Super Bowl Predictions 2013: Latest Predictions for Battle in New Orleans
We have yet to see a minute of divisional-round action in the NFL playoffs this year, but we're already looking ahead to Super Bowl XLVII.
As the field narrows from eight teams to two, let's take a look at how the Super Bowl will look in a few weeks.
AFC Playoff Picture
The AFC has three teams who could realistically make it to New Orleans for the Super Bowl. Obviously every team has a chance, but I think we can rule out an aging, tired Baltimore Ravens team.
This weekend will be very telling; more specifically, the game between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans will be very telling.
The Pats owned the Texans in Week 14, winning 42-14 as Tom Brady sat on the bench for a good part of the fourth quarter. The two will meet in Foxborough once more on Sunday, and we will see Brady for the first time in these playoffs.
I'm going to take the Pats to win this game again, but there will still be lessons to be learned.
If New England blows out Houston again, the Pats will have a great chance of building on momentum and going to the Super Bowl once more. However, if the game is close and taxing on New England, we may see the Broncos in New Orleans.
Speaking of the Broncos, they took the No. 1 seed in the AFC and will be playing against the Ravens on Saturday.
Baltimore comes into the game with a banged-up, tired team. What's worse is that the Ravens rank in the bottom half of the league in passing yards allowed per game, and will be facing a Peyton Manning-led Broncos attack.
Denver has the offensive firepower to light up the scoreboard and cruise into the AFC Championship Game.
If my predictions are correct, we will see another Peyton Manning-Tom Brady playoff game.
Brady beat Manning many times when Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts, but now Manning's Broncos look better than his Colts did.
Denver has a stingy defense that will cause problems for Brady in this game.
The Broncos rank third in the league in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game, while Manning carves up opposing defenses.
The Patriots did score 31 points against Denver in Week 5, but that game was played in Foxborough. This time the teams will play in Denver, where the Broncos have won six straight games (giving up just 13.5 points per game in those contests) and are 7-1 this season.
I see an epic clash between these two teams in store for next weekend, but the Broncos will ultimately prevail because of their success at home.
NFC Playoff Picture
The NFC seems to be wide open right now. Whereas the Broncos and Patriots appear to be on a collision course in the AFC, each of the four teams left in the NFC has a legitimate chance to play in the Big Easy.
It all starts with the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers on Saturday. These two teams met in Week 1, but that contest isn't even close to what we will see this weekend.
Colin Kaepernick will be starting for the 49ers, whereas Alex Smith was the guy in Week 1. Kaepernick's mobility is going to be a huge factor in this game, as the Packers will have to simultaneously take away his throws while also containing him in the pocket.
The Packers will look to Aaron Rodgers to lead them to the promised land once again, but he had a tough time with San Fran's defense in Week 1, throwing for an interception and getting sacked three times at critical moments.
This time the two will play in Candlestick Park, where the 49ers are 6-1-1 this season. With a hostile environment and a tough defense standing before them, I see the Packers offense struggling, while the 49ers win a close game.
The other matchup this weekend comes between Russell Wilson's Seattle Seahawks and Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons had the best record in the NFL this year, but I'm expecting an early exit for them at the hands of arguably the hottest team in the league.
Seattle's defense is going to give Atlanta a lot of problems. Ranking sixth against the pass and 10th against the run, the team will completely negate Atlanta's 29th-ranked run game and will be expecting the pass for most of the game.
Matt Ryan has not played all that well against good teams this season, throwing for just 219 yards against a struggling Broncos team in Week 2.
The Falcons have yet to face a defense like Seattle's. The team cruised through one of the easiest schedules I've ever seen, but will fail to contain a red-hot Russell Wilson who has scored 11 touchdowns and turned the ball over just once in his last three games. It will also struggle to score against Seattle, as the Seahawks pull off the upset.
This leaves the 49ers hosting the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. If you'd have told me that the NFC would be dominated by the NFC West before the season started, I would have called you crazy, but it has been.
In a matchup between two stellar defenses and two mobile quarterbacks, we have already seen how this game will play out.
The 49ers beat the Seahawks by just seven at home when Wilson was struggling and still being held back. However, once he got going, he took down the 49ers, winning 42-13. I see more of the same in the championship game.
Super Bowl XLVII
In a matchup between the seasoned veteran and the talented rookie, Super Bowl XLVII will be played between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
I've been saying that this will be the matchup for a few weeks now, and I'm sticking with it.
We will see two spectacular defenses against two explosive offenses in what promises to be an entertaining game.
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