The NFL regular season wrapped up in particularly plot-twistery fashion, with playoff contenders Baltimore and Miami both faltering, and the San Diego Chargers winning the last AFC wild-card playoff spot in a tight game with a bit of controversy. And the Sunday night showdown between Philadelphia and Dallas was pretty cool, especially if you’re not a Cowboys fan.
If you were a Cowboys fan, well…sorry. Seems your team’s a bit snake-bit this past decade or so.
But there’s no looking back now. Twelve teams are in the playoffs. Two make it to the Super Snow Bowl in Jersey. (I really, really want there to be snow on Super Bowl Sunday. Play it in the elements! Make them work for that trophy!)
Here’s your breakdown of each of this weekend’s four wild-card contests:
Kansas City at Indianapolis: I was a big fan of Kansas City’s improbable resurgence in the first half of the season. I loved the story of the castoff quarterback, fired coach and stumbling franchise surging to the top of the pile. It was cool. But since then, I’ve seen a team struggling to come up with a cohesive identity on offense, instead relying too much on a defense that spends too much time on the field to be effective. Meanwhile, the Colts are peaking at the right time, and for at least one week, I can totally see them on top of this one, especially at home. Pick: Colts.
New Orleans at Philadelphia: This is another story of two teams peaking at different times. The Saints looked unstoppable through the first 3/4 of the season, and quite beatable in the last few weeks. Philly, meanwhile, just finds ways to win games, and usually in a very convincing fashion. If this game were in the Superdome, I would pick the Saints without any hesitation. But in cold, rainy Philly, I just can’t see the Saints snapping their road-jinx. Pick: Eagles.
San Diego at Cincinnati: I find it odd to be picking the Bengals for anything other than an early exit to the playoffs, and certainly they’ve had some inconsistent games. But this is a much improved team over the past few years, and they’re actually playing at home for once. Meanwhile, the Chargers edged into the playoffs by beating Kansas City’s second-stringers, but in a tight overtime game. Pick: Bengals.
San Francisco at Green Bay: Nice to see this classic NFC matchup in yet another iteration, rather like a new regeneration of the Doctor. No bow ties here, though, and this one is hard to forecast. The Niners are playing good ball, but the Packers have Aaron Rodgers back, and they’re at home in the Frozen Tundra. San Francisco is only 2.5-point favorites, which also says something about the oddsmakers’ uncertainties on this one. I’m going out on a limb here. Pick: Packers.
Last week’s record: 12-4
Regular season record: 164-91 (wrapping up the regular season as a better prognosticator than all but three of these fine people)