NFL Playoff Scenarios: Could the NFC West Really Win the Super Bowl?
We are almost done with Week 15 of the NFL season and there is not a lot of time left for teams on the outside to make up ground and get in to the playoffs.
Teams like Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville will have a lot of work to do in the last two weeks and hope that they get some help in order to make the postseason.
Indianapolis, Philadelphia and the New York Jets all got huge wins and did a lot to cement their places in the postseason.
Things are almost completely in place with a couple more teams clinching their spot in the playoffs and a few more teams needing one more win or one more loss from another team in order to get in. Whatever the scenario, things have indeed started to take shape and we are one step closer to learning who will be competing for a trip to Dallas on February 6th.
For a breakdown of all the playoff games, as I believe that they will be, and predictions on who will be playing in Super Bowl XLV keep reading on...
AFC East Champions: New England Patriots
The Patriots can wrap up the AFC regular season crown with a victory in week 16 over Buffalo. I am going to go ahead and give them that win and the AFC as a result.
The road to Dallas will run through New England for the fourth time in the last seven years.
Tom Brady is having an MVP-caliber season and will likely win the award going away.
The team has seemed to gel as time has gone on. The defense started out the year very sluggish and they still give up a lot of yards, but they don’t allow teams to score.
Things are looking good for the Patriots going into the postseason.
AFC North Champions: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers clinched a playoff spot despite their loss to the Jets thanks to a number of tiebreaking scenarios that I still don’t completely understand.
Watching the game with the Jets it’s very apparent that this team needs Troy Polamalu if they hope to make a deep run in the postseason. He changes everything about their defense and if he’s out for any length of time Pittsburgh will be in trouble.
The offense has been struggling for a few weeks now and that will be an issue come playoff time. Fortunately they still have a couple weeks left to work things out.
AFC South Champions: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were able to fight off Jacksonville and take control of their own destiny in the AFC South. If both teams win out, Indianapolis gets the tiebreaker.
It will be a really good story for this team given all the injuries that they have suffered this season.
They have Peyton Manning under center and that will give them a chance to win almost any game that they are in. Unfortunately this team is not strong enough on the defensive side or in the running game to support Manning.
If this Colts team makes a deep run, it will be a miracle and testament to just how great Peyton Manning really is.
AFC West Champions: San Diego Chargers
San Diego needs to win out and have Kansas City lose one of their final two games in order to take the AFC West title.
The Chiefs have a relatively easy schedule on paper (home to Tennessee and Oakland) but I think that they will trip up in one of those games and the Chargers will win both of their games (at Cincinnati, at Denver).
The Chargers could be the most dangerous team to make the playoffs. Their offense is one of the best in football, led by Philip Rivers. The defense isn’t too bad either, they rank 1st in opponent pass yards and 3rd in opponent rush yards.
Watch out for San Diego in January.
AFC Wild Card: Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore can still win the AFC North if they win out and the Steelers stumble in one of their final two games. The Ravens would love to win the division and get that bye-week but right now odds aren’t in their favor (Pittsburgh finishes with Carolina and Cleveland).
The defense has come under some scrutiny lately and deservedly so. They had a meltdown against Houston a couple of weeks ago and they gave up a lot of points in week 15, but at least that was against a Saints team that came into the game scoring over 30 points in five straight games.
Ray Rice finally broke out against the Saints to the tune of 153 yards rushing. If this team wants to get to the Super Bowl they will need him to play at that level the rest of the year.
AFC Wild Card: New York Jets
After two very bad weeks, the Jets got back on track with a much needed victory over Pittsburgh in week 15. Things still aren’t all roses in New York. The offense only scored one touchdown and still doesn’t look sharp.
They can clinch their playoff spot with a win in week 16 against Chicago or with some help in other places.
If the Steelers lose the AFC North title and finish with the same record as the Jets, then New York will be the fifth seed as a result of their head-to-head victory.
NFC East Champions: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles got a HUGE victory over the New York Giants in week 15 and have all but clinched the NFC East as a result. If they win one or the Giants lose one, the Eagles win the division.
They won’t have the best record in the NFC, but they will likely be the team to beat. They have as many playmakers as any team in football. They are very well coached, Andy Reid has done a remarkable job with the team this season.
The road to the Super Bowl will likely go through Atlanta in the NFC, but the Eagles are the team to beat.
NFC North Champions: Chicago Bears
It will take a small miracle for Chicago to lose the NFC North. Green Bay, the favorite before the season, blew their shot last week when they lost to Detroit and then fell even further back when they lost to New England.
Chicago has made some big strides this year. Offensively Jay Cutler hasn’t been killing the team with the interceptions like he did last year. Defensively Julius Peppers has been a great pickup and made this defensive line great.
They aren’t particularly good on offense but they do enough to win some games. If they can play great defense in the playoffs they can go deep.
NFC South Champions: Atlanta Falcons
A lot of people liked the Falcons before the season started. It’s doubtful that those people liked them to be as good as they have been. They have the best record in the NFC at 12-2, and are tied with the Patriots for best record in the NFL.
They aren’t great in any one area but they are good at everything. Matt Ryan is great in a two-minute situation when he needs to drive his team down the field.
This team is very, very good and it doesn’t feel like they have peaked yet. If they get home-field advantage they will be very difficult to beat. Matt Ryan is 19-1 at home since being drafted in 2007.
NFC West Champions: St Louis Rams
I really don’t want to analyze the NFC West because it is such a joke, but I am obligated to say something about them.
They will be really good in another year or two, that’s about the best I got.
Sam Bradford has put together a very good rookie season and looks like he will be a star for the Rams for the next ten years. They will win the division by default because apparently someone has to.
They will get a home game and that will be nice for their fans but they will lose. They aren’t strong enough to compete with good teams yet.
NFC Wild Card: New Orleans Saints
The Saints hit a bit of a speed bump against the Ravens in week 15, but they are still one of the most dangerous teams going into the playoffs.
They will likely be a wild card and have to win all their games on the road since they are two games behind Atlanta with two left to play.
The offense has been playing great for the last seven weeks. They look like the team that won the Super Bowl last season.
The defense is starting to show cracks, they have given up a lot of points four weeks. If they continue to struggle it will be very difficult for the Saints to repeat as champions.
NFC Wild Card: New York Giants
The Giants blew a golden opportunity against Philadelphia in week 15. If they win, they would have had the inside track on the NFC East division and a home game in the playoffs.
They had an epic collapse and are left shaking their heads wondering where things went wrong. This team is so hot and cold, they could make a deep run in the playoffs or they could lose their first game by two touchdowns.
If the Giants can stay out of their own way they will be very dangerous. I look forward to seeing how they respond in week 16 after that game against the Eagles.
AFC Wild Card Round: San Diego Chargers Vs New York Jets
This is a rematch of last year’s AFC divisional playoff round when the Jets shocked the world and upset the heavily favored Chargers.
Every year we think that the Chargers are going to breakout and get to a Super Bowl. They have as much talent as any team in the league but they always play down to their competition.
The Jets need to find some spark on offense. Mark Sanchez has struggled the last three weeks and the running game, which was so critical for them last year, has disappeared this year. LaDainian Tomlinson started the season strong but has worn down as time has gone on.
I don’t see a way that the Jets can hang with the Chargers in this game unless that once vaunted defense, which has shown some cracks this year, plays at the level they were playing at last year.
Prediction: San Diego 30 New York 17
AFC Wild Card Round: Indianapolis Colts Vs Baltimore Ravens
Another rematch from last year’s AFC divisional round.
Indianapolis is the most banged up team coming into the playoffs and they have a lot working against them. Their defense is susceptible to the run and the pass. They have little success running the ball, though they did get a lot of yards against Jacksonville in week 15.
So why do they have a chance in this game?
Two reasons: First, they have Peyton Manning and even through all the struggles that they have had this year they have been competitive in almost every game and he is why.
Second, they are playing at home and they are a different team when they are playing in Indianapolis. They are built on their speed and the surface at Lucas Oil Stadium plays to that strength perfectly.
The Ravens seem to still be looking for their identity. They want to run first and pass second, but they have abandoned that at times this year. If Ray Rice can be the dominant player that he was last year, it will open up the pass and make this team dangerous.
The defense has taken some lumps this year but don’t bet against Ray Lewis in January.
Prediction: Baltimore 20 Indianapolis 17
NFC Wild Card Round: Chicago Bears Vs New York Giants
Given these two teams track records, this could be one of the ugliest playoff games that you will ever see.
Assuming that both teams bring their A-game this could be one of the most physical playoff matchups that we will see this year.
The Bears have found an identity on defense once again with Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. If they are going to win, Jay Cutler will have to step up his game and get the ball in his playmakers hands. Guys like Devin Hester and Matt Forte will need to have a big game for the Bears to win.
The Giants defensive line could have a field day. The Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in football and New York has one of the best defensive fronts in all of football. If they can get through, they will make it difficult for the Bears to find any rhythm on offense.
So long as Eli Manning doesn’t throw stupid interceptions, as he is, won't do, the Giants should roll into Chicago and get a victory.
Prediction: New York 24 Chicago 14
NFC Wild Card Round: St Louis Rams Vs New Orleans Saints
I tried to think of a way in which St Louis could win this game and I can’t do it. No disrespect intended, but New Orleans will run all over the Rams in this game.
Prediction: New Orleans 38 St Louis 13
AFC Divisional Round: Pittsburgh Steelers Vs San Diego Chargers
Can San Diego travel to a cold weather stadium and win in January?
Typically west coast teams do not perform well on the east coast, especially in frigid temperatures. If there is a player that is tough enough to lead his team to victory in these conditions it would be Philip Rivers.
They will need Rivers and Antonio Gates to have big days and the defense will have to make Ben Roethlisberger move out of the pocket.
For Pittsburgh, the key will be to establish Rashard Mendenhall on the ground and use that fast, attacking defense to get after Rivers and disrupt his throws. If they can frustrate Rivers early and get a quick lead it could be a long day for the Chargers.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 24 San Diego 20
AFC Divisional Round: New England Patriots Vs Baltimore Ravens
New England will use this game to try and avenge their embarrassing loss in last year’s AFC wild card round when Ray Rice ran all over the defense and the offense had no rhythm to it in that 33-14 thrashing.
When the two teams met earlier this season, the Ravens blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead and the Patriots won 23-20 in overtime. That was really the spark for the Patriots. They have gone 8-1 since that game and have never looked stronger then they do right now.
Baltimore will need Joe Flaaco to make a couple big plays and Ray Rice will have to be effective so they can control the clock and keep Tom Brady and co. off the field.
If the Patriots have a weakness it’s their defense, particularly their secondary. The Ravens have the weapons on the outside to burn the Patriots.
Will Bill Belichick be able to game plan to stop the Ravens offensive threat?
Prediction: New England 28 Baltimore 20
NFC Divisional Round: Philadelphia Eagles Vs New York Giants
The Eagles get the bye and the home-field for this game because of their victory over the Giants in week 15.
Michael Vick has been reborn this year and will try and continue his magical season against a very tough Giants defense. They need to get out to a fast start on offense and make Eli Manning have to beat them. They have the weapons to strike at anytime from anywhere on the field and they know how to beat the Giants.
The Giants want to establish the run with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw and keep running the ball until the other defense is worn out.
The defense will have to contain Michael Vick, which will in turn negate all those playmakers that the Eagles have on the outside. They have the D-line to do it, it’s just a question of whether or not they can execute it.
Prediction: Philadelphia 28 New York 20
NFC Divisional Round: Atlanta Falcons Vs New Orleans Saints
These two division rivals will meet for the third time this season in the divisional playoff round. They had a great game in week 3 that Atlanta won after New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley missed a chip shot field goal in overtime (their second game will be in week 16).
Atlanta has been great at winning games this year and they never lose at home. Matt Ryan is 19-1 in 20 home starts since being drafted in 2007. This could be the game where he gets talked about among the great quarterbacks in football, like his counterpart in this game Drew Brees.
If the game is close at the end and Atlanta has the ball expect them to win, they do it every time.
New Orleans can make a big statement in this game after having that exhibition against St Louis the week before. Drew Brees knows that this secondary has some holes in it and he loves to feast on a weak secondary. The defense will have to step up and make a play late in the game for them to win.
Prediction: New Orleans 31 Atlanta 30
AFC Championship Game: New England Patriots Vs Pittsburgh Steelers
A game between the two most successful teams of the last 10 years, they have combined to win 5 of the last 10 Super Bowls.
These teams played earlier in the season and New England ran all over them. The final score was 39-26 but the game wasn’t that close, Pittsburgh scored a bunch of those points in garbage time. Look for New England to do what they did in that game, use short quick passes to set up throws down the field. Tom Brady knows how to play against this defense as well as anyone.
Pittsburgh will study that week 10 game and try to change everything about it. They were humiliated on their own field and want to play New England to get revenge for that loss.
Can the Steelers defense contain Tom Brady?
No one has been able to up to this point, but if any team can it’s Pittsburgh.
Don’t count on it though.
Prediction: New England 27 Pittsburgh 21
NFC Championship Game: Philadelphia Eagles Vs New Orleans Saints
This game could turn into a shootout.
The Eagles have as many big play threats as anyone in football. They have the most dynamic playmaker in football, Michael Vick. They have great receivers, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, a great tight end, Brent Celek. They have one of the most underrated runners in the NFL, LeSean McCoy.
The Saints aren’t too bad themselves. They have Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Jeremy Shockey, Lance Moore and Chris Ivory.
Things could get very interesting very quick in this game. Expect whoever has the ball last to win this one.
Prediction: Philadelphia 35 New Orleans 31
Super Bowl XLV: New England Patriots Vs Philadelphia Eagles
It all comes down to this.
Brady Vs Vick.
Belichick Vs Reid.
This could be one of the highest scoring Super Bowl’s of all time, the current record is 75 combined points in Super Bowl XXIX.
Arguably the two best quarterbacks in football in 2010 meeting to decide who will be Super Bowl champion.
Will Brady get his fourth championship?
Can Vick finish his magical season with a Super Bowl title?
This will be a very fast-paced game that could go either way. In this situation it’s difficult to bet against Brady and Belichick because they have done it so often. They seem more determined and driven then they ever have to get back to the Super Bowl and stick it to all the people that thought the Jets were better then them.
Philadelphia came from nowhere to be in this position. They started the year with a new quarterback, Kevin Kolb. When he got hurt early in week 1, Michael Vick came in and everything took off for the Eagles. They were supposed to take a step back this season without Donovan McNabb, instead they will compete for the Lombardi Trophy in Dallas.
Prediction: Philadelphia 36 New England 33
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