Road to the Super Bowl: AFC Playoff Predictions

David ArreolaSenior Analyst IDecember 29, 2008

Welcome, my friends, to my little slice of the giant pie that is playoff predictions.

I love this time of year because we all have an opinion on it. We all make the predictions; we all have our Super Bowl picks.

There is something far more exciting about correctly picking the entire playoffs than the entire regular season.


Because most of our teams didn't make it and we have to have someone to root for. So why not your pick?

Anyway, I will break down the NFC and AFC playoffs for you and give you my prediction. I will also review each playoff round every week for your reading pleasure.

So you have chosen the AFC breakdown. Here is how it stands. You all know the rules, the higher seed is the home team and the top two seeds get a first round "bye."

1) Tennessee Titans (13-3)
2) Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
3) Miami Dolphins (11-5)
4) San Diego Chargers (8-8)
5) Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
6) Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

Wild Card Round

(6) Baltimore Ravens @ (3) Miami Dolphins

Why the Ravens will win:

Defense. No secret here.

The Ravens defense will dominate every game they play in. The offense will only have to put up around 21 points to win, because the defense won't allow anything more than that.

The Ravens running game is heating up at just the right time against a team that is a little high on their recent success.

Why the Dolphins will win:

Home field advantage. The speed of the Dolphins won't be affected by any in-climate weather and they could break a few plays on the Ravens.

Pennington is the quarterback I would choose to face the Ravens defense because of his excellent decision-making. Also, the Dolphins defense could make life difficult for young Joe Flacco.

The Pick:

I like this game, in that it has two teams that didn't expect to be here in training camp. Well, at least everyone outside of Ray Lewis, who has said he was meant to play professional football for this season and this season alone. Almost like destiny.

Ravens win a defensive struggle, 17-7.

(5) Indianapolis Colts @ (4) San Diego Chargers

Why the Colts will win:

Momentum is no joke, and the Colts have it all. Manning is playing some of the best football I've ever seen him play and the defense is stepping up at just the right time.

Addai is just coming out of his slump and the injuries are subsiding. The Colts' offense could make life difficult for the Chargers.

Why the Chargers will win:

The Chargers always save their best football for last. Just look at how they pummeled the Broncos on Sunday night. While I think L.T.'s best days are behind him, that doesn't mean Rivers won't take control of this game.

The Chargers defense has a good history against Peyton Manning, which could make a difference.

The Pick:

The Chargers are an eye sore. You look at the beautiful records of the AFC playoff teams, no team worse than 11-5. Except the 8-8 Chargers.

The Colts outscore the Chargers in a high scoring game 45-31.

Divisional Round

(6) Baltimore Ravens @ (1) Tennessee Titans

Why the Ravens will win:

Defense. Defense. Defense. I can't say it enough. There is no defense in the league that can match the intelligence and speed of this defense.

Flacco must play within himself and not sling the ball around, because if they get down in Tennessee; they will stay down.

Le'ron McClain and Willis McGahee must produce at least 100 yards combined.

Why the Titans will win:

The Titans defense will get at least two picks on Flacco. It is up to Flacco to decide at what stage in the game he wants to throw them.

I think the Titans pass game is doomed with Ed Reed reading Kerry Collins' every move.

Therefore Lendale White and Chris Johnson will have to carry this offense.

The Pick:

Both quarterbacks will be liabilities to their teams, meaning the two tandems of running backs will decide this game.

In the fourth quarter, I think the Ravens defense will be able to stop the Titans more than the Titans stopping the Ravens.

Ravens in OT 20-17.

(5) Indianapolis Colts @ (2) Pittsburgh Steelers

Why the Colts will win:

If Roethlisberger is out, the defense will have a fun time with Byron Leftwich.

I think he will be back, so that won't happen.

Manning will have to avoid going deep, because this Steelers defense will take advantage of any play calling that seems too eager.

Why the Steelers will win:

Defense. Defense. Defense. With the weather on their side, it is likely Manning's effectiveness will be reduced.

The Steelers offense has only to put up 20 points and this game is theirs.

The Pick:

With the wind and snow all around, the Colts will have to rely on Addai; who will not be able to go anywhere against the Steelers.

Steelers win 23-16.

AFC Championship Game

(6) Baltimore Ravens @ (2) Pittsburgh Steelers

Why the Ravens will win:

They are almost identical in every way to the Steelers, except they have a rookie quarterback leading them.

The defense will have to force mistakes early if they want the offense to have a chance.

I think a couple of big returns by Jim Leonhard set up Flacco for short scoring drives.

Why the Steelers will win:

Roethlisberger is the difference. If he has a solid game, he will certainly outplay Flacco.

The Steelers defense will have the crowd behind them and that goes a long way. The Steelers receivers will try to run short routes against the Ravens to avoid picks.

The Pick:

I think this game is just as close as the match these two had earlier in the year. I think the Ravens get a lead late in the fourth. While driving for the game-winning touchdown, Roethlisberger will turn the ball over. Courtesy of the Ravens defense.

Ravens win 16-10.

The Ravens will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.