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The Hudsucker Presents NFL Weekly: Week 18 – Born to Be Wild

Last weekend the NFL Playoffs started and the most amazing plays to come out of the first week were brought to us in part by the Colts, Saints, and 49ers with their close scores against their opponents in the wild-card round. With just eight teams now and four games taking place this weekend, you can bet it’s going to be an exhilarating ride! Which two teams are destined for the Super Bowl this year?

NFL Playoff Chart 02

The first round of playoffs proved that these teams play right and tough. In past playoff games, teams have shown us they can win by playing a solid defense while relying on their ability to run for a score. However, this trend had a tendency to wear teammates out and break apart plays shortly after halftime. Last weekend, the teams that won showed their opponents and fans that no lead is safe on the scoreboard, as per with the Indianapolis, New Orleans and San Francisco. Close calls have been a fixture in the 2013-2014 season with many showcasing last minute magic, and postseason games will be no different. The divisional round, starting later today with the Saints playing the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle is going to be an interesting one.

As we wait for the games to start in a few short ours, let’s recap some of the plays from the ground-breaking Week 18. How did the games look? What’s ahead for the teams? Our writers Chris Hill, Andrew Rogers, and Tania Hussain huddle up and share highlights from the post-season games, what they thought of the plays and what’s in-store for these few teams as we head to the Super Bowl!

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts

Image Credit: AP/Getty Images North America

Colts, 45-44

Chris:

Bad coaching trumps skill – every time. This game just cements that argument. I like Andy Reid, but why did Alex Smith throw the ball 46 times? Knile Davis was running just fine, and Smith already had 4 TDs before the 4th quarter. Remember, Reid has had this problem before in Philly. Can he not manage a game?

On the flip side, kudos to the Colts and Andrew Luck. They just don’t know when to quit. I’m really surprised by how well they have been playing under adversity this season, and it should come in handy against the Pats.

Speaking of, this defense cannot play as badly as they played in this game if they want to have a chance against Tom Brady. Believe me, if the Patriots have a lead going into the 4th, you will see Blount, Vereen and Ridley toting the rock for 3/4s of the remaining plays. I hope the Colts start off stron .or else the game may be over by halftime (for real though). My prediction–this game resembles the Saints versus Patriots game earlier this year, with the same exact outcome: Brady leading a game winning drive.

Tania:

What. A. Game! Wow! This was truly a comeback for the ages and will go down in Colts history as an amazing game. It looked bleak early on as the Kansas City Chiefs had a 31-10 lead over Indianapolis before the first half. Many Indy fans were growing upset and heading into a cave of depression, but that all changed when the Colts scored three TDs and a field goal in the third quarter and another in the fourth leading, ultimately the team from a 4 TD deficit to a historic 45-44 comeback victory. Indy QB Andrew Luck overcame 3 interceptions after the second-half, with the Colts charging through the Chiefs defense. The Indy QB played frantically and angry, turning a steady stream of halftime boos into a chorus of praise and cheers. A miracle in the form of a win appeared as Luck’s 64-yard bomb to WR T.Y Hilton with just a minute to spare in the fourth quarter, changed up the game; giving Indy the upper hand, a comeback to be proud of, and the Chiefs getting a surprise of the season when the rug lifted right from under them. This close game wouldn’t have happened without ‘Luck’, who hit 29 of 45 passes overall, completing 17 of 24 passes for 314 yards. The Chiefs saw a finish they didn’t expect in an usual and dramatic way, finishing its turnaround season  with three straight losses, two to Indy, and none more defeating then Saturday’s loss.

This will be Andrew Luck’s first career playoff victory and sends the team the New England today to take on the Patriots.  Personally, I do feel the Colts will bring home another victory as I believe the Patriots will be creating a lead at first, but then it will be up to their defense to keep Indianapolis at bay. Sure Brady has that last-minute magic touch too, but I don’t feel they are quite matched to the skill and dexterousness of Luck, Hilton, LB Robert Mathis, and crew. The Patriots have a grand confidence to their team and overall plays, but confidence is only primary in a comeback, as oppose to an opponent’s panic attack which benefits greatly and causes the need for quick thinking, evidently seen with the Colts in this 2013-2014 season.

Andrew:

What a game! I thought KC had this one in the bag after coming out of the gate strong despite losing Charles and having a few other key players on injured reserve, but Luck had more than luck on his side and this game quickly turned into a shoot-out where KC’s defence all but disappeared, after playing strong all season. It had to be a heartbreaking loss for the time that went undefeated the longest and turned their team around after going 2-13 last season, but still, a great season overall for them and I think they’re still a force to be reckoned with.

As for Indy, they play the Pats now and my uncle will be at the game in Boston, as a Pats fan. I know Indy is Tania’s team, but my gut says the Patriots have this after a bye week and at home, even without Gronk.

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

Image Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Saints, 26-24

Andrew:

Another great game and a nail-biter for a Saints fan like me, but they finally, finally got their first playoff win on the road, in an outdoor stadium in the cold. That last drive by Brees for that field goal was clock management at it’s finest and I’m worshipping our new kicker, even if he shares a last name with our star tight end.
The good things I saw out of the Saints that I want to see more of in Seattle: the running game, the great defense–especially blitzing to cut Wilson’s time short in the pocket and stop him from running and, hopefully some strong defense against Marshawn Lynch. If we can do those things, we might be able to compete, but it’ll be tough with the 12th Man and not so nice weather. I hope the Saints win, but I think the Seahawks are the smarter bet, all things considered.

Chris:

Win the turnover battle, lose the game. The Eagles missed their chance. I like Nick Foles, but he takes a lot of sacks and it’s games like this that illustrate the importance of throwing the ball away.

Well, can we say that the Saints can play on the road now? Eh, Brees was still under throwing passes, and had Philly been more efficient on either side of the ball. Sean Payton’s team did well though, especially containing the run. They need to do the same thing against the Seahawks if they want to have any chance of a closer rematch. The Hawks secondary is going to give Brees fits. I really want this game to be close (big fan of tight games) but I still feel as though the 12th Man wins this by 10 points.

San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Playoffs 02
Chargers, 27-10

Chris:

I am a firm believer that clock management is great – if not boring. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers was only a game manager here, but a win is a win. Those interceptions from Bengals QB Andy Dalton were another reason why you need to throw the ball away under pressure. When you throw it into traffic, it’s bound to lead to trouble. One thing this game did give us is a chance at another episode of Rivers versus Peyton. I’m really starting to like it. If Ryan Matthews has 20 plus carries–it means the Chargers won. I don’t see it happening though, not when Denver have prepared specifically for this matchup.

Andrew:

Cinci was a bit of a mess in this game. I’m truly disappointed in them because I really felt like they had the potential to go further and pose a threat to some of the bigger AFC teams. I mean, they beat the Pats earlier in the season. I know Rivers has been having a good season, as much as it pains me to say that because he’s the bane of my existence, but this loss was really on Dalton’s turnovers and Cinci’s lack of defence. Both things to work on in the off-season. I can see why people are questioning Dalton after this game, but it was one bad game. Will the guy ever be great? Probably not. But I’d argue that Joe Flacco isn’t “great” he was just surrounded by a great team last year and the same could be done with Dalton.

Chargers are facing Denver this week and, unfortunately for them I think the Broncos will stomp them to the ground and remind them that there’s a reason they barely made the playoffs. Fun fact: Did you know that two of the quarterbacks drafted in the year Rivers was drafted (2004) both have 2 Super Bowl rings: Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Can Rivers nab one this year and join the club? I’m going to say probably not.

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers

Image Credit: NFL/AP Photo

49ers, 23-20

Chris:

This game was the cream of the crop. Both quarterbacks were the best players on their team, but Kap is a real play-maker. The Packers overcame a lot to get to this game. Unfortunately, being deficient of a half decent run stopper is too much of a mountain.

The 49ers defense did a great job of pressuring Rodgers, however, they whiffed at least 3 or 4 potential sacks. You can’t do that against Cam, because he will run for a first down or a huge gain. If they want to relieve the pressure on their offense, they need to hardcore pressure the Panther’s offense. Carolina will bring the heat, but I can’t see that secondary containing Vernon Davis, Anquan and Crabs. Niners to win in a close (6 points), hard hitting game.

Tania:

Last Sunday afternoon’s wild-card thriller between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers was intense. Between the weather, the return of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and just all of the regular season ‘foreplay’ that led to this moment–it was really something. The 49ers made the trek from warm, sunny San Francisco to the proverbial frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin (it was cold enough to grill your beer just to unfreeze it!) and managed a 23-20 victory of the Packers in a game no one saw coming. San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick did a lot of damage, throwing for 227 yards, running for another 98, and finally leading his team past the Packers in a close game that gave Green Bay fans hope that their team would too would succeed with a miraculous comeback. That was not the case though as Niners kicker Phil Dawson made a 33-yard field goal as time expired, bringing the team victory in what could have been a game heading into overtime.

I see the Carolina Panthers creating quite a bit of tension for the Niners, but not enough to keep them away and far from the goal line. The 49ers have been road warriors this season, including a win in London and opening the playoffs at Lambeau Field on one of the coldest days in playoff history. Sure Carolina hosts its first playoff game in half a decade and it will be rather emotional for the team and fans, but I think history is going to stop there. Kap and Crew are dominating this year with a passing offense continuously improving and are clearly adamant on making up for the Week 10 loss against Carolina. They haven’t lost a game since WR Michael Crabtree returned either! On the other side of this, the Panthers have struggled this year, particularly without WR Steve Smith; and though they have a tight defensive line, I’m certain things will get ugly. Considering Week 10 was very physical for both of them playing one another, I don’t expect anything short this weekend.

Andrew:

I almost felt sorry for Aaron Rodgers, after having his season cut short by a collar bone injury, losing this game was just heartbreaking for him and the team. That being said, San Fran did exactly what my team did with that last drive and milked it for all it’s worth. Up until that point, there wasn’t much action from Kaepernick which worries me about their chances in the next few weeks. But I will say that Rodgers last minute spin out of that sack was awesome.

So San Fran plays Carolina next. This one’s a tough one. Carolina has great defence but they are beatable. I’m going to say that the Niners give them a run for their money and more and beat them.

If I’m right, the AFC Match Up will be the Broncos vs. the Pats and the NFC Match Up will be the Seahawks and the 49ers. I hope I’m wrong about at least one of these games, but we’ll see!

Who are you rooting for in the playoffs? Let us know what you thought of this past season by sounding off in the comments below. What do you hope to see in today’s games?

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