Predictions. They either make sports writers look like geniuses or buffoons when it’s all said and done. However, while the NFL Playoffs this year are as wide open as any in the past, it’s time to lock in some predictions for wild-card weekend and put my pundit skills to the test once again. The weather is a major factor this weekend, and it’s a main theme of these picks. Let’s pick ’em!
- (5) Kansas City Chiefs vs (4) Indianapolis Colts (4:35 pm on Saturday)
- Breakdown: With all the talk about cold-weather games, the Colts have to be happy that they get to play in the comfort of their own dome at Lucas Oil Stadium instead of going to Arrowhead, but the Chiefs will still come out the victors. With a game as evenly-matched as this one will be, I’m going with Kansas City because of their superior run game led by Jamaal Charles. When these two met in Week 16, Charles ran all over Indy’s 26th-ranked run defense to the tune of 106 yards on 13 carries, an eight-yard average. I don’t expect him to only get 13 carries again and I don’t expect the smash-mouth Kansas City defense to allow a 33-yard pass and 51-yard run to Donald Brown again. The entire defensive performance was a fluke, and the Chiefs know that. They’ve basically had two weeks to prepare for this game, with Andy Reid resting his starters against San Diego. You think those defensive lapses and that awful offensive production are going to happen again? Not a chance. The better team wins this one on the road and advances to the Divisional Round.
- Prediction: Chiefs 27, Colts 13
- (6) New Orleans Saints vs (3) Philadelphia Eagles (8:10 pm on Saturday)
- Breakdown: This one comes down to two factors: momentum and weather, both of which are in Philadelphia’s favor. The Eagles have won seven of their last eight games behind a high-powered offense led by the NFL’s leading rusher in LeSean McCoy and one of the most accurate passers in the league, quarterback Nick Foles. The Saints, on the other hand, have lost three of their last five games, with all three coming on the road. This one is not only on the road, it’s in Philadelphia, where the game-time temperature will be around 20 degrees. That isn’t as cold as Sunday’s NFC game will be (more on that later), but for a dome team like New Orleans, any freezing temperature means trouble. Drew Brees’s career record when the temperature is 40 degrees or lower is 3-7, and his completion percentage in those games is 64.9%, four points lower than his 2013 mark. Some quarterbacks just aren’t built for cold weather, and Brees is one of them. It won’t be easy for the Eagles, but they’ll pull it off.
- Prediction: Eagles 31, Saints 24
- (6) San Diego Chargers vs (3) Cincinnati Bengals (1:05 pm on Sunday)
- Breakdown: Best defense in the AFC? Check. A.J. Green and BenJarvus Green-Ellis on offense? Check. Snow on their side? Check again. The Bengals have the edge over the Chargers on Sunday as long as Andy Dalton doesn’t start making turnovers. The Chargers’ 29th-ranked pass defense should give him plenty of time to find the open receiver and throw it on target. He can’t add on to his total of 20 interceptions, and he probably won’t: the Charger defense only got 11 interceptions during the regular season, one of the worst numbers in the league. This is an important postseason for Dalton, it’ll be an early indicator of his playoff legacy. I think he starts it on the right foot at home, where Cincy is 8-0.
- Prediction: Bengals 35, Chargers 30
- (5) San Francisco 49ers vs (4) Green Bay Packers (4:40 on Sunday)
- Breakdown: This is the game the weather will have the biggest impact on. You know the forecast is bad when the most die-hard fans in the league need a late push to sellout the stadium and avoid a TV blackout. Game-time temperature is expected to be around -5 degrees, with the low around -18 degrees as the night goes on. Yes, you read that right: -18 degrees. Hypothermia conditions. We’re talking negative temperatures here, in a game with a team from San Francisco, California. It doesn’t take a football genius to tell that the Niners are going to have a rough time dealing with the weather conditions, it’s common sense. If the wind chill actually gets to -50 degrees like the forecast says, it’s going to be a miserable day for football. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has never played in a game anywhere near this cold, but Aaron Rodgers has played in some bitter-cold ones in the Frozen Tundra. The weather is going to affect the offenses physically and mentally, and that means the veteran quarterback with experience playing in the elements has the upper hand in a game this even.
- Prediction: Packers 26, 49ers 20
Agree? Disagree? Drop a comment or tweet me @chuckiemaggio