NFL Playoff Predictions 2014: Teams Sure to Advance Past Wild Card Round

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NFL Playoff Predictions 2014: Teams Sure to Advance Past Wild Card Round
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With one week to go in the 2013 NFL season, fans know exactly where each team stands were the playoffs to start today.

There is plenty to still be decided in Week 17, including the No. 6 seed in the AFC and everything in the NFC, but as things appear now, there are several teams playing in the opening act of the postseason sure to advance, provided the matchup based on current seeding.

Here is a look at how the entire postseason will play out, with a focus on three teams sure to advance past the Wild Card Round based on current seeding if the playoffs started now.

 

Current Standings
NFC AFC
1 Seattle Seahawks (12-3) 1 Denver Broncos (12-3)
2 Carolina Panthers (11-4) 2 New England Patriots (11-4)
3 Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) 3 Cincinnati Bengals (10-5)
4 Chicago Bears (8-7) 4 Indianapolis Colts (10-5)
5 San Francisco 49ers (11-4) 5 Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
6 New Orleans Saints (10-5) 6 Miami Dolphins (8-7)
7 Arizona Cardinals (10-5) 7 Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
8 Dallas Cowboys (8-7) 8 San Diego Chargers (8-7)
9 Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) 9 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)
10 New York Jets (7-8)

ESPN

 

Full 2013-14 NFL Playoff Predictions
Wild Card Round: January 4-5, 2014 Home (Seed) Away (Seed) Projected Winner
AFC Cincinnati Bengals (No. 3) Miami Dolphins (No. 6) Bengals
Indianapolis Colts (No. 4) Kansas City Chiefs (No. 5) Colts
NFC Philadelphia Eagles (No. 3) New Orleans Saints (No. 6) Eagles
Chicago Bears (No. 4) San Francisco 49ers (No. 5) 49ers
Divisional Round: January 11-12, 2014 Home (Seed) Away (Seed) Projected Winner
AFC Denver Broncos (No. 1) Indianapolis Colts (No. 4) Broncos
New England Patriots (No. 2) Cincinnati Bengals (No.3) Patriots
NFC Seattle Seahawks (No. 1) San Francisco 49ers (No. 5) Seahawks
Carolina Panthers (No. 2) Philadelphia Eagles (No. 3) Panthers
Conference Championships: January 19, 2014 Home (Seed) Away (Seed) Projected Winner
AFC Denver Broncos (No. 1) New England Patriots (No. 2) Patriots
NFC Seattle Seahawks (No. 1) Carolina Panthers (No. 2) Panthers
Super Bowl XLVIII: February 2, 2014 AFC NFC
New England Patriots Carolina Panthers Carolina Panthers

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San Francisco 49ers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers currently hold the No. 5 seed, which is a great spot to be in were the playoffs to start this weekend. San Francisco can still finish as high as the top seed in the NFC, but for now it is a wild-card team.

This would place the 49ers in a matchup with the Chicago Bears, owners of the NFL's worst defense that just allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to rush for 289 yards in a Week 16 massacre, where the Bears lost at home 54-11.

That is great news for San Francisco, owners of the NFL's No. 3 rushing attack that averages 141.2 yards per game.

As Eagles Insider illustrates, the Bears defense allows running lanes such as this:

Suffice it to say, Frank Gore (1,114 yards and nine scores in 2013) would have no issues racking up yardage given room like that.

San Francisco is one of the hottest teams in the NFL after winning five straight, so if the team is destined for the Wild Card Round, it is hard to imagine the 49ers losing.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of those Philadelphia Eagles, who just dropped a 50-burger on Chicago, Chip Kelly's team has the look of one ready to make a run. 

This is in part because the Eagles are red hot having won six of seven and because their Sunday Night Football game to close the season is a bout with the Dallas Cowboys—a team that may be without its starting quarterback, per NFL.com's Judy Battista—for the NFC East crown.

Quarterback Nick Foles (2,628 yards and 25 scores in 2013) has the right attitude about the contest, per the team's official website:

This is why you play the game. You play for meaningful games at the end of the season. In the NFL, it’s for the playoffs. In high school, it’s to get to the state championship. In college, you want to go to a big bowl game. This is what you play for all season, and it’s a special time.

As it stands now, the Eagles would be tasked with playing at home against the New Orleans Saints, a superhuman team when playing on their own field but miserable on the road.

The Saints are 3-5 on the road this season, and while they tout an impressive offense, they have scored more than 20 points just once in five road losses in 2013. More than 20 will not be happening away from their comfort zone in the elements with everything on the line.

Like the 49ers, it is hard to see the Eagles losing in the opening round, but this is especially the case against New Orleans.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals can still grab the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17 paired with outside help, but right now Marvin Lewis' team would be forced to play in the opening round and host the Miami Dolphins.

Which projected wild-card team is a lock to advance?

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The Bengals and Dolphins met on Thursday Night Football in Week 9 in Miami, where the Dolphins won in overtime by a safety.

Much has changed since then, namely the Bengals being one of the NFL's hottest teams, while Miami was shut out 19-0 in Week 16 by the 6-9 Buffalo Bills.

Like the teams above, Cincinnati is simply too hot to lose in the Wild Card Round—especially at home. The Bengals are 7-0 at Paul Brown Stadium this year and have scored 40 or more in their last four.

As Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer illustrates, that is a big deal:

The Bengals are a top contender and will not be taking a bow out of the postseason in the Wild Card Round like they have the past two years.

 

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