Happy New Year, Made Man readers! What’s up? While I wish I were playing this weekend, I’m subbing in on the NFL blog and hope you enjoy my thoughts on Wild Card weekend. I competed against several of the teams playing, so get ready for some in-your-face football talk.
When the home fans get rowdy and crazy, they push you to make a stop or a big play or a score. At the same time, you’ve still got to go out there and play. And then anything can happen…
But first, let me quickly introduce myself. I was born in San Jose, CA and moved to Austin, TX when I was 9, played college football at Texas and am now a proud member of the Buffalo Bills. People say I had a breakthrough season this year, which I appreciate. I moved from corner to strong safety, which feels like a natural position for me. [Editor’s note: Aaron notched 82 combined tackles and 4 picks in 2013.]
Bills fans are the greatest and we’re working hard to be as competitive as the great teams of the 1990s, which went to a record four straight Super Bowls. Now let’s talk about this weekend’s games.
Generally, home field is key. Not only are you in an atmosphere you’re comfortable with and acclimated to the field you’re playing on, but also you have your fans behind you. When they get rowdy and crazy, they push you to make a stop or a big play or a score. At the same time, you’ve still got to go out there and play. And then anything can happen…
Chiefs (11-5) at Colts (11-5)
We played both teams, Indy in pre-season and later KC, which was an NFL-best 6-2 on the road. I think the Chiefs just might pull this one out. They have a Pro Bowl running back in fellow Longhorn Jamaal Charles, who’s very explosive (nearly 2,000 total yards and 19 TDs), a leader in Alex Smith and an unbelievable defense. Their linebackers, led by Derrick Johnson (another UT guy) hit real hard, and their secondary is solid. At the same time, Andrew Luck leads an excellent Colts offense. Their no-huddle is always tough because they try to put you on your heels. With two explosive offenses, the turnover battle could be decisive.
Saints (11-5) at Eagles (10-6)
The Saints are fourth in offense and defense. But they are like two different teams: 8-0 at home but only 3-5 on the road. I still think they’ll pull this one out. When you have guys like Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston and Kenny Stills getting open for Drew Brees, they’re hard to stop. Add in their solid defense led by regular Made Man blogger Malcolm Jenkins and they’re just tough. Meanwhile, the Eagles have won 6 of their last 7, led by LeSean McCoy (1,607 yards rushing), DeSean Jackson (82 catches for 1,332 yards) and Nick Foles, who has thrown for 27 TDs and just 2 picks since taking over at QB in Week 10. Coach Chip Kelly has some weapons, and it’ll be a test for New Orleans to stop them.
With more than 4,000 total yards and 30 TDs between them, these two 25s are terrifying.
Chargers (9-7) at Bengals (11-5)
The Bengals won 4 of 5 after their bye week, knocked the Super Bowl champ Ravens out of the playoff hunt and are 8-0 at home. They’re explosive with QB Andy Dalton throwing to Jermaine Gresham, Made Man blogger Tyler Eifert and Pro Bowler and former Made Man blogger AJ Green, whom I’ve faced. Stopping him will be key. Cincy also has an excellent D with a huge red zone stop percentage. On the other side, the Chargers have won 4 straight to squeak into the playoffs. Philip Rivers is a true pocket QB with star receivers in rookie Keenan Allen (71 catches for 1,046 yards) and veteran tight end Antonio Gates. Special teams may also play a big role in this game. I’m picking Cincinnati.
Niners (12-4) at Packers (8-7-1)
The Packers have lost 3 straight to San Francisco, including last year’s NFC divisional game at Candlestick, when they gave up 579 yards to the 49ers’ read-option offense. But this game is at Lambeau, where the atmosphere is unbelievable. Key for Green Bay is having Aaron Rodgers back from injury. Can the Niners stop Rodgers and Randall Cobb, who also just returned and scored two TDs in last weekend’s win-or-go home game? Hard to say, but it’s also hard to defend the 49ers’ spread attack. The Niners have a clutch receiver in Anquan Boldin, who won a Super Bowl last year with Baltimore. They also have speedy, physical Michael Crabtree, whom I played against in college and last year. That said, I like Green Bay at home.
So I’m going with two road teams, Chiefs and Saints, and two home teams, Bengals and Packers. Whatever happens, it’s bound to be exciting!
—As told to Ashley Jude Collie