2012 NFL Playoffs: Predicting the Winners
We have reached New Years Day, which means most of the sports world has its focus on college football bowl games. That will soon change, however, as the NFL's best will be competing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
One thing is for sure: last year's champion New York Giants will not repeat, as this year's 8-8 squad failed to make the playoffs a year after winning its second Super Bowl in the Eli Manning-era.
The playoffs will also be without 2-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But three-time Tom Brady and one-time champs Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning remain in the hunt. We even have three rookie quarterbacks attempting to lead their teams to a title and several other quarterbacks who have not sniffed a Super Bowl before.
Let's take a look at the potential matchups for each round and who will ultimately come out on top in the 2013 NFL Playoffs.
Wild Card Week
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Seattle 20, Washington 17: The Seahawks enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the National Football League. Their run mirrors the likes of the last two Super Bowl champions: the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, who got hot at the right time and stormed through the playoffs.
While Seattle is not as good on the road at home, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has gotten a lot better as the season as progressed.
Fellow Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is also not at 100 percent health and that could ultimately prove the difference in this one.
Green Bay 31, Minnesota 20: While the Vikings got the better of the Packers in Week 17 to sneak into the playoffs, this game should have a much different outcome. Green Bay will be playing at home and the experience of Rodgers compared to Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder should be a massive advantage for the 2010 champions.
Adrian Peterson should help keep it close, but look for Green Bay to advance.
Baltimore 28, Indianapolis 24: The Ravens have been up and down this season, mostly due to their many injuries. Defensive stalwart Ray Lewis is expected to be back, however, and this team plays differently when he is on the field.
The Colts have a strong motivation to win for their head coach Chuck Pagano, who has been fighting leukemia this season.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has won at least one playoff game every year in his career, however, and look for that to continue in 2013.
Houston 24, Cincinnati 14: These two teams played in the divisional round in last year's playoffs, with Houston coming out on top. The Texans didn't even have top quarterback Matt Schaub for that game but, this time around, he is healthy. While Houston has struggled down the stretch of the season, Schaub has played well against the Bengals in the past and the Texans offense should have enough firepower to win this one.
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Seattle 17, Atlanta 13: The Falcons had yet another good regular season, but they have yet to prove themselves in the playoffs.
A strong Seattle defense should give quarterback Matt Ryan and his potent offense fits all day long. Ryan is 0-3 in the playoffs and a battle against a red hot Seattle team would not be something he would look forward to.
On the other side of the ball, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch should be able to pound it all day long against a bottom-tier Falcons rushing defense.
San Francisco 31, Green Bay 28: The 49ers were just a couple of plays away from reaching the Super Bowl last year and now have a more potent offense behind Colin Kaepernick, who has since replaced Alex Smith.
The emergence of receiver Michael Crabtree, who turned in a 13-catch, 172-yard, two-TD performance last week, should really help San Francisco in what could be a shootout at Candlestick Park.
The Niners boast a strong defense, but Aaron Rodgers is hard to stop. They also have to worry about a struggling kicking game, but the 49ers should have enough to get back to the NFC title game.
Denver 28, Baltimore 17: The Broncos have been on fire lately, thanks mostly to MVP candidate Peyton Manning. They are the most balanced team in the NFL as they also have a strong defense led by Von Miller. Manning looks destined to get back to the Super Bowl for the third time after missing all of 2011 due to neck surgery.
Baltimore has enough in them to keep it competitive, but Denver should prove too much to handle in this one.
New England 31, Houston 21: When these two teams met in the regular season, the Texans had absolutely no answer for Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Houston bunch is not really playoff tested and will be going up against a head coach and quarterback who have reached five Super Bowls.
This could turn into a bit of a shootout, but look for Brady to nail down a rematch with his old buddy Peyton Manning.
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Seattle 20, San Francisco 14: The two teams met in Week 16 in Washington and the Seahawks absolutely destroyed the visiting Niners.
This one figures to be closer, but there is just something special about this Seattle team. Wilson just gets better by the week and plays with the poise of a ten-year veteran instead of a rookie.
Both of these teams have a very similar style of play and it should come down to the wire, but look for Seattle to emerge victorious.
Denver 35, New England 31: Brady vs. Peyton is something many football fans across the country are hoping for once we hit the AFC Championship game.
The two quarterbacks have a storied history playing big games against each other going back to Manning's days with the Colts. Brady has generally gotten the better of Manning, but now Manning's team is the one with the better defense.
A high-scoring game is still inevitable with whoever getting the ball the likely winner, this season just has a Peyton Manning feel to it.
Super Bowl Sunday
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Seattle 24, Denver 21: If any defense has a chance to stop Peyton Manning's Broncos, it's going to be the Seahawks. They held Denver to 10 points on the road in Week 2 of the season and cored wins over the Patriots, 49ers and Packers this season. The Broncos and Seahawks are much different squads now from Week 2.
They are now the two hottest teams in football heading into the playoffs and it would be a great contest to see on the biggest stage.
Manning has been incredible throughout his career in the regular season, but hasn't always shown his best stuff in the playoffs. If he is a little off, Seattle will have no problem limiting the Denver offense and bringing home the Lombardi Trophy behind their rookie quarterback and strong running game.