Updated NFL Playoff Predictions

Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIJanuary 2, 2012

Updated NFL Playoff Predictions

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    With week 17 of the 2011/2012 NFL season winding down and the playoff teams just about set in stone, it's time for an update round of playoff predictions.

    Teams like the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals secured spots, while others like the Raiders and the Jets were left out.

    Now, can anyone dethrone the Green Bay Packers as world champions?

AFC Wild-Card Round: 3) Houston Texans vs. 6) Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Houston Texans fell just short of finishing 11-5 with a 23-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans today. Despite the loss, the Texans, who played without most of their impact starters, had a very encouraging performance.

    They will face the Cincinnati Bengals, a team they beat 20-19 on a last-second touchdown to secure their playoff spot. The Bengals snuck into the playoffs despite a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

    The Texans will have considerably more firepower than they did today when they took on the Titans. Cincinnati will be a tough match-up, but Houston already beat them once.

    Winner: Texans

AFC Wild-Card Round: 4) Denver Broncos vs. 5) Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Denver Broncos were able to win the AFC West despite losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 7-3 and falling to 8-8.

    Meanwhile, Pittsburgh survived against the Cleveland Browns, 13-9, to finish 12-4. The Steelers have been outstanding on defense, and while their offense has struggled at times, they don't lack firepower. The knee injury to Rashard Mendenhall will be costly if it is serious.

    The Broncos have had a remarkable season, all things considered, but their offense has not been able to move the ball lately, and the Steelers will be too much.

    Winner: Steelers

NFC Wild-Card Round: 3) New Orleans Saints vs. 6) Detroit Lions

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    The New Orleans Saints finished the season with a bang, slamming the Carolina Panthers, 45-17.

    The Detroit Lions had a chance to secure the fifth seed, but a 45-41 loss to the Green Bay Packers pushed them back to the sixth.

    The last time these two teams played, the Saints beat the Lions soundly. Both teams have been on fire offensively as of late, and quarterbacks Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford will be fun to watch in a shootout.

    The Lions will need to be able to put a lot of pressure on Drew Brees to have a chance in this one, but the Saints are too hot.

    Winner: Saints

NFC Wild-Card Round: 4) New York Giants vs. 5) Atlanta Falcons

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    The New York Giants held on to beat the Dallas Cowboys on the final Sunday Night Football game of the season, securing the NFC East division and the fourth seed in the process.

    The Falcons hammered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today to secure a fifth seed over the Lions.

    Atlanta's explosive offensive potential was on full display today, and if they keep it going in the playoffs, they could do some damage.

    The Giants have some firepower themselves, however, and they have a lot of veteran guys that have plenty of playoff experience. I think they knock off the more inexperienced Falcons.

    Winner: Giants

AFC Divisional Round: 1) New England Patriots vs. 5) Pittsburgh Steelers

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    With the win over the Broncos, the Steelers get a tougher task in the New England Patriots.

    The Patriots finished the year by plastering the Buffalo Bills, scoring 49 unanswered points to win, 49-21.

    New England has struggled on defense this year, but their offense is outstanding and quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick have a ton of playoff experience and success.

    The Steelers have a superior defense and a good running game to go along with a threatening passing game, and they should give the Pats all they can handle, but they will fall just short.

    Winner: Patriots

AFC Divisional Round: 2) Baltimore Ravens vs. 3) Houston Texans

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    Coming off the win over the Bengals, the Texans will get a much stiffer opponent in the Baltimore Ravens.

    The Ravens have beaten the Texans once already this year.

    Baltimore has had a tendency to win huge games this year, which includes the season sweep of the Steelers. Both teams have awesome defenses, but the Texans will be at a severe disadvantage without a playoff-caliber quarterback.

    Winner: Ravens

NFC Divisional Round: 1) Green Bay Packers vs. 4) New York Giants

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    The two high-flying offenses of the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants will clash in this one.

    Both teams feature outstanding quarterbacks and elite receiving corps, and both teams have had struggles on defense this year.

    The Giants could make this game interesting, but the Packers won't be beat this early.

    Winner: Packers

NFC Divisional Round: 2) San Francisco 49ers vs. 3) New Orleans Saints

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    The Saints will take on the San Francisco 49ers after beating the Lions. San Francisco completed the season with an unimpressive 34-27 win over the St. Louis Rams, but their 13-3 record speaks to their ability to win.

    The Saints have been dominant offensively this year, but they will be going up against a very good defense in the 49ers.

    San Francisco will lean on its running game and it may be able to put up points, but the Saints seem to be unstoppable right now. The 'Niners won't be able to outscore them.

    Winner: Saints

AFC Championship: 1) New England Patriots vs. 2) Baltimore Ravens

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    The Patriots vs. the Ravens will be an intriguing match-up pitting an explosive, experienced offense against a dominant, veteran defense.

    Tom Brady and the Pats will try to move the ball against Terrell Suggs and the ferocious Ravens, but don't overlook the match-up on the other side of the ball. Ray Rice will carry the load while Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith will try to exploit New England's vulnerable pass defense.

    The Ravens' secondary will be thoroughly tested by Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but they will come out on top.

    Winner: Ravens

NFC Championship: 1) Green Bay Packers vs. 3) New Orleans Saints

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    The highly-anticipated rematch between the Saints and the Packers comes in this year's NFC Championship.

    Top quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees will meet and try to lead their teams to victory. The Packers have lost just one game this season, while the Saints have been on a tear lately.

    There will be a lot of points scored in this game and it will come down to the wire, but I think the Saints will upset the Packers this time around.

    Winner: Saints

Super Bowl XLVI: 2) Baltimore Ravens vs. 3) New Orleans Saints

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    A Super Bowl matchup between the Ravens and the Saints would be a fantastic end to an exciting 2011 season.

    Both teams have been unstoppable lately. Nobody wants to play the Ravens' defense, but the Saints might have the most balanced offense in the NFL.

    The Ravens aren't without scoring ability on offense either, however, and the Saints aren't known for being stingy defensively.

    The Ravens win a tough one and are crowned Super Bowl Champions.

    SUPER BOWL CHAMPS: Baltimore Ravens