NFL Playoff Predictions: Projections for Every Postseason Game

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IDecember 17, 2011

NFL Playoff Predictions: Projections for Every Postseason Game

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    With the playoffs just weeks away, its time for some predictions on possible matchups in January. 

    Although more than 20 teams are still alive, the true contenders have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. The Green Bay Packers are a lock for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, while the Texans have already clinched a weak AFC South.

    Will the Saints meet the Packers this January?

    Can the Jets make another postseason run?

    Can the Ravens finally get over the hump?

    Find out this and more, as I project and provide predictions for every NFL playoff matchup. 

AFC Playoff Seeding

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    1. Baltimore Ravens (13-3): Baltimore owns the tiebreaker for the top seed in the AFC, and with an easy schedule ahead, they should win out.

    2. New England Patriots (13-3): The Patriots will take care of their weak remaining opponents and clinch a first-round bye.

    3. Houston Texans (12-4): T.J. Yates and the Texans will slip up once in the final three games, and it will cost them a first-round bye.

    4. Denver Broncos (10-6): The Broncos have a very manageable schedule after New England visits, so they should be able to hang on in the AFC West.

    5. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3): Despite a stellar record, the Steelers have to settle for a Wild Card spot due to their two head-to-head losses against Baltimore.

    6. New York Jets (10-6): The Jets will collapse once, but will still manage to cling to the last playoff spot in the AFC. 

Wild Card Round: Jets at Texans

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    The Texans' first-ever playoff game will be against a team that is used to being in must-win contests.

    The Jets have just fallen short of the Super Bowl in two consecutive seasons, so Rex Ryan and company will be eager to finally get over the hump this season.

    Houston has still managed to play well after the loss of starting quarterback Matt Schaub to IR earlier in the year. The Texans will rely on the ground game, led by explosive running back Arian Foster, to lead them to playoff wins.

    The Texans and Jets possess two of the best defenses in football. These two defensive units should be able to pressure the opposing team's quarterback and force them into mistakes.

    The difference will be T.J. Yates' inability to stay composed against Rex Ryan's wild blitz packages. The rookie quarterback will commit some key turnovers, and Houston's first playoff appearance will end in heartbreak. 

    Prediction: Jets 17, Texans 13

Wild Card Round: Steelers at Broncos

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    Tebowmania will come to an abrupt end in the first round of the playoffs.

    Denver will be extremely hot heading into this matchup at home. The Broncos' defense has been terrific in recent weeks, and Tim Tebow and the offense have come through in the clutch.

    The Steelers will be even hotter, though, as they will be winners of eight straight. Ben Roethlisberger and company will be determined for another Super Bowl appearance.

    Tebow will be dominated by a stifling Pittsburgh defense, and the Broncos will not be able to keep up with the Steelers' offense on the other side of the ball.

    The inexperience and the lack of offensive balance costs Denver, as they get destroyed in Mile High in early January. 

    Prediction: Steelers 27, Broncos 10

Divisional Round: Jets at Ravens

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    The Divisional Round contest between the Jets and Ravens will be a slug-fest.

    Both franchises boast vaunted defenses, terrific running games, brash head coaches and inconsistent quarterbacks. Any time these two AFC powerhouses meet, the game is a hard-hitting and highly entertaining one. 

    Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez will be under intense pressure all night, and whichever quarterback adjusts accordingly will succeed. 

    A last-minute mistake by Sanchez will be the difference, as it costs the Jets another AFC Championship appearance and sends the Ravens to the next round.

    Prediction: Ravens 23, Jets 21

Divisional Round: Steelers at Patriots

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    The AFC playoffs keep getting better, as two of the NFL's greatest franchises meet in the Divisional Round. 

    Tom Brady will be under intense scrutiny after two straight postseason collapses, so he is sure to give his finest effort.

    The Steelers will be reliant on Ben Roethlisberger and the pass attack in Foxborough against a porous New England secondary.

    The game will be a high-scoring one that will come down to the final minutes. Eventually, it is Tom Brady who steps up and sends the Patriots to the AFC Championship. 

    Prediction: Patriots 31, Steelers 23

Championship Round: Patriots at Ravens

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    Last year we saw the Jets and Steelers battle in the AFC Championship.

    This year we witness the Patriots and Ravens. Both of these teams possess what the other does not.

    The Ravens boast a formidable defensive unit, while the Patriots own a weak defense. Baltimore has a dynamic running game, while New England has an inconsistent one. The Ravens have a struggling quarterback, and the Patriots have Tom Brady.

    This crucial contest has a lot of mismatches, but it will ultimately be the underwhelming play of Joe Flacco that puts Baltimore into a massive hole. 

    Tom Brady will take advantage of terrific opportunities and will send the Patriots to their first Super Bowl since 2007.

    Prediction: Patriots 27, Ravens 21

    AFC Champion: New England Patriots

NFC Playoff Seeding

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    1. Green Bay Packers (16-0): Is perfection even a question now?

    2. New Orleans Saints (13-3): Drew Brees breaks the passing yards record and leads New Orleans to a first-round bye. 

    3. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): The 49ers relinquish the first-round bye after a tough loss to the Steelers this week. 

    4. New York Giants (9-7): Big Blue stuns the Cowboys in the final week of the regular season to claim the division.

    5. Atlanta Falcons (10-6): With the Lions and Bears both in a free-fall, the Falcons are a lock for the playoffs.

    6. Detroit Lions (9-7): Detroit continues to struggle, but it outlasts injury-ridden Chicago for the final spot in the playoffs. 

Wild Card Round: Lions at 49ers

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    A postseason rematch of "the handshake heard 'round the world" is sure to create a lot of media buzz, but both these teams will enter the playoffs really struggling.

    Detroit's inexperience and lack of discipline have cost them key wins. Though their roster is stockpiled full of raw talent, this team lacks veteran leadership and authority figures.

    The 49ers were the talk of the NFL a couple weeks ago, but have they actually beaten anyone good? San Francisco has a big playoff game to prove that they're for real.

    This matchup will be a slug-fest, with each team hitting hard and playing intense football. The difference will be the Lions' superb aerial attack, as the 49ers' shaky secondary will struggle to defend the Lions' many weapons. 

    Alex Smith does not have the talent nor the weapons to keep up with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson for four quarters. 

    Prediction: Lions 27, 49ers 16

Wild Card Round: Falcons at Giants

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    The Wild Card round matchup between Eli Manning's Giants and Matt Ryan's Falcons will be one of the best games of the postseason. Both teams possess terrific quarterbacks and explosive offensive weapons that can shred opposing defenses. 

    The Falcons' defensive strength is their run-defense, while New York's is its formidable pass-rush. 

    Ryan and Manning will go toe to toe in a shootout the entire way through, but ultimately it will be Eli who prevails. The fact is that the former Super Bowl MVP is the more clutch quarterback. 

    The Falcons suffer another disappointing loss despite a tremendous performance from Michael Turner, and the franchise leaves fans thinking if Matty Ice is the superb, young quarterback they thought he was. 

    Prediction: Giants 27, Falcons 24

Divisional Round: Lions at Packers

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    This one could, and will, turn into an absolute drubbing.

    The Packers are the best team in the league. No defense on the planet can slow Aaron Rodgers and his numerous offensive weapons—especially not the Lions' mediocre secondary.

    Green Bay's defense has had some struggles, but the unit still forces the most turnovers in the league.

    Despite the playoff win in San Francisco, the Lions do not possess the talent on either side of the ball to keep up with Green Bay. Matthew Stafford can turn into an interception machine at times, and that does not bode well going up against the Packers' opportunistic secondary.

    Expect a blowout in Lambeau to move the Pack to 17-0. 

    Prediction: Packers 34, Lions 13

Divisional Round: Giants at Saints

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    Eli Manning and the Giants head to the Big Easy for a huge playoff battle with the Saints.

    New Orleans is clicking on all cylinders, as the amazing Drew Brees and his potent weapons are tearing apart opposing defenses. The Saints' defense can struggle against the run and pass at times, though, and this often keeps opponents in it. 

    Big Blue will be looking for revenge after being embarrassed on Monday Night Football by the Saints earlier this year. Eli Manning will play lights-out and keep New York in it, but ultimately the dome-field advantage—as well as the prolific New Orleans passing attack—will be too much for the Giants. 

    Prediction: Saints 34, Giants 27

Championship Round: Saints at Packers

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    Here it is, the rematch everybody wanted to see.

    Two of the league's most explosive offenses will go toe to toe against two inconsistent defenses in a game that will most definitely be a shootout. 

    Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers will both throw more than 40 times, and each will go for more than 300 yards. The momentum will go back and forth all night, but ultimately it will be Drew Brees who comes out on top.

    Breesus manages to drive down the field late using his most valuable targets (Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles and Marques Colston) and shocks the undefeated Packers with a game-winning touchdown. 

    Prediction: Saints 41, Packers 38

    NFC Champion: New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl: Saints vs. Patriots

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    The NFL will continue its current run of classic Super Bowls with a shootout between the Saints and the Patriots.

    Both New Orleans and New England have significant concerns on defense, so this will allow two of the league's best quarterbacks—Drew Brees and Tom Brady—to rack up points at will.

    Eventually, it will be Brees who outclasses Brady, as he drives down the field to score in the final moments—just like the NFC Championship.

    Brees outplays three Super Bowl MVPs in three consecutive weeks to lead New Orleans to its second Lombardi Trophy in three years.

    With the win, the Saints' quarterback moves into the discussion of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. 

    Prediction: Saints 31, Patriots 27

    Super Bowl Champion: New Orleans Saints