2013 NFL Wild Card Picks and Predictions From WhatIfSports.com image

2013 NFL Wild Card Picks and Predictions

NFL Wild Card box scores and stats included

January 2, 2014

Throughout the NFL playoffs, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.

The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.

To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2013-14 NFL playoffs.

Check out our 2013 NFL Season-to-Date page to follow our accuracy week-to-week.

Gridiron Dynasty - College Football Game

AFC Wild Card: Chiefs at Colts

The Colts and Chiefs enter the Wild Card round with identical records, but the routes of entrance are quite divergent.

In wake of Reggie Wayne's season-ending knee injury, Indianapolis's offensive identity was shaken. Without the services of the venerable wideout, Andrew Luck labored in his rapport with the rest of his receiving corps. As a corollary, an unfair onus was placed on the backfield, a responsibility Trent Richardson and Donald Brown were ill-suited to handle. Making matters worse, the Colts defense, one that had been stout in the first half of the season, had become vulnerable due to depth and injury issues. This cavalcade of problems equated to an erratic six-game stretch for the Horseshoes, getting crushed in three defeats (120-47 scoring difference) and eking out wins against the lowly Titans (twice) and Texans. Though they had clinched the AFC South, the Colts appeared to be limping into January.

Or so it seemed. Indianapolis ended the regular season with three straight wins, including a 23-7 clock-cleaning of the Chiefs in Arrowhead in Week 16. Neophyte wideouts like Griff Whalen, Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill have begun to fill Wayne's void, and the resistance has regained its early-season mojo. The backfield leaves much to be desired, and the Colts have struggled in stopping the run this year (125.1 yards per appearance, 25th in the NFL). Conversely, Luck alone, who in his second campaign in the league is already an upper-echelon arm, gives Indy a fighting chance. Furthermore, having wins over San Francisco, Seattle, Denver and Kansas City makes Indianapolis a formidable playoff opponent.

It's these preeminent wins that have been a sticking point in Arrowhead. The Chiefs were the talk of the league in the first half of the fall, storming out of the gate to a 9-0 record. After taking his lumps in the City of Brotherly Love the past few seasons, Andy Reid was rejuvenated in his new red digs, instilling a continuity and offensive astuteness that had been sorely lacking in KC. Alex Smith's steady presence under center alleviated some of the adversarial focus on Jamaal Charles, letting the All-Pro back run wild (132 total yards per game, 19 touchdowns). Combined with an advantageous defense, the Chiefs had all the makings of a Super Bowl contender.

Unfortunately, the past six weeks have called this credence into question. Before last Sunday's loss to San Diego (in which most of Kansas City's starters rested), the Chiefs had lost four of their previous six, including a season sweep by the Broncos and the aforementioned smackdown by the Colts. Upon further review, perhaps Kansas City was the recipient of a generous schedule, defeating only one team with a winning record – a Philly lineup sans Nick Foles. Also coming under inquiry was the performance of the defense. Although boasting sound numbers, it appears most of these stats derived from a six-game stretch against troubled quarterbacks in Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrelle Pryor, Case Keenum, Jason Campbell and Jeff Tuel. With an o-fer in big-time scenarios this season, are the Chiefs in over their head?

According to the WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, this is not the case, with the Chiefs pulling out the win on the road by a 24-20 margin. The engine deems Kansas City victorious 59.8 percent of the time.

AFC Wild Card: Chiefs at Colts
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Kansas City Chiefs59.824Boxscore
@ Indianapolis Colts40.220Simulate Game

AFC Wild Card: Chargers at Bengals

"Winning ugly can be a beautiful thing," is certainly applicable to the plight of San Diego. Bestowed an opportunity thanks to losses from the Dolphins and Ravens, the Lightning Bolts struggled against a Chiefs squad comprised mostly of second-stringers. Blessed with one more gridiron gift via an officiating gaffe, the Chargers pulled out the W in overtime to grab the final AFC Wild Card spot.

The manner in which they punched their postseason ticket was hardly aesthetically pleasing, yet the Chargers are in, and that's all that matters at this juncture. Moreover, while they were the beneficiary of divine intervention in Week 17, San Diego merits this inclusion, winning five of its last six contests including victories over the Denver Broncos in Mile High and Kansas City (with its starters!) in Week 12. With Philip Rivers in the midst of a career revival, Ryan Mathews finally living up to his highly-touted ability and a better-than-believed defense, the Chargers have seemingly been conferred the annual "team no one wants to play" moniker in the AFC.

Alas, the Chargers head east to confront a Bengals team that took care of business in San Diego just a month ago. Cincinnati has been a tour de force in the Jungle this fall, owning an 8-0 record in the Queen City. And as hot as the Chargers have been, the Who Deys have matched that tear with nine wins in their last 12, with two of those defeats coming in overtime. That Cincinnati has accomplished such feats without the services of defensive playmakers like Geno Atkins, Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Robert Geathers is testament to this roster's fortitude.

Not that Cincinnati is without question marks. The play of Andy Dalton has come under scrutiny, most concerning the third-year signal caller's penchant for throwing to the wrong team. The TCU product has also routinely fallen short on the big stage, most notably in his two postseason appearances (56.9 completion percentage, 384 yards, zero trips to pay dirt, four interceptions, two losses). This is especially frustrating given Dalton's arsenal of weapons in All-Pro A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, Marvin Jones and the tight end duo of Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.

But have Bengals backers been too harsh on Dalton? A quick comparison of QBs:

Player A: 308.3 yards per game, 61.0 completion rate, 29 touchdowns, 20 turnovers
Player B: 238.6 yards per game, 59.7 completion rate, 25 touchdowns, 14 turnovers
Player C: 268.5 yards per game, 61.9 completion rate, 35 touchdowns, 23 turnovers

The first two figures from Eli Manning and Joe Flacco, respectively, during their teams' Super Bowl runs in 2011 and 2012. The third stat line belongs to, you guessed it, the maligned Dalton. It should also be noted that the Red Rifle's 33 aerial scores in 2013 are a franchise record. Granted, his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde routine can be maddening, but Dalton is more than capable of leading Cincinnati to the Promised Land.

So who comes out on top? According to the WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Bengals pull out the victory 54.3 percent of the time by an average score of 23-20.

AFC Wild Card: Chargers at Bengals
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
San Diego Chargers45.720Boxscore
@ Cincinnati Bengals54.323Simulate Game

Gridiron Dynasty - College Football Game

NFC Wild Card: Saints at Eagles

What a difference a season makes for the New Orleans Saints.

Without their sideline sage, Sean Payton, the Saints finished 7-9 in 2012 and missed playoffs for the first time in four years.

Drew Brees may have thrown for over 5,000 yards and 30+ touchdowns for the third straight year, but his home/away splits were staggering. In the Superdome, Brees compiled 2,835 passing yards and 27 TDs, while only throwing three interceptions. However, Brees’ totals dropped to 2,327 yards with 12 touchdown passes and nine INTs on the road.

Brees has played in three road games in his postseason career (not counting the Super Bowl) and has lost all three.

Home/away splits aside, Brees remains a top-tier NFL quarterback, but Nick Foles made a name for himself in 2013 when the injury bug bit Mike Vick again. In head coach Chip Kelly’s offense, Foles thrived. He threw for 2,891 yards and 27 TDs and only two interceptions in 10 starts.

Though the spotlight will shine brightly on the two quarterbacks, a quick glance at the defensive side of the ball wouldn’t hurt. The Saints D has allowed the second-fewest yards per game (194), trailing only Seattle. The Eagles have allowed the most passing yards per game (290).

We simulated the Eagles and Saints 1,001 times and the computers picked the Saints 51.2 percent of the time by an average score of 26-24.

NFC Wild Card: Saints at Eagles
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
New Orleans Saints51.226Boxscore
@ Philadelphia Eagles48.824Simulate Game

NFC Wild Card: 49ers at Packers

It took until the final minute of the final game of the regular season to crown a team in the NFC North.

Aaron Rodgers’ 4th-and-the-season 48-yard touchdown strike to Randall Cobb knocked the Bears out of the playoff picture two months after Chicago knocked Rodgers’ to the sideline.

Now, the Packers host the team that eliminated them in last season’s playoffs, San Francisco.

In the final playoff game at Candlestick Park last winter, Colin Kaepernick not only out-dueled Rodgers’ arm, but also ran for 181 yards and two TDs.

The two met again in Week 1 this season. CK7 threw for over 400 yards with three touchdowns as the Niners took down the Packers 34-28.

As far as the defensive side of the ball goes, San Francisco is ranked inside the top 10 in stopping the pass (221 ypg) and the run (95.9 ypg). The Packers are 24th against the pass and 25th against the run.

After running 1,001 simulations, the 49ers won 56.1 percent of the time by an average score of 23-21.

NFC Wild Card: 49ers at Packers
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
San Francisco 49ers56.123Boxscore
@ Green Bay Packers43.921Simulate Game

Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

Adam Meyer is a Contributor for WhatIfSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FOXSportsMeyer.

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