2012 NFL Playoff Predictions, and How They Have Changed Since September

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIJanuary 7, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers holds up the VInce Lombardi trophy after the Packers won 31-25 against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It is that time of year again. The NFL playoffs begin today with the Wild Card Round, and that means it is time for my annual NFL playoff predictions.

Of course, it is always fun to look back at how I predicted the season to play out before it began in September. Without further adieu, here are the predictions I made prior to the opening of the 2011-2012 NFL season:

AFC East

New England Patriots 14-2

New York Jets 13-3

Buffalo Bills 5-11

Miami Dolphins 3-13

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers 15-1

Baltimore Ravens 12-4

Cleveland Browns 11-5

Cincinnati Bengals 2-14

AFC South

Houston Texans 9-7

Indianapolis Colts 6-10

Tennessee Titans 3-13

Jacksonville Jaguars 2-14

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

San Diego Chargers 8-8

Oakland Raiders 5-11

Denver Broncos 4-12

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles 10-6

New York Giants 8-8

Dallas Cowboys 7-9

Washington Redskins 5-11

NFC North

Green Bay Packers 14-2

Chicago Bears 10-6

Detroit Lions 9-7

Minnesota Vikings 5-11

NFC South

New Orleans Saints 13-3

Atlanta Falcons 13-3

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5

Carolina Panthers 3-13

NFC West

St. Louis Rams 8-8

San Francisco 49ers 6-10

Seattle Seahawks 6-10

Arizona Cardinals 5-11

Playoff Seedings


1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. New England Patriots

3. Kansas City Chiefs

4. Houston Texans

5. New York Jets

6. Baltimore Ravens


1. Green Bay Packers

2. New Orleans Saints

3. Philadelphia Eagles

4. St. Louis Rams

5. Atlanta Falcons

6. Chicago Bears

Wild Card

Baltimore at Kansas City

New York Jets at Houston

Chicago at Philadelphia

Atlanta at St. Louis


New York Jets at Pittsburgh

Baltimore at New England

Atlanta at Green Bay

Philadelphia at New Orleans


New England at Pittsburgh

New Orleans at Green Bay

Super Bowl

Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay

Well, there are certainly some glaring errors that stand out from my initial predictions...

I gave Rex Ryan way too much credit on his Super Bowl guarantee, thinking they were actually a legitimate contender, but were instead a team that fell short of the playoffs.

My errors in the AFC North certainly stand out. I expected a resurgent season from the Cleveland Browns to become playoff contenders, and I expected the Cincinnati Bengals to be the worst team in the entire National Football League. Instead, the Bengals won seven more games than I projected to earn the second AFC wild-card spot, while the Browns won seven fewer games to be among the NFL’s worst teams.

When I gave the Colts six wins this season, I clearly underestimated the importance of Peyton Manning to that team.

I ranked the AFC West teams completely opposite of their actual finishing order.

Not only did I mess up my putting the 10-6 Chicago Bears over the 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in my playoff seedings, I messed up altogether by not foreseeing the 10-game end-of-season losing skid that would leave the Bucs as one of the NFL’s worst teams and cost head coach Raheem Morris his job.

Finally, I had the St. Louis Rams, who tied for the NFL’s worst record, winning the NFC West over the San Francisco 49ers, who are tied for the NFL’s second-best record. Yeah, I messed that one up.

Now that I have admitted where I went wrong, I now present my updated prediction for the 2012 NFL Playoffs, all the way through Super Bowl XLVI.

Wild Card

Cincinnati at Houston

Pittsburgh at Denver

Detroit at New Orleans

Atlanta at New York Giants


Cincinnati at New England

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Atlanta at Green Bay

New Orleans at San Francisco


Pittsburgh at New England

New Orleans at Green Bay

Super Bowl

Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay

While I was certainly wrong about many aspects of this NFL season and much has changed since September, I still see the playoffs exactly the same way I did back in September.

Although I thought that Pittsburgh would hold home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, I still see them matching up against New England in the AFC Championship game. Even on the road, I see New England finally falling victim to their horrible secondary and Pittsburgh advancing to their second consecutive Super Bowl.

In the NFC Championship Game, the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints remain the two best teams in the conference. With how great the Packers have played this year, I do not see them losing to a warm-weather team in Lambeau, even though of any team in the NFL playoffs, the Saints are most capable of eliminating the Packers.

So, just as I originally predicted, I see a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl and I still see it being the same result. In a weak AFC, the Steelers have the team to get to the Super Bowl, but this is a team dealing with many injuries, including a season-ending knee injury to running back Rashard Mendenhall.

In my opinion, the three best teams in the NFL this year are in the NFC—the Packers, Saints, and 49ers. I do not see the Packers losing a playoff game, but as long as one of those three teams comes out of the conference, I think the Super Bowl is staying with the NFC.


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