The Super Spiffing Gridiron Gentlemen's Playoff Preview: AFC Wild Card Round
After the last week of the NFL’s games, it came to my attention that a lot of teams had very little to play for and now was the time to look ahead instead of behind (you know, like they say on New Years).
Anyway I thought I would go in depth on all the Wild Card games and also get the opinions of the other Gentlemen. So let’s get straight to it.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts (Saturday 9:35pm GMT)
Our first game of the Wild Card weekend is the 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs going to Lucas Oil Field to play the 11-5 Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs go into this game with a 8-15 record against the Colts with the most recent loss being only a couple of weeks ago when the Colts beat them 23-7.
What a great start we have to Wild Card weekend as a Chiefs team led by a QB that has made a huge Comeback as part of a team that’s seen unlikely form after a torrid season last year, go up against the young QB who picks up the Sherriff badge from Peyton Manning, so let’s look at both teams.
The “worst to nearly first”, Chiefs
There is no denying that what the Chiefs have achieved is something that could be the plot of a film. Whether it’s Andy Reid, who was the bane of many Eagles fans, making the most of a second chance or Alex Smith, who…actually pretty much did exactly the same thing. But to single out players like this is not what this team is all about. The Chiefs have instilled a team mentality where no one is above anyone else…well except Jamaal Charles, he IS above everyone. At the start of the season it was the Defence controlling the Chiefs destiny, winning games by small margins, which had me worried they couldn’t compete in the play offs. However after a couple of losses and a slew of poor games, the Offence was forced to rise to the fore front and take control. Jamaal Charles has looked nothing short of fantastic and if not for a certain Manning brother having a record breaking season, he would be a shoe in for the league MVP. Alex Smith has really shaken off the ‘game manager’, label he gained from the Niners and now is a QB that can keep bring the Chiefs back into games and can win shoot outs. This to me changes the picture entirely. The Chiefs entered the season as a caterpillar, entered into a Chrysalis, where they lost a couple and emerged a beautiful butterfly, where they are a viable playoff team that can put up some serious points. A point that always gets missed and that I will continue to shout about until I’m blue in the face is the ability of the Special Teams and in particular what Dave Toub can do with pretty much any team and should be a serious concern to the Colts. What however should be a serious concern to the Chiefs is the points the Colts put up on them in week 16 and more of a concern should be the lack of points they managed to get in a home game. That being said, this Chiefs team have been destined for the play offs all season and should be suitably prepared.
The Indianapolis “Kingslayers”
It would be fair to say that it has been an up and down season for the Colts. One thing has remained constant though. They have got wins. Whilst their division hasn’t provided much in the way of a challenge, they have gone up against the 2 toughest divisions this season in the AFC West and the NFC West. So what is their record against the fellow playoff teams they’ve played? An exceptional 5-1. They have beaten, the Chargers, The Niners, The Seahawks, The Broncos and obviously The Kansas City Chiefs. This has to have this team feeling pretty confident that they can take a victory at Lucas Oil Field. So how have they won games this season? Well they’ve made it look difficult; there is no denying that, often going behind in games and pulling it back late in the game to take victories. The Colts are almost the reverse Chiefs. At the start of the season they were winning games based on the exceptional talent of QB Andrew Luck and his on the field relationship with Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne. However when Reggie Wayne went down and the Trent Richardson trade began to look like a bust, their level of play dropped off for a chunk of the season. Until the Defence picked up the pace and added a much needed sense of balance to this team in the face of an ever changing team. Why? Injuries. The Colts laugh at anyone that uses the excuse of injuries as to why they haven’t achieved anything this season. The Colts have been forced to use a total of 71 players this season, which is above any other in the league. Andrew Luck is constantly behind an ever changing front line and is throwing to an ever changing Receiver unit and yet there was never really any doubt that this team would make the post season.
The Gentlemen’s Opinion
Dan: This is quietly set up to be one of the games of the weekend. The Chiefs desperately need to gain some momentum after a narrow win with the backups in week 17 and a home loss to their Wildcard rivals the Indianapolis Colts. If the Chiefs Defence shows up, then they stand a chance of stifling the Colts and taking a victory here. But that’s flying in the face of recent form. Whilst Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith have hit some form and proved they can hang with the best, I can’t help feeling they can’t keep up with what Andrew Luck can do. Now is the time for Andrew Luck to shine and I think that’s what we’ll see. I also think we might actually see a Trent Richardson sighting as he finds his feet and has a break out game in this one. If neither Offence shows up, then both teams are set up for a Defensive slog and the kicking game becomes a factor. At this point I will always back “Mr Clutch”, Adam Vinitieri. I tend to go with the hot team in the Playoffs and to me there is no denying that the Colts are definitely hot right now.
Duncan: The Chiefs have had a topsy turvy couple of weeks and it is not long ago that the Chiefs lost to the Colts. The Colts have a stronger record against Conference opponents but the Chiefs have a good record on the road, as good as the Colts home record. The Chiefs have done some shuffling with Fisher out and his replacement sounds strong. I think actually it depends on what Colts team turns out not really on the Chiefs. If the offence continues to click as it has done recently, I favour the Colts, especially in a shoot-out. But the Colts too easily can blow cold and any sign of weakness, then the Chiefs take it. Just excited to see what Mathis and Davis do. I will be a bit upset whoever wins, one for obvious reasons the other because I have liked the Chiefs this season and kind of think they should and sort of deserve to go a bit further.
Jon: Tough to call between these two. While neither the Chiefs or Colts make a habit of turning the ball over, the biggest exception for the Chiefs was a few weeks ago with four turnovers against none other than the Colts. I’m not expecting anything like that this week, and having rested some key starters like Justin Houston, the Offense should be back in form. For the Colts, so much of this rides on shutting down Jamaal Charles and Andrew Luck making the most of limited opportunities from TY Hilton. The grapevine suggests that the Colts are narrow favourites, but my gut says the Chiefs, although that might just be my liver giving up.
Tough to pick, but it really feels like the fickle finger of fortune is pointing the Chief’s way this year.
Charlie: Weeks ago I saw the Chiefs crashing out in the first round. This has completely changed the last few weeks and I can see nothing but a Chiefs win.
San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday 6:05pm GMT)
Our opener for Sundays proceedings is as close to a battle of David and Goliath as we are going to get, as the Chargers (9-7), who made the play offs on a very close overtime win go up against the Bengals (11-5) who on their day can hang with anyone.
The Chargers go into this one leading the series record 19-14; however the Bengals came out victorious when these 2 last met in San Diego in early December, 17-10. In their mind however will be the Bengals current playoff record, which is 5-11, but more importantly 0-3 in the last 4 years.
San Diego “Super” Chargers (yes it’s obvious but it makes sense).
The Chargers will consider themselves fortunate to be in this position, but now have the possibility to make the most of the situation and make a big splash in the post season. Before we get started, let’s wheel out the silly stat. For the last 4 years the Philadelphia Eagles have lost their home opener to who would go on to be Super bowl Champions. This year the Chargers beat them in their home opener. So if this run is to carry on, the Charger will win the Super bowl. The Chargers stand as good a chance of winning the Super bowl as any team, simply because they are in the playoffs, but that’s not because they happen to have won one game in the season. So let’s take a look at actual deciding factors. Well Phil Rivers is playing less like 2012 Phil Rivers and more like 2010 Phil Rivers. What’s more impressive is the relatively inexperienced supporting cast he’s doing it with. This leads me to talk about my love for this Chargers rookie crop, which I think is outstanding. Liuget, Fluker, T’eo and Allen all have made a massive difference for this team as they avoided a rebuilding year after a poor season and turned it round in the space of an off-season, which in large parts down to head coach Mike McCoy, who has to be in the running for Coach of the Year. But it’s not just the young blood and recent acquisitions that have impressed for the Chargers. Ryan Matthews has shaken off the label of being injury prone and unreliable and stood out as a no. 1 back with often underrated Danny Woodhead providing some decent play as his back up. The Chargers Defence season has been average at best, but that hasn’t stopped them winning a game in a division that has shown to be one of the best in the league. You can underestimate this team, but on their day they can beat anyone.
The “Ready to Pounce” Bengals
When people talk about the Bengals past December, they talk about one thing. They can’t win in the play offs. Well that could very well be set to change as the Bengals enter the post season with their strongest team to date and despite everything I’ve said about the Chargers they have to be clear favourites to win this one. Let’s get start by talking about the elephant in the room. Andy Dalton. Dalton on his day is exceptional and can have complete control over his Offence. But it feels like this is rarely the case and when he is that surrounded by the amount of talent Cincy has, it is a real worry that he can get into runs of throwing a silly amount of interceptions, which feels like it could happen at any time. But we should talk about the Offensive talent this team has. For starters, at Running Back they are loaded, with Green-Ellis, seemingly gain extra yards that look impossible and Bernard who has come into the league and put himself in serious contention for Rookie of the Year. The Bengals Receiving Corp and Tight Ends group are possibly the most talented group of weapons in the league with names like AJ Green, Sanu, Jones, Gresham, Eifert; it feels like they should be hanging their hat on this Offence. But the real talent is on Defence. Mike Zimmer has done exceptional things. After Geno Atkins went down early in the season, this team looked set to struggle on Defence, but with a frankly staggering cast the Defence has continued to dominate and really is beginning to take centre stage as we enter the Post Season. On paper this team could be best in the league, now it’s just a case of not just seeing if they can win a playoff game, but win the big one. One final point and one the Gentlemen have hammered home (cheers Charlie), The Bengals have one of the best home records in the league, so as if they didn’t have enough going for them already, this has to be taken into consideration.
The Gentlemen’s Opinion
Dan: What the Chargers have done is nothing short of incredible; there really is no doubt of that. In particular Phil Rivers should give himself a pat on the back for what he’s done with a young Offence. However when you look at the sheer amount of talent the Bengals have, it’s staggering. I said to Charlie the other day that the Bengals could be my outside bet to win the Super bowl and have a lot of very similar characteristics to the 2012 Baltimore Ravens who obviously went on to win it. A QB under fire, an unreal Defence, tall fast Receivers and talent in virtually every position. Even the Punter is one of the best in the league! With that I’m going for the Bengals.
Duncan: The Bolts are fully charged for this one, but its home advantage for the Bengals. They have a better record than the Chargers against Conference opposition and going 8 -0 at home is as good as the Patriots. This will be an exciting game but I am favouring the Bengals despite I think Dalton is their weak point. Also I am sort of backing the Bengals.
Jon: I’d like to root for the Chargers here, just because I’ve admired their rather gutsy season despite being somewhat overshadowed by the other AFC West teams. That said last weeks fake punt shenanigans felt a bit like a gamble that paid off and masked a shaky pass defence. Meanwhile the Bengals may have quietly built a bit of a fortress at Cincy but they haven’t yet built a playoff winner, something that can’t be blamed entirely on QB Andy Dalton.
I’m still calling the Bengals on this one.
Charlie: Chargers just snuck into the playoffs via the side door and they will be ejected swiftly by the Bengals who don’t lose at home.
We have a sweep.
So that’s the AFC covered, we would love to hear your opinions on this so feel free to hit us up on twitter, Facebook or this site. Also you can email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also I want to apologise for being a bit absent in terms of writing articles, unfortunately in my line of work it gets a bit busy over Christmas…yup I’m Santa.
Anyway the NFC Preview will be up very soon so keep your eyes peeled.