NFL Playoff Predictions and Seedings as of Now
With only one week left, the blurry playoff picture all of a sudden has become clearer.
Pretenders have fallen and the contenders have found their place squarely in the playoff picture, hoping for a deep run and a chance at the Super Bowl.
Let's predict the playoff seedings and results of the month-long tournament, culminating with the selection of the Super Bowl participants and winner.
AFC Playoff Seedings
No. 1 Seed: New England Patriots (AFC East Champions, 13-3)
No. 2 Seed: Baltimore Ravens (AFC North Champions, 12-4)
No. 3 Seed: Houston Texans (AFC South Champions, 10-6)
No. 4 Seed: Denver Broncos (AFC West Champions, 9-7)
No. 5 Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC Wild Card, 12-4)
No. 6 Seed: Oakland Raiders (AFC Wild Card, 9-7)
NFC Playoff Seedings
No. 1 Seed: Green Bay Packers (NFC North Champions, 14-2)
No. 2 Seed: San Francisco 49ers (NFC West Champions, 13-3)
No. 3 Seed: New Orleans Saints (NFC South Champions, 13-3)
No. 4 Seed: New York Giants (NFC East Champions, 9-7)
No. 5 Seed: Detroit Lions (NFC Wild Card, 11-5)
No. 6 Seed: Atlanta Falcons (NFC Wild Card, 10-6)
AFC Wild Card Matchups
No. 6 Oakland Raiders Beat No. 3 Houston Texans, 24-10
If the Houston Texans had Matt Schaub and Mario Williams on the field, I think the Texans would easily defeat the Raiders.
However, with Andre Johnson also ailing and Darren McFadden possibly coming back, I see veteran QB Carson Palmer leading his team to victory over rookie T.J. Yates.
No. 5 Pittsburgh Steelers Beat No. 4 Denver Broncos, 31-20
This game might be played in the Mile High City, and Tim Tebow might be clutch during the last few minutes of most games, but he is not good enough to master the Steelers defense.
With Ben Roethlisberger healthy, I see the Steelers easily beating the Broncos and punching their ticket to Baltimore.
NFC Wild Card Matchups
No. 3 New Orleans Saints Beat No. 6 Atlanta Falcons, 27-24
The Atlanta Falcons are one of the hottest teams in the league and have found a new star in Julio Jones.
However, Drew Brees' firepower and weapons will prove to be too much for the Falcons defense, and the Saints will beat Atlanta for the third time this year.
No. 4 New York Giants Beat No. 5 Detroit Lions, 34-30
Eli Manning vs. Matthew Stafford. Both of these quarterbacks have proven to be top quarterbacks in the league and have found two of the best young wide receivers in the league in Victor Cruz and Calvin Johnson, respectively.
In an offensive shootout, Manning wills his Giants past the resurgent Lions as he scores on a last-second drive to win a superb game.
AFC Divisional Matchups
No. 1 New England Patriots Beat No. 6 Oakland Raiders, 38-17
I know New England has one of the worst defenses in the league.
But how is Oakland going to stop Tom Brady on the road?
I do not think the Raiders have a chance against the Patriots in this game, especially if the snow is falling hard in Foxboro. The Patriots will be back in the AFC Championship Game.
No. 2 Baltimore Ravens Beat No. 5 Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-14
The Ravens have struggled against the Steelers in the past. However, this year feels different, with Baltimore sweeping their division rivals in the regular season.
I see T-Sizzle, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed highlighting Baltimore's defense and harassing Big Ben all game, leading their team to a huge victory.
NFC Divisional Matchups
No. 1 Green Bay Packers Beat No. 4 New York Giants, 42-38
This is a rematch of a highly entertaining regular season game in Week 13, where Green Bay was tested and needed to score a late field goal to beat the Giants.
In the end, I see New York actually having a late fourth-quarter lead at Lambeau Field, with only three minutes remaining.
However, Rodgers will throw a picture-perfect pass to Jordy Nelson to make the score 41-38, with the extra point adding one more.
No. 3 New Orleans Saints Beat No. 2 San Francisco 49ers, 31-27
As a 49ers fan, this is hard to do, but San Francisco simply does not match up well with New Orleans' vaunted passing attack.
San Francisco has the best rush defense in the league, but they will have their hands full with Drew Brees.
In addition, I do not think Alex Smith and Frank Gore will score enough points to take down a veteran team in New Orleans.
Conference Championship Matchups
No. 2 Baltimore Ravens Beat No. 1 New England Patriots, 20-14
Both of these teams are filled with veterans and ate battle-tested.
I think the Ravens will find themselves in their first Super Bowl since 2000.
Baltimore's top defense will carry them past yet another playoff opponent, and Tom Brady will be deprived of a chance at a fourth Super Bowl.
Joe Flacco puts up a heroic second-half performance, affirming himself as better than advertised.
No. 1 Green Bay Packers Beat No. 3 New Orleans Saints, 45-42
The Saints had a very close encounter with the Packers in Week 1, when they lost to Green Bay 42-34 and almost scoring the tying touchdown.
However, I think the Saints will struggle with the difficult conditions of Lambeau Field in January.
Aaron Rodgers will have a virtuoso playoff performance, throwing for four touchdowns and playing mistake-free football throughout.
Ryan Grant will play a bigger role than many consider, and he will rush for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Super Bowl XLVI
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Green Bay Packers, winning their second Super Bowl by the score of 37-31 in overtime.
Super Bowl XLVI will be one of many firsts, including the first one to go into overtime.
"Cool Joe" Flacco will play his best game of the playoffs, easily picking his places against the putrid Green Bay defense, with Ray Rice also rushing for 140 yards.
Aaron Rodgers will also have a solid game, throwing for three touchdown passes and leading the Packers back in the fourth quarter, forcing overtime.
In the extra session, Torrey Smith will end the game with a 60-yard bomb from Flacco as Baltimore fans celebrate along with Ray Lewis going out on a positive note.