Super Bowl 2013: Predictions and Odds for Every Playoff Team
The 2012 NFL regular season was utterly unpredictable and loaded with tremendous stories we never saw coming. Here's to hoping the playoffs aren't any different.
With the postseason picture set, it's time to make predictions on to how far each team will go.
To give some perspective, Super Bowl odds are included via Bovada.lv.
The Cincinnati Bengals played extremely steady football in the second half of the 2012 season, as they quietly won seven of their last eight games.
Their midseason turnaround was due to many factors, arguably none bigger the resurgence of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis—a guy who went over 100 yards on the ground in four of five games spanning from Week 11 to Week 15.
Mike Zimmer's brilliant defensive mind has molded an aggressive unit that predicates itself on sheer power in the front seven, especially from preeminent pass-rushing defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Andy Dalton wasn't spectacular in the final eight outings, but a 13-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio was good enough to catapult the Bengals into the postseason again.
One mustn't forget about wideout A.J. Green, however.
The second-year stud reeled in 97 passes for 1,350 yards with 11 touchdown catches and had a monster 10-grab, 116-yard performance in the vital win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 16.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 45/1
Marvin Lewis' squad travels to Houston to face the Texans for the second consecutive year in the opening round of the playoffs.
Dalton was thoroughly confused in the 31-10 loss in January of 2012, throwing three interceptions en route to a 51.4 QB rating.
This time around, he'll be more ready, and the entire Bengals team is more well-equipped to beat the Texans.
However, in a much more competitive game, Houston's zone-blocking scheme and defensive front will do enough to sneak past a steadily improving, upset-minded Cincinnati team.
As a team, the Indianapolis Colts represent the best story in the NFL this season. Bruce Arians will likely garner Coach of the Year votes after the admirable job he did filling in for the cancer-stricken Chuck Pagano.
Andrew Luck led the organizational turnaround with a remarkable rookie campaign, and the defense is playing much better now than it did to start the year.
With Pagano back on the sidelines and the team winning five of its last six games, Indianapolis epitomizes the term "playoff sleeper."
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 45/1
As the AFC's No. 5 seed, the Colts will travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.
While we're never quite sure which Joe Flacco will show up, we know how Luck will play, and the reinsertion of Pagano should add more creative unpredictability to the Colts defense.
I like the Colts in a semi-upset here, as Luck should be able to move the ball on the Ravens secondary to put Flacco in a precarious, come-from-behind situation.
After that, they'll likely travel to Denver in what will be a hyped-filled week leading into a divisional round battle with Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
In a shootout, Manning prevails.
The Baltimore Ravens played the game of their season against the New York Giants when they needed it most, and it secured them a spot in the postseason.
Then again, they weren't necessarily impressive over the last month of the season, losing four of their last five games.
The team's fate rests on the broad shoulder pads of quarterback Joe Flacco, who has won his fair share of playoff games and conversely has played horrendously in a handful of them.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 22/1
Though they'll be favored against the Colts on Wild Card Weekend, inconsistency on offense and, rather surprisingly, inconsistency on defense will ultimately doom them against a hot and confident upstart Indianapolis team.
Will the Ravens re-sign Flacco in the offseason?
The Houston Texans spent most of the 2012 season as the unquestioned top team in the AFC.
Then, injuries took their toll and Wade Phillips' stout secondary slowly but surely deteriorated.
Arian Foster didn't have a fabulous year, but his touchdown prowess didn't wane, and J.J. Watt had a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber campaign.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 14/1
The Texans have enough overall talent to overcome a feisty Bengals team in Round 1, and a lot of that will be thanks to Watt's interior penetration and the steadiness provided by Foster.
Going on the road to play the Patriots in the second round will be a task that ultimately is too much to handle for Matt Schaub and, most importantly, the Houston defensive backfield.
No, the Texans won't get blown out like they did on Monday Night Football late in the year, but with plenty of time to prepare, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will devise a game plan to win by at least a touchdown.
New England Patriots
The Patriots had an atypical start to their season, as they lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals in late September.
Then, when the rust was scraped off, New England exemplified stable play for the remainder of the year.
Tom Brady had another MVP-quality campaign, and the defense forced the most turnovers in the AFC.
With the first-round bye, the Pats are primed to make a run at yet another Super Bowl appearance.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 15/4
Regardless of who their opponent is in the second round of the postseason, the Patriots have enough offensive firepower and an improving defense to move to the AFC title game.
However, a journey to Denver for a clash with Peyton Manning the Broncos will severely test New England in every face of the game.
Sure, the Pats won rather convincingly in the regular season meeting, but in what will be the ultimate chess match, the Broncos defense will be a major factor and will lead Manning to his third trip to the Super Bowl.
The Broncos are the NFL's hottest team, winners of 11 straight. Peyton Manning shredded nearly every secondary he faced, the running game was consistent enough, and Von Miller will receive some Defensive Player of the Year votes.
With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Broncos are in a wonderful position to reach the Super Bowl.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 3/1
The Broncos will host the AFC title game and will likely play the New England Patriots. Thanks to their remarkable end to the regular season, I like Denver to advance to the Super Bowl.
Adrian Peterson was the headliner in 2012 for the Minnesota Vikings, and frankly, he deserves the MVP award after his 2,097 yards rushing following serious knee surgery.
The defense, led by Jared Allen—who else?—finished smack dab in the middle of the league in terms of total yards allowed and ended with 44 sacks—the fifth-highest total in the NFL.
Riding high off their miraculous run to the postseason, with Peterson running harder than ever before, the Vikings are a scary playoff team.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 35/1
While Peterson will run wild for a third time against the Packers, I just can't envision them beating Aaron Rodgers and Co. in consecutive weeks.
Christian Ponder did make a variety of assertive and accurate throws in the season finale, but he was fortunate on many tosses.
In another thrilling contest, Rodgers is too much for the Vikings secondary, ending a magical and encouraging season for Minnesota.
The Seattle Seahawks are the scariest non-division winner in the NFL playoffs.
Russell Wilson is playing at a level that, to some, is higher than Robert Griffin III, and the entire defense is so ferocious and fundamentally sound.
Marshawn Lynch leads the league's third-ranked rushing attack, and suddenly, Golden Tate and Sidney Rice are a formidable receiving duo.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 12/1
The Seahawks' battle with the Redskins, for my money, is the most intriguing wild-card contest. The two offenses are eerily similar, with plenty of running, some read-option and the propensity to push the ball down field after play-action.
However, on defense, Seattle will slow down RG3 to a certain degree, as the rookie star clearly isn't 100 percent coming off a knee injury.
The front seven will keep Alfred Morris under wraps as well, leading to the Seahawks sixth straight win.
If the Packers beat the Vikings, Seattle will then travel to Atlanta to face Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
In what should be a classic back-and-forth affair, the ground-and-pound running game and big, intimidating corners will be instrumental in a consecutive upset for the Seahawks.
I can't envision them beating the Packers in Green Bay or the 49ers in San Francisco, though.
A fun and wild ride for a franchise on the rise with Wilson under center.
Robert Griffin III is a front-runner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and fellow rookie Alfred Morris should be as well.
RG3 has transformed the Redskins from a mediocre 3-6 team to a scorching-hot division winner.
Under coordinator Jim Haslett, the defense has steadily improved down the stretch, despite losing key players to injury early in the year.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 18/1
The Seahawks and Redskins resemble each other in various ways, but Seattle's defense is simply more balanced from defensive tackle to safety, and RG3 is not 100 percent.
The future is immensely bright in D.C, but the incredible 2012 season comes to a close when Chris Clemons, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Co. slow down Washington's offense in the opening round.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers were the victims of one of the most controversial calls in NFL history, and it cost them a first-round bye in the postseason.
However, Aaron Rodgers had an MVP-caliber season from Week 5 on, and his receiving corps is finally fully healthy.
The defense wasn't as solid as it was two years ago, but Casey Hayward emerged as a lockdown corner in his rookie campaign, and B.J. Raji improved from a disappointing 2011.
If Clay Matthews can be nursed back to health, Green Bay is a dark horse to make another Super Bowl.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 15/2
The Packers are my pick to make the Super Bowl. With his entire complement of wideouts, Aaron Rodgers is as deadly as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. And actually, his ability to throw on the run makes him more dangerous on occasion.
The Packers will squeeze by the Vikings in the first round and will do enough to outlast the 49ers in the divisional round.
By that point, Rodgers and the Packers offense will be absolutely cooking, and they'll be integral in the team advance to their second Super Bowl in three years.
There, we'll witness a quarterback battle for the ages, with Rodgers out-dueling Peyton Manning in a high-scoring thriller.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers went through a quarterback change this year—something that's extremely rare for a team near the top of its conference standings all season.
Colin Kaepernick brings the trendy read-option threat to San Francisco's offense, and although the defense didn't end the year as impressively as it would have liked, if and when Justin Smith returns to the defensive line, the 49ers will have arguably the best defense in the playoffs.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 6/1
The 49ers made life difficult for Aaron Rodgers in the season opener, but the Packers offense has developed back to old form down the stretch in 2012.
Even on the road, I like Rodgers to lead an up-tempo, pass-heavy attack that occasionally features the quietly emerging DuJuan Harris as a runner.
In short, Rodgers plays better than Kaepernick, leading to an upset win for Green Bay.
The Falcons have been rather shaky over the final month of the season, but they did manage to win 13 games—far from an easy task.
Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez were the premier pass-catching trio in football, but the running attack and run defense didn't play as well as Atlanta hoped.
Vegas Super Bowl Odds: 7/1
While many like Matt Ryan to finally win his first playoff game this year, he won't.
The Seahawks pose a hard test for the Falcons offense and especially the Falcons defense. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch will have their way against a team that allowed 4.8 yards per rush during the regular season.
Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will make it difficult for White and Jones to get open down the field en route to a divisional-round upset.