The NFL regular season is over, and it’s time for the Super Bowl tournament to begin.
It’s also time to fire coaches. Black Monday arrived on Dec. 30, and a total of five coaches were fired – Mike Shanahan (Redskins), Jim Schwartz (Lions), Greg Schiano (Bucs), Rob Chudzinski (Browns) and Leslie Frazier (Vikings).
Coaching in the NFL is all about “what you have done for me lately?,” and owners have very little patience. Case in point would be the firing of Shanahan and Frazier, who both had their teams in last season’s playoffs. But they really regressed this year, which ownership has no time for.
There is a coaching turnover of about 20 to 25 per cent every season in the NFL. With a total of six already fired, including the Texans’ Gary Kubiak three weeks ago, the league is right on pace with probably one or two more to come.
Is there anything more exciting than the NFL playoffs with all this parity?
The intensity, cold weather, new heroes and goats, drama, big plays and big mistakes are all magnified starting on Saturday. These “wild-card games” usually live up to this name as usually something crazy happens.
The Freak’s pre-season pick for a Seattle-Cincinnati Super Bowl is still alive.
There really is nothing like playoff football – win and you keep playing; lose and you go home.
Unlike other professional sports, such as hockey, baseball and basketball, there is no time in football to have a bad game. Bad game means golf course!
Love that the NFL on Saturday doesn’t have kickoff until 5:30 p.m., local time, as it gives you a full evening of playoff football on a cold winter’s night, and this just seems to add to the drama. Here are The Freak’s wild card game picks:
Bengals – Home: 8-0 (won-lost).
Chargers – Road: 4-4.
Head-to-head: Dec. 1 in SD – Bengals 17, Chargers 10.
In the first game of the weekend, the Bengals host San Diego, which just made it into the playoffs on a missed field goal by the Chiefs’ Ryan Succop.
The Chargers have a shot at upsetting Cincy if Andy Dalton continues to throw interceptions, and doesn’t take better care of the football. This is Dalton’s third straight season in the playoffs, but he is 0-2. The Bengals are a home monster going undefeated at the “Jungle.” The weather looks cold, which is a plus for Cincy as the warm-weather Chargers come to town.
What is concerning about San Diego is in a must-win game last Sunday they needed overtime to beat a Chiefs’ team that sat out 20 of 22 starters. Cincy won’t be resting any starters, and its defence is very good at home. They will beat up, create turnovers and confuse Phillip Rivers all day.
In the end, Dalton and the Bengals win their first playoff game in 23 years, giving longtime fan Shawn M. something to smile about while local Chargers’ fan Adam B. will need to wait until next season. Cincy wins 24-13.
Eagles – Home: 4-4
Saints – Road: 3-5
Saturday’s second game should be an offensive display between the Eagles and Saints.
In a bit of an oddity, both quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Nick Foles, grew up in the same area and played for the same high school team, with Foles breaking all Brees’ high school passing records.
Well, this isn’t high school, and you can expect both quarterbacks to throw the ball more than then they run. The Saints are just not a very good road team, especially outdoors in cold Philly on a slow grass field.
New Orleans only won three road games, and none were against playoff teams. Foles had a great season, the Eagles have only lost one game since Halloween and the hot teams going into the tournament have done quite well the past number of seasons. Lincoln Field will be rocking.
The Eagles can beat you not only through the air, but on the ground with Shady McCoy.
Saints DC Rob Ryan will have to pick his poison to slow down the Eagles, but they just have too many weapons for the New Orleans defence to handle. Philly wins 35-24 in a very entertaining game.
Colts – Home: 6-2
Chiefs – Road: 6-2
Head-to-head: Dec. 22nd at KC – Colts 23, Chiefs 7
Sunday’s first game has the Chiefs heading to Indy in the only indoor game of the weekend.
Andrew Luck and Colts had some struggles after Reggie Wayne got hurt, but they seemed to have regrouped the last couple of weeks. Indy is playing well going into this game, including a big win over the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago.
KC rested some players playing out the schedule as they could not improve its playoff seeding. This generally seems to hurt those teams as they lose execution and momentum, which you need in the playoffs.
Don’t forget that these same Colts have beaten the three big favourites to win the Super Bowl – 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos – this season, so they have a really good football team.
Andy Reid has done a real nice job making the Chiefs a playoff team after a 2-14 season. The Freak doesn’t like the Chiefs down-the-field throwing game, and they will find out this will hurt them in this game. Indy will devise a defensive game plan to try and shut down running back Jamaal Charles, who is a dual threat out of the backfield. Watch the screen Indy!
In the closest game of the weekend, Luck will win his first playoff game after only two seasons 20-17.
Packers – Home: 4-3-1
49ers – Road: 6-2
Head-to-head: Sept. 8 at San Francisco- 49ers 34, Packers 28
The Packers host the 49ers at Lambeau Field in a true cold-weather game as the temperature is suppose to be -15. This will definitely help Green Bay as they host a warm-weather team like San Fran.
However, the 49ers play with an edge, and have the mentality of a cold-weather team. Aaron Rodgers will give the Packers a chance to win this game, but defensively their back end is bad. Green Bay’s only pass-rushing threat Clay Matthews is out while the San Fran passing attack is coming to life, which is real bad news for the Pack.
The only way the Packers probably win this game is to score 30-plus points, but that is unlikely against this tough 49ers’ D. In the only road win of the weekend, the 49ers beat the Packers 30-21.
Last week: 13-for-16.
John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.