Saturday, January 03, 2015

TransGriot 2014 NFL Picks-Wildcard Weekend

The regular NFL season is over, and I fell short of my goal of walking away with another prognostication title.   That's headed to Denver.

To make it worse, I have to hear it from the Harris County Cowboy Bandwagon Riders about their team finally making the playoffs after three consecutive 8-8 seasons.

Well, if JJ Watt wins the NFL MVP, I'll feel somewhat better about this 2014 season and finishing second in the prognostication contest.

But while I'm killing time waiting for the 2015 NFL season to start, time to use the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs to hone my prognostication skills.

Saturday NFL Wildcard Weekend Games

Arizona Cardinals 11-5 vs Carolina Panthers 7-8-1

This is the Saturday early game.  The Cardinals were the hot team early in the season until the injury bug started decimating their roster and especially at quarterback.   The Panthers had all kinds of drama and adversity early and slumped to a 3-8-1 record at one point, but won their last four games to become the first team to repeat as NFC South champions despite the below .500  record.

But don't let that record fool you.   Carolina has momentum and is peaking at the right time of the year, while Arizona peaked too soon.   Doesn't help the Cards either they are on their fourth quarterback and playing this game in Charlotte after having the best record in the league at one point.

Arizona also has problems defending mobile quarterbacks, and Carolina has Cam Newton on their side and in uniform for this wild card game.

Picking the Panthers in this one.
Baltimore Ravens 10-6 vs Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5

The nightcap is the rubber match for these longtime AFC North rivals, and true to the nature of this series, they split the 2014 regular season series.   The Ravens beat the Steelers in Baltimore 26-6 during Week 2 while the Steelers returned the favor in Week 9 and thumped the Ravens 43-23 at Heinz Field.

The playoff game is at Heinz Field, and the AFC North champion Steelers come into it winning their last four games.   The Ravens won three of four down the stretch, but those games were to Miami, Jacksonville and Cleveland , and the loss was to the Texans. 

The Ravens chances to advance depend on which Joe Flacco shows up to play.  I'm betting it's bad Joe Flacco.    Steelers to win

Sunday NFL Wildcard Weekend Games

Cincinnati Bengals 10-5-1 vs Indianapolis Colts 11-5

This is a battle of Houston area high school quarterbacks in Katy's Andy Dalton and Stratford's Andrew Luck.  It's a rematch of a Week 7 game in which the Colts over the Bengals 27-0 at Lucas Oil Stadium.   They rolled up 506 yards of offense in that shutout and held the Bengals to 135 yards of total offense and 32 yards rushing..

This trip to Lucas Oil Stadium will be different.  Dalton and his teammates will have to hear ad nauseum on that bus ride up I-74 the factoid that the Bengals last playoff win was against the Oilers in 1991, while the Colts may have a slight chip on their shoulder about pundits saying they play in the 'soft'.AFC South.

Indianapolis went 5-2 down the stretch, but both losses were to the Patriots and Cowboys.  So did the Bengals, with both losses being to their AFC North nemesis the Steelers.

Over the last few weeks the Bengals have been using a devastating rushing attack anchored by rookie RB Jeremy Hill.    That will be their key to the Bengals finally getting that playoff monkey off their backs   The health of AJ Green will also be a factor because he still hasn't been cleared to play after suffering a concussion in the Steelers loss and he also missed the Week 7 game.  

The Colts will lean on Andrew Luck to carry them to another playoff win, but he has no running game to help him out and has been turnover prone this year.

If the Bengals can control the clock, force some turnovers and AJ Green can play, they have a shot.   But this game is at Lucas Oil, and the Colts don't lose many there. 

Colts to win this one.

Detroit Lions 11-5 vs Dallas Cowboys 12-4

In the nightcap the Detroit Lions head to Jerryworld for their NFC wild card game against the (yuck) NFC East champions.  Matthew Stafford played his high school ball in the Dallas area at Highland Park HS, where he led the Scots to the 2005 Texas Class 4A Division I title.

But it's NFL titles he's chasing now, and the Lions will have a tall task in stopping the Cowboy trio of Dez Bryant, NFL rushing champ Demarco Murray and Tony Romo.   Having Ndamukong Suh on the field will help the NFL's Number one rushing offense, since he won his appeal and got the one game suspension reduced to a $70K fine instead.

The Lions have a playoff history monkey to get off their backs as well.  They have only won two playoff games in the Super Bowl era, and their last win came in 1992

The opponent they defeated?   The Dallas Cowboys.

This playoff game will be Dallas' offense vs. Detroit's defense.   Only one will prevail, and if the Cowboys get to play ball control like they have all season, they will win.   If Detroit shuts down that rushing attack and forces that weak Dallas defense to play extended minutes, could be a very happy day for Matthew Stafford.

Naah..Dallas to win this one.

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