NFL 2015 Season Wildcard Weekend
(Stats from pro-football-reference.com)
Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans
Saturday January 9 at 1:35pm PST (4:35pm EST)
Both of these teams got off to pretty rough starts this season. The Chiefs went 1-5 and lost running back Jamaal Charles, who many would consider their best player, to a season-ending torn ACL. The Texans had a 1-4 start and have a number of quarterback issues throughout the season. Since their respective starts, the Chiefs have won 10 in a row and the Texans have gone 8-3. I would love to see Alex Smith make a deep playoff run after taking the 49ers to an NFC Championship game four years ago and Andy Reid get a chance at another Superbowl after taking the Eagles to Superbowl XXIX. That said, Hard Knocks had me rooting for the Texans this season (despite JJ Watt becoming almost insufferable). I think DeAndre Hopkins is one of the most exciting receivers in the NFL and it will be great to see him in a playoff game. But, the bottom line is the Chiefs are the better team. Despite Alex Smith and Andy Reid not always being reliable, I think they have proven that they have something special this year, and I see them taking this to the next round.
Prediction: Chiefs win
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday January 9 at 5:15pm PST (8:15pm EST)
A lot of this depends on whether or not Andy Dalton can play, and if he can play with a busted thumb. As of right now, AJ McCarron is starting. If that’s the case, I don’t see how the Bengals can beat the Steelers. To be fair, Andy Dalton has had trouble winning in nationally televised games and playoff games anyway. So far, Dalton is 0-4 in the playoffs with the Bengals. This year, he played in their 11/5/15 Thursday Night Football game against the Browns, which they won, but again, was against the Browns. The Bengals lost both Monday Night Football Games this year. Dalton on ply played in the first on 11/16/15 in Houston. The Bengals were held to 6 points from two field goals. The Bengals split the season series with the Steelers, winning 11/1/15 in Pittsburgh (16-10) and losing 12/13/15 in Cincinnati (33-20), the game in which Dalton was injured. All that is to say, I do not really even need to get into all the advantages that Pittsburgh has; unless Mike Tomlin makes some bizarre decisions that give the game away, the Bengals may not have a chance with or without Andy Dalton.
Prediction: Steelers win
Seattle Seahawks @ Minnesota Vikings
Sunday January 10 at 10:05am PST (1:05pm EST)
It’s hard to say if either of these teams really have an impressive win. But, if I had to choose one for Seattle, it might be their only head-to-head matchup with the Vikings this season on 12/6/15. The Seahawks won in a 38-7 blowout. I really want Minnesota to win this, and I think that they can. But, with Seattle getting Marshawn Lynch back, I think they’re in for another win in Minnesota, but I expect this to be a much closer game.
Prediction: Seahawks win
Green Bay Packers @ Washington
Sunday January 10 at 1:40pm PST (4:40pm EST)
Nobody, except the craziest Washington fans could have told you at the beginning of this season, they would expect a Kirk Cousins led Washington team to be favored in a playoff game against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Cousins and the Washington NFL team have surprised everyone this year by winning the NFC East for the first time since RGIII‘s rookie season in 2012. That said, Washington is another team that really doesn’t have an impressive win. Their 12/20/15 win against the Bills is their only win against a .500 team this season. The rest of their wins were against losing teams. The Washington NFL team did go 6-2 at home. Nationally televised games might also be an issue for this team. They lost their 9/25/15 Thursday Night Football game against the Giants in New York and their 11/7/15 Monday Night Football game against the Cowboys (the Cowboys‘ only win without Tony Romo this season) at home. However, Washington did win their 12/26/15 Saturday night game in Philadelphia. As surprising as the team in Washington has been, the Packers have been surprising for opposite reasons. After starting 6-0, the packers lost to the Broncos and Panthers, which makes sense considering both teams are the #1 seeds in their respective conferences. But, following those losses, the Packers lost again to the Lions and after a win over the Vikings, lost to the Bears on Thanksgiving. The Packers won 3 in a row, only to end with a blowout loss to the Cardinals and a loss for the NFC North Division title to the Vikings. A loss that saved them from hosting the Seahawks in this round. The Packers’ biggest problem seems to be with their receivers, they’ll be happy to get Jordy Nelson back next season (although their defense isn’t great either). All things considered, I think the Packers can win this in Washington. Despite their losses to bad teams, they’ve beaten a lot of mediocre teams this season ( and even beat the Seahawks early in the season), which is more than I can say for the team in Washington.
Prediction: Packers win