NFL Playoff Predictions 2014: Odds and Projections for Sunday's Wild Card Games

Alex KayCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 29:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers warms up prior to a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 29, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The 2014 NFL playoffs are in full swing as we head into the second day of Wild Card Round matchups.

Whether you are a gambler looking to let it ride after winning your Saturday bets or hoping to turn it around after a tough start to the postseason, look no further for some solid bets to make this Sunday.

Keep reading to check out the latest lines, my picks for each game against the spread, plus a closer look at why you should lean the way I have suggested.


Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5) over San Diego Chargers

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 29:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs for touchdown during the NFL game against the Baltimore Ravens  at Paul Brown Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Bengals are hosting the Bolts in this wild-card matchup, seeking their first playoff victory since the 1990 season.

San Diego is fortunate to even be in this position, having been immensely lucky to watch the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins fall while it scraped by the Kansas City Chiefs following Ryan Succop’s missed field goal.

The Bolts do have one of the weirdest trends ever in their favor—the last three Super Bowl champions have been the team that the Eagles played in Philadelphia for their home opener—but it doesn’t seem likely that will extend to a fourth year.

Dec 29, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick (61) celebrates after a win against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 27-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

On paper, Cincy is the vastly superior squad and well-worth betting on as long as the spread remains under a touchdown. The Bengals are also riding a hot streak into the postseason, having gone 5-1 against the spread and straight up over the last six games.

This team is even better at Paul Brown Stadium in recent seasons, obliterating the competition to reach an 11-1 ATS and SU record over the last 12 home games. To narrow the trends down even further, the Bengals are 3-0 SU and ATS against the Bolts in the last three meetings.

While the Chargers have traditionally performed well on the road come the playoffs—going 3-1 ATS in their last four away meetings in the postseason—they are a flawed squad.

The San Diego defense is especially weak, conceding over 258 yards per game to opposing passers. Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton and star wide receiver A.J. Green should be able to take advantage of this lenient matchup and do damage throughout the afternoon.

As long as the Bengals defense—which ranks fifth against both the pass and rush—holds its own and forces Philip Rivers into making errant throws and turning the ball over, this should be a handy win in favor of Cincinnati.

Prediction: Bengals 28 — Chargers 21


Green Bay Packers (+2.5) over San Francisco 49ers

This will be the fourth showdown in the last two seasons between these budding rivals. However, unlike the previous three, Sunday’s matchup will be played in immensely inclement conditions.

As per The Weather Channel, temperatures are going to hover well below freezing, with an expected high of three degrees and a low that could possibly breach negative-20 degrees.

The NFL on ESPN believes that this arctic weather will “separate the men from the boys:"

It’s hard to argue with that, as this type of weather will conceivably equalize the competition between teams that had vastly different 2013 campaigns.

The 49ers were undoubtedly the more complete team, having won 12 games—including a Week 1 clash with Green Bay—but couldn’t nudge the Seattle Seahawks from the top spot in the NFC West.

Green Bay started the year hot—winning five of the first seven contests—but lost superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 9 and struggled until his return in Week 17. Now that he’s back for a second straight week, the Packers are once again in good hands.

The 49ers may have won three straight against the Pack, but Green Bay’s players will be prepared for the low temperatures and ready for revenge.

Count on Tramon Williams, a veteran cornerback, to be one of those Packers stars who will not let the weather impact his play. He has experience in similar temperatures when he participated in the 2007 NFC Championship against the New York Giants.

According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the defensive back said the cold was manageable after the initial drive:

The first drive, I froze to death. I ain’t going to lie to you. I froze to death. But once I got thawed out ... got in front of the heaters and things like that when I came back on the sideline, I was good for the rest of the game.

Take the points and back the home team, as it is better equipped for this Ice Bowl matchup.

Prediction: Packers 17 — 49ers 14