Yes, MDS won the regular-season PFT picks contest. But with the 256-game marathon over, the standings are reset to 0-0 for the 11-game postseason sprint.
Last year, after MDS lost the regular-season challenge and prevailed in the playoffs, he claimed that the postseason prize meant as much or more. A month from now, I may agree with him.
Here’s a look at our picks for the four wild-card games. We disagree on half of them.
Chiefs at Colts
MDS’s take: When I look up and down these two rosters, I think the Chiefs are the more talented team. Kansas City has a lot of good players on both sides of the ball, while Indianapolis has lost so many key players to injuries this season that there are a lot of holes on the Colts’ depth chart. And yet it’s impossible for me to look past the fact that these two teams just met two weeks ago in Kansas City, and the Colts took it to the Chiefs. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and running back Donald Brown have already shown they can have a good game against the Chiefs’ defense, and the Colts’ defense has already shown it can keep Alex Smith from doing much of anything. The Chiefs should be more competitive this time than they were two weeks ago, but the Colts will move on to the divisional round.
MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Chiefs 21.
Florio’s take: The Colts shrugged off a November slump to finish 4-1, including a win over the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Chiefs started 9-0 and finished 2-5. Throw in the home-field advantage and last year’s experience in the wild-card round against the Ravens, and the Colts are ready to take the next step — which could indeed entail a trip to face Peyton Manning in Denver.
Florio’s pick: Colts 27, Chiefs 23.
Saints at Eagles
MDS’s take: If this game were at the Superdome I’d take New Orleans, but on the road this year the Saints’ offense has looked out of sync and their defense hasn’t been the same without the loud crowd behind them. The Eagles are coming off back-to-back strong games against the Bears and Cowboys, and on Saturday I expect Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy to have a big game against a New Orleans defense that can be beaten on the ground. Chip Kelly wins his first playoff game and extends his first NFL season for at least another week.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 27, Saints 17.
Florio’s take: Sean Payton has plenty of NFL postseason experience. Chip Kelly for now has none. Coupled with the Saints being keenly aware of the perception/reality that they can’t win away from home with a forecast that calls for dry conditions, New Orleans could indeed pull off an upset, especially since the Eagles have been known to periodically lay an egg.
Florio’s pick: Saints 24, Eagles 21.
Chargers at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Chargers’ offense is a threat to put a lot of points on the board against anyone, including even that excellent defense that Marvin Lewis has built in Cincinnati. But the Chargers’ defense is a mess, and I think that will be the difference in this game. The Bengals have so many talented offensive skill position players that I see the Chargers’ defense having fits trying to cover everyone. Cincinnati will win a high-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Chargers 24.
Florio’s take: The Bengals have won every game at home this year. Their road wins included a victory at San Diego. While the weather won’t be as unforgiving as it was 32 years ago for the AFC title game between these same teams, the Bengals will break a postseason winless streak that dates back to the week before they wrecked Bo Jackson’s hip.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 30, Chargers 20.
49ers at Packers
MDS’s take: This is the playoff game I’ve been hoping for since Week One, when these teams played a great game. The return of Aaron Rodgers last week got the Packers into the playoffs, and I expect him to have a big game on Sunday in Green Bay as well. The problem, however, is that the Packers are simply not a complete team. Frankly, Green Bay’s defense stinks. Colin Kaepernick has shredded the Packers’ defense in both of their previous meetings, and he’ll do it again.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 31, Packers 21.
Florio’s take: An undeserved home-field advantage becomes nearly insurmountable with frigid temperatures and wind chills that will test the 49ers like never before. The Packers, rejuvenated by the return of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, already are living on house money. It’ll become igloo money on Sunday, and the Packers will head to the divisional round for the fourth straight year.
Florio’s pick: Packers 21, 49ers 17.