Wild Card Roundtable: the numberFire Experts' NFL Predictions
It's playoffs time! In the end, Sean and Keith tied for the top Game of the Week record, Keith wins the top upset special award with an even .500 record, and Keith and Michael tie for the best survivor pool record by the tip of Russell Wilson's teeth. The moral here? Don't pick against the Chief Analyst.Except, you know, that's exactly what I plan on doing. Let's reset the standings and see who wins the numberFire Playoff Picks pool. From the guys behind the stats, here's what we think is going to happen this weekend. Bragging rights are on the line, my friends.
Game 1: Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Keith Goldner, Chief Analyst: Houston at home. People are focusing on the Texans recent skid but don't forget how good of a team they are. The Texans still hold the No. 1 defense in the AFC after adjusting for strength of schedule and should beat a slightly above average Cincy squad.
Nik Bonaddio, CEO: Texans. The Bengals are underrated and I think the Texans are headed in the wrong direction, but I think that these young Bengals just don't have the experience to pull this one out just yet. Next year is a different story.
Michael Worthington, CTO: Defensively these teams are rather comparable. Offensively, Houston is going to need Schaub on top of his game. He didn't end the season as well as he started it, perhaps that's just because they already clinched a playoff berth and their opponents were on the verge of their own. So long as Schaub gets back to business, Houston's offense should be able to put up enough points to eclipse the Bengals.
Sean Weinstock, COO: Houston. Even though they've been faltering lately, the Texans are a strong team that's finally healthy and in the playoffs. This is their chance. Guys like Schaub and Johnson are going to get their team ready.
Zach Warren, Editor: Fun fact: Using our Net Expected Points (NEP) figure, which measures how much a team has scored above or below the points expected of them, the Bengals have the No. 20 offense in the NFL. Right above them are the Bucs, Bills, and Rams. That's not the offense I'm trying in a road playoff game. Houston it is.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Keith: The Packers are too good on offense. They had a chance to win last week and knock the Vikings out of the playoffs, but they should dominate at home. While AD will probably still manage close to 150 yards, the Packers will win by double digits. Ponder won't be able to keep up with Rodgers.
Nik: I love the Vikings as a spread play because they've proven twice they can hang out with the Packers - not to mention the fact they've got the best player in the game in their backfield - but it's next to impossible to take anyone than Aaron Rodgers at home. I think the Packers are a lot like the Texans in that they're not as good as you think they are, but they won't lose here.
Michael: What's this, AP wants to return punts? No! NO! You protect those knees. For the last few weeks I've been very bullish on AP and the Vikings in their path to the playoffs, even against Green Bay. This time around, at Lambeau Field, with a full receiving corps at Rodgers' disposal, have to go with the Packers.
Sean: Oh man! I think the Packers take it at home - it's Lambeau, it's outdoors, and it's Lambeau, but an enticing rematch after last week. APAD will definitely pull some crazy moves, especially now that he's dating Gina Gibiatti.
Zach: I just can't do it. Passing's more efficient than running in today's NFL, which means that the Packers' main strength is better than the Vikings' main strength. Plus, that Vikings secondary isn't as good as they played on Sunday, and they still allowed 34 points. It's the Packers.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
Keith: This should be one of the better games this weekend, but I don't envision either team making it past the next round. Torrey Smith should gap the horrendous Colts secondary and Old Man Lewis will give Andrew Luck fits in his final playoffs.
Nik: A lot of people are giving the Colts a lot of love, but I don't see it. Not that the Ravens are world-beaters by any means, but the Colts are paper champions who got fat off of a weak schedule. Give me the team with the home field advantage, the stronger defense, and the experience both in the playoff and cold weather games.
Michael: Ray Rice should have a field day against the Colts, but Andrew Luck should do the same against the Ravens. The rookie QB will pull an upset and make it to the second round of the playoffs.
Sean: Ray Lewis is getting emotional with his god-talk. Admittedly, I'm a big Luck fan - crazy to think about Stanford being a top team without Harbaugh and Luck (neither here nor there) - and I think the Colts are hitting a stride. They're not at the top of the AFC, but I think they'll actually take it in Baltimore this week.
Zach: Baltimore. People may overlook my Delaware boy Joe Flacco, but you can't overlook the secondary he's facing. The Colts have allowed more points over expectation to opposing passing games than any other team in the league. That secondary is U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
Keith: Seattle is the hot pick right now and Russell Wilson has played unbelievable. I'm looking forward to seeing the Seahawks attempt to stop Kyle Shanahan's offensive schemes. Seattle would win on a neutral field, but heading into Washington, I give the Redskins the slight edge.
Nik: This is by far the best game of the weekend in my book, and one that is essentially a coin flip when I think about it. Anyone who tries to argue that Russell Wilson is RG3's equal is laughable - Griffin is both the better passer and better runner - but Seattle's defense is a game-changer whereas the Redskins would have trouble stopping me and ten of my friends. I've went home and went chalk with all of my picks so far so I want to take Seattle to mix it up, but I really do think that the Redskins have more than a fighting chance of taking the game. At the end of the day however, it's going to come down to who can stop who, and I just don't trust the Skins defense to play playoff-level football. Seattle for me, in a nail-biter.
Michael: This is going to be a great game to watch. Stellar rookie QB's going up against each other, backed by solid running backs. Unfortunately for RGIII, the third round draft pick, Wilson, will walk away with the win.
Sean: Seahawks. Those guys surprised the hell out of me a couple weeks ago. Granted, the win over the Niners was in Seattle, and the Niners didn't have Justin Smith, but you really just can't sack Russell Wilson. They're defense also brings the hurt. They look like a video game in their uniforms and they're just monster tackling everyone.
Zach: So let me get this straight. The Seahawks conceivably could have put up the No. 2 seed, and that's the performance they came out with? Against the Rams? Our numbers like Seattle in the power rankings, but I still think Washington's been the better team lately. Call it Stockholm Syndrome after my Cowboys lost, but I've got the Skins.