by Ryan Meehan and Coach Ryan
The playoffs are here, and as writers we couldn’t be happier. For the casual fan it means that only the best twelve teams remaining will play football from here on out, but for us it means that we don’t have to do anymore Texans-Titans write-ups. The big news this week is that technically the San Diego Chargers might not have even made it into the playoffs had it not been for a major officiating oversight in their game last week against the Chiefs. While it seems like a stock complaint to bitch about the officiating, there’s no reason that the officials need to get their heads out of their asses on a potential game winning kick. I hate to say it, but the Pittsburgh Steelers should be playing the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. But what’s done is done, and here we are. In this piece Meehan is going to go ahead and tell you the cases for and against each team, and then Coach is going to give you the bottom line. This is Wild Card Weekend in the NFL.
5) Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) +2.5 at 4) Indianapolis Colts (11-5) (46.5) 4:35 PM Saturday
Kansas City Chiefs – The Case For
The Kansas City Chiefs shocked the football world when they opened up the season winning their first nine games of the season. Although we knew they were going to be much better under the guidance of future Hall of Fame coach Andy Reid (They couldn’t be much worse than 2-14) we had no idea that they’d be able to rip off a run like that right out of the box. Jamaal Charles has been outstanding this year, and is a major reason that they’ve had the success that they’ve had. Alex Smith is one of the better game managers in the AFC, and if you can get away with only averaging under 210 yards per game, sometimes that’s enough to get to you to 11-5.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Case Against
While it might be enough to get you to that kind of a record, it also means that you do lack a bit of depth at the wide receiver position. And keep in mind, out of those first nine games the only team who made the playoffs. Since then, they’ve lost 5 out of their last 7 and are headed into a very noisy building. The biggest case againt the Chiefs is that against some of these better teams they have lacked overall explosiveness. They are also in the bottom third of the league in both major defensive categories.
Indianapolis Colts – The Case For
The Colts’ biggest strength is in their resume. So far this year they’ve beaten San Francisco, Seattle and Denver – all playoff teams. But the most recent playoff team they’ve beaten is Kansas City, whom they’ll face on Saturday and dominated in that 23-7 Week 16victory. Pretty much everything that is currently going on in Indy leads me to believe that the first round of this playoffs should be no problem for them. They drew one of the easier teams in the field, so they should be in great shape here.
Indianapolis Colts – The Case Against
Really the only negative thing that I can see here with Indianapolis is the team’s focus. While they are expected to win this game, they are likely to get absolutely crushed in the game after it, and although the standard line fed to the public is the old “One game at a time” mantra – You can’t help but wonder if some of these guys are thinking about next week. Oh, and they can’t stop the run for shit. Their most recent losses were to the Bengals, Rams, and Cardinals – so they are beatable but I just don’t see the Chiefs being that team. They aren’t the most powerful offensive team in the world, but a lot of those numbers are that way because they lost Reggie Wayne, and they are still winning games without him.
The Bottom Line: You can’t go against history and in the NFL history says major upsets happen in the Wild Card Round. Unfortunately for the Chiefs they aren’t the team that is going to pull that upset. It sounds strange to think of Kansas City as an underdog after the season they had but the bottom line is they are 0-5 since their bye week against teams currently in the playoffs, including that 23-7 whooping this same Colts team laid on them in Kansas City just a couple weeks ago. I think this will be a closer game, but even with the Colts missing their biggest weapon I just don’t see the Chiefs going on the road and taking care of business. The Chiefs were one of the better stories this year, but unfortunately for them their run will come to an end on Saturday.
Meehan’s Pick: Colts 30, Chiefs 17
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Colts 31, Chiefs 24
6) New Orleans Saints (12-4) -2.5 at 3) Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) (53.5) 8:10 PM Saturday Night
New Orleans Saints – The Case For
The case for the Saints would have to start with the fact that Drew Brees is still a killing machine that can rack up a ton of yards a game, and he’ll be doing so on a pass defense that is statistically worse than the Cowboys. (Let that fact soak in for a second) He has recently won a Super Bowl, and has led the Saints back from a dismal 2012 season. Brees is in that category where he can pass for 5100 yards a year and it’s back page news. And had it not been for a completely unexpected Carolina Panthers season, they would have easily won the NFC South.
New Orleans Saints: The Case Against
The biggest problem I can see that the Saints have would be winning tough games on the road (they are 3-5) which is not good for them in this matchup. It’s going to be freezing on Saturday night and smack dab in the middle of a northeaster, and the way that the Eagles played in that snowstorm against Detroit earlier on in the season tells me that they aren’t scared of the elements at all. Additionally, they don’t have much of a running game – Their number one back is Pierre Thomas and he didn’t even have 550 yards on the season. The Saints have lost three out of their last five, and maybe some of that winning steam along with it.
The Philadelphia Eagles: The Case For
Nick Foles = Prime F@ckin’ Rib, kid. We’ve already gone over funny it is that Michael Vick lost his job to a kid that has arguably much less athletic ability. But what we haven’t mentioned is that in any other year where Peyton Manning hasn’t thrown 55 touchdown passes, we’d all be sitting here talking about how Nick Foles is Johnny Unitas. This is a home game for them since they won their division, and Philly will be alive and ready to make sure that Drew Brees’ won center can’t hear his snap count. And while Adrian Peterson might sell more cereal and athletic wear, LeSean McCoy won the rushing title and he is hands down the real deal.
The Philadelphia Eagles: The Case Against
Although their defensive line is unusually underrated, the big plays they have given up this year have been pretty embarrassing. And against a guy who puts up MVP-type numbers almost every year, you can understand why this game could potentially get out of hand quickly. They are ranked dead last in pass defense and gave up 52 points to the Broncos in week two. The only playoff team that they’ve beat is Green Bay, which you can’t really count because Scott Tolzein started that game. But it’s hard for me to go to great lengths here as I have a very good feeling about Philadelphia’s immediate future.
The Bottom Line: Meehan makes a lot of good points especially when it comes to New Orleans record on the road but take into affect the Eagles are only 4-4 at home on the season. When it comes to this playoff matchup I have to go against the what have you done for me lately and focus on the overall body of work. The Eagles may have been one of the hottest teams the second half but with the exception of a home win against Arizona it has been against weak competition. It’s going to be cold on Sunday but Philly has zero chance of precipitation meaning this could be a really fun air it out type game. The bottom line for me is the Saints passing defense which finished second in the NFL combined with the fact that as of this moment I still trust Drew Brees way more than I trust Nick Foles. This game could really go either way but until the Eagles prove they can win the big game I’m going with the experience of the Saints.
Meehan’s Pick: Eagles 27, Saints 23
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Saints 31, Eagles 27
6) San Diego Chargers (9-7) +7 at 3) Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) (47) 1:05 PM Sunday
San Diego Chargers – The Case For
Like it or not, San Diego is hot right now. They’ve won four in a row and 5 out of their last six, including two against 5 seed Kansas City, and one against the Broncos. (!?) When Philip Rivers was interviewed after the Denver game and said that the Chargers were going to win out, I thought that maybe he had gotten into the Seahawks’s medicine cabinet but he has certainly proved himself. Their defense is also very good up front – Most of the time. And you have to figure that playing in the AFC West this year, they have a lot of experience against good teams who don’t dress up like Pirates.
San Diego Chargers – The Case Against
The biggest thing that I can see that is working against the Chargers is that let’s face it – They really aren’t that much better than a .500 team. Their secondary lacks power, but for some reason the fact that their leading tackler is a safety (Eric Weddle) makes me think maybe their D-line isn’t nearly as good as I previously stated. It’s either that or teams which play them just go for the throat because they know there is a weakness in the secondary. Regardless of what it is, most teams are going to be able to find a hole in that defense and unless Andy Dalton ends up being as color blind as he was last week they should be pretty easy to pick apart. Rivers has energized this team and they rally behind him, but if something happens to him they are dead – Their backups are Brad Sorensen and Charlie Whitehurst.
Cincinnati Bengals – The Case For
The Bengals at -7 is the highest spread of the playoff weekend, and they won the AFC North easily. The have the best receiver that nobody’s talking about in AJ Green, who had another 1400 yard season without anybody noticing. They have a quarterback in Andy Dalton who took down Tom Brady earlier on in the year, and the fifth ranked defense in the NFL. And while everybody in the world won’t shut up about how “invincible” Seattle is at home this year, the Seahawks DID lose a home game against Arizona whereas the Bengals are undefeated in their own little slice of Ohio. And remember if they win this game, this will be their last home game of the year so I can’t see them not making it count.
Cincinnati Bengals – The Case Against
Even though he’s had a great year Andy Dalton looked putrid last week, throwing four picks in a game against a division rival. Had Flacco not played equally as poor with his sub-50 QBR and general distaste for anything exciting, people would be sitting here really worried that a warm weather team that’s a six seed would be coming into town ready to beat them with their own cleats. And while they may have won the AFC North easily, that was a pretty bad division in a pretty sub-average conference. They lost to the Browns earlier on in the year, which is not a mistake an 11-5 team should make. Running game is subpar at best, and they are a team that could really struggle against someone who is really hot – which San Diego is.
The Bottom Line: Meehan pointed out my bottom line which can be summed up in a few words: the Bengals don’t lose at home. This actually could be the best game we see this weekend as both these teams have essentially been playing playoff games for the past several weeks just to get into the playoffs. This should be a matchup that doesn’t have many mistakes and could be a platform that Andy Dalton can use to be looked at as more than just an average quarterback. I don’t know what it is about Cincinnati playing at home but this year they’ve beaten Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Andrew Luck in the Jungle. Don’t forget the Bengals went on the road about a month ago and took care of the Chargers in what ended up being the Chargers last loss of the year. I’m taking the Bengals in a close one and to go either farther the winner of this game could be a dark horse to make it to the AFC Championship.
Meehan’s Pick: Bengals 32, Chargers 24
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Bengals 24, Chargers 23
5) San Francisco 49ers (12-4) -2.5 at 4) Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) (48) 4:40 PM Sunday
San Francisco 49ers – The Case For
The 49ers have one of the best rosters in the NFL. They have so much depth that pretty much anybody can get hurt and they will still find a way to win. A lot of people are very worried about Frisco on the road in this game, but remember they beat Green Bay 34-28 in week one with a healthy Rodgers. They’ve won six in a row and the two losses before that were against Carolina and the Saints, both playoff teams that were playing very well. And they only lost those two games by an average of 2.5 points, so they aren’t afraid of anything that might be thrown their way. They adapt very well to just about anything that they face, and are 9-3 against conference opponents this year.
San Francisco 49ers – The Case Against
I think that a lot of people seem to be forgetting that the Niners completely almost blew the Atlanta game had the Falcons not handed it back to them in the same fashion in which they stole it. We pretty much know that Frank Gore will not be 100%, and that could have some effect on the way Kaepernick is able to control the pace of the game in cold temperatures. Speaking of the weather, the Niners may have won the first week of the season, but back in September it was about forty-five degrees warmer than it will be on Sunday afternoon. And for some reason in a one-and done playoff sport like pro football, I can’t bring myself to trust a team like this year’s 49ers.
Green Bay Packers – The Case For
The second that Aaron Rodgers walked onto that field in the Chicago game, the Packers looked alive again. And even though it took him some time to hit his stride, you just got the feeling that everything seemed to be clicking like it was before he left. As Reggie Jackson would say, he’s “the straw that stirs the drink”. His ability to connect with Jordy Nelson has prodcued a lot of big plays and big plays can bury the other team in a playoff game. And you have to figure that as long as you have an elite quarterback around, you can make a playoff run.
Green Bay Packers – The Case Against
Keep in mind, this is still a team that was one tie away from being .500. They still have a very skeletal appearance on defense, and Clay Matthews won’t be a part of it. And if we’re going to bring up that the Packers didn’t play well in Rodgers’ absence, that tells me that even though he’s going to be there on Sunday that’s not a very good team without him. They’re only 4-3-1 at home this season, and with tickets not sold out for a playoff game at Lambeau Field as of Wednesday night I have to wonder if it will be the same playoff atmosphere that is the only thing we’ve come to know and love about pro football in the state of Wisconsin. They had to win a play in game to get here, and they can just as easily play their way out.
The Bottom Line: The bottom line for this game is we are in for a Wild Card treat. Had Rodgers not gone down this very possibly could have been a game that we would have seen later in the playoffs and in my opinion is the toughest game to pick this week. In the end my pick comes down to the old philosophy that defense wins championships. Green Bay has gotten through the year due to one factor Aaron Rodgers and the Packers got completely exposed as he was out. The days of the Packers being unbeatable during the playoffs at Lambeau are over and even though Rodgers was able to get in rhythm last week against the Bears the San Francisco defense is a whole other animal. Rodgers will be able to get by enough to make this game interesting but in the end the Packers last game of the year is going to exactly like their first, with a loss to the Niners.
Meehan’s Pick: 49ers 22, Packers 20
Coach Ryan’s Pick: 49ers 27, Packers 23
In the AFC the teams that have a first round bye are the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. Denver plays lower remaining seed. In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers both have a bye. Seattle plays the lower remaining seed.
Enjoy the games, and as always drive safely!!!
Meehan and Coach Ryan