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My Wild Card weekend NFL predictions
December 31, 2013 - Andy Heintz
The NFL playoffs begin this weekend. The Wild Card rounds are often the most intriguing. There are four games and all four are usually full of excitement and competitive.
Here is a breakdown of the matchups and how I see each game ending up.
(5) Kansas City at (4) Indianapolis
These two teams locked horns just a few days before Christmas and the Colts rolled off 23 straight points in the easy win in Kansas City. This time, the game will be in Indianapolis, where the Colts are 6-2 this year. Indy (11-5) has found a running game in recent weeks with Donald Brown and Andrew Luck threw for more than 250 in the first game against the Chiefs. The biggest issue for the Chiefs (11-5) was a big strength in most of their games this year. Alex Smith is not electric but he typically doesn't turn the ball over. In the first meeting though, he lost two fumbles and threw another pick. He'll need to take care of the ball Saturday afternoon if the Chiefs want to have a chance to win their first playoff game since 1993.
Prediction: Indianapolis 23, Kansas City 21
(6) San Diego at (3) Cincinnati
Another regular season rematch in this one. Cincinnati beat San Diego on the Chargers' home turf 17-10 earlier this year after running for more than 160 yards on the ground. This one might be the most difficult game to call because the Bengals (11-5) haven't had much success in the playoffs despite being the favorite to win this game. San Diego (9-7) had to win its last four games -- and get help from Baltimore and Miami -- just to get to the playoffs. That sometimes is a good formula for success in the playoffs. Every game since that December 8 loss to the Bengals has been a playoff game. Philip Rivers is having a great bounce back year but Cincinnati has plenty of offensive weapons and a much better defense.
Prediction: Cincinnati 20, San Diego 13
(5) San Francisco at (4) Green Bay
These two teams faced off in the season opener when Colin Kaepernick's 412 yards and three TDs sparked a 34-28 win in San Francisco for the 49ers (12-4). This one will be played in Green Bay despite the 49ers having four more wins. The NFC North champion Packers (8-7-1) played most of the final half of the season without Aaron Rodgers but played their way into the playoffs when they beat the Chicago Bears -- and got lots of help from division foes Detroit and Chicago -- in the final week of the season. It looks like the Packers will have to play the game without the services of their best defensive player Clay Matthews, who was at the center of the early-season meeting when he hit Kaepernick well out of bounds, drawing ire from Niner LT Joe Staley. The Niners are getting healthy at the right time and have won six straight games heading into the playoffs, including a big win at Arizona on Sunday. The Cardinals had won seven of eight coming into the game but a late field goal from Phil Dawson sent the Niners to the win. San Francisco may play the game without starting cornerback Carlos Rogers. San Francisco is the only road favorite of the weekend.
Prediction: San Francisco 31, Green Bay 20
(6) New Orleans at (3) Philadelphia
Another lower seeded team with more wins has to hit the road this weekend when the Saints head to Philadelphia to play the Eagles (10-6) on Saturday. Philadelphia comes into the game having won seven of eight and but is just 4-4 at home this year. The Saints (11-5) come into the game losers of three of their final five games. New Orleans also is just 3-5 on the road. Drew Brees is definitely a different QB outside and on the road than he is when he is playing in front of his home fans in New Orleans. The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in the league but barley put away a Cowboys team Sunday that did not have its best player and starting QB Tony Romo. This is my toughest game to call because I think the Saints are the better team. They also give me no reason to think they can win on the road.
Prediction: Philadelphia 34, New Orleans 31
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