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NFL Playoff Predictions

Oct 6, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) signals prior to the snap against the Dallas Cowboys at AT

With arguably the greatest one month in sports set to begin, it’s time to offer some predictions for what exactly will happen over that time span. I’ll predict the entire NFL playoffs from the Wild Card round all the way to the Super Bowl.

NFC

The NFC looks like this:

1. Seattle Seahawks
2. Carolina Panthers
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Green Bay Packers
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. New Orleans Saints

Seattle has clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC bracket, and luckily for them, Arizona didn’t make the playoffs. Carolina also has a first-round bye and will play the lowest winning seed from the Wild Card round while Seattle will play the highest winning seed.

WILD CARD ROUND

Philadelphia Eagles (3) vs. New Orleans Saints (6)

November 5, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passing against the Philadelphia Eagles during third quarter of their game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

I keep hearing this talk about how the Saints are not such a good team on the road. I agree that they don’t play as well as they do in the Superdome, but the New Orleans actually has the best road record in the league since the start of 2009. The Saints’ offense is too much for the Eagles to handle, while an improved Saints defense will at least slow down the high-powered Chip Kelly offense. Winner: New Orleans.

Green Bay Packers (4) vs. San Francisco 49ers (5)

Sep 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) fakes a pass while running with the ball against the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Packers 34-28. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The return of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb is huge for Green Bay. However, they barely escaped with a win over Chicago to win the NFC North, and that was against a porous Bears’ defense. Rodgers is going to be pressured, and the main matchup to watch is Green Bay’s offensive line against San Francisco’s front seven. Colin Kaepernick will shred the Green Bay pass defense as he did in Week 1; the return of Michael Crabtree helps Kaep as well. Winner: San Francisco.

DIVISIONAL ROUND

Seattle Seahawks (1) vs. New Orleans Saints (6)

Dec 2, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is pressured by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (72) during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t expect Seattle to blow New Orleans out again. The Saints will be more prepared this time around. It’ll be a close game, but Seattle is the more complete team overall – they have a better running game and defense, which is what you need to win in the postseason. The old phrase “defense wins championships” will never die out. Winner: Seattle.

Carolina Panthers (2) vs. San Francisco 49ers (5)

Carolina won by a point at San Francisco earlier this year. These two teams are strikingly similar – both have a mobile quarterback and an offense centered on the power run game, and both have excellent defenses. The ‘Niners have more offensive playmakers, however, and Michael Crabtree didn’t play against Carolina last time. Winner: San Francisco

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

Seattle Seahawks (1) vs. San Francisco 49ers (5)

Dec 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) talks with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) after the game at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Seahawks 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick has been to CenturyLink Field in Seattle twice and has been blown out both times. Arizona proved that Seattle is vulnerable at home. The ‘Niners will get to Russell Wilson like the Cardinals did and Michael Crabtree will provide a spark to the otherwise dormant (in Seattle) passing game. Kaep beat the Seahawks in San Francisco earlier this year and I believe they’re one of the only clubs that can go to Seattle and win. Third time’s the charm, right? I think so. Winner: San Francisco.

AFC

The AFC playoff standings are:

1. Denver Broncos
2. New England Patriots
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Kansas City Chiefs
6. San Diego Chargers

Denver has clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC bracket, and New England also has a first-round bye. New England, in the Divisional round, will play the lowest winning seed from the Wild Card round. Denver will play the highest winning seed.

WILD CARD ROUND

Cincinnati Bengals (3) vs. San Diego Chargers (6)

Dec 1, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws over the reach of Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) during the second half at Qualcomm Stadium. The Bengals won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We know all about the trends. Can the Chargers pull it off? The Bengals have a great defense even without Geno Atkins. Andy Dalton might be the key for the Bengals: will he do enough to win? He has the weapons to do so (A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, and the offensive line, which has been solid the whole season, and I believe he’ll deliver at least in the first round. Winner: Cincinnati.

Indianapolis Colts (4) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (5)

Stopping Jamaal Charles will be the key for Indianapolis in this game, especially in the receiving game. In the meeting earlier in the season between the teams (the Colts won 23-7), Charles had 106 rushing yards, but just 13 carries. Charles torched the Raiders a few weeks ago through the air, and if the Colts stop him, they’ll win the game. Winner: Indianapolis.

DIVISIONAL ROUND

Denver Broncos (1) vs. Indianapolis Colts (4)

USP NFL: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLT S FBN USA IN

Indinapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (left) and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (right). Photo credits– USA Today Sports.

This time, Luck heads to his predecessor’s stadium in Denver. The Broncos need to force Andrew Luck into making mistakes, as their pass defense is one of the worst in the league. Peyton Manning needs to put points up and gain a wide margin early – that’s exactly what the Colts did to the Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium, spoiling any hopes of a triumphant return. Winner: Denver.

New England Patriots (2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (3)

Oct 6, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati defeated New England 13-6. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ defense snapped Tom Brady’s streak of games with a touchdown pass in October. More importantly, they won the game and held the Patriots to just six points. Although this game would be at Gillette Stadium, expect a similar result – that stout Bengals defense should power the team to a road win and punch the Bengals’ ticket to the AFC Championship game. Winner: Cincinnati.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

Denver Broncos (1) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (3)

Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati defeated Baltimore 34-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

A top five defense against the best quarterback in the league – here’s where the loss of Geno Atkins hurts them. Contrary to popular belief, the Broncos are one of the most balanced teams in the league. Stopping Knowshon Moreno most likely won’t prioritize slowing down Peyton Manning. The Broncos have too many weapons to contain, many more than the Patriots do. I like Andy Dalton, but I’m not that confident in his ability to carry his team to the Super Bowl. Winner: Denver.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII

Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers

Aug 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Denver Broncos strong safety David Bruton (30) gets an arm on San Francisco 49ers running back Anthony Dixon (24) before the play is called back on a penalty during the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The Denver Broncos defeated the San Francisco 49ers 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I’d think that most fans would probably want Seattle-Denver, but this is a great matchup as well. Jim Harbaugh would be returning to his second consecutive Super Bowl – each year, he’s taken it to the next level: his team lost the NFC Championship in 2011, then lost the Super Bowl in 2012. Now, it’s time to take that final step and win it all.

I am actually standing by my preseason Super Bowl pick back in July, and the matchups favor San Francisco. The 49ers are the more complete team with a better running game, and although the Broncos’ offense is historically great, the ‘Niners can contain it. Defense wins championships, and there’s no question that San Francisco has the better defense.

Super Bowl Champion: San Francisco 49ers.

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Topics: Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, FanSided, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks

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  • http://sbpra.com/paulvsuffriti Paul V. Suffriti

    Bengals beat the Pats at Cincinnati during the regular season…..one of the Pats four losses…..look for a more competitive game from the Pats playing at home where they are 8-0. The Bengals are unbeaten at home (8-0) but on the road they are average, losing 5 of 8 away from Cincinnati. Pats will be going to Denver for the AFC championship game where anything can happen.

  • MD

    A lot has changed since the Pats lost to Cincy and they have learned to win without their main weapons as their running game has improved so much that it gives Brady the luxury of putting doubts in Bengal defense. Bill Belichik will devise a master plan to ensure Cincy does not beat him again. Beating Pats at home in cold weather is one of the toughest jobs in NFL and Pats will overcome the Bengals. Luck has enough weapons and their defense is playing good again so they could knock off Denver and then the road to Superbowl goes thru Foxboro. I see Pats playing SF or Panthers playing in NJ in Feb.

    • anon76returns

      Outside of T.Y. Hilton, what weapons does Luck have? Their leading rusher averages 2.9 yards per carry. Their second-most productive receiver hasn’t played since week 7. Their #3 receiver hasn’t even managed to catch half of the balls thrown his way, and their #1 TE is graded at #44 of 51 qualifying TEs by football outsiders. Donald Brown looks like a good situational back, but 106 carries over the course of an NFL season hardly qualifies him as a legitimate weapon.

      You want to know what it looks like to have legitimate weapons on offense? Try having the #1 ranked receiver, #4 ranked receiver, and #22 ranked receiver in the spread, with the #2 ranked and #22 ranked TEs patrolling the middle, the #6 and #21 ranked rushing RBs, the #3 ranked pass-catching RB, all behind the #8 ranked run blocking/#1 ranked pass blocking O Line. Give that unit a 5-time MVP QB that just set the season records for passing TDs & yards, and that’s what an offense with legitimate weapons looks like.

      • MD

        So why have the playoffs? Should we just declare the Broncos Superbowl Champs? Do you remember PATS going 18-0 and then lose the SB to Giants, a wild card team that had to play all their games on the road? I am sure that year, Pats had the best stats in all the categories. Come playoff time, all these stats are meaningless as any team can knock off anyone. Based on your logic, Ravens should not have won last year in Denver but history says Peyton Manning throws interceptions at the most critical time in the game. With all these great stats you mentioned, the same team had a 24 point lead and lost the game to the Pats, so lets not get all worked up. Based on sheer stats, Pats should not even be in the playoffs but they are and thats because they are 12-4 inspite of all the injuries and bad defense. Brady and Belichik have worked a miracle with the resources they had available and they just got better as they now have a running game to complement the passing game.

        • anon76returns

          On paper the Broncos are the best team in the AFC, no doubt. That’s why I was puzzled by your saying that Indy has the weapons to beat them. The Colts COULD beat the Broncos, in an “any given Sunday” sense, but it would be a case of inspired play & execution (or poor play by the Broncos), not a case of “enough weapons” on the part of the Colts, as you suggested. If anything, the Colts challenge the Chiefs for least talent on offense among the playoff teams, which is what I pointed out with my post.

          As for the Pats, no doubt they’ve done very well in a difficult season. They have a great chance of advancing to a 3rd straight AFC championship game, even with a depleted offense & defense relative to previous seasons (that includes the run game, which was better last year). The stars had to align for them a bit for the comeback win against Denver, but those things do happen from time to time (Broncos at Colts this year and Ravens at Broncos in the playoffs last year are two recent examples of the same phenomenon). Those sort of wins make the league exciting, but in terms of a cold, data-based prediction, the Broncos should be the favorite. And, as a Bronco fan, I’m more than eager to see both the Colts and Pats come to Mile High for a little comeuppance.

  • kcpauly

    Colts, don’t contain JC, just like they didn’t the last time, exept this time Reid gives JC the ball 25-30 times and Chiefs crush the colts
    Go Chiefs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Roc

      I hope you’re right because that team that took the field two weeks ago in KC was not the chiefs that I know and love. I have a feeling Andy didn’t want to show the Colts too much since the odds of playing them in the playoffs was almost certain.

  • dgirl57

    You got the NFC Divisional games WRONG!!
    The winner of the Saints vs. Eagles game will play #2 Seed Carolina not the Seahawks.
    That’s one of the reasons Kelley played his starters for the Chicago game even though it was a wash game. With the win, the Eagles seeded #3 and avoided the Seahawks in the Divisional round. They’ll meet in the Conference Championship. GO EAGLES!!

    • Rishi Pochiraju

      No, that would be incorrect. If the Saints win, which is what I have predicted, as the 6th seed, they play the 1st seed in the NFC, which is Seattle.

      On the other hand, if Philadelphia wins, they play the 2nd seed, which is Carolina.

      The lowest seed always plays the highest seed no matter what. That’s why 3 plays 6 and 4 plays 5 in the Wild Card Round.

      • dgirl57

        I stand corrected…..still believe Eagles will beat Saints!
        I understand your thinking though since you’re a Redskins fan.

        • Rishi Pochiraju

          Not supposed to be biased in any way. I simply believe the Saints are a better team.

      • Ty Jones

        Correct. You just wrote it wrong (twice) before you listed each matchup.

        “Seattle has clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC bracket… Carolina also has a first-round bye and will play the lowest winning seed from the Wild Card round while Seattle will play the highest winning seed.”

        “Denver has clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC bracket, and New England also has a first-round bye. New England, in the Divisional round, will play the lowest winning seed from the Wild Card round. Denver will play the highest winning seed.”

  • Scott N Liz Barnes

    Seahawks vs patriots. Seahawks winning Even tho I’m a Raiders fan

  • Roc

    Nobody is giving the Chiefs a chance in hell and I love it!!! That pass rush of Hali and Houston comes back strong and they will beat anyone they play

    • anon76returns

      Houston, Hali, and Poe were all 100% healthy for week 11 in Denver, where they combined for 0 sacks and 0 qb Hits in 41 drop backs for Manning.

  • anon76returns

    Hmmm. I’d say SF is clearly a better team than GB, but GB has more offensive firepower and bitter cold temperatures can make for some bizarre games. After that, it’s very debatable whether SF is a stronger team than either Carolina or Seattle, both of whom have beaten SF in convincing fashion this season. No doubt SF is a good team, but that’s relying on a lot of consecutive weeks of lady luck’s smiles to make it out of the NFC.

    In the AFC, I don’t think Dalton has yet proven himself to be consistent enough to win in Foxboro in the playoffs, nor do I generally think the Cincinnati offense is good enough to get them over the hump. The Bengals’ defense is legitimately good, but the Patriots offense is still better, and much improved since their week 5 debacle in Cincy. As much as I enjoy seeing Belichick booted from the playoffs, I don’t think the Bengals will be the team to do it this year.

  • Ty Jones

    Interesting article, but not a very convincing case for how the 49ers can come into Seattle and win. In the past two seasons they’ve beaten the Seahawks at Candlestick by one score (or less) each time while getting absolutely throttled when they play at CenturyLink Field. How that translates into the third time being the “charm” is a pretty far stretch. While I don’t expect another 3+ TD beatdown if we play them again in the postseason, the Seahawks clearly have to be considered the overwhelming favorite at home.