The 2014 NFL playoffs get underway this weekend, and I thought I'd throw out some predictions for this weekend, and the rest of the playoffs. The first round picks below match up with my picks submitted for the SB Nation NFL preview. We'll have that for you later today. Fooch's Note: Our SB Nation NFL Playoff Preview is live. Behold it in all its glory!
Don't forget to get your NN prediction contest picks in. Whether you're in the 16-person tournament, or the Big Nerd Invitational (everybody else), drop your predictions HERE.
Wild Card Weekend
The Colts had their way with the Chiefs two weeks ago, defeating them at Arrowhead Stadium 23-7. This time around, the Chiefs come to Lucas Oil Stadium. I think this will be a close one, with the Colts winning by a single score. This is Alex Smith's first playoff appearance since the 49ers loss to the New York Giants in the 2012 NFC Championship Game. This time around, his best weapon is running back Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs defense is solid, but the Colts are a team I really like this year. They struggled when Reggie Wayne went down, but they seem to have figured some things out since then.
I would love to see the Saints beat the Eagles, but I just don't see it happening. A Saints win would open the door for the 49ers to face the Panthers in the second round, assuming they beat the Packers. But, the 49ers would likely have to beat Seattle at some point, so if it's the divisional round, so be it. Whatever the case, I just don't see New Orleans going on the road to incredibly cold Philadelphia and winning. While the 49ers are actually built to win in cold weather, the Saints just seem to finesse-oriented.
This was the toughest pick for me. The Bengals are the biggest favorite this weekend, and with good reason. My pick of the Chargers really is kind of a lark. I just think they pull off the rather stunning upset. Cincinnati is "due" for a playoff win, but I see an upset here. Philip Rivers is playing good football, and Ryan Mathews is having far and away the best season of his career. The Chargers could very well fall flat on their face, but I'm going with the upset.
I'm guessing this does not surprise many of you. The 49ers could very well lose this game, but if they did, it would be a significant disappointing upset. The Packers always have a puncher's chance with Aaron Rodgers, and Eddie Lacy is not the same running back that struggled in Week 1. And the biggest weakness facing the 49ers is the potential absence of Carlos Rogers and maybe Eric Wright. The 49ers secondary is in a tough spot because of those injuries.
However, the 49ers can win this in spite of that for two reasons. The first is that I think we see Vic Fangio unleash some blitzing that we haven't seen the last few weeks. The 49ers struggled against Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer, but it seemed like the defense was being held back to some extent. Maybe last year's unleashing of the read option will be seen this year in the unleashing of the pass rush. Who knows.
The second reason the 49ers can win in spite of potential weaknesses in the secondary is that the offense is in a position to win a shootout. The Packers defense has some strengths, but with Clay Matthews out, and significant question marks in the secondary, the Packers D is in a tough position as well. This very well could end up flying past the over if that's the case. I'd prefer the 49ers simply roll through Green Bay, but a win is a win is a win. And the 49ers better win this game!
Rest of the playoffs
49ers-Seahawks - Pick: 49ers
Eagles-Panthers - Pick: Panthers
Chargers-Broncos - Pick: Broncos
Colts-Patriots - Pick: Colts
49ers-Panthers - Pick: 49ers
Colts-Broncos - Pick: Colts
Super Bowl XLVIII
49ers-Colts - Pick: 49ers
There you have it. I'm going with a 49ers-Colts Super Bowl. It is a bit of a long shot at 75-1 (per Bovada Sports), but I just have a hunch. My hunches are not often right, so hopefully the first half of that matchup is at least right! I'm not holding my breath at this point.
What are your predictions for the 2014 NFL playoffs?
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