Suffolk Voice NFL Wildcard predictions
Eight teams begin their long journey to Super Bowl 50
It seems like in a blink of an eye, the 2015 National Football League season is over and now it’s time for playoff football.
Here is Sports Editor Christopher Frangolini and assistant editor Jake Mackey’s Wild Card weekend predictions…
Saturday, January 9th
Kansas City (11-5) at Houston (9-7), 4:20 PM
Frangolini: Both Andy Reid and Bill O’Brien should be considered candidates for coach of the year. Reid and the Chiefs may be the hottest team in football, winning 10 straight games after a 1-5 start. O’Brien’s squad started the season (2-5) on similar footing and turned it on to go 7-2 en route to their first AFC South title in three years (2012). When they collide at NRG Stadium Saturday, expect a hard-fought low-scoring game. Despite Houston being the home team, Kansas City should be the favorite and as long as the Chiefs offensive line protects Alex Smith (sacked 45 times this year, third worst in NFL), they shouldn’t have a problem moving on to the next round. For Houston to win, J.J. Watt needs to wreak havoc on the Chiefs struggling line. KC wins 20-10.
Mackey: The Houston Texans right now are considered the only team in the AFC playoffs that has almost zero shot of being in Super Bowl 50. I agree with that sentiment. However, I think they are in perfect position to pull off an upset in their home building against the Kansas City Chiefs. For those who believe in momentum going into the postseason, Kansas City certainly has that having won their last 10 games. The biggest storyline going into this game is that the Chiefs have not won a playoff game in 22-years, dating back to when Joe Montana was their quarterback. The site of that game? Houston, against the Oilers. I believe that trend continues as the Texans pull off the upset this week because JJ Watt is at full strength, therefore Houston can turn this into a defensive battle. In that fight, I’ll take Houston. We have seen teams who sputtered through the regular season with average records get shocking victories in wild card weekend. Examples include San Diego in 2008, Seattle in 2009, the New York Giants in 2011, and Carolina last year. Houston will continue this weekend with a 20-16 victory.
Pittsburgh (10-6) at Cincinnati (12-4), 8:15 PM
Frangolini: The Bengals are 0-6 in the playoffs since Marvin Lewis took over as head coach in 2003. Let me repeat that, that’s zero playoff wins in 13 years. Although this is the best Bengals team he’s coached, Andy Dalton’s (also 0-4 in playoffs) health is still a big question mark. The Steelers are led by an experienced Ben Roethlisberger, who quarterbacks one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Cincinnati’s defense only allowed 17.4 points per game, including only 43 points to the Steelers in two meetings this year (1-1) and they have also done a good job of manning up on Antonio Brown (13 catches, 134 yards, TD in two meetings), but I think Brown gets lose Saturday for over 130 yards. Pittsburgh wins 33-23.
Mackey: The Cincinnati Bengals have never won a playoff game under Marvin Lewis, and that will continue this Saturday. Whether or not it is AJ McCarron or Andy Dalton at quarterback for the Bengals, they will continue to struggle in the postseason against a solid Pittsburgh team. The Steelers wiped the floor with Cincinnati on their home field a month ago and not much has changed since, except for the Steelers losing to possibly the worst team in the NFL, the Ravens. Pittsburgh’s offense is good enough to score against a solid Bengals defense and Andy Dalton or AJ McCarron won’t be able to keep up. Pittsburgh wins 24-21.
Sunday, January 10th
Seattle (10-6) at Minnesota (11-5), 1:05 PM
Frangolini: This is not a favorable match up for the Vikings, who were a good home team this year going 6-2. Seattle is the most dangerous team in the dance and you have to give a team that went to back-to-back Super Bowls respect. No their defense is not the same, but Russell Wilson has had the best season in his career. After a slow start, Wilson turned it around in the latter part of the season by winning six of their last seven games (five by blowouts). And they will be getting Marshawn Lynch back!? Unless Adrian Peterson runs for 150 yards and Teddy Bridgewater takes care of the football, I don’t see this going their way. Seattle wins 30-17.
Mackey: The Seattle Seahawks are one team that know how to flip the switch when it comes to playing in the postseason. The Minnesota Vikings are fairly new to the postseason and are one of the best up and coming teams in the league under head coach Mike Zimmer. While the Vikings are a great young team with a promising quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, the Seattle defense is going to be too much for him to handle. Also, Russell Wilson is playing the best football of his career. Seattle wins 31-14.
Green Bay (10-6) at Washington (9-7), 4:40 PM
Frangolini: Green Bay is not the same dominant team we have been accustomed to seeing over the past couple seasons. Looking on the bright side, losing the division to Minnesota in week 17 wasn’t that bad for the Packers. If you had a choice to play Seattle or Washington on Wild Card weekend, the choice is obvious. For a team that hasn’t won since December 21st, the Packers find themselves in good position to gain some confidence in a road victory. Packers win 27-24.
Mackey: The Washington Redskins have been a fun storyline over the past month with their odd and quirky quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Green Bay Packers have been much like the New England Patriots recently sputtering of late. However, they have been sputtering for about two months. The Packers just aren’t a playoff team right now and many are rumoring about the possible firing of Mike McCarthy. Although, when it comes down to it, it is Cousins vs. Rodgers and I’ll take Aaron Rodgers there. Green Bay wins 23-17.