Anyone who noticed an absence of a week 17 ‘Double-Back’, to you I apologize; football got a bit away from me over the last two weeks, with an out of state vacation, all the holiday stuff and the post-vacation vacation which I always seem to need. But fear not, faithful readers, as I will be on top of my game for the postseason and beyond.
In addition to my picks for this weekend’s wildcard games, you’ll find (either today or tomorrow) my list of awards for the 2013 regular season. MVP, Rookie Of The Year, and even some clever little ideas of my own mixed in. Also, every couple of days I’m going to put together a “Season In Review” for each team that is no longer playing. I don’t expect to recap the Broncos season until they hoist the Lombardi in a month…but we’ll see! So enjoy the second season, see how I think things will go, and look forward to an even more productive 2014 from your friendly neighborhood NFL blog!
2013 Wildcard Picks
Kansas City 30 – Indianapolis 24
Those who saw the Colts run right through the Chiefs only a few weeks ago will be susceptible to thinking the same will happen in today’s postseason matchup. I almost fell into the same trap. While both teams ended their seasons in different ways (The Colts on some high notes, the Chiefs on some less noticeable highs, including nearly beating the Chargers with half of Kansas City’s starters on the bench), none of it matters anymore. Andy Reid will have learned from his mistakes, the biggest being underusing his best offensive weapon (Jamaal Charles, if you weren’t aware) when these teams first met. Reid’s extensive playoff experience, a healthier defense and a healthy dose of Charles should spell a trip to the Divisional Round for the Chiefs.
Philadelphia 27 – New Orleans 24
So much of the hype surrounding this game involves the weather, and how it will put the Saints at a distinct disadvantage. Recent quotes from Eagles players and coaches are much to the contrary; the elements will have an impact on both teams in frigid Philadelphia tonight. What this game comes down to, with so many intriguing matchups to consider, is how well Chip Kelly does in his offensive adjustments at halftime. I fully expect the Eagles to go into the 3rd quarter trailing by as much as 14, with a fired up Saints team out to prove that they can play in any conditions, anywhere, with the best of the best. Chip will have to keep to the run, the foundation of the Eagles’ success this year, despite any deficit he finds himself under. If he does that, the Eagles will win this game. Their defense needs to take advantage of the weather and force Drew Brees into check downs, where the Eagles’ athletic linebackers can make plays on the ball and force short drives. Much like the Colts-Chiefs game, this one will ride on a running back’s ability to keep drives alive.
Cincinnati 38 – San Diego 31
The conditions in Ohio will be cold (obviously), but without any precipitation, the ball should still fly at a high rate, especially for the Bengals, who have options aplenty in the passing game. You also have to consider the cross-country trip for the Chargers, along with the Bengals’ ability to force the issue defensively. The Bengals are, simply put, a better team, and so long as they play like it (something they’ve become notorious for not doing at times), they have no right losing this game. No right, but a perfect opportunity to let down a fan base that cannot accept one of this magnitude. I don’t see it happening that way, but these are the Bungles…
San Fransisco 20 – Green Bay 17
Any success the Packers will have on Sunday Night will be predicated on how loose the 49ers defense gets; their secondary isn’t as strong as it was this time last year, but their front seven has the ability to dictate the game. In any conditions. With weather reports hovering somewhere between single digits and below-zero conditions, one might be quick to give the edge to the Packers, especially if they lean on breakout HB Eddie Lacy early and often. But this 49ers team is built for toughness and stamina, two keys to forcing the game on Aaron Rodgers’ back. Can he do it? Yes. Will he? I’m saying no, but this one could easily go the other way if the big Double Check can play flawless football in the face of an extremely intimidating defense. I don’t expect the 49ers’ offense to do much, if only for the fact that they’re going into dangerous territory. Frank Gore will be pivotal to their ability to squeak this one out; the less time Aaron Rodgers has the ball, the better the odds tip in San Fransisco’s favor. Also look for Anquan Boldin to make a handful of extremely clutch plays, extending drives and using his brute physicality to lay the same sort of punishment down that the Niners’ defense will.