NFL Ones to Watch – AFC Wild Cards

The playoffs are finally here.

This week is the wild card round, with two games in each conference, so a bumper edition of this blog will start with the AFC Wildcards with the games between the Chargers and Bengals, then later the Chiefs vs the Colts. The NFC games are the 49ers taking on the Packers and lastly the Saints trying to keep the Eagles grounded.

Somehow, we’ve got to a position where the Chargers [9-7] and the Bengals[11-5] are in the post season. It’s more obvious as to how the Bengals got to the post season, but the Chargers defensive line is a massive question mark heading into this one, as it was ranked 23rd in the regular season. The rest of their offence though, was above average, and their overall offensive efforts ranked 5th overall, their passing was ranked 4th, and rushing 13th. In comparison to the Bengals, who lined up 10th, 3rd, 8th & 18th it is rushing which could decide this one, and whether they can force a first down or have to punt away the ball which will be vital, and it is these decisions and execution which hand the advantage here to the Bengals.

The Chargers also lost the Bengals in the regular season at the start of December by 7 points, and if the Chargers are going to progress into the “Post Season Proper” they are going to have to rely on their Defense stepping up more, and every little error made, is doubled in the playoffs. A look at the ones to watch for each side and for the 24 points per game Chargers we have Eric Weddle with 115 tackles , 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 2 interceptions. Solid performer and could be just what the Chargers need to stay competitive and close, and Antonio Gates with 77 receptions for 872 yards averaging 11.3 yards per carry and four touchdowns. It is important for the Chargers to have someone who can scramble more than ten yards per carry, in the event of a penalty which would put them 2nd and 15 etc, it makes 3rd down a lot easier.

For The 26.9 points per game Bengals Vontaze Burfict with 171 tackles, 3 Sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception, while only in his 2nd year it’s a good thing he is in so many snaps and making so many tackles and he will be a third year player so any sophomore slumps will be out of his system and BenJarvus Green-Ellis with 220 carries for 756 yards averaging 3.4 yards per carry and rushing for 7 Touchdowns. An experienced head which for a team which aren’t renowned for being in the Post Season, he can help them stay calm and execute their plays.

Bengals should ease into the divisional matchups as they have a field goals advantage over the Chargers per game plus with a below average Defensive line for the Chargers whilst not really showing much this season, should be proud of their exploits, and their need for the upcoming NFL draft is defensive players.

Arguably, the tie of the weekend sees the Chiefs [11-5] taking on the Colts [11-5]. It wasn’t long ago, that the Chiefs were destroyed by the Colts in the regular season, taking a beating of 23-7 which really derailed the Chiefs season, and not so long ago, they were undefeated at 9-0. To go from this point, to their current record of 11-5 doesn’t sound like a genuine playoff contender and their team numbers line up this way offense is 21st , defence 24th, passing 25th and rushing 10th overall, which compares to the Colts of 15th, 20th, 17th & 21st. Of course, these numbers mean next to nothing in the playoffs as they are a whole other animal. The advantage should be with the Colts and here are the personnel to watch to ensure their team has the best chance to win.

For the 26.9 Points per Game Chiefs, their best chance on offense to win the game is Jamaal Charles. Charles can rush and catch, and here is how his numbers stack up: Rushing, 259 rushes, 1287 yards, average of 5 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns on the ground, and his receiving numbers are 70 receptions for 693 yards averaging 9.9 yards per catch and 7 touchdowns. The player which can make the difference defensively for the Chiefs is Tamba Hali with a line of 46 tackles, 11 sacks , 4 forced fumbles and an interception. To counter, the24.4 points per game Colts best chance to win comes through Reggie Wayne , not least because of his numbers, but because of his experience [13th year], to an otherwise inexperienced line-up. The numbers he does have read like this: 38 receptions, 503 yards at an average of 13.2 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns. The defensive difference maker is Robert Mathis, in his 11th year he has 59 tackles, 19.5 sacks and 8 forced fumbles.

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