning score 

The Bengals come into this playoff tilt at Paul Brown Stadium on somewhat of a roll.  Including that December 1 win against the Chargers, they were 4-1 down the stretch.   Three of those wins were by blowout margins over the Colts (42-28), the Vikings (42-14) and the not so Angry Birds (34-17) with the only stumble being a 30-20 loss at Heinz Field against the Steelers.  The Bengals for the first time since 1988 were unbeaten at home, and the last time that happened they went all the way to Super Bowl XXIII   

Geno AtkinsThe Cincinnati defense is ranked number three in the NFL in total defense, and number five in both rushing and passing defense.   But as the Bengals have been reminded all week, they haven't won a playoff game since 1991.   Despite this being the third straight season they have played January football, it has been one and done the last two years.

Despite San Diego barely getting into the AFC playoff party, after that loss to the Bengals, the Chargers come into this playoff game having won four straight pressure packed games, including a 27-20 upset win on December 12 over the number one AFC seeded Broncos in Denver. 

Philip Rivers 2013.JPGThe Bolts are the number five ranked offense in the NFL and the number four ranked passing offense in the league. Philip Rivers is also no slouch in the quarterback slot.

They just hope it won't be as cold in Cincy as the last time they played January football there, the 1981 AFC Championship game that the Bengals won 27-7.  The wind chilled temp was minus 59 degrees and replaced the 1967 Ice Bowl as the coldest playoff game in NFL history. 

San Diego is also hoping that bad Andy Dalton shows up.  Not a likely occurrence. Andy Dalton's stats in The Jungle: 63.5 percent of his passes completed with 20 TD's, nine interceptions and a 98.4 passer rating with the weapons to exploit your number 12 ranked defense.

More bad news for you Charger fans to digest.  High temp for Sunday's game at The Jungle is forecast to be 36 degrees with rain and then snow.  You are catching a break becaus it is a noon CST kickoff, such as it is.

Looks like Polar down in Da Ville and the Bengals fans will be were happy and chanting "Who Dey" after this game is over.

to win this one.

San Francisco (12-4) at Green Bay (8-7-1)

San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick vs Green Bay PackersThe Sunday NFL wildcard afternoon playoff matchup is a rematch of their Week 1 opening game shootout at Candlestick Park. 

Colin Kaepernick flipped the script and lit them up for a career high 412 passing yards and three TD's enroute to a 34-28 victory eight months after the Niners and Kaepernick knocked the Packers out of the NFC Divisional round of the 2012-13 playoffs with his legs in a 45-31 win.

But this one is being hosted at Lambeau Field because Green Bay fans got both of the presents they wanted from Santa on Christmas Day  

They got the return of Aaron Rodgers to the Packer lineup after spending seven weeks on the sidelines with a broken left collarbone.

The other was the third straight NFC North title won in dramatic fashion in that Week 17 winner take all December 29 showdown at Soldier Field against the Bears.   Rodgers hit Randall Cobb on a 48 yard TD pass on fourth and eight with :38 seconds left in the game to erase a one point deficit.   An interception of a desperation Cutler pass in the waning seconds of the game preserved the 33-28 win.

The Packers are third in the NFL in total offense and because of Rodgers' injury were forced to lean on rookie Eddie Lacy more heavily than they probably would have their franchise QB been healthy.  

But major red flags going into this game is that despite winning three of their last four games down the stretch, none of their wins were against playoff teams this season, their defense has been getting worse as the season progressed, Clay Matthews is out with a thumb injury and the secondary has been getting toasted like Quizno's subs.

The Niners played in the best division in the NFL this year in the NFC West, closed the season winning six straight games including a 19-17 win at Candlestick Park over the eventual NFC number one seeded Seattle Seahawks and have the number three ranked rushing attack in the league.

They also bring into this game eight Pro Bowlers, the number five ranked defense in the NFL, and the number four ranked rushing defense in the league..

We might be looking on Sunday at a replay of the 1967 Ice Bowl. Aaron Rodgers on the field gives the Packers a chance to pull an upset along with a forecast kickoff high temp of minus 5 degrees with a low approaching minus 20.  If the 49ers can overcome the Arctic cold bearing down on Green Bay, Colin Kaepernick will prove once again he is no slouch either at QB and has a better supporting cast and team.

And since he was the losing quarterback in last year's Super Bowl, Kaepernick has a major incentive along with many of the Niners players who had to watch the Ravens hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy to handle their playoff business despite the temps.

San Francisco to win this one.   

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