2014 NFL Wild Card Predictions: Three Away Teams Will Win
Saturday, Jan. 3
Arizona Cardinals (11-5) @ Carolina Panthers (7-8-1), 4:35 p.m.
Ryan Lindley played surprisingly well last week against a tough defense, but he will now go up against a defense that has quietly stepped up in recent weeks. The Panthers have held their last four opponents to an average of 10.75 points, including match-ups against the offensive powerhouses of New Orleans and Atlanta. Without a reliable running game, the Cardinals will fail to put points on the board.
The Panthers' offense has found its rhythm after scoring no more than 21 points in five straight games, putting up 30+ in two of their last four. Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart have both put together solid seasons, but they will face a really good defense. Outside of their game against the Seahawks, in which they scored zero touchdowns, the Panthers have not faced great defenses. Expect both players to struggle early on, but given the Cardinals' lack of offensive production, they will get plenty of opportunities to score.
Carolina Panthers Win, 17-10
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5), 8:15 p.m.
These two teams split their regular season games, as the Ravens' defense earned a win in Week 2, holding the Steelers to just six points, while the Steelers put up 43 for the win in Week 9. The Ravens have been trending downwards while the Steelers are winners of four straight. However, there is no denying that the Ravens have one of the league's most complete offenses. While they struggled recently, just edging out the Jaguars and Browns while losing to the Texans, they just have too much talent to write them off. The Steelers' defense has been exploited throughout most of the season, and look for Baltimore to do the same.
Without Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers' offense is no longer among the most potent in the league. He may play, but it is worth noting that Haloti Ngata is back in the fourth-ranked run defense's lineup. The Steelers will likely focus on their aerial attack regardless of Bell's participation, as the Ravens' secondary has had trouble all year.
Baltimore Ravens Win, 37-30
Sunday, Jan. 4
Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (11-5), 1:05 p.m.
If A.J. Green is to miss Sunday, the Bengals still have hope. They lost to the Colts 27-0 earlier in the year, but the emergence of Jeremy Hill will prove to be big. The Colts do not have a very solid run defense, allowing the likes of Jonas Gray to torch them for 201 yards. While it would be very helpful if Green were to play, the Bengals already have a favorable offensive match-up.
The Colts' offense cannot produce without T.Y. Hilton, but luckily for them, the third-year receiver is fully healthy. They will face a tough defense that held the likes of Peyton Manning to 28 points, though, and may struggle without a presence on the ground. The Bengals' weakness is against the run and the Colts will not be able to exploit that.
Cincinnati Bengals Win, 27-23
Detroit Lions (11-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (12-4), 4:40 p.m.
The Lions have so much talent on offense that you must wonder whether they may have just saved their best for the postseason. The Cowboys will struggle to contain Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, having allowed 18 rushing touchdowns in the regular season, which is good for second most. However, the Cowboys will also have their hands full with the Lions' two 1000-yard receivers, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
The Cowboys have averaged an impressive 41 points per game over the last four weeks, but they will face what is arguably the best defense in the NFL. With the likes of Ndamukong Suh up front, the Cowboys will not be able to rely on their run game. Instead, Tony Romo will have to lead the offense against a defense that is tied for third in the league with 20 picks.
Detroit Lions Win, 24-20