Wait, what’s this? Gone since Week 6, back in time for the playoffs? What is this madness…
Honestly, I’ve only got myself to blame but life is also sort of at fault. Amidst playing a few handfuls of roles inside and outside the realm of plausibility, I was still able to manage five fantasy football teams, four more successfully than one… one more successfully than the other three. I’ve of course followed the season very closely and just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to let y’all in on my crystal ball of football future.
Or my best guess.
This Wild Card weekend starts with
Chiefs at Colts
So let me get this straight. The Chiefs, who started the season on a tear and then withered down the stretch trading wins and losses (including a 23-7 shalacking AT Arrowhead), face a suddenly hot Colts team that has won four of their last five including that stunner in KC. Let’s be fair though: they’ve beaten three divisional rivals, two of which are pretty bad and one which is mediocre at best. They had two challenging opponents, got tore up by one (the Bengals) and beat the other who was ravaged by injuries and mired in a slump (their opponents this weekend).
Sure, the Chiefs are getting considerably healthier but without Tamba Hali out there, I am not sure that they’ll be as impactful on defense against Andrew Luck as they’ll need to be to win in Indy. Suddenly the fact they were unable to hold onto control of the AFC West after the bye week makes all the difference in the world. The Colts are playing much better defense than they had all year and are going to be fired up at home. They also don’t make many mistakes on the other side of the ball (lead the league with the least turnovers committed).
The Chiefs are so infinitesimally favored that I can hardly call this a true upset but the Colts ought to win this one at home. The Chiefs should be commended for the sharp turnaround they made this year with Alex Smith and new head coach Andy Reid but this is where the train stops for 2013/2014.
Saints at Eagles
Like the Chiefs, stumbling down the stretch ensured the Saints would have to win on the road, something they aren’t particularly good at doing (they only were able to barely beat a Tampa team that isn’t good, barely beat an Atlanta team that also isn’t good and a Chicago team that doesn’t play defense). A 8-0 mark at the Superdome says it all. Conversely, they now have to travel to Philly who, after starting the season rough at 3-5 and beleaguered with injuries and bad defense, have gone 7-1 while blowing pretty much everybody out of the water and really playing much better defense than their boxscores would indicate.
Ok so I get it, Nick Foles has been outstanding. The kid’s been absolutely on fire and it looks like the tear is going to last at least another weekend in January. The Saints are great at avoiding giving up big plays which is the bread and butter of this Eagles offense with the abilities of DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy to rip big gains and scores. I don’t think this does anything but keep their point total under 30. Maybe. But I don ‘t know if it’ll be enough.
The Eagles are going to move on to the next round.
Chargers at Bengals
The Chargers sure are fortunate to be here. They barely survived the Chiefs’ second team and did so on a couple of questionable calls/no-calls… AND they got all the help they needed from other teams winning and not winning games they needed to win or not win in order for the Bolts to sneak in. And on top of that they draw possibly the most balanced team in the AFC field in their house. Not a good look.
Still, the beauty of the game is that, on any given Sunday, anybody can win if they play hard and well enough. So it stands to be proven whether the Chargers who’ve flourished in the McCoy system and finally received the sort of season out of Ryan Mathews they envisioned when first drafting him can make a run at the Super Bowl running on fumes and house money. That said, as hot as the Chargers have been down the stretch, they do run into a team in the Bengals that is even more so and has possibly the best defense in the AFC, a strong running game and an underrated passing game. Like the Saints, the Bengals are undefeated at home. Unlike the Saints, they get to play this round at home and as a result, I like their chances a lot more. They come in having won five of their last six including a low scoring struggle in San Diego a month ago.
The emergence of the running game for the Chargers has been the revelation for them down the stretch and stopping that is where Cincy excels. Dalton played poorly in their last meeting but should do much better at home in what could be Cincinnati’s first playoff win since I was TEN. Against San Diego’s terribly secondary, that is a strong possibility.
Niners at Packers
The Niners are the better all around squad here, no doubt. They’re built for postseason success with strong defense, an emphasis on the ground game and a game manager QB with multiple receiving options. Where they might run into trouble is playing on the road in one of the toughest places for any team to win; legendary, icy Lambeau. The Pack got their super stud QB back last week and A-Rod rewarded Packer nation for their patience during his absence (and their curious survival of the NFC North while the Bears and Lions fumbled away opportunity after opportunity to take hold of the division) with gutsy fourth down conversions, his trademark game management and, of course, a win against the Bears.
They are vulnerable defensively which is really where their only visible weakness remains. Eddie Lacy is as good a rookie running back as we’ve seen in a couple years and finally gives this offense the balance it has long needed. Getting Randall Cobb back was also huge for this offense as they look to take their fortuitous playoff berth to the next round.
It won’t be easy, though. There may be questions about Colin Kaepernick’s follow up campaign and his inability to show the same confidence in using his legs to complement his arm as he had last year but this Packer defense doesn’t stop many folks. Worse yet for the Pack is the fact that the Niner defense, in the likely frigid conditions of Lambeau, is not the sieve that the Bears defense was and while he shook off some of the rust from a seven game layoff, one has to wonder if he’s shaken off enough for a critical, challenging playoff win.
A road game at Green Bay in Icy conditions normally wouldn’t bode well for a Kaepernick led offense in my mind but I have a feeling they pull it out in a tightly contested, low scoring affair that’ll be a treat for all of us.