NFL GeekPicks: Wild Card Weekend

Finally…no more filler games.

You know the type. They’re like episodes of Doctor Who or Star Trek that don’t really advance the overall series plotlines or character arcs, and yet don’t pull their weight as individual episodes. This season, most of the games featuring the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars were fillers. I feel bad for those teams, of course — nobody likes to lose — but competitive football games are simply far more entertaining.

And now we have full weekends of competitive games. Good stuff. But before I get into this weekend’s playoff picks, and in the interests of prognostication accountability, let’s see how my preseason and midseason playoff predictions held up: 

PRESEASON

  • AFC Division Champs: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver
  • AFC Wild Cards: Baltimore, San Diego
  • NFC Division Champs: Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle
  • NFC Wild Cards: Chicago, San Francisco

MID-SEASON

  • AFC Division Champs: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver
  • AFC Wild Cards: Baltimore, San Diego
  • NFC Division Champs: Dallas, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle
  • NFC Wild Cards: Arizona, Philadelphia

So where did I mess up? I had a total blind spot when it came to New Orleans. They were bested by the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers for the division title despite having a fantastic offense. Their defense came up completely empty, though. I was wrong about Chicago and San Francisco in the preseason, and missed Dallas’ rise entirely. I caught on to those by the midway point, though.

I don’t see my Philly and San Diego picks as egregious misses. Philly was 10-6, which was good enough for the division title last year but kept them at home this year. Such is life. And San Diego lost a win-and-you’re-in last week. Close call, but not good enough. I think both teams will be in the running next year.

In total, I whiffed on 5 of 12 in the preseason, and just 3 of 12 by the midway point. I’ll take it.

Now, let’s talk about this weekend, shall we?

Arizona at Carolina: So the 11-5 wild card visits the 7-8-1 division champion. The traditional narrative would call for the Cardinals to steamroll the Panthers, but this doesn’t seem right. Arizona is down to playing Marvin the Martian at quarterback thanks to injuries, while the Panther run game is looking like it could do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. I think I’m going to be contrary on this one. Indeed, I aim to misbehave, as does Carolina. Pick: Panthers.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh: I know the Steelers have leaned on injured running back Le’veon Bell as if he were propping up a bad plotline, but they also have a pretty strong passing game. And the Steelers defense is stout. Imperial stout, in fact. (A beer joke, in case you’re not a beer geek.) Baltimore is nearly as good, however, on both sides of the ball, and will give Pittsburgh a run for its money. Still…I’m cracking open an Iron City Beer here. Then spitting it out, because blech. Still… Pick: Steelers.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis: I really want to take the Bengals seriously, but when starting QB Andy Dalton is 3-10 in night games and playoff games, well…performance issues sounds a bit like a Viagra commercial, but you get the idea. Andrew Luck, meanwhile, has a neckbeard to rule them all. Oh, and he’s a far better quarterback. Both teams have been inconsistent this year, and the Indy D is worrisome. But in the end, you go with home field and experience. Pick: Colts.

Detroit at Dallas: Who will Ndamukong Suh step on this week? Tony Romo? Maybe Dallas coach Jason Garret. Perhaps owner Jerry Jones — I’d enjoy seeing that, in fact. Maybe the guy hawking beer in section 123 of the Cowboys’ megachurch stadium. Doesn’t matter, because Suh’s antics will be the only walkover Detroit will enjoy this weekend. I was doubtful about Dallas before. I’m not when it comes to this matchup. Pick: Cowboys.

Last week’s record: 11-5

Regular season record: 171-83. Only four of these these 13 experts did better. Just saying.

 

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