Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: MetLife, Clink x4, MetLife
2014 NFL Playoff Predictions
Wild Card Round
Chiefs @ Colts
The popular narrative here is that although the Colts handled the Chiefs pretty easily a few weeks ago, this time around is going to be different. For one, the Chiefs were down two all-pro players (Albert, Houston). Second, the Chiefs fumbled the ball 6 times in that game and lost three. That's not happening again. Third, because the game got away early, the Chiefs were unable to run Jamaal Charles as much as they could have if the game was closer. He still ran for over 100 yards and a TD at an 8.2 YPC clip. Plus, the Colts run D isn't any good - they gave up 4.5 YPC (25th in NFL) and over 125 YPG on the ground (26th in NFL). All the Chiefs have to do is not fumble six times, run Jamaal Charles, and get a turnover or two on defense as they've done all year.
Not so fast. It's often brought up how the Colts beat the league's three top teams (DEN, SEA, SF) along with KC. In the games against run-heavy gameplans, check out how the Colts run D fared (forget stats vs. Manning):
W @ SF
115 yards, 5.0 YPC (Gore had a 7.5 YPC)
W vs SEA
218 yards, 6.4 YPC (Lynch and Wilson each had 102 yards)
The point here is that in three games against top rushing attacks, the Colts run D has been pretty bad, and yet they won all three games (two easily).
How? An extremely underrated and overlooked pass D.
I get it. Peyton Manning made the Colts boring. Luck's somehow become boring. Most shows choose to ignore them because of a lack of star power, interesting characters, highlight reel players, and household names. Forget the usual talking head points, Luck and TRich, and what have NFL shows ever said about the Colts? Nothing. The secondary is terrific. Mathis is a monster. Jerrell Freeman would be a huge story if he was a Patriot or Bronco. Point is, the Colts pass defense, and defense in general when you take into account scheme, is vastly underrated. They have the talent and ability to stifle the opposition (Peyton 7.4 YPA, 20 incompletions, 4 sacks, 1 lost fumble) if they play well. Vontae Davis can take out Dwayne Bowe fairly easily. Who can the Chiefs give the ball to when the Colts gameplan to focus on taking Charles out of the game as a runner and receiver? Donnie Avery? Dexter McCluster in the slot? A.J. JENKINS?!?!? That's a joke, but he really could be targeted. Andy Reid might have JC Superstar but I think this is a tougher matchup for the Chiefs O than people realize. He's going to have to get creative.
So the Colts run D is subpar but they can win even with giving up big yards on the ground because of a very good pass D. Let's look at the Chiefs run D: 4.5 YPC (26th in NFL), and just 5 yards per game less than the Colts at 120 YPG.
Looks to me like these teams are a lot more similar on defense than the media would lead you to believe. They both give up large chunks against the run but still win games thanks to timely pressure and turnovers against the pass. The Chiefs defense is good and probably more talented overall, but in this game it will be going up against Andrew Luck. The Colts defense is underrated and has a straightforward assignment - stop Jamaal Charles and make Alex Smith beat you. Smith is a sneaky athlete and is definitely capable of being the driving force (think NO-SF in '11) despite the bad rap he gets. But that's how they'll win - with timely plays and protection of the ball. It's not going to just be Jamaal Charles - that idea is too simplistic and discredits a smart defensive coach and overlooked Colts D.
On the other side, it's tougher to figure out from KC's defenses perspective. The Chiefs need to account for T.Y. Hilton deep with shaky safety play at times, new weapon Whalen in the short game, the backs out of the backfield AND Andrew Luck as a runner. And although it was frustrating at times, Pep Hamilton's stubbornness with his running game does make them a little harder to deal with and plan for. As I pointed out, the Chiefs aren't great at stopping the run.
K Ryan Succup is coming in cold and goes up against one of the all-time clutch kickers in Vinatieri. But the Chiefs have far superior special teams everywhere else. The Colts need to play well in the kicking game and limit big returns. Those can be huge plays and KC has a much better chance at a splash play in the kicking game.
This has the potential to be the best game of the weekend and go right down to the wire. If it does go that way - who do you take in a clutch situation - Andrew Luck and Adam Vinatieri or Alex Smith and a guy who is historically proven to fold in the face of 7 men to the left of the snapper?
Colts 23, Chiefs 20
Saints @ Eagles
Bill Barnwell's breakdown of this game touched on the Saints struggles on the road. He showed that in previous years, the Saints really weren't much worse on the road, and intimated that the narrative was overblown. To me all his stats proved were that the '11, '10, '09 Saints were not that bad on the road, but that this year's Saints truly are. I didn't really get his point. They just aren't the same team on the road, especially on offense. They aren't a good running team and he can't check as much or as freely as effectively at the line. Plus the track isn't as speedy. Seems pretty simple to me.
The other important note he made was that Roman Harper would be starting at safety against a team that puts huge pressure on safeties. Roman Harper literally has gray hair. And he's horrible.
With a healthy Kenny Vaccaro for most of the year, the Saints pass D was top 10 in the league in YPA and DVOA. Unfortunately, they struggled against the run, specifically with slowish ILBs Hawthorne and Lofton. On Saturday they get LeSean McCoy, the Eagles elite OL, and the best running game in the NFL. The only way the Eagles don't score 30 is if Nick Foles plays more like Napolean Dynamite than Uncle Rico.
On the other side of the ball, A key matchup is Trent Cole against rookie LT Terron Armstead. Cole has a strong bull rush and is already calling out the athletic tackle. Even if he holds his own, Mychal Kendricks figures to continue his breakout season with plenty of opportunities to rush the passer. In the secondary, Brandon Boykin is enjoying a breakout year and I don't expect him to slow down much - I endorsed him as a draft day steal two years ago. Cary Williams is also a quality corner, Connor Barwin is having a nice year, and we all love Fletcher Cox. The story here is that the Eagles are way better on defense than most realize and have improved drastically during the year.
The Saints just aren't a complete team. Getting huge production from Brees is the only consistent thing they have. But that alone isn't enough and never has been. Those good Saints teams from years ago made timely plays on D and were able to run the ball in important spots. That's not this team. It would take an uncharacteristic complete game on the road to take down Chipadelphia. I'd welcome them to Seattle for a second drubbing, but I don't see it happening.
Eagles 35, Saints 17
Chargers @ Bengals
The Bengals are one of the most physically intimidating teams in the NFL. In the top four somewhere along with SEA, SF, and CAR. But they are extremely flawed.
I argued against a ridiculous claim that Andy Dalton's "ceiling" is the playoffs and that he can't win a Super Bowl. He might not ever win one, but that doesn't mean he can't. Andy Dalton doesn't have a ceiling, but he has flaws and limitations, and the most glaring issue with his game is inconsistency. If Dalton's going to eclipse this imaginary ceiling, he'll have to string together a bunch of good performances in a row. Given his history as a sporadic performer, it's doubtful. But not impossible. But here's why his play is so essential to the team's success: the Bengals can't run the ball.
Despite a good OL on paper, one of the better young runners in the league, and an explosive passing attack, the Bengals ran for just 3.6 YPC, good for 27th in the league. Almost a half-yard lower than the Browns (4.0), who started borderline muppets at tailback all year. Now DVOA puts the Bengals at 20th in the league because it adjusts that they played against a bunch of tough run defenses. And their low YPC is that way in part because they won a few laughers and just bled the clock. But the point still stands. Even though the Chargers give up 4.6 YPC, they rank 12th in rush yards against per game. How? They limit turnovers, sustain long drives on offense with few incompletions and an improved running game, and possess the ball for long periods (led the league in TOP). It's worth noting that the Bengals had their best rushing game of the season against the Chargers D in the first meeting. Can they repeat that outlier performance at home against these same guys? Maybe. But if the plodding BJGE doesn't get it going early, and Gio Bernard continues to have no room to run, are the Bengals going to waste precious drives they might not see that many of, trying to run the ball? My guess is no. And that means more Dalton, for better or worse. If the Chargers DBs play disciplined, they can turn him over and make them punt the ball back to Rivers.
The Chargers were outclassed in the last meeting in San Diego for the most part. But OROY WR Keenan Allen still put up 100 yards and the somehow now good Ryan Mathews still rushed for a 4.4 YPC. Rivers had arguably the worst game of his terrific bounceback season without King Dunlap at LT. He's expected to be back (he's another player that's all of the sudden good - GO MIKE MCCOY!). It's also well known that the Bengals are banged up in the secondary and will start Pac-man Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick at CB. I fully expect the Chargers offense to put up more than 10 points this time around.
Ultimately it will come down to Dalton's performance. Rivers is going to play well - even if he struggles early. Some will forecast a Cincy blowout - they are 8-0 at home after all. I think we get vintage Rivers and vintage playoff Dalton. A big catch from Vincent Brown of all people will be the difference.
Chargers 31, Bengals 28
49ers @ Packers
Think about this for a second: the 49ers won 12 games this year. The Packers won 8. That's a difference of FOUR games. And because of Aaron Rodgers, the team with the 4-win advantage is only favored by 2.5 points.
Will the Niners win a fourth straight against the Cheese Heads? In negative degree cold? Who does that even favor? The Niners are the road team but they're more physical and run oriented. The Packers are at home but they have one of the best passing games in the NFL. My guess is that the winner will be whichever team gets their secondary offensive option going earlier. Kaepernick or Lacy.
Lacy's battling an injury and it's easy to expect the Packers to lean on Rodgers against a stout front seven and specifically ridiculous ILB duo. But the 49ers play 2 safeties almost exclusively, and refuse to give up big plays in the passing game. This will be a test of McCarthy and Rodgers' patience. It's going to be tough to pound Lacy into Bowman and company, but if they don't get production on the ground against 7 in the box, the Niners will be able to play coverage and rush Rodgers - who's played just once in weeks. And why would we expect Lacy to get it going against the Niners? While the Niners D is great, it isn't impregnable. The Colts of all teams bullied them to the tune of 184 rushing yards in Week 3. The hapless Falcons offense showed life on crucial drives on MNF a few weeks ago. Last week, Carson Palmer threw for over 400 yards in a narrow loss. But both Ryan and Palmer did their damage in come-from-behind situations. I think Rodgers needs Lacy to keep the defense honest and force the secondary to think about the run as well.
San Fran's offense is rounding into form with Crabtree back, Boldin still rolling along, and Vernon Davis having a career year. The problem with this matchup for Green Bay is that even if Kaepernick doesn't have a big day, the 49ers still have all the advantages against a less-talented GB defense without Clay Matthews.
The way I see it, Kaepernick would have to LOSE this game for SF with an awful showing. Midway through the year that would have been a possibility. But with how he's progressed, inch by inch, and with how they'll utilize his legs, plus now Crabtree, I don't see him failing epicly even if he does throw one pick. On the flip side, a Rodgers/Lacy/OL performance would have to be so outrageously good against a stout, focused D, that we'd lump in the performance with SF defensive meltdowns mentioned previously (and two of those weren't really meltdowns at all, only the Colts was a full game). And in Rodgers just second game back? I don't see Lacy rushing for 150 and I don't think Rodgers is throwing for over 300 unless they're down. The Packers might struggle scoring. This won't be the Bears.
49ers 24, Packers 16
49ers @ Seahawks
SF storms out to an early lead and Seattle comes back with some Russell Wilson to Zach Miller magic. A nail-biter with the difference coming on a long Golden Tate punt return.
Seahawks 20, 49ers 17 OT
Colts @ Patriots
Andrew Luck out-duels Tom Brady in an entertaining thriller. Trent Richardson rushes for 100 yards somehow.
Colts 44, Patriots 38
Eagles @ Panthers
Billed as a shootout, both defenses come up big in a multiple turnover slug fest. Cam makes one more play than Shady.
Panthers 19, Eagles 16
Chargers @ Broncos
It happens. And it's not Manning's fault (35/49, 356, 3 TD), but his detractors don't care. Ryan Mathews shreds the defense and Rivers to Allen becomes special.
Chargers 41, Broncos 35 OT
Panthers @ Seahawks
The Panthers jump out to an early lead but are neutralized thereafter. The legend of Russell Wilson grows and an elite defense shows up big in the 2nd half.
Seahawks 33, Panthers 10
Chargers @ Colts
It strikes midnight for the Chargers and the Colts somehow sneak into the Super Bowl thanks to some timely turnovers.
Colts 34, Chargers 19
Super Bowl XLVIII
The Seahawks dominate the Colts on the ground in the snow and the defense goes down in history as one of the best.
Seahawks 30, Colts 13
MVP: Russell Wilson (17-26, 201 yards, 1 TD, 56 yards rushing, 1 TD)
What'd you expect?
My preseason pick was Seahawks over Colts. I almost went with Seahawks over Broncos with the angle that I always pick the unexpected and since the expected never happens, this will be the year the expected DOES happen which is why it's an unexpected pick from me. But nah, I like the Colts and Denver's D is so suspect.
Post your picks or just pick the Super Bowl Champ in the poll. I always believe that if enough people make a prediction in a thread like this, someone is bound to get every game right.
Last edited by gpngc : 01-03-2014 at 11:40 PM.