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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 NFL SEASON: WILD CARD ROUND




Well, I tipped my hand on who I was picking to win in the Wild Card Round in a previous post. Here are my explanations why. Also my fellow football pickers have their own perspectives on the Wild Card Round. Ms. Roberts' picks are here and Mr. Blake's picks are here.



CHIEFS AT COLTS, 1/4, 3:30 PM (CT), NBC

Last season Kansas City had the worst record, but had 6 Pro-Bowlers. This season under new head coach Andy Reid, Kansas City finished with an 11-5 record and their first playoff appearance since the 2010 season. Indianapolis won their first AFC South Division Title since the 2010 season and is making their second consecutive playoff appearance. Kansas City was keeping pace with Denver for a chance at the AFC-1 seed while the Colts faced minimal opposition to the AFC South Title.

The Colts have proven they can compete with the best having defeated the Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos, and Chiefs, but they also lost to the Chargers and Bengals, the two AFC teams playing on Sunday.

The three playoff teams in the AFC West have relied on key players. For the Broncos and Chargers, it was the play of their quarterbacks to get them into the playoffs. The Chiefs have relied on the running game behind Jamaal Charles. If the Chiefs are to make a deep playoff run, it will be behind the Charles' running.

Both teams have endured long post-season losing streaks. The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game since 1993 while the Colts last playoff win was the 2009 AFC Title Game against the Jets.

I think the Chiefs are long overdue for a playoff victory and should get one here today.

CHIEFS 27, COLTS 23




SAINTS AT EAGLES, 1/4, 7 PM (CT), NBC

Last weekend the Saints and Eagles were involved in "win-and-in" scenarios. Both teams took care of business and meet in this NFC Playoff Game and will determine who plays in the second round.

While New Orleans has a 3-5 record on the road, the Eagles are 4-4 at home. The Saints 3-5 record is a TAD misleading. 3 of those losses were by 8 points or less.

The Eagles have exceeded expectations this season with Chip Kelly as their head coach and backup quarterback Nick Foles posting an 8-2 record and throwing 27 touchdown passes vs. 2 interceptions. Running back LeSean McCoy claimed the NFL's rushing title with 1,607 yards. Since starting 3-5, Philadelphia has won 7 of their last 8 games.

Since the arrival of quarterback Drew Brees and Sean Payton in 2006, the Saints have made the playoffs 5 times in 8 seasons with a 5-3 playoff record and a Super Bowl championship.

While the Saints have never won a road playoff game in the franchise's history and the Eagles have playmakers on offense, I'm going with experience in this game.

SAINTS 30, EAGLES 27




CHARGERS AT BENGALS, 1/5, NOON (CT), CBS

The San Diego Chargers should be sending the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs a portion of their playoff bonuses. It was the Jets win over the Dolphins that put the Chargers in a "win-and-in" type game and the Chiefs for choosing to rest key players having already claimed the AFC 5-seed by virtue of not winning the AFC West.

Their last loss was to the Bengals in San Diego in Week 13 and the Chargers were 5-7. Since then, San Diego has won 4 straight including a win in Denver in Week 15. Cincinnati, since that same meeting, has won 3 out of 4. That one loss was against a Steelers team that had a faint hope of entering the playoffs, but finished the season at 8-8.

Quarterback Phillip Rivers could make the case for MVP if not for another quarterback that plays in the same division as him. Rivers passed for 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions, placed 4th with a quarterback rating of 105.5, and led the NFL in completion percentage with 69.5%. Rivers also led 4 game-winning drives in 2013.

For the Bengals, 2013 was about their defense. Cincinnati surrendered an average of 19.1 points per game which was the same as the Chiefs. They ranked third in yards against behind Carolina and Seattle who also made the playoffs. Teams gained 4.7 yards per play which was behind Seattle's 4.4 yards per play.

Coming into Cincinnati has not been a joy for opponents. Ask the Steelers, Packers, Patriots, Colts, and Ravens about what happened when they played in Cincinnati this season. In 4 of the last 5 home games, the Bengals have scored more than 40 points. Cincinnati has an 8-0 home record this season.

The last 2 Bengals playoff games have been played in Houston. This season they are at home where they have a chance of snapping of one the NFL's longest post-season playoff droughts. The last time the Bengals won a playoff game: 6 January 1991 against the Houston Oilers back at Riverfront Stadium. Today, Riverfront Stadium no longer exists, the Oilers are the Tennessee Titans, and Houston has a crummy football team. OK, so two out three things are different.

The Chargers might be the so-called hot team going in, but playing in Cincinnati has been no picnic. Odds makers are giving the Bengals a 7 point advantage going into this game (Again, this information is for entertainment purposes only. What you do with it is none of my concern).

Another playoff drought should snap.

BENGALS 38, CHARGERS 28




49ERS AT PACKERS, 1/5, 3:30 PM (CT), FOX

One team is built around a heavy passing attack while another is based around a ground game and defense. Which one is based where?

If you said the passing attack team was based in San Francisco and the ground game-defensive minded team was based in Green Bay, you'd be wrong.

When the game kicks off in the late Wisconsin afternoon, the temperature is expected to be in the single digits and drop below zero as the game goes on. Though the 49ers have been practicing in warmer climates, this is a team that can play when the elements become extreme.

Green Bay made the playoffs thanks to a touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb on 4th down in Chicago. The Packers made the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record as division champions and claimed the NFC 4-seed. It was not looking like the Packers were going to make the playoffs. After Rodgers' collarbone injury against the Bears in Green Bay, the Packers went winless throughout the month of November posting a record of 0-4-1. Green Bay was able to salvage their season by winning 3 of their final 4 games, including their comeback victory over the Cowboys in Dallas which was due to Jason Garret being an idiot and refusing to run the ball, though calling him an idiot would be an insult to actual idiots.

The 49ers' season has been built on streaks. After a 1-2 start, San Francisco followed it up with a 5 game winning streak before their bye week. After their bye, the 49ers lost 2 in a row. Since then they have won 6 in a row including a win over the Falcons in Week 16 to close out Candlestick Park. The 49ers would like to send off the stadium by winning the franchise's 6th Super Bowl trophy.

In the last three matchups, the 49ers have owned the Packers. The 49ers defeated the Packers in Green Bay to open the 2012 season. In that same season the 49ers defeated the Packers in the divisional round last season which was Colin Kaepernick's playoff debut where he passed for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns along with 181 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. Kaepernick shrugged off the label that he was a running quarterback in the 2013 season opener by passing for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Vernon Davis caught the other 2 touchdowns.

I would pick the Packers to win this game based on the location of the game, but they are not at full strength. Linebacker Clay Matthews is out with a broken thumb. This does not bode well for the Packers given Kaepernick's scrambling ability and running back Frank Gore has averaged nearly 92 yards per game in the last three meetings against the Packers.

Speaking of location, in this century the Packers are 4-4 in home playoff games after starting with a perfect home playoff record of 12-0. 10 of those games were in Green Bay while the other 2 were in Milwaukee (1939 NFL Title, 1967 Western Conference Championship). That might be why the 49ers are a road favorite of at least 3 points.

Right now in the Wine and Cheese Bowl, the 49ers have the Packers number.

49ERS 27, PACKERS 17


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