I’m done trying beers for a while. The lax drinking efforts of some guests at a holiday party have left me with a ton of beer left over and there are only so many ways I can describe an IPA. Resin-y! Pine notes. Great citrus. So, as a nod to our great history here at Three Putt Territory–LOOK, a woman!
The Wild-Card Round:
The NFL gets good matchups for the wild-card round. Let’s rate them in order of intrigue….
4. San Diego @ Cincinnati
Wait, the Chargers are in the playoffs? Did anyone else have that reaction last weekend? This looks like one of those middling AFC games that someone with an NFC bias shouldn’t care about, but there are several points of interest for this game, the first being the weather which is supposed to be terrible. Philip Rivers in the slush, people. The Bengals are heavily favored, but haven’t won a playoff game in 23 years. Andy Dalton might be the worst QB in the playoffs. He’s 0-2 with 4INTs and 0 TDs the last two years. Marvin Lewis has never won a playoff game. The Chargers have a chance for an upset here.
Most Important Charger: Philip Rivers. Rivers was seen as a possible weak link during the LT years, but he’s dragging the Chargers into the post-season this year. Rivers is capable of the spectacular and he’ll need to be almost perfect for San Diego to win this road game.
Most Important Bengal: Giovani Bernard. The Bengals leaned on their defense to beat San Diego 17-10 last month, but don’t expect them to contain the Chargers that well this time around. Cincinnati will have to score more points, and Bernard is the only explosive player on the offense whose fortunes aren’t tied to Andy Dalton.
3. Kansas City @ Indianapolis
There’s something inherently boring about Kansas City. Also, the game is being played in “Nap Town.” But you get past those factors and this should be a very good game and an important milestone in the Andrew Luck development cycle. Luck wasn’t as good statistically this season as some expected, but he’s still the most envied young QB in the league. Luck’s first playoff game last year, a beat down against Baltimore, was definitely filed as a learning experience. He’ll be expected to start winning now. Kansas City at full health (they aren’t quite there) can beat anyone, and Andy Reid can definitely win in the Wild-Card round. I’d throw out their game from earlier this year and expect a good one.
Most Important Colt: Donald Brown. Brown was part of the difference in their first matchup, gaining 110 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The Colts offense is going to need the balance Brown provides and I wouldn’t expect the depleted and inexperienced Indy receivers to provide much support.
Most Important Chief: Alex Smith. You know the Chiefs will get something from Jamaal Charles, and their defense should be healthy enough to keep them in the game. The question will be if Alex Smith can make enough plays to put the Chiefs into the next round. He was absolutely brutal in their matchup with Indy in week 16. That cannot happen again.
2. San Francisco @ Green Bay.
This is a team vs. a mystique. The 49ers are a better team than Green Bay. They proved that in various ways during the season, including a head-to-head win in the opener. But, even as road favorites, there are two major areas of concern for San Francisco. First, the weather at Lambeau is going to be arctic. A high temperature of -3 degrees. Secondly, they’ll have to deal with Aaron Rodgers who returned last week to give the Packers enough magic to make the playoffs. I think Green Bay might have the advantage if it was twenty degrees. At twenty below, I don’t know who that favors.
Most Important 49er: Frank Gore. Gore is coming off his worst game of the season, but Green Bay has a weak run defense and you’d think the conditions would lead to running the football. San Francisco is also going to want to keep Rodgers off the field, so Gore’s help in melting the clock could also be a huge factor.
Most Important Packer: Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is Green Bay. That was evident last week and all year as the Packers were nearly sunk by his injury and the play of their atrocious backups. I wouldn’t expect San Francisco to yield much on the ground, so Rodgers might have to pull this one off on his own.
1. New Orleans @ Philadelphia.
This isn’t all bias. This game was given prime time on Saturday for a reason. The weather will be cold, but I wouldn’t worry too much about its impact on the outcome. The Saints are terrible away from the dome, dome teams are terrible outdoors in the playoffs, but it’s hard to brush aside Drew Brees with weather trends. These two teams are headed in different directions. Midway through the season the Eagles were thinking about drafting a QB and the New Orleans was trying to secure home-field advantage. Now, the Saints are travelling and people are talking about Philly as the “hot” team, capable of making a long run. First playoff game for Chip Kelly and Nick Foles, a wild and lathered Philly crowd. Good things.
Most Important Eagle: Nick Foles. LeSean McCoy is easily the best player, but it’ll be up to Foles to guide the Eagles into the divisional round. The 2nd year QB has risen to the occasion more often than not and Chip Kelly has done an amazing job of playing to his strengths. Can Foles operate with the pressure cranked up another notch? If he continues to take care of the ball, the Eagles will be tough to beat.
Most Important Saint: Jimmy Graham. The Eagles don’t have an answer for Jimmy Graham. Fans should be terrified of the league’s premiere tight end, especially after watching Jason Witten pull in 12 balls last week. Brees to Graham could be all the Saints need.
San Diego (+7) over Cincinnati. I don’t know if I’m feeling bold enough to say the Chargers will win outright, but it’s hard to trust the Lewis/Dalton combination given their track record in the post-season. This is a lot of points to give to a team with a much better quarterback. Remember, 23 years since the Bengals won a playoff game. And since you’re wondering, Ickey Woods had 11 yards on six carries as the Bengals beat an Oiler team QB’d by Cody Carlson. True story.
Indianapolis (-1.5) over Kansas City. Is now the right time to say I don’t have much a feel for these games? The Colts appeared to matchup well with KC in their first meeting and I think Andrew Luck is ready to make a bit of noise. The Colts are a hot team. KC’s defense won’t be good enough to compensate for Alex Smith. And, speaking of droughts, the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since ’93 when Joe Montana beat Warren Moon.
Green Bay (+2.5) over San Francisco. I think San Francisco is the better team, but I’m going to cave under the pressure of Lambeau and yield to my love for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are going to lose at home when it’s 20 below? Doesn’t feel right.
New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia. I’ve spent all season doubting the Eagles. Why stop now? I don’t the Eagles can stop Brees. I think the Saints came out of a stronger division (the only time the Saints played an NFC East team this year they destroyed Dallas), and I don’t think Nick Foles is going to have his best game. The Eagles are moving in the right direction, but they’ll have to wait another year to make some post-season noise.
- San Diego (+7) over Cincinnati
- Kansas City (+1.5) over Indianapolis
- San Francisco (-2.5) over Green Bay
- New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia
- Kansas City (+1.5) over Indianapolis
- New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia
- Cincinnati (-7) over San Diego
- Aaron Rodgers (+2.5) over San Francisco
Indianapolis -1.5 over Kansas City. I’ve been waiting all year to pick against Alex Smith and KCY in the playoffs. Now’s my time. Colts also seem to be peaking at the right time.
San Diego +7 over Cincinnati. A pretty significant Cincy line here tells me I ought to be anticipating a Cincy rout here. I just can’t get on board with that so I’m going the other way with the pick.
Green Bay +2.5 over San Francisco. I’ll take the home team, Aaron Rodgers and the points. We’ll see.
As a personal rule I don’t pick PHI games and I’m not starting now.