Can you believe that only a single week of the NFL season remains? It seems like just yesterday the biggest NFL topic was the replacement referees.
Now, weeks later, the postseason is the talk of the town, and we are a week and a half from seeing them begin. With their beginning will come a flurry of predictions made and smack talk—it's easy to predict another New England Super Bowl victory, but my predictions are more bold than that.
I'm not one that believes in the likely. None of these will be called "likely" by any stretch of the imagination, but the predictions can be taken to the bank.
Put Vegas on alert.
Having dropped three out of four games, the New York Giants' yearly collapse is coming a bit late. After all of their recent poor performances, it's hard to find a reason to put any sort of confidence in them.
Look at what the Giants have done this season, though—they've slaughtered San Francisco and Green Bay, beaten potential playoff-bound Washington and put up 36 or more points five times. The team can play, no matter what recent events may tell us.
New York will get the last NFC playoff spot with a win against Philadelphia in Week 17, while Chicago falls to Detroit and Minnesota to Green Bay. The hot streak for the Giants will begin this week.
What Jim Harbaugh has done in San Francisco over the last two seasons is nothing short of remarkable. He took a team that was near the bottom of the league and made them into a perennial powerhouse—for some, they are the NFC favorites.
Not me. I'm not a believer in these 49ers. Who will upend them?
The very team that seems to have their number—the New York Giants. The world champions beat the 49ers in the NFC title game last season (in San Francisco) and dismantled them again this season. Their third meeting in two seasons will not produce a different outcome.
I like Colin Kaepernick, and he is the right decision for the 49ers, but the Giants in the postseason are a whole new team. Tom Coughlin can motivate his men, and in a first round battle the defending Super Bowl champions take down the powerhouse 49ers, 27-20.
As it seems right now, the Indianapolis Colts are in a pretty good position. They've clinched the AFC fifth seed and will most likely be playing the Baltimore Ravens—and that would be the only situation in which this prediction will be relevant.
Andrew Luck and the Colts have played the Patriots and were beat down. As for the Ravens, they are in one of the worst free falls in the NFL right now, and will lose their first round game regardless (call that a mini prediction).
Baltimore's defense has looked mediocre for most of the season and Indianapolis' offense is surging. Andrew Luck has been phenomenal down the stretch, and Indy should be a tough match with Chuck Pagano returning to the sidelines.
Luck will rise and Joe Flacco will struggle as the Colts stun the Ravens.
Russell Wilson has been red hot as of late, as have been the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson is the rookie that no one seems to be talking about, despite the fact that he'll likely break 3,000 passing yards and his touchdown-to-interceptions ratio is better than 2-to-1.
I predicted Seattle to win the NFC West at the beginning of the season, and while that could still happen, it's next to impossible—they need San Francisco to lose at home to Arizona.
Still, the likely matchup will pit Wilson against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. It has been a magical season for both teams, but as good as RGIII has been, Seattle's defense is dominant.
I know they have been road chumps, but Wilson and his crew will show up to play in D.C.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have had some legendary battles over the years and are the two best quarterbacks of their generation. Now Manning is leading the Denver Broncos and has them on a tear that hasn't been seen in Denver since John Elway retired.
It seems that the two teams are likely to meet in the second round as the seeding would indicate right now. New England should man handle the Cincinnati Bengals or Indianapolis Colts in round one, leading them on a likely road to Denver to face one of the league's best offenses.
The issue for New England is that their defense won't be able to contain the fierce Bronco attack. It hasn't happened often, but Manning will best Brady this time around, and Denver will advance to the AFC championship game.
Under the circumstances of the 2012 season, this would mean that the Seattle Seahawks would welcome the New York Giants to CenturyLink Field. Not quite the NFC title game most would have expected during the preseason—or even now.
I've already made the prediction that both of these teams would win their first round games, which would bring both of them to the divisional round—the Giants in Atlanta and the Seahawks in Green Bay.
There are some among us that think Atlanta is finally ready for legitimacy, but I'm not among them. Atlanta is so good during the regular season, but the postseason hasn't been kind to them for quite some time. In 2012 they are likely to welcome the New York Giants to Atlanta, a team you don't want to play at this time of year. Watch for Eli Manning to decimate the Falcons' defense.
As for Seattle, it's no secret that playing at home is no issue for them, but being on the road is quite difficult. Lately, though, this looks like a team that can't be stopped, and even the ferocious cheeseheads at Lambeau Field won't change that. The Seahawks beat the Packers earlier this season (no matter how controversial) and they will do it again in the postseason behind a defense that will stifle Aaron Rodgers.
Somehow, some way, the New York Giants are going to find a way to win in Seattle. It has proven to be a nearly impossible feat in 2012 to win at CenturyLink, but Eli Manning has made himself famous for performing the impossible.
Therefore, the Giants will surprise everyone again, the Broncos will surge through the AFC playoffs and the inevitable contest between Eli and Peyton Manning will ensue.
This will be a Super Bowl for the ages. Both Mannings will throw for multiple touchdowns and over 300 yards, trying to fight for attention as if they were still children.
Sibling rivalry will culminate with the older brother being victorious—Peyton Manning wins his second championship by a score of 30-28.
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