NFL Playoff Predictions 2014: B/R's Expert Consensus Wild-Card Picks
The NFL playoffs are upon us, and as exciting as "Black Monday" can be when it comes to news, rumors and the like, the teams that aren't firing their coaches have more work to do before we can crown a Super Bowl champion.
On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Indianapolis for a Week 16 rematch with the Colts. Indy won the first round, but Kansas City will look to give the Colts a home upset. Then, the New Orleans Saints head to Philadelphia for what should be an offensive showcase against the Eagles. Can the Saints overcome their road woes?
Sunday brings us the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals, after the Chargers did just enough to sneak into that last spot in the AFC—along with getting help in Week 17. The Bengals have been impenetrable at home, but Philip Rivers is looking to cap off a stellar season with a win.
The final game of the weekend is a well-anticipated rematch between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Has Dom Capers finally figured out Colin Kaepernick, or will the 49ers defense contain Aaron Rodgers?
We'll cover all these games—just a few clicks ahead. Don't like our picks? Give us yours in the comments below!
Name: Last Week; Overall
Consensus: 14-2; 149-82 (65 Percent)
Andrea Hangst: 12-4; 166-89
Brad Gagnon: 13-3; 164-91
Tyson Langland: 13-3; 162-93
Matt Bowen: 13-3; 161-94
Chris Hansen: 13-3; 161-94
Ty Schalter: 12-4; 161-94
Zach Kruse: 13-3; 160-95
Matt Miller: 12-4; 159-96
Erik Frenz: 13-3; 156-99
Mike Freeman: 13-3; 151-104
Michael Schottey: 13-3; 151-104
Knox Bardeen: 14-2; 149-106
To see how Bleacher Report's experts are faring against the best at other media outlets, check out Pickwatch.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
B/R Consensus Pick: Colts (9-3)
Bowen: Colts, 23-16
Jamaal Charles is a star. But is there another player on the Chiefs offense that will impact the Colts' defensive game plan? I don't see it. I'm taking Andrew Luck and the much-improved Indianapolis offense to advance at home.
Schalter: Chiefs, 24-17
I like the Chiefs' power-run game and experienced coaching staff much more than their Colts counterparts.
Hansen: Colts, 28-17
The Colts were clearly superior two weeks ago in Kansas City and are even tougher at home. The Chiefs also haven't won a game against a playoff team since beating the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3. That was before the Eagles made the switch to Nick Foles at quarterback, too. The Colts have plenty of team speed to chase around Jamaal Charles, and Alex Smith isn't a good enough quarterback nor does he have enough weapons to exploit Indy's secondary.
Frenz: Colts, 21-12
The Colts dominated the Chiefs at Arrowhead just two weeks ago. This game is being held at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts are 6-2 this year. The Colts do not have a physically stout defense, but they have plenty of speed, which could help them bottle up Jamaal Charles.
Gagnon: Colts, 30-24
Indy has started to put things together again, and it appears now that home blowout loss to the Rams was an anomaly. This is a strong home team going up against a Chiefs team that has won just twice since Week 10 and beat only a single playoff team this year.
Kruse: Chiefs, 24-20
The Colts won three in a row to the end the season, including a 16-point win over the Chiefs. So why Kansas City now? Jamaal Charles is the best offensive player on either side, and Alex Smith has been in this position before. The Chiefs are also getting healthy at the right time. A 6-2 record away from home this season proves Kansas City can go on the road and win, too.
Other Picks: Colts (Freeman, Miller, Hangst, Langland, Bardeen); Chiefs (Schottey)
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles
B/R Consensus Pick: Eagles (8-4)
Schottey: Eagles, 30-28
I can't trust the Saints on the road, especially if weather could be anything less than perfect in Philadelphia. Brees and co. just haven't found that rhythm late in the season and still have holes to plug on both sides of the ball before I can pick them in a road playoff game against another high-flying offense.
Freeman: Eagles, 24-20
I'm a believer in the Saints' road woes. I do think Drew Brees will have trouble in the cold. It's supposed to be in the high 20s at game time. I also think the Eagles are on a bit of a magic carpet ride.
Hangst: Eagles, 31-30
In the comfort of the Superdome, the Saints would be a near-lock to win this game. Though the Saints have postseason experience on their side, I like the speedy, young Eagles to take advantage of weather and location and come up big in what should be a very exciting, back-and-forth game.
Gagnon: Eagles, 30-27
The Saints were just 3-5 on the road this year, while the Eagles have won four straight at home by an average of 17 points. That number is inflated by a 44-point victory in their home finale, but that goes to show how hot this team is. Look for LeSean McCoy to carry the Eagles, doing what Zac Stacy was able to do against this defense a few weeks ago. Drew Brees is still Drew Brees and this is a favorable matchup for the Pro Bowler, but Philly should have enough to win a close game.
Langland: Saints, 35-31
The Saints and Eagles have both been offensive juggernauts this season. Nick Foles has been flawless in his execution, and Drew Brees went over the 5,000-yard passing mark for the third straight season. There’s no question the game will be a high-scoring affair. Yet when it comes right down to it, head coach Sean Payton has more postseason experience than Chip Kelly. Moreover, Brees will torch the Eagles’ porous secondary.
Bardeen: Saints, 24-20
Yes, the Saints struggle on the road, and yeah it’s been really bad. New Orleans was 3-5 this season away from the Superdome and lost its last three on the road. But the Eagles have the league’s last-place pass defense and can’t possibly hope to contain Drew Brees and his potent aerial attack.
Other Picks: Eagles (Miller, Hansen, Kruse); Saints (Bowen, Schalter, Frenz)
San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals
B/R Consensus Pick: Bengals (12-0)
Miller: Bengals, 24-20
Freeman: Bengals, 28-17
The Bengals are wonderful at home, not losing there all season, and that streak will continue. My only concern: Andy Dalton. Not sure he can be trusted, but I think he gets by in this round.
Hangst: Bengals, 27-17
The Bengals are undefeated at home and have put up no fewer than 34 points in their last five home games. They already defeated the Chargers once, in Week 13 at San Diego. This win shouldn't be as close. The Bengals have a far better defense and the skills to keep Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense in check. The Bengals will end their playoff win drought that dates back to 1990 on Sunday and finally stop flying under the radar.
Hansen: Bengals, 27-20
The Bengals beat the Chargers a few weeks ago, but Andy Dalton had a horrible first half in that game. The Chargers like to control the ball to keep their defense from being exposed, which gives them a chance to win just about any game. Cincy's defense is good enough to keep the scoring down at home, so as long as Dalton doesn't collapse against a bad defense, the Bengals should cruise to victory.
Gagnon: Bengals, 24-14
The Bengals were 8-0 at home this year, while the Chargers are just happy to be in the postseason. I don't expect a weak defense and a terrible secondary to do much about A.J. Green and that Cincy aerial attack.
Bardeen: Bengals, 26-21
San Diego snuck its way into the playoffs, while Cincinnati has been knocking at the door of the AFC elite just about all season. The Chargers have a good offense, but it's not strong enough to move efficiently against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
Other Picks: Bengals (Unanimous)
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
B/R Consensus Pick: 49ers (9-3)
Schottey: 49ers, 27-23
Aaron Rodgers gives this Packers team a lot of life, but I can't help but worry that the 49ers are peaking at the right time in a similar fashion. The tougher running game and defense wins this matchup.
Bowen: 49ers, 29-23
Jim Harbaugh's club might run the ball 40 times in this game against the Packers defensive front. And why not? Pound the ball with Frank Gore, create play-action opportunities for Colin Kaepernick and limit the explosive plays versus Aaron Rodgers on defense.
Schalter: Packers, 30-28
The 49ers have been the better team over the course of the season, but Aaron Rodgers is the better quarterback. There's still a magic about Lambeau in the playoffs.
Frenz: 49ers, 39-27
This could not be a worse matchup for the NFC North champion Packers. A heavy dose of 49ers running back Frank Gore and the running game is in order against the Packers’ woeful run defense, opening up the play-action for big plays downfield. The 49ers are playing their best football of the season right now, and they will carry it over into this game.
Langland: 49ers, 28-24
It’s safe to say Dom Capers will be better prepared for quarterback Colin Kaepernick this time around. Unfortunately for the Packers, Kaepernick won’t be the difference-maker come Sunday. NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis will keep Eddie Lacy in check, while Donte Whitner and Tramaine Brock shut down Green Bay’s wide receiving corps. The Packers will struggle to score points, and Greg Roman’s offense will do just enough to lead the 49ers to victory.
Kruse: 49ers, 34-23
The Packers are a great story, and a healthy Aaron Rodgers gives this team a chance to beat any team left in the NFC field. But Green Bay is still deeply flawed on defense, and the special teams has been shaky of late. That won't cut it against a complete, cold-weather-ready football team like the 49ers. I'd expect San Francisco to once again run effortlessly through Dom Capers' defense, while playing just enough defense against Rodgers to leave Lambeau Field with a win.
Other Picks: 49ers (Miller, Hangst, Hansen, Bardeen); Packers (Freeman, Gagnon)