It's Friday and that means The Stack has to make some picks for the upcoming weekend NFL games. But this isn't just any ordinary NFL weekend. It's NFL Wild Card weekend. Two games Saturday, two games Sunday. What a weekend it will be. Before we get to that, congrats to Oregon for winning the Fiesta Bowl 35-17 over Kansas State. They are a terrific team and it is a shame they are not in the national championship game. It may be the last game for Oregon head coach Chip Kelly as he may bolt for the NFL. He's scheduled to interview with several teams today. More on that in a little bit. Now though, time to get to some previews and predictions in "the stack" for today, Friday, January 4:
Saturday, January 5th
#6 Cincinnati Bengals @ #3 Houston Texans 4:30 PM ET NBC
A rematch of last year's wild card match in which the Texans won their first ever playoff game. A lot of excitement around the team at that time. Now, a lot of very nervous Texans fans. The Texans have struggled mightily down the stretch, losing three of four games and in pretty convincing fashion. Homefield advantage at one point seemed like a lock, but thanks to the Texans recent slide, they are now playing wild card weekend. And they get to face a Bengals team that is eager to avenge their playoff loss from a year ago to this same Texans team. The Bengals are winners of seven of eight. The sophomore duo of quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green makes the Bengals a threat on offense. And their defense is among the best in the playoffs. A lot of things scream Bengals in this game. I would love to pick them. But there is just something that tells me that the Texans get a sense of urgency and realize how big of a disappointment this season could be if they lose. I think they come together and move on to the divisional playoffs though a Bengals win will absolutely not shock me.
Prediction: Texans 27 Bengals 20
#6 Minnesota Vikings @ #3 Green Bay Packers 8:00 PM ET NBC
The Vikings won a thrilling game last week against the Packers (easily one of the top three or four games of the year) to get into the playoffs. Their reward? A rematch with the same Packers team. Only this time, the Vikings have to go to Lambeau Field where it will be cold. A dome team playing in the cold does not typically have a lot of success. Plus the Packers get Charles Woodson and Randall Cobb back. Those are a couple of big time weapons the Packers add to their arsenal. Adrian Peterson will be his normal awesome self for the Vikings and keep them in the game for a while. The key for the Vikings to score an upset will be how healthy cornerback Antoine Winfield is. He broke his hand a couple of weeks ago and tried to play against the Packers, but did not play in the second half. If he can gut it out the entire game, the Vikings have a chance. They will need quarterback Christian Ponder to play like he did last week for them to win this game as well. But in the elements at Lambeau against Aaron Rodgers, I do not think it is likely. The Vikings can upset the Packers, but need to play an absolutely perfect game. I don't see that happening.
Prediction: Packers 30 Vikings 20
Sunday, January 6th
#5 Indianapolis Colts @ #4 Baltimore Ravens 1:00 PM ET CBS
What a year it has been for the Colts to go through what they have gone through with being the worst team a year ago and then losing head coach Chuck Pagano for most of the year as he battled cancer, yet here they are in the playoffs. Andrew Luck is a special rookie and a very special quarterback. He should have a decent day against a Ravens defense that has been prone to leaks this year. Sure it's Ray Lewis' last playoff hurrah this year and you better believe his entire team will try to make sure it isn't his last game, but the Ravens defense just hasn't been that good this year. And lately, the offense has struggled too to find an identity. Are they a running team or a passing team? With Ray Rice as your running back, it shouldn't even be a question. And they should have plenty of luck against a Colts defense that has seen bodies go in and out along the defensive line so Rice is in line for a big day. That's of course, assuming the Ravens use him. The Ravens are losers of four of their last five and they should win against a rookie quarterback, but something is tugging at me to pick an upset here.
Prediction: Colts 27 Ravens 23
#5 Seattle Seahawks @ #4 Washington Redskins 4:30 PM ET FOX
Let's face it. Two rookie quarterbacks going against each other in the playoffs? No one would have believed you had you said this at the beginning of the year, yet here we are with Russell Wilson, a third round pick for the Seahawks against the number two overall pick in RGIII. But it's not just about them. For the Seahawks, they boast perhaps the best defense in the playoffs and a strong running back with beast Marshawn Lynch. The Redskins can match that ground attack with rookie running back Alfred Morris, not to mention RGIII and his dual effect of running and passing. His knee injury continues to keep him from being one hundred percent and that very well could be the key in this game. Washington's run game was the best in the league during the regular season, but Seattle's defense will be prepared and unfortunately for the Redskins, they may have to wait a year to get that playoff win.
Prediction: Seahawks 24 Redskins 17
NFL coaching news
I mentioned at the top of the post that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly may be done as he will interview with several teams today. The Cleveland Browns are expressing the most interest, but Philadlephia and Buffalo would like a shot at Kelly too. It seems very ulikely that Kelly would remain at Oregon, but stranger things have happened.
Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, not the 95% sure Arizona Cardinals, appear closer to nailing down a deal, but nothing has been finalized yet.
Bill O'Brien will remain at Penn State. He had been rumored for jobs in Cleveland and Buffalo.
Pittsburgh Steelers offenisve coordinator Todd Haley will interview with the Cardinals regarding their job though it seems that defensive coordinator Ray Horton has a pretty good shot at the job.
Ken Whisenhunt is rumored as a potential candidate in Buffalo.
Why doesn't anyone want to get Lovie Smith signed on soon?
A lot of fluid situations remain, that is for sure, but as soon as that first domino falls, the rest will fall fairly fast.
Coming up Monday: Reaction to NFL wild card weekend plus preview of the BCS National Championship game.