NFL Playoffs Breakdown and Super Bowl Prediction
It's prediction time! This will be one of the most competitive NFL seasons that we have seen in a long time. When I did all of these previews and predictions it was very difficult to choose who would even get into the playoffs. I saw at least ten playoff-caliber teams in the AFC and 11 in the NFC. I had to narrow it down to the best six teams in each league and here is how I see both the AFC and NFC ending up at the end of the season.
1. Houston Texans 13-3
2. New England Patriots 13-3
3. Baltimore Ravens 11-5
4. Denver Broncos 11-5
5. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6
6. Buffalo Bills 10-6
The top half of the AFC is a pretty safe pick. The Texans get the tiebreaker over the Patriots because I predicted that Houston would win their head-to-head matchup with New England. The Steelers get the fifth seed over Buffalo because Pittsburgh will have a better record within the division. Buffalo is my surprise out of the AFC because I think their defense will greatly improve with the addition of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
1. Green Bay Packers 13-3
2. San Francisco 49ers 13-3
3. Atlanta Falcons 11-5
4. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6
5. Chicago Bears 12-4
6. Detroit Lions 11-5
I know what most of you are probably thinking, I left out the defending champions. I didn't leave the Giants out because I think they aren't a good team, but I left them out because Detroit and Chicago made great improvements in the offseason. Philadelphia has one of the most talented rosters in the league and if Vick can stay healthy, this offense will score a lot of points.
Now I will go through each playoff game, round-by-round, all the way to my Super Bowl prediction. Sit tight and enjoy the ride.
Wild Card Round
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(6) Buffalo Bills at (3) Baltimore Ravens- This would be a very evenly matched playoff game. Both teams have good defenses and explosive running backs. On defense, I give the edge to Baltimore. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are hungry and want one more shot at a championship. The difference maker will be Joe Flacco. Flacco has won before in the playoffs and Ryan Fitzpatrick would be making his first playoff start. The Bills are on the rise, but they aren't quite up to Baltimore's level. The Ravens will protect home-field and advance to the divisional round with a 24-13 victory.
(5) Pittsburgh Steelers at (4) Denver Broncos- The Steelers will be looking for vengeance after a shocking overtime loss to Denver in the same round last season. The problem for Pittsburgh is that this Denver team is better than it was last season. Peyton Manning will make that entire offense better and Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker will give Pittsburgh's secondary trouble. This game hinges on Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger will have a great season with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as his targets. However, I still doubt the Steelers will figure out Denver's running game and that could be the difference in the game. Peyton will return to the playoffs with a win by the score of 20-14.
(6) Detroit Lions at (3) Atlanta Falcons- Atlanta is used to regular season success but when it comes to the playoffs, Matt Ryan's group has faltered. Detroit is young and improving and will ride the arm of Matthew Stafford. Atlanta has a much better running game than Detroit and Michael Turner will have a say in the outcome. I think the Lions defense is slightly better than Atlanta's and that will be the most important advantage. I think Detroit wins 27-23.
(5) Chicago Bears at (4) Philadelphia Eagles- If this playoff matchup were to happen, it would be a darn good one. The Eagles have a very talented roster. LeSean McCoy is a premier back in this league and if Michael Vick can stay healthy, this team could make a run. The Bears have weapons as well, Jay Cutler has been reunited with Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte can do it all at running back. The Eagles have a slight edge on defense because of the numerous play-makers on the roster. This game will be a classic, but I have Philadelphia winning on a late field goal 31-30.
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(4) Denver Broncos at (1) Houston Texans- Peyton Manning leads his Broncos into Houston with a matchup against Arian Foster and the Texans. The Texans have one of the most explosive offenses with Foster and Andre Johnson. Matt Schaub will have a great game against a questionable Denver secondary. Both teams will have very strong running games and defenses. I think Houston's defense, even without Mario Willliams and DeMeco Ryans, is still one of the strongest in the league. Houston will end Peyton Manning's comeback season with a 24-16 win.
(3) Baltimore Ravens at (2) New England Patriots- Another AFC playoff rematch from last season. In last year's game, Baltimore was a Lee Evans dropped pass in the end zone away from going to the Super Bowl. New England has the best offense in the AFC and has multiple weapons that can kill a defense. Baltimore has Ray Rice, and he will run all over New England's defense. Baltimore's defense is one of the toughest in the league and will give Tom Brady trouble in the pocket. I think Baltimore will get revenge against Brady and the Patriots with a 14-10 victory.
(6) Detroit Lions at (1) Green Bay Packers- The third game of the year between these two NFC North foes will be a shootout. Both teams have excellent passing games and sub-par running games. It will be a great battle between Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. I give Detroit's defense the edge in this game because of their fearsome front seven led by Ndamukong Suh, Stephen Tulloch and Cliff Avril. Green Bay's defense will improve but I still think they will give up a ton of yardage. Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the game and Megatron will lead Detroit to a shocking upset over Green Bay 38-31.
(4) Philadelphia Eagles at (2) San Francisco 49ers- The 49ers defense will have its hands full with trying to contain Michael Vick. If there is a defense that I could see shutting down Vick it is San Francisco's. The Eagles have an explosive offense led by LeSean McCoy. The 49ers added Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to the receiving core. Alex Smith will have plenty of options and the passing game should be improved. Frank Gore is still a good running back and has Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James to lighten the load. San Francisco's defense is really good and will find a way to take down the Eagles 23-16.
Conference Championship and Super Bowl Predictions
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(3) Baltimore Ravens at (1) Houston Texans- Baltimore will return to the AFC title game but this time at Reliant Stadium in Houston. These teams are very evenly matched. Both have good quarterbacks and excellent running backs. Andre Johnson is the best receiver on the field but Torrey Smith will become a star this season. Baltimore and Houston have two of the toughest defenses in the NFL but Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will not be denied this year. Baltimore will get back to the promised land with a 27-21 victory.
(6) Detroit Lions at (2) San Francisco 49ers- The Lions' shocking run ends at Candlestick Park. The Niners defense is too good and will take away Calvin Johnson. Detroit's lack of balance on offense will be their downfall. San Francisco's offense is pretty balanced and Alex Smith will have a solid season at quarterback. The Lions are an up and coming team but this is the 49ers' year. 17-6 49ers.
Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers- There will be a defensive showdown in New Orleans. Ray Rice will struggle to get past San Francisco's front seven. The key to this game will be the quarterbacks. Alex Smith has always been known as a game manager up until this point of his career. Joe Flacco has had playoff success but tends to play inconsistently. This game will feature two of the best linebackers in football. Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis will both be on top of their game and the defenses will control this game. It might not be a flashy Super Bowl, but what's wrong with a little defense? When the final seconds have ticked off the clock, the Baltimore Ravens will be Super Bowl champions. Ray Rice will be the MVP and Baltimore will win 13-7.