Predicting the 12 NFL Playoff Teams as the Season Gets Underway
The NFL season is finally back. Teams are preparing for their run at the Super Bowl as they enter Week 1.
There are some teams that can be considered locks for a playoff spot, some teams who have a good chance at one, some teams who have an outside chance and some teams that have no shot.
However, the games still have to be played and anything could happen.
Here is my prediction for the 12 teams that will be playing postseason football following the end of the 2012 regular season.
NFC Sixth Seed: New York Giants (Wild Card)
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The defending Super Bowl champions have an elite quarterback, a solid receiving corps and a strong defense.
The problem for them is the division they play in.
The Giants have to face the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles twice. Both of these teams could definitely win the division and could be considered Super Bowl contenders. That is not even mentioning the Washington Redskins who actually beat the Giants twice last year.
If you combine the Giants difficult schedule with a post-Super Bowl hangover, it leaves them as the sixth seed coming out of the NFC.
NFC Fifth Seed: New Orleans Saints
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The New Orleans Saints had the complete opposite of a "quiet offseason."
The Bountygate scandal left them without their head coach, along with other significant suspensions.
The Saints are going to have to overcome a lot, but I think they are going to play like they have something to prove. As long as they have Drew Brees throwing the football, they should easily make the playoffs.
I think the Atlanta Falcons are going to have a big season and the bounty scandal is going to play a role in preventing the Saints from winning their division.
NFC Fourth Seed: San Francisco 49ers (NFC West Champions)
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The San Francisco 49ers came out of nowhere and emerged as one of the best teams in the NFL.
They went 13-3 and came very close to making it to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers play "old-school, smash-mouth" football. They have a powerful running game led by Frank Gore and an explosive defense. I am not sold on Alex Smith being a top quarterback, and they have a decently difficult schedule.
That is why I only have them at 10-6.
The 49ers play in arguably the weakest division in football and should have no problem winning it.
NFC Third Seed: Philadelphia Eagles (NFC East Champions)
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The Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to be one of, if not the best, teams in the NFL last season.
Instead, they fell flat on their face to start the season and couldn't turn it around in time to make it into the playoffs.
They addressed their weaknesses on defense this offseason. Combine that with an offense that is loaded with talented and explosive players, and the Eagles are going to win the NFC East.
They will, that is, if Michael Vick can stay relatively healthy and on the field.
Also, the tragic death of Andy Reid's son could definitely end up being more motivation this season.
NFC Second Seed: Atlanta Falcons (NFC South Champions)
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The Atlanta Falcons have been a good team since Matt Ryan took over as quarterback. They have had success in the regular season, but have failed to win any games in the postseason.
I think the Falcons are going to have a strong season this year and take the next step. Matt Ryan is going to prove he is among the top quarterbacks in football. He is set up with a boatload of weapons, including Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones.
The Falcons biggest issues, especially in the postseason, has been with their defense. They brought in Mike Nolan as their new defensive coordinator. The biggest thing to watch is if Nolan can turn this defense around.
NFC 1st Seed: Green Bay Packers (NFC North Champions)
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The Green Bay Packers looked as if they couldn't be beaten last season. Then they got upset by the New York Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers is as good as QB in football right now, and with him at the helm, the Packers are going to be a very strong team again.
The only concern is the division they play in. The Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions are both strong teams and could be a problem for the Packers this season.
AFC Sixth Seed: New York Jets (Wild Card)
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The Jets defense could very well be the most dominant in football this season. If the offense is a little better than most people are expecting, the Jets could definitely grab a playoff spot.
Mark Sanchez is often criticized too much and you wouldn't think he had 32 touchdowns (26 passing, 6 rushing) last season. It is going to be very interesting to see what they do with Tim Tebow and how well the offense can play.
The Jets have a difficult schedule early on this season, but the second half should be where they pick up a lot of their wins.
AFC Fifth Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (Wild Card)
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the most consistent teams in football over the last five years, making two appearances in the Super Bowl and winning one of them.
No matter who is on the team or what is expected, the Steelers seem to find a way to win.
As long as Ben Roethlisberger can stay on the field, the Steelers always have a chance to win. Their defense is always among the top units in the league, and the return of Rashard Mendenhall midway through the season should be beneficial.
AFC Fourth Seed: Denver Broncos (AFC West Champions)
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The Denver Broncos playoff chances rest on the shoulders of Peyton Manning.
How he will play and if he can stay healthy are two of the biggest things in the entire NFL to watch this season.
I have Manning coming back and looking like the Peyton Manning of old. What will be a little different for him is that he actually will a solid defense and rushing attack to support him.
I see the Broncos with 10 wins and having the division locked up going into the final game of the season. This will allow them to rest Manning to get ready for the playoffs.
AFC Third Seed: Houston Texans (AFC South Champions)
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The Houston Texans lost to the Baltimore Ravens in last years divisional round of the playoffs.
The fact that they made it that far was very surprising.
The Texans lost Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Mario Williams for the majority of their season last year. They were still able to come away with a 10-6 record and a playoff win.
I actually think Schaub, who is a top quarterback when healthy, is going to stay healthy this season. It also helps having the best running back in football. The Texans are going to have the same record as the Ravens and will be the third seed in the AFC.
AFC Second Seed: Baltimore Ravens (AFC North Champions)
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Like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens always seem to have a strong defense. The loss of Terrell Suggs hurts but not enough to keep the Ravens from winning their division.
Joe Flacco was impressive in the AFC Championship game last year, and he has several dangerous weapons like Ray Rice and Torrey Smith to work with.
I have the Ravens winning their division and grabbing the second seed in the AFC for the second year in a row.
AFC First Seed: New England Patriots (AFC East Champions)
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The New England Patriots were once again one amazing Eli Manning pass away from winning a Super Bowl.
Now they start the season with a relatively easy schedule, especially for a team that was in the Super Bowl a year ago.
WR Brandon Lloyd, added during the offseason, could be the dangerous weapon that Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson was supposed to be last year. Combine the Patriots juggernaut offense with what has to be an improved defense (could it be any worse than it was last year), and I see the Patriots dominating during the regular season.