The NFL Wild card playoff weekend is here – first up four games to determine who goes through to the divisional rounds.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
The Chiefs head to the Colts in a repeat of the 06/07 season wildcard round. That year the Colts won it all and the Chiefs were comprehensively outplayed that day bowing out of any further participation. This time things have changed a little with the Chiefs winning 11 games under new coach Andy Reid and are becoming both defensively and offensively proficient as a team. Running Back Jamal Charles is becoming a marquee NFL player and quarterback Alex Smith is managing games with the efficiency and finesse. The Colts have in second year Quarterback Andrew Luck a player who has all the credentials to become one of the best and will be all the better for his playoff appearance last season. Two weeks ago the Colts rolled into Kansas City and easily beat the Chiefs in a somewhat lopsided game winning 23-7. The Chiefs may already have had an eye on the playoffs that day however will be motivated here.
Prediction – Chiefs to win in a close one.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles won the NFC East title with a win against the Dallas Cowboys in the last game of the regular season. The Eagles, under rookie NFL head coach Chip Kelly, have bought into his offensive system and go into the playoffs as one of the form teams in terms of momentum, Quarterback Nick Foles looks completely comfortable leading his team for someone who was a back up at the start of the season. The Saints form has dipped a little and games played outside their stadium have proved to be a struggle. If they can play like they do in their own dome the Saints can be unbeatable however in a cold weather climate, and an outside stadium, the Eagles may have the edge.
Prediction – the Eagles to continue their form in front of their own fans
San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals
The Chargers beat an under strength Chiefs in overtime to claim the final AFC playoff berth. The third out of four teams in the AFC West division to make the playoffs maybe says that this division is the strongest? This may be too big an ask to come into Paul Brown Stadium and take on a Cincinnati team that is unbeaten at home all season, and who easily accounted for current champions, and divisional rivals, the Baltimore Ravens in the last regular season game. Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers is on his day one off the leagues best however those days are very inconsistent and they were lucky to actually make the playoffs. The Bengals don’t have a quarterback who can play at the elite level in Andy Dalton, however they have both a strong running game and a menacing defense. It’s always tough for West Coast teams to travel to the east coast with both climate and time zone challenges.
Prediction – the Bengals to continue their unbeaten home form.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
The ironic thing about this match up is that the 49ers have a 12-win record whilst the Packers only won 8 games, yet they have the home advantage. The Packers have struggled this season and were without quarterback Aaron Rogers for 7 games. Their defense also struggled with injuries, and they snuck into the playoffs with a last minute win against rivals the Chicago Bears. The 49ers meanwhile only lost five games – three by less then four points. The winter factor at Green Bays Lambuagh Field is sometimes an issue however the 49ers have a hardness about them that should mitigate any advantage for the Packers. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has an edge to him that will rub off on the team for this game so motivation after getting to the Super Bowl last season will not be an issue.
Prediction – 49ers to win this pretty comfortably.
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