NFL Playoff Predictions: Projecting Every Matchup, Every Round

Justin EisenbandCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2010

NFL Playoff Predictions: Projecting Every Matchup, Every Round

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after the Patriots won 45-3 against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    As the NFL enters week 14, the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. Most of the teams at the top of the standings were expected to be there. The New England Patriots are just one game from clinching a playoff spot, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, and Baltimore Ravens are all likely to find a way into the post-season this year.

    There have been some surprises in the AFC this year. The well-documented struggles of the Indianapolis Colts have left them at 6-6, not completely out of the playoff picture, but nowhere near the expectations of a Peyton Manning-led Colts team.

    The Kansas City Chiefs have also surprised by taking the league by storm with their rushing attack featuring Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. At 8-4, the Chiefs control their own destiny and can guarantee a playoff spot with two wins over San Diego and Oakland.

    The NFC is somewhat more competitive this year. With eight teams at 7-5 or better, the NFC has looked like the more impressive conference this season. Aside from the Atlanta Falcons, no team seems exceptionally assured if a playoff spot.

    Here are the week 14 NFL playoff predictions all the way to the Superbowl.

AFC Round 1: No. 5 Baltimore Ravens at No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Pittsburgh won 13-10.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Ravens should be able to finish out the season strong after a tough loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Winning three of their last four should push them into a tie with the New York Jets at 11-5 should the Jets lose two more games, a feasible assumption given games remaining against Miami, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. The Ravens, however, hold the tie breaker after beating the Jets in the regular season.

    The Ravens have a history of winning playoff games on the road. As a team full of veterans with playoff experience on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, Baltimore should be able to dominate this game. A far more talented squad, the Ravens should produce an easy win by concentrating on Maurice Jones-Drew and forcing David Garrard to beat them through the air. Joe Flacco will be able to move the ball easily against a Jacksonville secondary that has looked like swiss cheese this year.

    Prediction: Baltimore Ravens win

AFC Round 1: No. 6 New York Jets at No. 3 Kansas City Chiefs

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets against the Baltimore Ravens during their home opener at the New Meadowlands Stadium on September 13, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Jets will get pushed back to the sixth seed, but for now it won't be a big deal. New York will play the AFC West Champions Kansas City Chiefs. Facing off against former Jets running back Thomas Jones, this game will feature one of the best run-stopping defenses in the NFL against one of the best rushing attacks.

    This game could be a lot closer than one would expect. Both teams like to keep the ball on the ground and the game will be significantly shortened. The only thing that could turn this game in the Chiefs favor is a big game by Dwayne Bowe.With Darrelle Revis in coverage though, it is more likely that Bowe gets shut down as he was this past week by Champ Bailey.

    Prediction: New York Jets win

NFC Round 1: No. 6 Chicago Bears at No. 3 New York Giants

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Ahmad Bradshaw #44 of the New York Giants runs the ball against the Washington Redskins on December 5, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Redskins 31-7.  (Photo b
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Giants will likely have to beat Philadelphia at home to take the NFC East, but New York should be able to get it done. Chicago, on the other hand, faces a difficult schedule that includes the Patriots, the Jets, and the Packers on the road that will likely cause them to fall to the wild card spot.

    The Giants and the Bears already matched up this season in game at New Meadowlands Stadium. The Giants dominated that game putting constant pressure on the quarterback and eventually knocking Jay Cutler out of the game.

    Chicago's record this season has been more of a consequence of their easy schedule rather than overwhelming talent. Nine of Chicago's twelve opponents have records of .500 or below.

    New York is simply the more talented team here, and with the home field advantage, the Giants will move on to the next round.

    Prediction: New York Giants win

NFC Round 1: No. 5 New Orleans Saints at No. 4 St. Louis Rams

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 05:  Dree Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with Robert Meachem #17 after they connected for a touchdown pass during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Cincinnati,
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    This playoff game appears to be the least interesting of all the first round matchups. The St. Louis Rams can be proud of winning the NFC West should they beat out the Seahawks for the division, but the Rams would have very little chance at beating the Saints.

    The Rams have yet to beat a team over .500 this season, although to be fair only two of the teams they have played this season are currently over .500. Essentially, the Rams schedule is just so bad that they will find a way into the playoffs, but they are simply not a good team.

    The Saints will roll easily, even on the road, in this game.

    Prediction: New Orleans Saints win

AFC Round 2: No. 5 Baltimore Ravens at No. 1 New England Patriots

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 21:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The AFC will be a battle between four teams for the rest of the season and those four teams will likely all be in the second round of the playoffs.

    The Baltimore Ravens will have to come into a hostile environment in Foxboro to take on the Patriots who have been undefeated at home this season. The Ravens and the Patriots met earlier this year at New England in an overtime game that the Patriots won 23-20.

    Last year, however, the Ravens destroyed the Patriots in the playoffs winning 33-14. After the loss this season Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis charged ""If we see them in the playoffs we will be ready again." With Ed Reed in tow this time, the Ravens will have one of their best defenders back.

    I'll believe Lewis here and give Baltimore the edge in the rematch.

    Prediction: Baltimore Ravens win

AFC Round 2: No. 6 New York Jets at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Pitts
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    This game will feature two of the best defenses in the NFL. Before they meet in the playoffs the Jets will visit Pittsburgh on December 19th to face the Steelers.

    Pittsburgh has played well against strong opponents this season and they have had to as nine of their games have come against opponents who are .500 or better. The Steelers have completely shut down the run this year, a factor the Jets rely on to beat teams.

    New York has certainly developed the passing game this year and the Jets weapons at wide receiver will test Pittsburgh's defense. Still, with how cold it will likely be in January, the passing game will likely be less important in this game.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers win

NFC Round 2: No. 3 New York Giants at No. 2 Green Bay Packers

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    GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 07: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks for a receiver against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on November 7, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 45-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Im
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Another tough matchup to call, the New York Giants will have to travel northwest to play the Green Bay Packers in January.

    The Packers, despite four losses this season, have not lost a single game by more than three points this year, and two of those losses came in overtime. The New York Giants have been a little more inconsistent losing against some weak teams or playing them close.

    Lambeau Field is one of the most difficult places to play in January, and Green Bay will certainly use this advantage. Aaron Rodgers is ready to take the next step in the playoffs and the first rung of the ladder will be against the Giants.

    Prediction: Green Bay Packers win

NFC Round 2: No. 5 New Orleans Saints at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints on the sidelines against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 25, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The AFC South division rivals will meet in round two of the playoffs meeting for the third time this season. The Atlanta Falcons took the first game out of three and the second will be played on the last Monday Night Football game of 2010.

    The Falcons have been one of the best teams in the NFL this season with Roddy White and Michael Turner in particular stepping up for the offense. The Atlanta passing defense, however, has struggled giving up the sixth most passing yards in the league this year.

    Against the New Orleans Saints who have the third best passing offense, this is not a good omen. The Saints match up well against the Falcons and have a little more playoff experience.

    The Saints will take this one and continue their quest to repeat as Superbowl Champions.

    Prediction: New Orleans Saints win

AFC Championship Game: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Anquan Boldin #81 of the Baltimore Ravens catches a pass to score a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter of the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.
    Larry French/Getty Images

    The division rivals will meet again for the third time this season in what has become the best rivalry in football. Proving that defense is what matters in the playoffs, these teams will emerge after difficult matchups with AFC East opponents the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

    As expected, the game will be fiercely contested. Both teams are highly experienced in playoff atmospheres, although Pittsburgh may have the advantage of playing at home in freezing temperatures.

    The x-factors in this game will be Ben Roethlisberger and Anquan Boldin. It may not always be pretty, but Roethlisberger generally finds a way to win when the Steelers need him to pull out a victory. Anquan Boldin has been a major factor in both games against Pittsburgh this season and has been a clear difference maker for Baltimore's offense this season.

    Boldin will be the difference and Baltimore will get back to the Superbowl.

    Prediction: Baltimore Ravens win

NFC Championship: New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers

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    MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 21:  Toby Gerhart #32 of the Minnesota Vikings has the ball jarred loose by Charles Woodson #21 and Brandon Chillar #54 of the Green Bay Packers at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 21, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (P
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The New Orleans Saints enter this game trying to get back to the Superbowl for the second year in a row. Green Bay, on the other hand, will by attempting to get back to the big game for this first time without Brett Favre.

    The Packers running game has struggled somewhat without Ryan Grant this season, but Aaron Rodgers connection with Greg Jennings has reached a new level this season. Defensively, the Packers have taken a big step forward giving up under ten points per game over the last five games.

    New Orleans will likely be a tough matchup. The running game will certainly improve as Pierre Thomas comes back from injury and the offense will be clicking on all cylinders in the playoffs.

    Once again, the Packers will have to rely on home field advantage. There will be more than a few Lambeau Leaps in this game, and Green Bay will make their first trip back to the Superbowl since Brett Favre left giving us yet another reason to talk about Brett Favre.

    Prediction: Green Bay Packers win

Superbowl: Green Bay Packers Vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    28 Jan 2001:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens raises a finger to celebrate after the Super Bowl XXXV Game against the New York Giants at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Ravens defeated the Giants 34-7.Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Ravens will meet in the Superbowl this year in Dallas. Baltimore's defense will try to keep the game a low scoring affair, while Green Bay will attempt to stretch the field with the passing game.

    Both Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco have plenty of playoff experience, but neither of them have been to Superbowl. It's a difficult game to call with both teams playing extremely well this season.

    Baltimore seems to be the most balanced team. With one of the top defenses in the league, an improved passing game, and a top running back in Ray Rice, the Ravens seem like just as good candidate as any to win the Superbowl this year. The combination of experience and talent on both the offensive and defensive ends will give the Ravens the victory in Dallas this season.

    Prediction: Baltimore Ravens win the Superbowl