Wild Card Weekend Preview and Predictions

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Jan 5, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; General view of the NFL Wild Card logo on the field before a game between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It’s rough not to be participating, but the Chicago Bears will be watching the playoffs from the comfort of their couches, just like the rest of us.

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts, Saturday, 3:25 CST, NBC

Dec 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Indianapolis Colts fans show their support during the second half of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Colts won 23-7. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The first matchup of the weekend is a rematch from just a couple of weeks ago, as the 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs head to Indianapolis to face the 11-5 Colts.  In Week 16, the Colts went into a cold Arrowhead Stadium and put a 23-7 beatdown on the Chiefs.  The Colts get to host this time around, in the warm and cozy confines of Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Chiefs started the season on fire, getting off to a 9-0 start, but have fizzled with a 2-5 record down the stretch.  It’s a familiar formula for KC – defense and special teams behind a dominant running game.  Jamal Charles is the engine that powers the Chiefs, leading the team in receptions and rushing, accounting for over 2000 yards of total offense.

Meanwhile, the Colts have weathered the storm losing Reggie Wayne and make their second straight trip to the postseason behind Andrew Luck.  If the Colts can find a way to get past the Chiefs, they could make some noise in the postseason.  They are the only team in the league to beat both the top seeds, the Broncos and Seahawks.

Prediction: The Chiefs took advantage of an easy early-season schedule and were bum slayers en route to a 9-0 record.  The only playoff team they beat in that stretch was an Eagles team that was still finding their identity.  They struggled against real teams and will struggle on Saturday.

Colts 23 – Chiefs 20 

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, 7:10 CST

Dec 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly on the sidelines during the second quarter action against the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports

The Saturday night game ought to be a really entertaining matchup between offensive genius Chip Kelly’s 10-6 Philadelphia Eagles and defensive guru Rob Ryan and his 11-5 New Orleans Saints.  Kelly took the league by storm with the fast break brand of offense that he brought with him from Oregon while Ryan turned around a woeful Saints defense into respectability in 2013.

Both teams can put up the points, with the Eagles doing a lot of damage on the ground with All Pro LeSean “Shady” McCoy while Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham wreak havoc on opposing defenses through the air.

For the Eagles, the formula is simple – keep piling up the points and keep Brees on the sidelines by running the ball with McCoy.  Nick Foles has taken care of the ball and that must continue if the Eagles want a chance.  Despite what they showed against the Bears a couple of weeks ago, the Eagles don’t have the strongest defense, allowing an average of nearly 24 points and 400 yards per game.

For the Saints, they’ll rely on Brees to do what he does.  The problem for the Saints is that they’re not nearly as good on the road as they are in the Superdome (or whatever corporate name they’ve attached to it these days.)  Starting running back Pierre Thomas has been ruled out, which puts more pressure on Brees to be Breesus.   Look for the Saints to push the ball through the air to test a shaky Eagles secondary which gives up almost 300 yards per game through the air.

Prediction: If this game were in New Orleans, this would be a no-brainer for me, but until the NFL passes their new playoff format which would seed teams based on record and not give an advantage to division winners, the Eagles get a home field advantage.   The Eagles soar on a cold night in Philadelphia.

Eagles 26 – Saints 24