31 December 2014

2015 NFL Playoff Predictions: Wild Card

The 2015 NFL Playoffs commence this weekend with two doubleheaders of action. Which four clubs will win their Wild Card contests in order to advance to the Divisional round to take on the teams that were off this weekend? Here are my picks.

Last Week: 10-6
2014 Regular Season: 153-109
Locks: 12-5

Saturday, January 3rd
Arizona Cardinals (11-5) vs. Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) - ESPN, 4:20
We can debate the Panthers getting a home game all we want (here's my stance) but there is a reason why they are the favorite here beyond being at home against an Arizona club with four more wins than they do: the Panthers have been playing very good football of late in winning four in a row while the Cards have looked unimpressive while losing two in a row. And Arizona is starting Ryan Lindley. Carolina gets the win.
Panthers 20 Cardinals 12

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) - NBC, 8:15
I am not expecting Le'Veon Bell to play on Saturday night and if he did, I would not have high hopes that he was play to his top level. Therefore while his absence does leave the Pittsburgh offense to be less potent, I like the Steelers to win here. Even though Joe Flacco is a good playoff quarterback and did play well on Sunday with the Ravens needing a win, there is no question that Ben Roethlisberger has been better this season and with Baltimore struggling against the pass at times this season, I am liking Pittsburgh's chances.
Steelers 28 Ravens 23

Sunday, January 4th
Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) vs. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) - CBS, 1:05
The Bengals have not won a playoff game in my lifetime and not in the Andy Dalton era. And Dalton has largely been seen as the keen culprit for that as he has been terrible in every playoff contest to this point and I still do not have the confidence in him yet to carry a solid Cincy team forward. He does have the advantage of facing a shabby Colts defense that could struggle to hold down Jeremy Hill but even then, I like Andrew Luck to do what he can do and avoid the turnovers that Dalton will likely commit.
Colts 27 Bengals 24

Detroit Lions (11-5) vs. Dallas Cowboys (12-4) - Fox, 4:40
The Lions caught a break when Ndamukong Suh's punishment for stepping on Aaron Rodgers's leg on Sunday was changed from a suspension to a fine (technically not a successful appeal) but even then, I don't think it will be enough. Dallas's offense is good enough and balanced enough to move the ball against a stout Detroit defense, and the Lions' offense has continued to be inconsistent. The Cowboys win.
Cowboys 30 Lions 21


  1. Ben I think you have been very kind to Cincy - Dalton is NOT a big-game QB and when pushed will turn the ball over a lot. The Colts can beat the Bengals without being anywhere close to their best. Flacco just isn't a dynamic QB and I would never bet on him leading a comeback 4th quarter drive. Again you were generous with the Lions - you can't count on Stafford to overcome Dallas and it could be a blow-out.
    The closest game might well be the first one on the slate....your logic is sound as regards the momentum Carolina has (and Arizona hasn't) but the Cards have been tough to predict all season and have surpassed themselves given their injury list. This one might go to OT with Cam the eventual winning difference.

  2. Is Arizona-Carolina strictly on ESPN or can local Ari-Cari stations have it on free-to-air?

    1. It will be on local TV in both markets: CW 6 in Phoenix and Fox 46 Carolinas in Charlotte.

  3. What's with that ugly bright scoreboard ribbon NBC is using for its wildcard games?

  4. As predicted Dalton couldn't come through for Cincy and never looked like doing so. Stafford wilted as the game wore on in Dallas and looked out of his depth on that last drive. Flacco genuinely surprised me and came through with flying colours and Carolina won because Arizona wasted one opportunity after another. That said I have sympathy for the Cards given their QB crisis during the season.
    Now the play-offs can begin in earnest...