Boy, was I wrong last week. A botched field goal by Blair Walsh, a fumble by Jeremy Hill, and two bonehead penalties on the Bengals defense separated me from a respectable 3-1 prediction for round one. Instead, I sit at 1-3. Let’s take a look at what happened in the Wild Card Round and make a quick prediction about where these teams will end up next week.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans
I gave the Texans a chance in a game in which they were clearly outmatched and it showed on the field. Despite being without their best player in Jamaal Charles, and even with Jeremy Maclin going down with injury, the Chiefs blew out the Texans 30-0. More than anything, it showed the Texans are not a legitimate playoff contender just yet, and need a serious upgrade at the QB position to be taken seriously.
Hoyer struggled all game long and had four turnovers in the first half alone, three of them being interceptions. He finished the game with four interceptions. That is not going to get it done in playoff football. The Texans will look to continue building on a promising campaign in the offseason.
Alex Smith played mistake free football, completing 17 of his 22 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown. Alex Smith has been consistently good at not putting his team in difficult situations. He does not turn the ball over a ton and can make plays with his legs when it’s needed. With the good Chiefs defense behind them, the Chiefs offense is doing enough to continue winning football games.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
Up next, the Chiefs travel to Foxboro to take on the Patriots. It’s real difficult to beat New England in New England. I predicted the Bengals to go into Foxboro and lose, and I’m saying the same about the Chiefs.
Patriots win: 31-17
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The biggest concern heading into this game was that Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have enough help, and that he and Antonio Brown couldn’t do it alone. Martavis Bryant proved why that was a foolish sentiment. He only had five catches for 29 yards, but he made one of the craziest catches of the season and scored a touchdown in the process. The Steelers offense did not prove to be a juggernaut, but they did enough to secure a victory after an inexplicable meltdown by Cincinnati.
AJ McCarron gave the Bengals a chance at a victory late in the game by throwing for a touchdown with minutes remaining. The Bengals grabbed the lead and gave the ball back to Pittsburgh needing a stop to get the victory. Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception on the following drive and it looked like the Bengals would get their first playoff win in 25 years.
That’s when the wheels fell off the wagon.
Jeremy Hill fumbled the football on the possession following the interception and gave the ball right back to the Steelers. Two consecutive penalties on Bengals players put the Steelers in field goal range. Vontaze Burfict lowered his shoulder and delivered an illegal hit on Antonio Brown, and Adam Jones compounded it by getting into an altercation with Joey Porter, a Steelers assistant coach. They gave the Steelers 30 yards in an instant, and handed the football game to them in the process.
The biggest takeaway from this game is the concussion to Antonio Brown, and the injury to Ben Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
The Steelers will be going into Denver and playing against a rested, Peyton Manning led Broncos team. The Steelers offense only mustered 18 points against the Bengals, and I don’t expect a much better game against the Denver defense, which is even better than those Bengals.
Broncos win: 27-20
Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings
The story of what could have been.
Blair Walsh missed a chip shot 27 yard field goal wide-left in the waning moments of the game, and the Seahawks escaped Minnesota with the victory 10-9.
The game was a fight from start to finish. Good defensive performances from both teams in the frigid cold led to a very low scoring affair. The Vikings did everything they could to stop Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense. They held the Seahawks scoreless through three quarters, but in the fourth quarter Seattle scored the lone touchdown of the game, and, after an Adrian Peterson fumble, kicked a field goal that proved to be just enough to secure a victory.
Everyone is going to blame Walsh for the miss, and I am sure that nobody is going to be harder on him than himself or feel that miss more deeply than he will, but the truth of the matter is that Walsh is the main reason why Minnesota even had a chance to begin with, as he provided all nine of the Vikings points to that point. He had been three for three before that miss, and was kicking in brutally cold conditions. Had the Vikings offense been able to find the endzone even once, they would have had enough points to win the game. You cannot pin that loss entirely on Walsh.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Up next the Seahawks travel to Carolina. I previously predicted the Packers to beat the Panthers, but I think this match up bodes better for Carolina. The Seahawks don’t have the weapons or quarterback that the Packers do. It is going to be a defensive struggle, but I expect Cam Newton to feed Greg Olsen and exploit that match up while leading his team to the NFC Championship game.
Panthers win: 24-17
Green Bay Packers vs. Washington Redskins
Aaron freakin’ Rodgers.
The reason I predicted a Packers win was because Aaron Rodgers seems to find a way in big moments. The Redskins could have gotten up big early. Desean Jackson made a bonehead play not extending for the pylon, opting instead to try and run it in casually. Carrying the ball in his right hand, he stepped over the goal line while he was forced out of bounds, the ball trailing at the one-inch line. The Packers defense then stood tall at the goal line and forced a Redskins field goal.
Rodgers was hitting his receivers in their hands and they were failing to make contested grabs. The offense was sputtering. They had managed 11 yards in the first quarter, and all of the problems they experienced throughout the year seemed to be rearing their ugly heads in the playoffs. Rodgers was trying to do it by himself.
Until suddenly he wasn’t. Finally, it clicked. Aaron Rodgers single-handedly got the team going. He sparked the team by using an up-tempo attack to draw penalties against the Redskins as they were trying to substitute players. The Packers offense got rolling in a way they have always been capable of and put up a bunch of points. The receivers started making tough grabs and getting separation in the secondary, the running backs began wearing down the Redskins as Lacy and Starks combined for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns. They allowed only seven points after the half and crushed the Redskins 35-18.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
The Packers will hope to continue this momentum against the Arizona Cardinals. It will be a much more difficult test next week. The Redskins team they just trounced was a complete pretender in these playoffs. The Redskins did not beat a team with a winning record this season, and were 0-4 in games against those teams. The Cardinals are a much better team, led by a very strong defense and an even better offense. I previously predicted the Cardinals to beat the Packers, and I stand by that.
Cardinals win: 34-17