There's no better time than now for football fans as college bowl season prepares to pass the torch to the NFL playoffs.
And following one of the most parity-filled regular seasons in recent memory, this year's month-long tournament is sure to produce plenty of stunning results.
Without further ado, here are my predictions for all four Wild Card matchups this weekend.
Indianapolis Colts 24, Kansas City Chiefs 17
Wild Card Weekend will begin with an AFC rematch from Week 16 when the reeling Kansas City Chiefs travel to take on the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts will be favored at home and for good reason. While Indy has won three straight games heading into the playoffs, the Chiefs are 2-5 over their last seven and a shell of the team that raced out to a 9-0 start earlier this season.
Chiefs were 0-5 vs Broncos, Chargers, Colts this season, 11-0 vs everyone else. (via @ESPNStatsInfo)— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 31, 2013
Kansas City's once impenetrable defense is more than porous, and the Chiefs are relying far too heavily on Jamaal Charles offensively, ranking 24th in passing offense.
With the Colts defense allowing fewer than seven points per game over their last three outings, it's hard to imagine the Chiefs mustering up enough offense to overcome Andrew Luck and the Colts in their own building, where they went 6-2 in 2013.
New Orleans Saints 30, Philadelphia Eagles 27
The Philadelphia Eagles will be slight favorites at home in Saturday's nightcap against the Wild Card New Orleans Saints.
However, there's always at least one road team that breaks through on Wild Card Weekend, and the Saints have all the tools to be that team in 2014. In addition to the league's second-ranked passing attack, the Saints possess a Rob Ryan-coached defense that's much-improved from a season ago.
New Orleans' secondary has been formidable to this point, but it'll be up to the Saints' run-stopping unit to slow the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, in Philly. The Eagles boast the league's most dynamic rushing attack heading into the playoffs and will be tough to stop on their home field.
Still, the Eagles' narrow escape of the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 17 suggests that they could be in trouble against Drew Brees and his arsenal of offensive weapons. Brees touched on the units effectiveness per NewOrleansSaints.com's John DeShazier: "It’s really about our whole offensive philosophy and scheme, and that is to be as balanced as possible, to execute very well in the run game and the short passing game as well as, opportunities to make big plays with shots."
Look for the Saints' offense to outshine the Eagles' en route to a hard-fought road win this weekend.
Cincinnati Bengals 23, San Diego Chargers 17
Given how dominant the Bengals have been at Paul Brown Stadium this season, it's no wonder they are seven-point favorites in Sunday's first Wild Card contest.
But while Cincinnati is the popular pick this weekend, don't expect them to run away from the San Diego Chargers on the scoreboard. After all, both of these defenses played extremely well during their Week 13 meeting, forcing five total turnovers and allowing a total of 27 points to be scored.
Expect another somewhat low-scoring game this weekend with the Bengals finding a way to win.
Defensively, the Bengals are much more stout than the Chargers. Plus, Andy Dalton has played his best football at home this season. And if he does struggle, watch for Cincy's defense to bail him out. The Bengals are allowing just 16.8 points per game at home coming into the postseason.
Green Bay Packers 34, San Francisco 49ers 31
In what's sure to be a back-and-forth battle in Green Bay, look for the underdog Packers to surprise the Super Bowl favorite San Francisco 49ers on a late field goal by Mason Crosby.
Which NFC Wild Card has the best shot to win this weekend?
Defense clearly favors the Niners in this matchup. However, offensively, the Packers are every bit as lethal if not more dangerous with the return of Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Now, Green Bay has a top-10 rushing attack to go along with its vaunted aerial assault.
While the Niners have won six straight coming into Sunday's showdown at Lambeau Field, keep in mind that they've lost to fellow NFC playoff teams like Seattle, Carolina and New Orleans this season.
If the Packers defense can zero in on Frank Gore and the San Francisco running game, it'll have an excellent shot to take down the 49ers in what are projected to be frozen conditions. Keep in mind that San Francisco ranked 30th in passing offense during the regular season and will be at a disadvantage if it falls behind early.
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