2013 NFL Wild Card Predictions (Jan. 4-5)

wild-card-colts-chiefsThis weekend kicks off the most exciting time in every football season: the NFL Playoffs! This is especially the case if you plan on betting on the 2013 Wild Card matchups. Looking at GTBets‘ NFL Wild Card lines, three out of the four spreads are separated by 2.5 points or less. With such close matchups, it’s definitely worth doing some in-depth analysis on each game.

Kansas City (-110) at Indianapolis (-110) on Saturday (4:35pm, NBC)

We got a preview of this matchup two weeks ago, when the Colts dominated Kansas City by a score of 23-7. Given that this contest was at Arrowhead, you’d think that Indianapolis would roll at home. However, the Colts have been very inconsistent ever since losing Reggie Wayne, so it’s tough to tell how they’ll come out each week. Additionally, they’ve struggled to find a running game all year, which doesn’t bode well against KC’s awesome defense.

So what about the Chiefs? Well, they’ll go as far as Alex Smith can take them. He looked terrible against Indianapolis before, throwing for just 153 yards, 1 interception, and losing 2 fumbles. Overall though, Smith has been pretty consistent this season, which means he should play much better this time around. However, we don’t think that Smith, Jamaal Charles and the KC defense can do enough to prevent wunderkind Andrew Luck from winning at home.

Prediction: Indianapolis beats Kansas City 20-16

New Orleans (-100) at Philadelphia -2.5 (-120) on Saturday (8:00pm, NBC)

wild-card-eagles-saintsThe Saints looked like early-season favorites to come out of the NFC. However, they faltered down the stretch amid growing defensive and road concerns. Their defense is ranked just 21st on the road, which makes their 3-5 record away from the Superdome much more understandable. However, they do have Drew Brees which always counts for something.

But will Brees see the field enough to make a difference? Philadelphia boasts the NFL’s top rusher in LeSean McCoy (1,607 rushing yds) so they should be able to move the chains, grind the clock down, and keep Brees off the field. Add in the fact that McCoy will be opening things up for newly anointed superstar QB Nick Foles, and we definitely see this one going in Philly’s favor.

Prediction: Philadelphia beats New Orleans 34-20

San Diego (-110) at Cincinnati -6.5 (-110) on Sunday (1:00pm, CBS)

wild-card-chargers-bengalsSan Diego survived a nailbiter against Kansas City’s second string last week to slip into the playoffs. Now they face a much bigger challenge in trying to become the first team to win at Cincinnati all season. They’ll be aided on this seemingly impossible quest by a number of offensive weapons, including Philip Rivers, Danny Woodhead, Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen.

But even if the Chargers are able to put some points up on Cincy, it won’t be enough. The Bengals have crushed opponents at Paul Brown Stadium en route to an 8-0 record. Their last five victories have been particularly dominating, with margins of 17, 28, 14, 21 and 40 points. Considering that Cincinnati already holds a road victory over San Diego this year, we don’t see any chance of the Chargers moving past the Wild Card round.

Prediction: Cincinnati beats San Diego 38-17

San Francisco -2.5 (-110) at Green Bay (-110) on Sunday (4:30pm, Fox)

wild-card-49ers-packersNotice that San Francisco is the only road favorite on GTBets’ NFL Wild Card lines this week. There’s good reason for this too. San Fran is on a six-game winning streak, and they came within a play or two of winning the Super Bowl last year. Plus, they should have no trouble running the ball on Green Bay’s defense with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

But the Packers won’t be total pushovers. Aaron Rodgers finally returned from injury last week and looked almost like his pre-injury self, throwing for 318 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Aside from Rodgers, Green Bay is also at home where they’ll get a big boost from sub-zero temperatures. However, we don’t see inclement weather stopping San Francisco from coming out of this one with a victory.

Prediction: San Francisco beats Green Bay 34-28

4 NFL Playoff Spots up for Grabs in Week 17

drew-breesLast weekend saw a few teams sew up NFL playoff spots and/or division titles. The Denver Broncos (12-3) are looking the best now since they clinched both the AFC West title along with a first-round playoff bye. Of course, this weekend’s game against Oakland is by no means a rest-your-starters situation because Denver must win to lock up home field advantage.

And why is this the case? Because the AFC East champion New England Patriots (11-4) hold the tiebreaker over the Broncos. If they can beat the Bills at home and Denver loses against Oakland, they’ll grab home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. However, if New England loses, they could be out of a first-round bye.

Both the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) and Indianapolis Colts (10-5) have a chance at unseating New England for the second first-round bye. Cincinnati, which clinched the AFC North, has to beat a playoff-desperate Baltimore team and have New England lose. Indianapolis needs to beat the Jaguars, plus have both Cincy and New England lose.

Rounding out the five AFC teams that have already secured a postseason spot is the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4). They have no chance of winning the AFC West (swept by Denver), and are locked in as the AFC’s number five seed. So if they feel like it, Kansas City could rest their starters against San Diego.

The NFC picture is a lot murkier at the top. Only three teams have clinched playoff berths, and nobody has wrapped up a first-round bye or division title. So far, we only know that the Seattle Seahawks (12-3), Carolina Panthers (11-4) and San Francisco 49ers (11-4) are assured of a postseason bid.

russell-wilsonSeattle is in the driver’s seat of NFC home field advantage, but they must beat the Rams to secure this edge. If they lose, everything opens up at the top because Carolina could gain NFC home field advantage if they beat the Falcons, the Niners win at Arizona, and Seattle loses against St. Louis. For San Francisco to grab home field advantage and unseat Seattle for the NFC West title, they must win, have Seattle lose, and have Carolina lose or tie.

What we’ve discussed so far only covers the teams that are guaranteed a playoff spot. There are four remaining postseason bids left, which we’ll discuss below.

Last AFC Wild Card Spot – Four teams are still alive for the last AFC Wild Card berth. Due to a myriad of tiebreakers, all of these teams need help in making the postseason, and you can check out the scenarios here. Baltimore holds a tiebreaker over Miami (current sixth seed), but San Diego holds the tiebreaker over Baltimore, and Miami holds the tiebreaker over San Diego. In short, it’ll be interesting to see how this playoff-hunting triangle plays out. As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, well, they need all three of the aforementioned teams to lose, plus a victory this weekend.

karlos-dansby-interceptionLast NFC Wild Card Spot – The final NFC Wild Card slot is a much simpler matter because only the Saints and Cardinals are chasing after it. Assuming New Orleans wins against Tampa Bay, they are in. But if they lose, Arizona makes the playoffs with a victory over San Francisco.

NFC East Title – The Dallas Cowboys got a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over Washington to set up a huge game this weekend. Now, they’ll play the Philadelphia Eagles at home for the NFC East crown. The winner goes to the playoffs and grabs home field in the first round, while the loser will be watching on TV next week.

NFC North Title – Just like the East, this is another win-or-you’re-out scenario. Chicago plays Green Bay at home, with the victor grabbing the North title and a playoff spot.

NFC South Title – This one is between Carolina and New Orleans. If Carolina wins, they capture the South title. But if they lose and New Orleans wins, the latter clinches the South and a playoff bid.

NFC West Title – Seattle must win to secure themselves the West title. However, if they lose, then San Francisco could step in and take the West crown with a victory over Arizona.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 16 (Dec. 17, 2013)

St Louis Rams v Seattle SeahawksLast week was not kind to the favorites, as league powerhouses like Denver, New Orleans and New England all lost. Two of these games involved desperate teams in San Diego and Miami trying to remain alive for a playoff spot. Speaking of which, the 2013 NFL Playoff picture is beginning to look a lot clearer, but there are still a few division races and Wild Card spots left to be decided. With just two weeks left in the regular season, we’re in for some exciting football!

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-2); beat New York Giants 23-0, moves up one spot – Seattle hasn’t put up the gaudy offensive numbers that Denver has this season. But they are a complete team, and it’s the chief reason why they have the league’s best record. It’s practically a given that Seattle will have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and they’re the only team that we see as a clear-cut Super Bowl participant.

2. Denver Broncos (11-3); lost to San Diego 27-20, drops one spot – It’s really hard to tell where Denver fits in when it comes to the posteason. They’ll now be deadlocked in a battle with Kansas City and New England for the AFC’s two first-round byes, and the Patriots hold a tiebreaker over them. It’ll be interesting to see what their defense does against elite teams, given that they couldn’t stop San Diego from marching downfield in a home game.

3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4); beat Tampa Bay 33-14, retains same ranking – It certainly doesn’t look like San Francisco can win the division title from Seattle at this point. So the Niners are going to have a tough road to the Super Bowl. But the way that they’ve been playing late in the season, it isn’t hard to see San Francisco winning a few big road games.

jamaal-charles4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3); beat Oakland 56-31, moves up two spots – Once thought to purely be a good defensive team, Kansas City keeps surprising people with their offensive weapons. The biggest weapon by far is Jamaal Charles, who made Oakland’s defense look horrible on screen passes. Charles caught eight passes for 195 yards and 4 touchdowns in this route.

5. New England Patriots (10-4); lost to Miami 24-20, drops one spot – The Patriots’ string of late-game comebacks finally came to a halt in this contest. They did get close, though, but Tom Brady’s fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone by safety Michael Thomas. Even with the loss, New England still has a chance at home field advantage in the AFC.

6. New Orleans Saints (10-4); lost to St. Louis 27-16, drops one spot – This was definitely a surprising outcome as the Rams picked off three Drew Brees passes that eventually resulted in touchdowns. Brees hasn’t played his best football of late, but there’s no reason to panic. New Orleans still holds the second seed in the NFC, and they could go a long way towards securing this spot by beating Carolina.

7. Carolina Panthers (10-4); beat New York Jets 30-20, moves up one spot – The Panthers still have a shot at the NFC South crown, with this weekend’s game against New Orleans possibly being the deciding factor. At home and looking for revenge, we like Carolina in this one.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5); lost to Pittsburgh 30-20, drops one spot – Seen as many people’s dark horse team to win the Super Bowl, the Bengals looked far from champions in the first quarter – getting outscored 21-0 by the Steelers. It’s hard to tell how Cincinnati is going to come out every week. And this inconsistency is haunting them down the stretch.

9. Arizona Cardinals (9-5); beat Tennessee 37-34 (OT), moves up one spot – Arizona might be the best team to miss the playoffs this year. Of course, they play in the NFL’s toughest division (apologies to the AFC West), so it’d be understandable if they do miss the postseason. The Cardinals got some surprising help from their run game against Tennessee (36CAR, 145YDS, 2TD). It’ll be tough to pull off the same feat against Seattle and San Francisco in their last two games.

trent-richardson-colts10. Indianapolis Colts (9-5); beat Houston 25-3, moves up one spot – This was almost like an exhibition game for the Colts as they prepare for Kansas City. They’ve now won two straight after a mid-season slump that saw the Colts defense and run game exposed. Indy is back to using Trent Richardson at running back (19CAR, 64YDS). Will this continue?

11. Philadelphia Eagles (8-6); lost to Minnesota 48-30, drops two spots – Philadelphia blew a golden opportunity to take a two-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East. Nick Foles continued his amazing run with 428 passing yards, 3 TD’s and an interception. But it wasn’t enough as Philly’s D gave up 382 passing yards to Matt Cassel and three rushing TD’s to the unknown Matt Asiata.

12. Baltimore Ravens (8-6); beat Detroit 18-16, moves up two spots – Baltimore isn’t letting a difficult late-half schedule keep them out of the playoff race. Their defense looked strong on the road against a high-powered Lions team. They harassed Matt Stafford into three interceptions, and Justin Tucker added an incredible game-winning, 61-yard field goal. The Ravens are now in control of their playoff destiny, but that may not mean much with difficult remaining games against New England and Cincinnati (away).

13. Miami Dolphins (8-6); beat New England 24-20, moves up two spots – Ryan Tannehill looked pretty outstanding in this game as he threw for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. Miami’s defense was able to do just enough to slow down Tom Brady and preserve the win. With remaining games against the Bills and Jets, it’s very possible that the Dolphins could leap-frop Baltimore for the final AFC playoff spot.

jay-cutler-bears14. Chicago Bears (8-6); beat Cleveland 38-31, moves up two spots – Jay Cutler looked every bit like he hadn’t played in a football game since Nov. 10th. However, he shook off this early rust and led the Bears to a comeback win over Cleveland. Cutler got some major help from Alshon Jeffrey, who jumped up to make an outstanding TD catch in double coverage.

15. Dallas Cowboys (7-7); lost to Green Bay 37-36, drops three spots – After playing an excellent game for 57 minutes, Tony Romo tossed two interceptions in the game’s final three minutes to let Green Bay steal this one. The Cowboys aren’t out of the playoff race yet, but if they don’t go to the postseason, they can look back at this one and remember why.

16. San Diego Chargers (7-7); beat Denver 27-20, moves up one spot – Few people saw San Diego grabbing road wins in Kansas City and Denver this season. But they’ve done what they had to in order to keep chasing a postseason bid. Ryan Matthews has experienced a career revival, highlighted by the 127 rushing yards and touchdown he put up against the Broncos.

17. Green Bay Packers (7-6-1); beat Dallas 37-36, moves up one spot – A couple of weeks ago, Green Bay looked like they were done for without Aaron Rodgers. But two wins later and they’re challenging for the NFC North crown. Rookie Eddie Lacy has really done a solid job of keeping the Packers alive, and he turned in 171 total yards and a TD in this comeback victory.

18. Detroit Lions (7-7); lost to Baltimore 18-16, drops five spots – Detroit fans aren’t happy after seeing their Lions lose four out of the past five games. Stafford’s three interceptions from this contest have spawned questions about whether he’s really Detroit’s QB of the future. As you can see, things are a mess in Michigan.

antonio-brown-steelers19. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8); beat Cincinnati 30-20, moves up three spots – After starting the year 0-4, Pittsburgh has played respectably, going 6-4 over the last 10 games. Antonio Brown really made a difference in this win as he scored two touchdowns in a 64-second span (catch and a punt return).

20. St. Louis Rams (6-8); beat New Orleans 27-16, moves up three spots – St. Louis forced some turnovers in this contest and got a big victory. Besides the turnovers, Zac Stacy’s 133 rushing yards were crucial as well.

21. New York Jets (6-8); lost to Carolina 30-20, drops two spots – Now eliminated from postseason contention, New York has a lot of questions to answer in the offseason. Will head coach Rex Ryan be back? Will Geno Smith be the starting QB again? It’s difficult to answer either of these puzzlers.

22. New York Giants (5-9); lost to Seattle 23-0, drops two spots – Things have gone from bad to worse for Eli Manning after he threw five interceptions in this game. By all means he should be back and starting again next year. But will the two-time Super Bowl champ cement his status as a franchise player, or have the Giants looking towards younger talent?

23. Tennessee Titans (5-9); lost to Arizona 37-34, drops two spots – What a collapse for the Titans, who, just two weeks ago, were playing a meaningful division game against the Colts. It looks like the bottom finally fell out and Tennessee will be in rebuilding mode next season.

24. Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1); beat Philadelphia 48-30, moves up one spot – It took nearly an entire season to do, but it seems like Minnesota has finally found a quarterback in Matt Cassel. Whether it remains this way next year is a complete mystery.

25. Atlanta Falcons (4-10); beat Washington 27-26, moves up three spots – Atlanta was the beneficiary of seven Washington turnovers, scoring 20 points off these opportunities. Steven Jackson had two rushing touchdowns in what’s been an otherwise dismal season for him.

ej-manuel26. Buffalo Bills (5-9); beat Jacksonville 27-20, moves up four spots – Sure a win over Jacksonville doesn’t normally warrant this big of a jump. But the Bills are the only team down this low to actually win. EJ Manuel was the star for Buffalo as he combined for three total touchdowns.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10); lost to Buffalo 27-20, drops three spots – Jacksonville fought hard amid all of their injuries. Jordan Todman (109YDS) did a good job of filling in for Maurice Jones-Drew, who’s out with a hamstring pull.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10); lost to San Francisco 33-14, drops two spots – Tampa Bay can begin their search for a new coaching staff in about two more weeks. Other than that, there’s nothing really exciting to say about this team.

29. Cleveland Browns (4-10); lost to Chicago 38-31, drops two spots – Once again, the Browns were leading a good team late, only to falter in the waning moments. They squandered a game where they got two defensive touchdowns.

30. Oakland Raiders (4-10); lost to Kansas City 56-31, drops two spots – If the Raiders were banking on Matt McGloin as their QB of the future, they might want to re-evaluate this decision after his four interceptions against KC.

31. Washington Redskins (3-11); lost to Atlanta 27-26, retains same ranking – Mike Shanahan’s odd Kirk Cousins experiment was met with mixed results. Cousins put up 381 yards and 3 TD’s, but also threw 3 picks as well.

32. Houston Texans (2-12); lost to Indianapolis 25-3, retains same ranking – Judging from the way they played against the Colts, it seems as if Houston has truly given up on the season.

NFL Power Rankings for Jan. 11th, 2013

Last week marked a not-so-exciting first round of the 2013 NFL playoffs. Only the Cincinnati Bengals/Houston Texans game was close…but the way that QB Andy Dalton played, it wasn’t really that close. This being said, we expect a little more entertaining action this weekend – especially in the two NFC playoff games. Now here’s a look at our rankings of all the playoff teams – included the eliminated ones.

1. Denver Broncos (1st seed in AFC) – Denver has the ever-important home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which will no doubt be huge if they make the AFC Championship game. Next up is the Ravens in what promises to be a very chilly contest (predicted low of 6 degrees). Peyton Manning’s passing could be a little more limited in such cold weather, but the Broncos are truly a complete team with how Knowshon Moreno is running.

Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Baltimore Ravens

2. New England Patriots (2nd seed in AFC) – The big question for the Patriots will be if their bend-but-don’t-break defense can hold up throughout the playoffs. It should definitely hold up against the Houston Texans, which relied far too much on Arian Foster to carry them past the Bengals. Also, Tom Brady shouldn’t have the same troubles moving the ball against Houston as Dalton did.

Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Houston Texans

3. Atlanta Falcons (1st seed in NFC) – The Falcons definitely need home field advantage against their visiting opponent – the streaking Seattle Seahawks. They’ll have to do a better job of containing Marshawn Lynch than they did in their final regular season game against Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (142 RYDS). DE John Abraham and CB Dunta Robinson should be able to play in this game, despite leaving the Tampa Bay contest with injuries.

Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Seattle Seahawks

4. Seattle Seahawks (5th seed in NFC) – Nobody has played better than Seattle over the past few weeks, and the momentum carried into the playoffs against Washington. Now they’ll be looking to win their second straight road game, which should prove a lot tougher against the NFC’s top seed. Much of this game will depend upon QB Russell Wilson and his ability to continue playing great football.

Last Game: 24-14 win over Washington Redskins
Next Game: vs. Atlanta Falcons

5. Green Bay Packers (3rd seed in NFC) – The Packers had little trouble handling division rival Minnesota in their Wild Card matchup. Of course, things were a little easier on Green Bay since they faced backup QB Joe Webb, who connected on just 11 of 30 passes. They’ll get no such gift on the road against San Francisco this week.

Last Game: 24-10 win over Minnesota Vikings
Next Game: at San Francisco 49ers

6. San Francisco (2nd seed in NFC) – It’ll be interesting to see how Colin Kaepernick handles starting in his first career playoff game. At least he’ll have home field advantage as he faces the Packers. The Niners’ secondary is really going to be stretched as they try to slow down QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing attack.

Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Green Bay Packers

7. Houston Texans (3rd seed in AFC) – The Texans entered the playoffs on a real down-note after losing 3 of their final 4 regular season games. This bad run also cost them the AFC’s top seed, which could prove fatal as they travel to Foxborough this Sunday. On a positive note, the Houston defense was stellar after harassing the Bengals’ Andy Dalton all game; he completed just 14 of 30 passes for 127 yards.

Last Game: 19-13 win over Cincinnati Bengals
Next Game: at New England Patriots

8. Baltimore Ravens (4th seed in AFC) – We actually ranked Baltimore last among the 12 playoff teams in our previous power rankings; they’d lost four out of their final five regular season contests at this point. However, the Ravens surprised us after easily handling the Colts at home. Rookie Benard Pierce ran for 103 yards on just 13 carries while Anquan Boldin was the star with 145 receiving yards and a touchdown. We are still very skeptical about Baltimore’s chances heading into a road game against Denver though.

Last Game: 24-9 win over Indianapolis Colts
Next Game: at Denver Broncos

9. Washington Redskins (4th seed in NFC) – Washington tops our list of eliminated playoff teams. This is certainly no consolation to the Redskins though as they’ll have a very long offseason to think about what could have been. Robert Griffin III quickly tossed two touchdowns to put Washington up 14-0. However, he would hurt his knee shortly thereafter, which is when things began spiraling downward. He remained in the game despite noticeably limping and injured his knee even worse in the fourth quarter. Following ACL and LCL surgery this week, it’s possible that Griffin could miss all of next season.

Last Game: 24-14 loss to Seattle Seahawks
– Eliminated from playoffs

10. Minnesota Vikings (6th seed in NFC) – Many people talked about how Minnesota was a one-dimensional team heading into the postseason. And they truly lived up to this billing when starting QB Christian Ponder didn’t play due to an elbow injury. Joe Webb couldn’t seem to complete a pass until he hit Michael Jenkins for a meaningless 50-yard touchdown – leaving the entire offensive burden on Adrian Peterson (22CAR, 99RYDS). It’s too bad we couldn’t have seen how the Vikings fared with their starting QB available.

Last Game: 24-10 loss to Green Bay Packers
– Eliminated from playoffs

11. Indianapolis Colts (5th seed in AFC) – Unlike a lot of other sites, we were pretty high on the Colts entering the playoffs. However, all of their ugly defensive qualities surfaced in one game against the Ravens after giving up almost 200 rushing yards to Ray Rice/Bernard Pierce along with 145 receiving yards to Boldin. The Indianapolis offense couldn’t find the end zone either as they mustered just three field goals.

Last Game: 24-9 loss to Baltimore Ravens
– Eliminated from playoffs

12. Cincinnati Bengals (6th seed in AFC) – The only real reason why Cincinnati threatened Houston was because of CB Leon Hall’s interception return right before hafltime. This would be the only touchdown that the Bengals got as their offense struggled terribly under Dalton (127PYDS, 1INT). It’s got to be tough for Dalton since he’s now choked in his only two playoff games.

Last Game: 19-13 loss to Houston Texans
– Eliminated from playoffs