After a terrific and highly-entertaining regular season, only 12 teams remain in the quest for a Super Bowl Championship.
These teams are the best in football, and will give NFL fans some of the best games of the year.
After going a solid 163-93 in my regular season picks, and 9-2 in last year's playoffs, I will attempt to predict the winners of each postseason game, beginning with the Wild Card Round.
The Steelers dominated again this season: Their offense emerged as one of the most dangerous in football, and the defense was once again spectacular. The Broncos backed into the playoffs, as Denver lost their final three games to fall to a mediocre 8-8. Denver is fueled by a solid defense, and a superb rushing attack.
Pittsburgh will absolutely destroy the Denver offense this Sunday, as the Broncos do not possess enough firepower on either side of the ball to compete. The Steelers eighth-ranked rushing defense will shut down the Bronco's main offensive strength, and Tebow will be forced into many mistakes.
On the other side of the ball, the Denver defense will manage to contain Roethlisberger and company at the start, but eventually the Steelers will break through. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown will consistently beat the Broncos' slow defensive backs, and put the game out of reach by the end of the first half.
Steelers 24, Broncos 6
Who will win this Wild-Card matchup?
The Bengals and Texans meet in a battle between two unproven teams. Cincinnati managed to squeak into the playoff with a rookie quarterback—mainly due to a formidable defensive unit. The Texans have dealt with devastating injuries to their star players, but are still a dangerous team because of an elite rushing attack and stingy defense.
This game will be a defensive struggle, as neither offense will manage to consistently move the chains. Eventually, it will be Arian Foster who overpowers the Bengals' front seven and busts out for several big runs.
Houston's defense manages to contain standout wide receiver A.J. Green all game long—largely in part to a terrific effort from Pro Bowl corner Jonathan Joseph. This leads to some struggles from Andy Dalton, and a Texan win.
Texans 20, Bengals 15
The Falcons need a string of road wins to end up in Indianapolis this February, while the Giants also need to make an extended run.
Atlanta was again balanced this year on offense, as Matt Ryan led a solid passing attack, and Michael Turner led a punishing ground game. The Falcons were also terrific in defending the run: They ranked sixth in rushing yards allowed. The Giants were led by a terrific season from Eli Manning, a breakout year from Victor Cruz and a ferocious pass rush.
Which NFC Wild-Card Team will go deepest in the playoffs?
These teams will give fans one of the most entertaining games of the postseason, but it will be home-field advantage that ends up being the difference. Atlanta struggles away as Matt Ryan performs worse outside the dome.
The Falcons will shut down New York's ground game, but Eli Manning will light up a weak Falcons secondary. Big Blue's pass rush—led by second year man Jason Pierre-Paul—will terrorize Matt Ryan and force him into some costly mistakes.
Giants 27, Falcons 24
The Lions shocked the football world when they clinched a postseason berth just three years removed from an 0-16 season.
Detroit is led by a phenomenal passing attack, instigated by quarterback Matthew Stafford and unstoppable wideout Calvin Johnson. The Saints were once again one of the best teams in the league: Their offense was the most potent in the NFL, due largely in part to the addition of a solid ground game.
With two defenses that can sometimes struggle, as well as two of the league's best offenses, this game is sure to be a shootout. Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford will trade blows, but eventually the Saints offense will be too powerful.
Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Lance Moore will be too much for the Detroit secondary to handle, and they will run rampant on the way to a Saints win.
Saints 37, Lions 21