NFL Playoff Predictions 2014: Projecting Postseason Berths and Wild Card Round

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NFL Playoff Predictions 2014: Projecting Postseason Berths and Wild Card Round
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You want playoff scenarios? Oh baby, we've got playoff scenarios.

You want Wild Card Round predictions? Yep, we've got them, too.

With seemingly endless permutations for playoff seedings and wild card teams, 13 of the 16 games in Week 17 have possible postseason implications. If that doesn't get you all giddy, well, you probably clicked on the wrong article.

Below, you'll find predictions for the final postseason seedings in each conference and predictions for the Wild Card Round. Get excited, people!

 

NFC

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Seeding Predictions

1. Seattle Seahawks

2. Carolina Panthers

3. Philadelphia Eagles

4. Chicago Bears

5. San Francisco 49ers

6. New Orleans Saints

 

Seeding Analysis

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The Seahawks need only to beat the St. Louis Rams or have the San Francisco 49ers lose one more game to clinch the top seed in the NFC, so it's hard to see them dropping the home-field advantage. Of course, if they lose to the Rams and the Niners win out, the Seahawks would drop to the No. 5 seed.

But that seems unlikely, especially since the Niners face a very stiff test next weekend against an Arizona Cardinals team still capable of reaching the playoffs with a win and Saints loss.

The Philadelphia Eagles are going to win the NFC East. I'll leave it to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN to explain why:

Without Tony Romo—and with a history of losing key games in December—the Cowboys will lose the final game of the regular season with the NFC East title on the line for the third straight year.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear if Aaron Rodgers will return for the Green Bay Packers when they face the Bears with the NFC North on the line. But in Chicago—and let's be honest, most likely without Rodgers—the Packers will come up just short this season.

Expect both the Niners and Saints to win and fill out the wild card spots, while the Panthers will win and earn the No. 2 seed. Who saw that one coming at the beginning of the year?

 

Wild Card Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles over New Orleans Saints

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If you don't think the Eagles can beat the Saints in Philly, remember this: The Saints are 7-0 in New Orleans and 3-5 on the road. Not only that, but they've lost five straight road games.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have won four straight at home and, should they beat Dallas, would come into the playoffs having won seven of eight down the stretch. Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy are having career years, the defense is playing just good enough and Chip Kelly has this team really believing in itself.

This game will likely be a shootout, but the Saints just aren't nearly as good away from New Orleans. Philly edges out the Saints in this exciting matchup.

 

Wild Card Prediction: San Francisco 49ers over Chicago Bears

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After watching the Bears get curb-stomped 54-11 against the Philadelphia Eagles, does anyone think Chicago would stand a chance against the imposing and physical Niners?

Here's another way of looking at it: In my scenario listed above, the Niners win out. If they do, that means they'll head into the playoffs having won six straight and 11 of their last 13 games. Nobody would want to face them—that much is for certain.

But here's the definitive way of looking at this matchup: The Niners are fifth in rushing offense and are at their best when they pound the rock. The Bears have the worst run defense in the league and would struggle to force Colin Kaepernick to beat them through the air. 

It's hard to see the Bears beating the Niners, even at home.

 

AFC

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Seeding Predictions

1. Denver Broncos

2. New England Patriots

3. Cincinnati Bengals

4. Indianapolis Colts

5. Kansas City Chiefs

6. Miami Dolphins

 

Seeding Analysis

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There's a myriad of possibilities of how the AFC might shake out, but expect the simplest solutions to prevail. The Broncos will beat a poor Oakland Raiders team and clinch the top seed in the AFC. The Patriots will beat the Buffalo Bills at home and earn the No. 2 seed.

The Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed, so they'll rest starters and will lose to the San Diego Chargers. More on that in a minute. And the Colts, hoping to earn the No. 2 or No. 3 seed, will dispatch the Jacksonville Jaguars with ease.

Now, here is where it could get complicated: the Bengals hosting the Baltimore Ravens. It won't, though, because the Bengals are 7-0 at home and won't take the Ravens lightly with the potential to earn the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. 

That will eliminate the Ravens from the playoffs, since the Dolphins will beat the New York Jets at home. Remember, Miami beat the Jets 23-3 in New York. With everything on the line, they'll recover from a brutally disappointing Week 16 loss to the Bills.

 

Wild Card Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals over Miami Dolphins

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The Dolphins did beat the Bengals 22-20 in overtime in Week 9, but two things should be kept in consideration: That game was in Miami, and it was a Thursday night game, which seemed to spawn some truly odd results this season. 

Should the Bengals beat the Ravens in Week 17, they'll hit the playoffs peaking as a team and winning four of their past five games. With revenge on the mind, a nasty defense, offensive balance and a deadly home-field advantage, the Bengals will move on to the divisional round.

 

Wild Card Prediction: Indianapolis Colts over Kansas City Chiefs

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Before Week 16, most people would have predicted a Chiefs win in this potential matchup. But then the Colts went into Kansas City and slapped the Chiefs around, winning 23-7 and perhaps reminding folks that they are still a contender worth taking seriously. 

The Colts have been a bit tough to figure out this season. After starting 6-2—with wins over the Niners, Seahawks and Broncos—the Colts then lost three of their next five games. But assuming they beat the Jaguars in Week 17, they'll be heading into the playoffs on a three-game winning streak. 

With Andrew Luck under center, though, the Colts still have to be taken seriously. And later in the season, it's become obvious that the Chiefs benefitted a bit by an easy early-season schedule. Since starting 9-0, they've gone 2-4.

The Chiefs are a solid team with a good defense, a game-changer in Jamaal Charles and both a quarterback (Alex Smith) and head coach (Andy Reid) with playoff experience. Unfortunately, if the Colts can slap them around in Kansas City, it's hard to see what would change when they faced them in Indy.

 

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