2011 NFL Predictions: The 12 Teams Headed to the Playoffs

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IAugust 19, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: The 12 Teams Headed to the Playoffs

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    Each and every NFL team enters the 2011 season with the same lone goal. The goal to bring back the Lombardi Trophy to their franchises' respective city.

    Fans and players alike all have the belief that their franchise has done enough throughout a long and strenuous lockout and free agency to assure that they put the best possible team on the field.

    All 32 teams enter the year with an equal shot at Lombardi Trophy, but by January, only 12 will be remaining. Here are the teams that are heading to the playoffs this season. 

AFC East Champion: New England Patriots

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    The established powerhouse known as the New England Patriots will continue their decade of dominance with another AFC East title.

    Led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, New England possess one of the most dangerous offenses in all of football. They also boast defensive stars Vince Wilfork, Jared Mayo and Devin McCourty.

    Despite a tough schedule that pits them against elite teams such as the San Diego Chargers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Indianapolis Colts, the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants and division rival New York Jets, Bill Belichick and crew will once again prove why they are the best team in the NFL since 2000.

     

    FINAL RECORD: 13-3

AFC North Champion: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The greatest franchise in NFL history will be a dominant force again in 2011. Fresh off an AFC Championship, the Pittsburgh Steelers will look to end the streak of disappointing seasons after a Super Bowl appearance.

    Pittsburgh boasts a tough quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, a terrific running game in Rashard Mendenhall and a high end receiving corps, but their ultimate strength is their lethal defensive unit.

    The Steelers possess the best linebackers in football, in James Harrison, Lamar Woodley, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons, along with All-Pro safety Troy Polamolu.

    Pittsburgh should have another fantastic season in 2011 and should win the AFC North, just beating out arch rival Baltimore Ravens

     

    FINAL RECORD: 11-5

AFC South Champion: Indianapolis Colts

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    The Indianapolis Colts have dominated the AFC South for the last decade, and they will continue to own the division this year.

    Led by one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, Peyton Manning, Indy is one of the most dangerous offenses in football.

    The Colts were a banged up team for most of last season, as they lost Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Joseph Addai to injuries throughout the year.

    The Colts should be a force throughout the regular season, and they will just edge the Houston Texans and claim their rightful spot as division champions.

     

    FINAL RECORD: 11-5

AFC West Champion: San Diego Chargers

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    Despite losing the division for the first time in years last season, the San Diego Chargers remain one of the true powerhouses in a compact AFC.

    They possess one of the most feared offenses in all of football, as they claim elite quarterback Philip Rivers, young stud running back Ryan Mathews, star wide receiver Vincent Jackson and top tight end Antonio Gates.

    The San Diego defense is also one of the best in the NFL, as they ranked first in all of football last season. Now that the Chargers have fixed their special teams, they should cruise through the AFC West and claim the division title with ease.

     

    FINAL RECORD: 12-4 

AFC Wild Card No. 5: New York Jets

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    Fresh off two consecutive AFC Championship appearances, the New York Jets have established themselves as Super Bowl frontrunners. Led by brash head coach Rex Ryan, New York is one of the most hated teams in all of football.

    The Jets offensive weapons are among the top in football, as they have Santonio Holmes, Shonn Greene, Plaxico Burress, Ladanian Tomlinson and Derrick Mason at young quarterback Mark Sanchez's disposal.

    Gang Green's defensive unit is also one of the best in the NFL, as they have ranked in the top four in each of Rex Ryan's first two seasons. The Jets should have some bumps throughout the regular season but will do enough to claim the first wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs.

     

    FINAL RECORD: 11-5

AFC Wild Card No. 6: Houston Texans

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    The Houston Texans have been the sexy pick in the preseason for years but have always come to disappoint their fans, despite their outstanding talent. But this season, Houston will finally manage to put it all together.

    Led by arguably the best QB-RB-WR tandem in football, in Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and explosive wideout Andre Johnson, the Texans should emerge as one of the top offenses in the NFL.

    Houston was mainly let down by their struggling defense last season, but with the addition of star cornerback Jonathan Joseph, the unit should hold serve and give the young franchise their first ever postseason appearance.

     

    FINAL RECORD: 10-6

NFC East Champion: Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Philadelphia Eagles are the most hyped team in years, as they have established themselves as Lombardi Trophy front-runners after an amazing free agency.

    They acquired defensive stars Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Cullen Jenkins, and have made themselves the most feared teams in football.

    The Eagles main strength is their outstanding speed. Elite quarterback Michael Vick, star running back LeSean McCoy and young, talented wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are among the fastest players in the NFL.  

    Philadelphia's explosive offense and outstanding defense should carry them throughout the regular season and help them claim the tough NFC East division.

     

    FINAL RECORD: 12-4

NFC North Champion: Green Bay Packers

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    The defending Super Bowl Champions will dominate the NFC North in 2011. The Green Bay Packers are fresh off their fourth Lombardi Trophy, and with the talent they possess, a repeat could be in store.

    Green Bay owns arguably the best quarterback in the game today in Aaron Rodgers, as well as star running back Ryan Grant and elite wide receiver Greg Jennings.

    The Packers defense is also one of the best in the game, led by the last two Defensive Players of the Year, Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews.

    Green Bay could easily sweep the division and cruise to the NFC North title this season, while also claiming home field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

     

    FINAL RECORD: 14-2

NFC South Champion: New Orleans Saints

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    Fresh off a shocking playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks last season, the New Orleans Saints will enter 2011 with a chip on their shoulder.

    The franchise arguably claim the most dynamic and explosive offense in football, led by former Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.

    New Orleans normally partake in high scoring and highly entertaining games, and they should once again emerge as one of the NFL's powerhouses and win one of the toughest divisions in football by just edging out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.

     

    FINAL RECORD: 12-4 

NFC West Champion: Arizona Cardinals

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    The Arizona Cardinals had no quarterback last season, and they paid the price for that mistake. Arizona went from first to worst in the NFC West, as they fell to a horrific 4-12.

    This offseason, the Cardinals fixed their problem area by trading for young quarterback Kevin Kolb. Arizona finally has a dangerous offense, and the duo of Kolb and star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald should be one of the most feared in football in 2011.

    The Cardinals should benefit from an easy schedule and a below average division and claim the NFC West. 

     

    FINAL RECORD: 9-7

NFC Wild Card No. 5: New York Giants

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    DeSean Jackson returned a punt for a touchdown last season, capping off an unbelievable comeback, while silencing the New York Giants playoff hopes.

    This distressed the Big Blue fan base and put the once great franchise's head coach on the hot seat. This season, the Giants will be under a lot of pressure to make the postseason, or they will lose the title of New York's football team.

    Their quarterback, Eli Manning, can struggle at times, but the Giants possess enough talent on both sides of the ball to emerge out of a thick NFC Wild Card race and claim a postseason spot.

     

    FINAL RECORD: 10-6 

NFC Wild Card No. 6: Atlanta Falcons

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    The Atlanta Falcons had a terrific regular season last year, but a disappointing home playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers ended their Lombardi Trophy hopes.

    This offseason, Atlanta fixed their problem areas, as they drafted premier prospect receiver Julio Jones with the No. 4 in the draft and claimed elite pass-rusher Ray Edwards through free agency.

    The Falcons possess a terrific offense, led by young stud Matt Ryan, bruise Michael Turner and elite wide receiver Roddy White.

    The Falcons will have a few bumps throughout the regular season, but they should emerge as the last team in the NFC playoffs, just edging out the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

     

    FINAL RECORD: 10-6

AFC Playoff Predictions

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    Wild Card Round

    Jets defeat Steelers in Pittsburgh

    Colts defeat Texans in Indianapolis

     

    Divisional Round

    Jets defeat Patriots in New England

    Chargers defeat Colts in San Diego

     

    Championship Round

    Chargers defeat Jets in San Diego 

NFC Playoff Predictions

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    Wild Card Round

    Saints defeat Falcons in New Orleans

    Giants defeat Cardinals in Arizona

     

    Divisional Round

    Giants defeat Packers in Green Bay

    Saints defeat Eagles in Philadelphia

     

    Championship Round

    Saints defeat Giants in New Orleans

     

    Super Bowl

    Chargers defeat Saints in Indianapolis