NFL 2014 Wild Card Weekend Picks & Analysis – FootballSaturday, January 3, 2015 13:00
Picks and analysis for Wild Card Weekend of the 2014 NFL season.
NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND
Forward to the Past…
Time for our annual laugh-fest as we look back on our pre-season predictions…
You can find our September 2014 Power Rankings here:
Unless I’m seriously delusional—and who isn’t, I actually write like I know what I’m talking about, except—
- I thought the Cowboys would get a lot worse and I figured Jerry Jones was a good bet to get them there…
- Picked Jay Cutler and the Bears to wrest the NFC North from the Pack…
- Was sure the Eagles would take the NFC East…(And the conference Crown…)
- And thought the Holy Men would dominate the NFC South with an 11-5 record…
I did have the Seahawks as the #1 seed and pegged the Lions and Green Bay as Wild Cards. I ended up picking only 3 of the six NFC teams that made the 2014 post-season.
Except for Dallas, whose defensive ineptitude drove my decision to rank them at the bottom of the NFC barrel, my power rankings were pretty accurate.
In this post, most everything in italic is lifted from one of the two links provided. For example, I sound almost prescient with this little rant on the 49ers whom I ranked seventh:
7.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Sometimes, people and events reach critical mass. How long will it take for the distractions to affect what is universally regarded as, at least, the second best team in football? Injuries to Navarro Bowman, Aldon Smith’s suspension, the friction between Jim Harbaugh and GM, Trent Baalke; The friction between Jim Harbaugh and every other earthling, Harbaugh believing he’s earned a Super Bowl winner’s contract without actually winning a Super Bowl. Wrap that ball of poisonous mincemeat in a dough laced with bitter rivalries in the NFL’s most intense division and staying on top might be too hard to swallow for the boys in Santa Clara. Garnish with a sprinkle of Colin Kaepernick who has more serious flaws than we thought, and an aging Frank Gore—well you get the idea.
A couple paragraphs down in the same post, I crash and burn with similar flair explaining why the Bears would be a force:
5.) CHICAGO BEARS: Yes, the Bears probably don’t deserve this power ranking. But if you look at the NFC North, where no team ranked in the top half of the league defensively, the Bears quietly produced the 8th best offense in the league. Put that together with a focused draft netting top corner, Kyle Fuller, the Bears are looking to find the edge against Aaron Rogers and the Packers—whom they play tough every year. Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman are in synch; Cutler has a gun for an arm. Things could be a lot tighter than people think in the NFC North.
Here are my actual NFC predictions pasted from Week One’s column:
NFC PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
NFC West Champion – Seattle Seahawks 12 -4 (Bye)
NFC East Champion – Philadelphia Eagles 11 – 5 (Bye)
NFC South Champion – New Orleans Saints 11 – 5
NFC North Champion – Chicago Bears 10 – 6
Five Seed – Green Bay Packers 10 – 6
Six Seed – Detroit Lions 9 – 7
The NFL looks much different in January than it does in September. That’s why my playoff scenarios might contradict my Power Rankings.
Green Bay’s lack of defense is going to hurt them in the post-season and I’m sorry, folks, New Orleans won’t be home for the NFCCG—nor will they be in it.
Wild Card Round
SAINTS crush LIONS
PACKERS beat BEARS
SEAHAWKS murder PACKERS (again)
EAGLES rout SAINTS
The Bald Birds kick the 12th Man in the balls and strafe the vaunted “Hawks defense in a 70 point shootout…
NFC CHAMPIONS – PHILADELHIA EAGLES
I fared significantly better in the AFC, missing only the Ravens as a playoff team. Although, I did pick the Jets to steal the AFC East, I still had the Pats in as a Wild Card…As long as they have Brady, the Pats will always be in the post-season conversation:
AFC PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
AFC North Champion – Cincinnati Bengals 11 – 5 (Bye)
AFC West Champion – Denver Broncos 11 – 5 (Bye)
AFC East Champion – New York Jets 10 – 6
AFC South Champion – Indianapolis Colts 11 – 5
Five Seed – New England Patriots 10 – 6
Six Seed – Pittsburgh Steelers 9 – 7
Wild Card Round
STEELERS nip JETS
COLTS clout PATS
BENGALS whip STEELERS
BRONCOS beat COLTS
Cincinnati takes it to Manning and the Broncos in overtime.
AFC CHAMPIONS – CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Bengals defense stifles Philadelphia’s high-flying offense
MVP – Giovanni Bernard
Go ‘head, laugh all you want, that’s as good as any predictions you can find on the net…
Besides, if you want really want a good laugh here’s my final tally for this year picks Against The Spread…
WEEK SEVENTEEN ATS = 7 – 9
CUMULATIVE ATS = 126 – 126 – 4 .500
SPECIAL TALLY WEEK SEVENTEEN = 2 – 2
CUMULATIVE SPECIALS = 36 – 33 .521
GAME OF THE WEEK 8 – 9
LOCK OF THE WEEK 6 – 12
UPSET SPECIAL 6 – 11
O/U OF THE WEEK 16 – 1 WEEKLY O/Us 1 – 2
PREMEIRE PARLAY 2 – 1
CUMULATIVE O/Us 41– 32 .562
What a strange year. Dead solid .500 which means we beat six of the eight clowns over at CBS.com—but we still lose the juice—about 10% of our stake.
However, we make that up with a .562 on our O/U plays for the year. Speaking of our Numbers wagers:
Our O/U of the Week calls were right in 16 of 17 weeks—a .941 clip.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t match that performance on our three other Weekly plays
There are 12 games left to handicap. We’ll try to pick every winner and the Total and add up our final tally after the Super Bowl.
Let’s begin with the Saturday Wild Card games—the weather will be a factor for both—in Charlotte and Pittsburgh…
ARIZONA CARDINALS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS – 6.5 38 [U]
Why do people whine when the rules don’t go their way? Credit Bruce Arians and his Red Birds for not being guilty, but some Cardinal fans can’t fathom the 11-5 Cardinals going to Charlotte to face the 7-8-1 Panthers.
Win your division or shut up. The NFL is perfectly set up with just enough teams making the post-season dance. Winning a division is a critical first step to reach the Super Bowl. Of course, Greed and Goodell will soon ruin that part of the game to
The Panthers are starting to tighten up the lose screws that nearly derailed their season.
The Cardinals are the hardest luck team we’ve seen come down the pike in the last twenty years.
The public and punditry are leaning heavily toward the Black Cats with a revived Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly leading a suddenly stout defense.
I’m going with Bruce Arians who will put all his chips on the disrespect train and ride it to victory or death.
There is something about Arians you gotta love. He recently gave a short speech about how Ryan Lindley, third string quarterback, had courage “to play the position at this level.”
I wanted to put on a uniform and play for the Arizona coach.
The Cards lost a lot of talent on defense to injury—and two QBs who were thriving in Arians’ offense. Arizona shouldn’t even be in the playoffs. They won some hard fought, close games. Which means they have a resiliency Ron Rivera’s squad can’t touch…
Patrick Petersen pick-sixes Newton, The Cardinal defense plays better than Carolina’s. Arizona might still fall a field goal short, but they’ll cover Under the number.
Cardinals 20 Panthers 16
GAME OF THE WEEK
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS – 3 45 [U]
The NFL’s “Murder of Crows” visits Heinz Field for the Wild Card Prime Timer.
Yes “Murder” is the accepted term used for a group of crows, of which Ravens are the largest species —not to be confused with an ostentation peacocks, a parliament of owls, a knot of frogs, and a skulk of foxes.
Just in case you were interested.
Some believe the group moniker evolved from watching the Black Birds decide the fate of a particularly offensive member of their community. More likely, because the disgusting creatures, like Terrell Suggs, love to be around death and dead bodies so they can feast on the maggot-infested remains of, say, tire-flattened skunks in the middle of the road…
For our purposes, these murder of Ravens are a football team, and a damn good one, who wishes they had four more trophies like the Steelers. Being contemporary athletes they surely don’t emulate their namesakes who mate for life, are social to an extreme and nurture close families. One of 250 Raven calls can bring thousands of the giant crows to the defense of another black-feathered, foul, fowl—even if the imperiled victim is an unknown Raven visiting from Philadelphia.
Don’t get me started on the Eagles.
What these Ravens are, in football lexicon, hasn’t been as clearly defined in 2014 as it was in their recent Trophy winning season. Instead of a top three defense Baltimore ranks eighth, 23rd against the pass, fourth against the run.
And they get one of the best defensive players in the league, Haloti Ngata, back for this game.
Pittsburgh? 18th overall, 6th rush, 27th against the pass…
With second year OLB, Jarvis Jones sitting and watching James Harrison play quality ball and rookie Ryan Shazier returning from injury, Pittsburgh has been trending up against the rush—and their secondary seems to have come alive.
With CJ Mosley, Suggs and Ngata, the Ravens will make life difficult for Big Ben—but the Steelers offensive line has come together.
Baltimore will focus on their pass rush and make Roethlisberger feel the pressure, daring Pittsburgh to run with practice squad RB, Josh Harris or newly signed, Ben Tate.
The Steelers will shut down Justin Forsett and the Ravens running attack and dare an inconsistent Joe Flacco to beat them.
My guess is both teams will be successful—which means this baby will hinge on, perhaps, a special teams play. Usually that favors John Harbaugh’s Murder of Crows—but Antonio Brown took one to the house last week against the Bengals and what was then the league’s best punt return unit.
I’m giving the Rat Birds the points and taking the home team to barely cover the number well Under the Total.
Steelers 22 Ravens 17
LOCK OF THE WEEK
CINCINNATI BENGALS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – 3.5 49 [O]
You’ve read my rants about the Bengals, Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton.
The last time they visited Lucas Oil Stadium, the Horseshoes goose-egged the Bengal by 27 points—and A.J. Green was out for that game too.
Even though I had them winning it all in 2014, the Striped Cats have shown me exactly nothing to expect that vision might become reality. These Cats are just not ready or the big stage and I’m tired of losing money on them…SHOW ME!
If anyone was made for the big stage it is Andrew Luck. Big, strong, athletic, the kids gets better every game. His Colts rank second in total offensive yardage and while their running game is in the NFL’s bottom third, it’s not like they lack hope rushing the football.
Cincy’s talent-laden but under achieving defense can make any running game look good.
Until the Bengals believe in themselves like winners do, nobody will believe in them. As usual, they’ll keep it close—then find a unique way to walk away losers…Taker the Over…
Colts 33 Bengals 27
DETROIT LIONS @ DALLAS COWBOYS – 6.5 48 [O]
The Lions are the NFC’s version of the Bengals, except their talent laden, but under achieving football team has a defensive front seven that dominates the line of scrimmage—even if their “foot work” is, shall we say, a tad unorthodox.
Like the AFC’s Cats, these NFC ones have an immensely talented quarterback—only Matt Stafford has never beaten a team with a winning record on the road.
Let that sink in.
Matt Stafford is morphing into Josh Freeman; a prospect with all the tools, but clueless what they are used for.
Jim Caldwell, whose stoic demeanor brings to mind Tom Landry or Chuck Noll has brought stability to an undisciplined, borderline dirty football team—well he did until Dominic Railoa and Ndamukong Suh started dancing on their opponents.
These guys head into Cowboy country to face the 12-4 Cowboys who must be tired of mooks like me making fun of their owner, and their futility.
I was hoping never to write this sentence for hopefully 50 or 60 more years: The Cowboys have a shot. With the league’s best offensive line and running back, the Shit Kickers in chief take a back seat no one on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively Dallas has holes but when you have the most balanced offense in the game, when your well-worn quarterback has thrown 100 fewer passes than last year, and takes significantly fewer sacks, those holes look considerably smaller than the gaping ones featured in last year’s historically putrid defense.
Stafford won’t keep up with Romo, or a Dallas team, or a franchise that is hungry to revisit greatness, and will use the Lions to rake a lot of monkeys off the Cowboy’s slumping shoulders.
I‘m taking the ‘Boys to cover over the Number.
Cowboys 33 Lions 24
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