After watching the Indianapolis Colts come back from a 28 point deficit to top the Kansas City Chiefs and watching the New Orleans Saints top the Philadelphia Eagles on a game-winning field goal, I think it is safe to say that football fans are in for more drama and exciting games on Wild-card Sunday. Here are my predictions and notes for today’s two playoff games.
San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1:05 PM ET, CBS:
It is hard to believe it has just been a week since our beloved Miami Dolphins failed to win just one game and make the playoffs. We would have been discussing their chances against the Bengals today. Instead, it is the Chargers led by veteran QB Philip Rivers. Is there a QB who is hotter right now? I don’t think so. Look for San Diego’s OC Ken Whisenhunt to throw early and often and attack a depleted Bengals secondary. I expect RB Ryan Matthews to get at least 20 touches, whether on the ground or through the air, and Philip Rivers will throw for 300 yards and 3 TD’s. As for the Bengals, I simply don’t trust QB Andy Dalton’s consistency. Last week against the Ravens, Dalton threw 4 interceptions. Somehow the Ravens gave the game to the Bengals. If Dalton throws even 2 interceptions against the Chargers, that’s game over. Rivers is too good and this team has too much energy and momentum. In the end, I see Dalton throwing for 250 yards, 2 TD’s, and 2 INT’s. Look for A.J. Green to grab a TD too.
Match-up to watch: Cincinnati’s DE Carlos Dunlap vs. San Diego’s OT D.J. Fluker. Rivers is going to need time to throw. Let’s see if Fluker can stop one of Cincy’s best pass rushers.
Prediction: Rivers out-duels Dalton in a shootout, Chargers win on the road 31-24.
San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers, 4:40 ET, FOX:
Aaron Rodgers showed incredible leadership in his first game back from his injury in Green Bay’s win over the Bears last week. This team has rallied behind their QB, and I think it will be tough for the 49ers to stop Rodgers if the game comes down to a Green Bay do or die drive late int he 4th quarter. I expect the 49ers to pound the run early and get QB Colin Kaepernick in open space to give him the option of running. I see RB Frank Gore rushing for around 100 yards and a TD, and Colin Kaepernick scoring 2 total TD’s, but also turning the ball over at least once. I see the story of the game spawning from Green Bay’s newly emerged power-back Eddie Lacy. Look for Green Bay to go pass heavy early to open the running lanes, then keep an eye on Lacy. Ultimately, I see Lacy rushing for over 100 yards and a TD. As for Rodgers, I see him throwing for over 250 yards, 3 TD’s, and 1 INT.
Match-up to watch: Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers vs. the 49ers’ Defense. If San Fran can contain one of the best QB’s in the league, their chances of winning increase dramatically. If they can’t, they can forget about continuing their season.
Prediction: If the Packers were still without Rodgers, this game wouldn’t even be close. However, with him, Green Bay is just too much at home. Rodgers is that much of an X-factor. I see this game ending in a wild fashion (no surprise there) and Rodgers leads the Pack to a game-winning TD. 49ers 24 Packers 28.
My favorite part of the NFL playoffs is Wild-card weekend. This wacky weekend always has the most exciting, and typically the closest games. So far, fans have not been disappointed, as Saturday’s games were settled by a total of 3 points. I think we are in for more fireworks and drama today.