Everyone has their own idea of how the playoffs will pan out. I must admit I have a history of being wrong, which means, technically, I always know who is going to win—whoever I think is going to lose.
So below you will find my version of what is going to happen in this year’s NFL playoffs (team in bold wins), with a brief explanation of each game.
I welcome discussion and debate as to your thoughts, of course.
NFC Wild Cards
Matt Ryan has played great football all season long, and the media has anointed him as the reason for Atlanta’s success—him or Mike Smith, that is.
The reason the Falcons will win this game happens to be the real reason for their success this year, Michael Turner (the best free agent pick up last year, hands down). He is the league's second-leading rusher and, as anyone who knows football will tell you, you can’t win in playoffs without a running game...and guess who doesn’t have one? The Cardinals.
Momentum can be a hell of a catalyst in the NFL and I can’t imagine any team picking up more of it than the Eagles after absolutely destroying the Cowboys to get in the playoffs.
The Vikings have the best running back in the NFL in Peterson and they are playing at home but you have to think McNabb is just too high after a win like that to come back down.
AFC Wild Cards
Peyton Manning is now back to his old self just as I predicted he would be. After missing training camp it took some time to get his timing back with his teammates now that he has, look at that nine straight wins. Manning is unquestionably the best leader in the NFL and most valuable player to his team, Colts win.
It should be an interesting game. The Dolphins solid offense against Ravens solid D and Ravens weak passing game against the Miami’s weak passing D. Pennington’s accuracy wins out and Flacco’s youth is exposed as the Dolphins win at home.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
The Giants will prove that Plaxico Burress once and for all in a playoff atmosphere that they do not live and die by Plaxico Burress. Not to mention the combination of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward will overwhelm the Eagles defense, giving Eli Manning plenty of room to work with, which similar to his brother, is not a good thing for Philly fans.
Great matchup; this will be the third time these teams have played each other this year—they split the first two. The difference will be Carolina’s stingy defense at home shutting down Turner’s ability to change the game. Carolina wins a close one.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Tennessee’s anemic passing offense and inability to come from behind will be end their season as Manning gets the Colts off to a much needed quick start on the road. Manning’s team is getting hot at precisely the right time of year.
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite the Steelers having the more talented team, and probably the best defense in the NFL, a banged-up Roethlisberger (including a concussion suffered in their season finale) and a underachieving Willie Parker won’t be able to put up enough points to come away with a victory.
One big play is going to determine this game, and don’t be surprised to see it come from Ted Ginn Jr., who has been playing well as of late.
NFC Championship Game
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants
DeAngelo Williams has become a machine, a touchdown machine to be more precise. With at least one touchdown in eight of the Panthers' last nine games (and probably one in their win over Atlanta) he has become automatic. And, in the playoffs, big plays, especially in the running game, can demoralize a team.
While Jacobs is bound to score, it’s likely to be a two-yard push into the end zone. Williams is more likely to be a back-breaking 65-yarder following a Giants field goal, the kind of play that can win you a game on the road. The Panthers make only their second Super Bowl appearance.
AFC Championship Game
Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins
I feel like every time I get to a Colts game I find myself writing “Peyton Manning” every other word, but—guess what?—Manning is that good, as far as I’m concerned, and he will yet again be the reason the Colts make it back to the Super Bowl, shredding apart a Dolphins secondary that was untested by the Ravens and Steelers.
Super Bowl XLIII
Carolina Panthers vs. Indianapolis Colts (In Tampa, Fla.)
One of the best offensive rushing teams (Panthers) against one of the worst rushing defenses (Colts) and one of the best passing teams and quarterbacks in the game (Colts/Manning) up against a middle-of-the-pack pass defense (Panthers)—it should make for quite an exciting game.
Surprisingly, I think the score will be lower than you would think. The Panthers will try and pound the ball and keep possession while Manning probably won’t take many home run shots down field and just methodically move the ball.
Time of possession will be important but turnovers will most likely determine the winner and with both teams on the positive side (Ind: +9 Car: +6), one big play this time on the defensive side wins this game.