My NFL Wild Card Weekend Predictions
The Vikings and Seahawks met about a month ago, on December 6th. It was the third straight win for the Seahawks and they absoutely dominated the purple people 38–7. The legion of boom bottled Adrian Peterson up, holding him to a meager 18 yards rushing and the Vikings would have been blanked if it weren’t for a Cordarelle Patterson 101 yard kickoff return at the end of the third quarter. If Minnesota is to change their fate and continue on to the NFC Divisional playoffs, they’ll have to correct these issues on Sunday. The good news is that the Vikings seem to have figured out a winning formula winning their last three games averaging 112 rush yards per game and holding their opponents to 15.6 points.
For the Seahawks, their offense is on fire heading into the playoffs winning six of their last seven games to squeeze into the NFC Wild Card spot. Wilson has had 72% completion percentage during those seven games and Doug Baldwin has been the beneficiary of most of his passes. Baldwin has hauled in 40 passes for 590 yards and an astonishing 11 touchdowns during those seven games. As if the pass game weren’t threatening enough, Marshawn Lynch is expected to be active reinfusing Beast Mode into the Seahawks offense that has won the NFC the last two years.
Ultimately, I have to give the edge to the Seahawks. Their experience in the playoffs the last two years is a real factor that, in a close game, will push them over the top. I expect their success passing the game to spread the defense and open up running lanes for Lynch, and Wilson as well. I like the Seahawks defense to contain Peterson again and force Bridgewater and his receivers to win the game. Against the legion of boom, I don’t see it happening. Seahawks win 28–20.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if I’d take an Aaron Rodgers led team or a Kirk Cousins led team in a playoff game, I would have laughed at the comparison. However, looking at that exact matchup in the NFC Wild Card game, I find myself weighing wavering on my answer to that question. On one hand, Rodgers is of a unique pedigree and at any point can prove why he’s been considered an elite QB — even though his performance this year does make you wonder. Defensively, although Clay Matthews is now dominating at middle linebacker, he always has looked most comfortable in a pass rushing role. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers needs to find ways for Clay to do that on Sunday and pressure Kirk Cousins.
On the other hand, Kirk Cousins is riding high right now and it’s hard to count against Washington who won four straight to end the regular season and win the NFC East. Also, Jordan Reed is as much of a matchup nightmare as any tight end in the league and together, the quarterback-tight end duo could disrupt things in this game.
I think Mason Crosby will keep the Packers in the game but as the Packers struggle to close drives and without an answer for Jordan Reed on defense, I like Washington 31–27.
The last time the Steelers played the Bengals, Andy Dalton injured his thumb tackling Stephon Tuitt who had just intercepted him. Big Ben appreciated DeAngelo Williams’ two touchdowns on the ground, especially since those were the only points produced by the offense. William Gay accounted for six on his interception for touchdown and Boswell, the kicker, accounted for the rest.
After Dalton went out early, McCarron came in and threw a 66 yard bomb to AJ Green for touchdown. He finished the game 22–32, 280 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Now, the first interception, the pick six, was costly but is easy to correct in film study. Basically McCarron saw the corner backpedaling and assumed he would continue dropping into the cover 3 but instead he sat in cover 2 and easily broke on the screen pass. On the second interception, he stared down his receiver and the safety just read his eyes. Being that McCarron didn’t prepare that week as the starter, I give him some cushion on those two mistakes because they were both mental. When he makes the right decision, he protects and moves the ball as well as you can ask from a backup quarterback.
Defensively, the Bengals contained the Steelers pass game but gave up two touchdowns on the ground. I like the Bengals defensive line to continue to pressure Ben and him to look to his security blankets: Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. I expect Hue Jackson to keep McCarron aggressive via the game plan but a lot rides on if the run game can keep things balanced. In a close, high-stakes game I don’t trust the Bengals to pull it out so my educated prediction is Steelers 28–27. But WhoDey!
Andy Reid and the Chiefs have won 10 straight games to make the AFC Wild Card making it hard to bet against them. Jeremy Maclin surpassed 1,000 yards receiving and every running back they plug in seems to be productive enough. Defensively, the Chiefs are quietly the third best unit in the league in total points and Marcus Peters is tied for the league lead with eight interceptions.
On the flip side, the Texans’ defense has given up an average of seven points in the last three games. With JJ Watt pressuring Alex Smith and his preponderence for scoring in the playoffs you can never really count out the Texans. Offensively, Deandre Hopkins is one of those unstoppable forces in the league — it’s just a matter of if his quarterback (whoever happens to be playing that role at any given time) can get him the ball.
While the Texans will look to the home crowd to effectively create a hostile environment, I like the Chiefs’ hot streak to continue. Behind a balanced attack and stoic leader, Chiefs win 17–13.