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NFL Pro Football 2013-14 Wild Card Picks

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Fearless Rick's NFL Week Wild Card Picks - Early Games

Welcome to the very best in winning NFL and College Football picks.
Rick Gagliano | January 4, 2014

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Saturday, January 4

4:35 pm Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts (-2 1/2, 46 1/2) - The Colts wrapped up the AFC South division early, but didn't rest easy, winning their final three games of the season to finish with a very solid 11-5 record.

The Chiefs enter the playoffs with the same 11-5 record, though they are a wild card, finishing two games behind the Broncos in the AFC West, the division that took the both wild card spots, thanks to Miami and Baltimore both losing their last two games of the season and San Diego winning four straight, including Sunday's 27-24 victory over the Chiefs in overtime.

Kansas City rested many of their starters in that regular season-ending loss, but will be amped up for their first playoff appearance in a long time.

Meeting in week 16, the Colts topped the Chiefs, 23-7, in Kansas City, a game that offers insight into this rematch in the playoffs.

Kansas City scored first in that game, marching downfield for an easy touchdown, but that proved to be their only points of the game. The Colts scored 13 points in the second quarter, followed by 10 points in the third quarter for the very one-sided win.

Indianapolis forced four turnovers, which contributed to the lopsidedness of the score. Kansas City will want to learn from that experience and hopefully translate some of their mistakes at home into more consistency on the road.

Statistically, the Chiefs hold an edge on both sides of the ball, scoring an average of 24.8 points per game to the Colts' 23.8. Defensively, the gap is even larger. Kansas City allowed 17.8 points per game through the regular season, fourth-best in the league and tops in the AFC, just 0.2 better than Cincinnati. The Colts allowed 22.8 points per game, but they've picked it up lately, allowing just 20 points total in three wins over Houston, KC and Jacksonville to close out the season in excellent fashion.

Kansas City will be looking to their usual stud, Jaamal Charles, to carry the ball against the Colts. Charles had four 100+ yard rushing games, including 106 in the loss to the Colts. Indy isn't particularly adept at stopping the run, so this works in Kansas City's favor.

When the Colts have the ball, Andrew Luck will go to work against what is probably the weakest part of Kansas City's defense, the secondary. The Chiefs allowed an average of 249 yards per game through the air, though those stats are skewed by the fact that they played the Broncos - and Peyton Manning - twice.

Still, Luck has had success against the Chiefs' secondary in the past and will likely have some new wrinkles to throw at them.

As hard as it is to play in a game where it's win or go home, the Colts possess a number of advantages. Home field, a three-game, confidence-building winning streak to end the season and the sure-handedness of Andrew Luck at the helm should contribute greatly to a win for the Colts.

It won't be easy or particularly pretty, but the Colts appear to have everything working their way in this playoff opener. Points will come at a premium, as both teams have shown a propensity to play tight defense when it counts.

Prediction: Colts 23 Chiefs 17

--- Story continues below ---

8:10 pm New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles (-2 1/2, 53) - The Eagles were the final piece of the NFC playoff picture, defeating the Cowboys in Dallas, 24-22, Sunday night to sew up the NFC East title.

Even though the Eagles qualified with a win over a wounded Dallas team, the Cowboys really played their hearts out without Tony Romo, but the Eagles prevailed on the road, where they were an impressive 6-2 this season.

The win at Dallas was also Philadelphia's seventh win in their last eight, their last loss being a 48-30 setback at Minnesota, which appears to be more of an aberration than anything else. Philly was left for dead midseason, losing to the Giants, 15-7 in Week 8, but Nick Foles appeared just in time to rescue the season, guiding the Eagles to five straight wins.

Foles was poised in Chip Kelly's fast-break offense but is still a young, second-year QB with just 10 starts under his belt. Playoff pressure will be something he'll need to contain (as well as Kelly), though he's got plenty of experience around him and very dangerous weapons in NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy and wideouts DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. Brent Celek, one of the best tight ends in the business, adds considerable depth to the Philadelphia attack.

The Eagles ended the regular season as the eighth-highest scoring team in the league, putting up 25 points per game, just one point behind New Orleans. How the two teams get their points on the scoreboard shows a variance in style. The Eagles are more balanced, while the Saints rely heavily on the arm of Drew Brees. The Saints' ratio of passing yards to rushing yards is more than 3:1, making them one of the most imbalanced offenses in the league.

Assuming that the Saints will pass on more than 65% of their offensive plays would figure to be in favor of the Eagles, but their pass defense is one of the worst in the league, allowing an average of 296.8 yards per outing, though some of that is probably because they score so quickly and so often and the fact that their front seven is pretty good against the run, yielding 115.5 yards per game.

Overall, the Eagles defense gave up 23.4 points per game, while the Saints allowed just 19.2, sixth-best in the league. The Saints give up an average of 314.8 yards per game, while the Eagles are nearly the worst defense in terms of yards allowed. Their 412.5 per game allowed is better than only Dallas (421.6).

Those numbers make this game something of a close call, as the line indicates. One huge factor is location, which favors the Eagles greatly. While the Eagles wer just 4-4 at home, the losses were in the first half of the season. Theyve won their last four home dates, including a 54-11 clobbering of Chicago in Week 16.

On the flip side, New Orleans was 8-0 at home, but a miserable road team, checking in with a 3-5 record away from the Superdome. That has to be a real concern for Brees and the coaching staff. The team responds so well to the fans in New Orleans, but struggles greatly without them, a trend that appears to be getting worse, as the Saints won their first two road games this season, but were 1-5 as the season wore on.

Still, the New Orleans offense will score on the Eagles, who will be using five and sometimes, six, defensive backs to counter the Saints' aerial attack. It will be up to the Eagles offense to keep the ball out of Brees' hands by controlling the clock, something they're not accustomed to doing, but, if anything has been proven by Kelly's offense this season, it's that it is adaptable.

New Orleans enters the playoffs with three straight road losses, a troubling concern heading to Philadelphia, where the weather may not be conducive to a passing attack. If winds are swirling around Lincoln Financial Field on game day, that will be extra trouble for the Saints and could turn what may have been a close game into an Eagles rout.

Keep a close eye on the weather, but, generally speaking, the Eagles have momentum and the Saints aren't very good on the road. Those factors should contribute to an early exit for the Saints and a move to the next round for the high-flying Eagles.

Prediction: Eagles 34 Saints 20

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2013, 2014, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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