Here we go. 2011 starts off with some good, old-fashioned football: the NFL playoffs.
Starting next Saturday and Sunday are the wild card games and then the divisional games and then so on.
A couple upsets might be on tap, but most teams are coming in very hot.
Here are the the 12 teams in the playoffs: In the NFC are the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears. In the AFC there are the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens.
Here are my predictions for every playoff game including the Superbowl.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, this will be a very, very, very tough game. The Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West at a record of 7-9, the first team to ever win their division below .500. The Saints won the wild card game and are out of the NFC South conference.
These teams met in November, and the Saints dominated the Seahawks, winning 34-19. The Seahawks are one of the worst teams statistically in the NFL and will probably get torched by quarterback Drew Brees.
The only thing that gives the Seahawks some sort of advantage is home field. Home won't help the Seahawks too much though, unless their defense plays like they did against the Rams (which wasn't that hard of an offense to stop) and if they can get the run game going.
Likely, the Seahawks will lose, and it might be an ugly game to watch.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints 28 Seattle Seahawks 10.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick
Now this game could actually be considered a playoff-caliber game.
The Philadelphia Eagles have star quarterback Michael Vick taking snaps. Vick can run the ball with amazing speed and then throw the ball like any other great quarterback in the league.
The Eagles also have running back LeSean McCoy, who has over 1,000 yards rushing and almost 600 yards receiving. He averages 5.2 yards per carry and can definitely be a huge part of this game.
Eagles defense needs to step up and stop Aaron Rodgers, which is easier said then done. Rodgers is having an incredible year for the Green Bay Packers, passing for almost 4,000 yards and 28 interceptions.
If not for so many injuries, the Packers could be the powerhouse in the NFC and maybe even the NFL. The problem with the Packers is not enough balance; they don't have much of a run game and their defense is just average.
My prediction for this game: Eagles 23 Packers 21
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning
This is an AFC Championship game rematch from 2010 when the Colts destroyed the Jets 30-17. But this could be a different game with the Colts injuries and depleted run game.
The Jets have a very good defense again this year that will have to stop one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, if not the best. But this time it might be easier because of all the injuries to the Colts, especially on the offensive side of the ball at receiver and running back.
The running game for the Jets will have to step up big time in this game if they want to get the win, because Mark Sanchez can't carry the team by himself.
Peyton Manning has the whole Colts team resting on his shoulders for this game, because of the terrible run game that almost means nothing to the Colts anymore. But maybe there can be some life to the running game, if running back Joseph Addai can step up and do something running the ball.
The defense for the Colts is also banged up and has looked bad at points in the season, but Sanchez, who is a decent quarterback, will have a tough time against a pretty good Colts pass defense. The run defense needs to stop the two-headed combo of Ladainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene.
My prediction for this game: Colts 20 Jets 13
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis
This is sure to be another interesting game, with a very good offense against a very good defense, AKA the Kansas City Chiefs against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Chiefs have a very balanced attack, with quarterback Matt Cassel having a good season and running back Jamaal Charles having a breakout season, rushing for over 1400 yards. Another weapon for the Chiefs is wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who is a huge target and has over 1100 yards receiving.
But the Chiefs face a very tough defense and probably the best in the league: the Baltimore Ravens. They have a defense that could easily stop the run, and a secondary that cause problems with the pass game too.
If the Ravens want to win this game, the offense will need to step up. Quarterback Joe Flacco is having a good year; he can tear it up and will have to against the Chiefs. Running back Ray Rice also needs to have a big game for the Ravens to win.
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 24 Kansas City Chiefs 10
Falcons wide receiver Roddy White
In the NFC divisional round is a great game between NFC south rivals, the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. This is also a great quarterback battle between Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.
The New Orleans Saints beat the Falcons in Week 16 to clinch a spot in the playoffs, even with Brees having just an average day. But this time around he will have to do a lot more than average. The Falcons are out for revenge and are trying to make the Superbowl to win it for the first time in franchise history.
The Saints defense has to stop Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner, who will not fumble at the 1-yard line again like in Week 16.
But the Saints could pull out this win if the running game can improve, and if running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas can break off big runs, then the Saints can win this game.
I still expect the balanced attack of the Falcons to pull away in this game.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints 21 Atlanta Falcons 27
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson
Going into this game, the Chicago Bears had a week off, while the Philadelphia Eagles had a game the week before, but I don't think that's going to matter much.
The Bears offense can be very anemic at times and look like a very confused bunch. But what's holding them with some of the best teams in the NFL is the defense.
The rushing attack of the Eagles will have a tough time running against this defense, but if Michael Vick can throw the ball like he's done all year, the Eagles can pull away with this game.
What the Bears need to do to have a shot in this game is to have running back Matt Forte run the ball and get the run established as much as possible. If they get that done, then maybe quarterback Jay Cutler can do something with the passing game.
Also watch out for special teams in this game; both teams have great returners in DeSean Jackson and Devin Hester.
My prediction for this game: Philadelphia Eagles 24 Chicago Bears 17
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
This is another great matchup in the AFC, with maybe the best defense against probably the best offense in the NFL.
On the defensive side of the ball there is the Baltimore Ravens, and on the offensive is the New England Patriots.
Unfortunately for the defense, they are going up against the best quarterback in the league right now, Tom Brady. And with Brady behind center, defenses defend the pass almost all the time and then get caught against the run.
The "Law Firm," also known as BenJarvus Green-Ellis, has had a pretty good year and could make the Ravens defense pay for paying attention so much to the pass.
What the Ravens need to do if they want to pull off the upset is to have a balanced attack between quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice. The only problem is that the Patriots defense has been on a role lately and could possibly shut down these two players.
My prediction: New England Patriots 31 Baltimore Ravens 20
The Pittsburgh Steelers come into this game with a week off, and this will really help them against a banged-up Indianapolis Colts team.
The Colts will still have quarterback Peyton Manning under center, but I don't see that as enough for the Colts to beat the Steelers.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been on a hot streak and is connecting very well with home run threat wide receiver Mike Wallace, who could make or break a game at any time.
The Colts secondary won't stand much of a chance and will have a tough time the entire game protecting from the pass.
Only thing keeping the Colts in this game is the genius in Manning who will have a great game, but it will just not be enough.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Indianapolis Colts 17
Falcons running back Michael Turner
In the NFC Championship game, two very good offenses face off against each other, but one team, in my opinion, will have the right defensive plan to shut down the offense; that is the Atlanta Falcons.
We all know that this could get high scoring, but I seriously think with a good running back who gets a lot of carries during games, Michael Turner, the Falcons can control the game clock and keep the Eagles offense off the field.
Also, when the Falcons have to pass, they have their quarterback Matt Ryan, who is doing a phenomenal job this year and will probably keep it up during the playoffs.
The Eagles, though, will have their opportunities on offense and will capitalize on some of them, but I have a feeling the Falcons defense will step up when needed.
Quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy will have both pretty good games, but not enough to beat this very balanced attack and defense of the Falcons.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 23 Philadelphia Eagles 14
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
This is going to be a very good game with a lot of points scored on both sides.
Both quarterbacks are playing as well as anyone, but Tom Brady will have a little bit more in him than Ben Roethlisberger at the end.
The Patriots will have to stop the run, which isn't that hard against the Steelers, but will also have to face a very tough defense against the Steelers.
Ball-hawking safety Troy Polamalu will be all over the field reading Brady, but will have a tough time because of how many reliable targets Brady has and how hot Brady has been.
The run will also get going for the Patriots, but overall I expect this game to be very close and maybe even decided in overtime.
But again, watch out for receiver Mike Wallace, who could switch the momentum anytime during the game.
Prediction: New England Patriots 38 Pittsburgh Steelers 31
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan
Going into this game, the New England Patriots are probably heavy favorites by a touchdown or 10 points, but I have to go with the underdog in the Super Bowl and choose the Atlanta Falcons.
Tom Brady will have a good game, but I don't think the run game will be there to help support him, and the Falcons will take advantage of that.
Patriots defense will also have a hard time with the balanced attack of the Falcons. The Falcons can run the ball with Michael Turner or throw the ball with Matt Ryan to big-time-play wide receiver Roddy White.
I do expect this game to be a high-scoring affair and maybe have shades of the 2008 Super Bowl when the New York Giants beat the Patriots, but I am going on a limb and a very long one at that.
Overall, I expect the Falcons to control the game clock to the point where Brady has to make plays at so few opportunities.
My prediction for Super Bowl XLVI: Atlanta Falcons 27 New England Patriots 24