Projecting the NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Round Edition

Projecting the NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Round Edition

My best friend discovered this song and I like it

Usually I wait until we’re deeper into the week before I rip the Vegas betting lines on NFL games to make my picks. But, being that the playoffs are here, and being that I’m too damn excited to see the Chiefs square off in their first postseason game since a 30-10 drubbing at the hands of Baltimore in 2010, I figured now — Wednesday afternoon — is as good a time as any to make my (probably terribly pathetically horrendous) selections. That, and aside the Bengals-Chargers tilt, each matchup features a mere 3-point spread that shouldn’t deviate more than a point in either direction.

So, there you go. My Wild Card Round picks are after the jump, and, as always, the betting lines come courtesy of bodog.eu, with the ROAD teams in all CAPS.

* * * * * *

Saturday

CHIEFS (+3) over Colts

Am I completely dismissing the Colts’ 23-7 blowout on week 16 in Kansas City? Definitely. Am I a fan of underdogs? Almost always. Am I being irrational by picking my favorite team to win on the road against Andrew Luck? Possibly. And what the fuck is up with all these questions?

Listen, after a 9-0 start the Chiefs had a pretty shitty end to their season. If my math serves me correctly, an 11-5 finish means they concluded the year with just two wins in their final seven appearances, though I can’t hold week 17’s overtime loss in San Diego against them, because they were exclusively playing their backups.

Over their first nine games, the Chiefs’ defense allowed an unprecedented average of only 12.3 points/game, which was on track to be the single greatest defensive season in NFL history. Over their final seven games, the Chiefs gave up nearly two and a half times that average (28.1 points/game), which is really to say they finally had to face Peyton Manning (twice), Phillip Rivers (twice) and the aforementioned Andrew Luck. Three of the league’s elite quarterbacks find ways to fuck with your stupid averages.

The Colts boast a solid offense — 10th in the NFL and 4th in the AFC in efficiency — but if my intuition is even semi-accurate, which is pretty much my entire basis for picking the Chiefs to win in a mild upset, Indianapolis saw nothing but base defense from the Chiefs on week 16. This, mind you, is because at the time the two teams played, Kansas City was essentially already locked into the 5th seed by way of losing twice to Denver, and had they gone balls deep to beat Andrew Luck, they would be forfeiting the element of surprise if they were to meet in the postseason. Which they now are. By giving Luck nothing but standard reads on week 16, the Chiefs can blueprint a defensive game plan entirely separate from what the Colts have already experienced, thus giving the impression of a different team altogether.

It’s going to be close, no doubt, but I’ve got the Chiefs winning, 27-23.

SAINTS (+3) over Eagles

Honestly, I don’t understand why the Saints aren’t the favorite. Drew Brees is perhaps the most accomplished NFL quarterback this side of Manning and Tom Brady, and New Orleans under head coach Sean Payton have a bonafide track record of playoff success. Understandably, the Eagles — winners in seven of their last eight — are the NFL’s hottest team, and are led by three rising stars: Head coach Chip Kelly, quarterback Nick Fowles and running back LeSean McCoy. The line makes sense in that regard, but the Saints have been around the block, and I consider experience to be invaluable this time of year.

Ostensibly, this matchup has all the makings of a shootout. The Saints and Eagles rank 3rd and 4th in the NFL, respectively, in offensive efficiency, and both coaches possess the loose, fun-and-gun style that produces points and makes people love the NFL.

Anyway, in a high-scoring affair, I like the Saints to win, 34-24.

Sunday

Bengals (-7) over CHARGERS

31-21

49ERS (-3) over Packers

24-13

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