NFL Playoffs 2014-15: Schedule and Bracket Projections for Every Postseason Team

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIDecember 30, 2014

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

The excitement of the NFL postseason is in the air, and we have narrowed down this year's Super Bowl champion to just 12 teams.

In the league's single-elimination playoff format, it doesn't take long for that already small field to decrease rapidly. After all, following Sunday's action, four teams will have already been eliminated. Before we know it, the AFC and NFC representatives to Super Bowl XLIX will come to fruition.

At this point in the year, speculation runs rampant across the Web, as analysts feverishly decipher which team has the upper hand in each contest in an effort to decide which squad will ultimately hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February. That's exactly what we're doing here.

Although, before we get to the full postseason predictions, let's first take a look at the complete playoff schedule.

Playoff Schedule

Playoff Schedule
DateTime (ET)MatchupTV Info
Wild Card Round
Sat., Jan. 34:35 p.m.Arizona Cardinals at Carolina PanthersESPN
Sat., Jan. 38:15 p.m.Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh SteelersNBC
Sun., Jan. 41:05 p.m.Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis ColtsCBS
Sun., Jan. 44:40 p.m.Detroit Lions at Dallas CowboysFox
Divisional Round
Sat., Jan. 104:35 p.m.BAL/CIN/IND at New England PatriotsNBC
Sat., Jan. 108:15 p.m.DET/ARI/CAR at Seattle SeahawksFox
Sun., Jan. 111:05 p.m.DAL/CAR/ARI at Green Bay PackersFox
Sun., Jan. 114:40 p.m.CIN/PIT/IND at Denver BroncosCBS
Conference Championship
Sun., Jan. 183:05 p.m.NFC Championship GameFox
Sun., Jan. 186:40 p.m.AFC Championship GameCBS
Super Bowl
Sun., Feb. 16:30 p.m.Super Bowl XLIXNBC

Postseason Predictions

Wild Card Round

Wild-Card Predictions
Carolina PanthersArizona CardinalsPanthers
Pittsburgh SteelersBaltimore RavensRavens
Indianapolis ColtsCincinnati BengalsBengals
Dallas CowboysDetroit LionsCowboys
Sean O'Donnell's picks

It's easy to like the surging Carolina Panthers over the Arizona Cardinals. Carolina is playing its best football of the season right now thanks to a resurgent defense that hasn't allowed more than 17 points in any of its last four games. Considering that unit is about to take on the inaccurate Ryan Lindley, it's tough to back the Cardinals in this one.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are favorites over the Baltimore Ravens due to their superior offense; however, they may be missing a crucial element when these AFC North foes face off on Saturday, as Around the NFL tweeted that things look bleak for running back Le'Veon Bell:

Around The NFL @AroundTheNFL

'Doesn't look good' for Le'Veon Bell to play vs. Ravens http://t.co/DsVdtTjGgw

Without the prolific ball-carrier in the fold, Pittsburgh's offense will become one-dimensional and Baltimore's dangerous front seven will be able to focus on pressuring Ben Roethlisberger rather than containing Bell.

The Indianapolis Colts offense has been a big out of sync of late, and the Cincinnati Bengals have the ability to keep that trend going. By utilizing running back Jeremy Hill, the Bengals will keep the Colts offense on the sidelines and out of rhythm. Once Andrew Luck gets the ball in his hands, Cincinnati's ball-hawking secondary will be waiting.

The Dallas Cowboys are simply too well-rounded on the offensive side of the ball to be denied by the Detroit Lions defense. Making matters worse for the visiting team is the upcoming suspension of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for intentionally stepping on the leg of Aaron Rodgers, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

The @NFL suspends Ndamukong Suh without pay for 1 game, per a league spokesman. It is termed a “non-football act.”

Without Suh in the fold, Detroit's chances of containing DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo and Co. take a severe hit.

Divisional Round

Divisional Predictions
New England PatriotsBaltimore RavensPatriots
Seattle SeahawksCarolina PanthersSeahawks
Green Bay PackersDallas CowboysCowboys
Denver BroncosCincinnati BengalsBengals
Sean O'Donnell's picks

The Ravens may have been able to overtake an injured Steelers team, but it will be a different story against a New England Patriots squad playing in Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady has been prolific this season, and he'll have a field day against a battered Ravens secondary in this matchup.

A showdown between the Panthers and Seattle Seahawks won't result in many points. Both defenses are extremely stout, but Seattle has been more consistent on the offensive side of the ball. That will give the Seahawks the upper hand as they come away with the win.

Dallas travels north to take on the Green Bay Packers in a battle of two prolific offenses. The difference-maker here is the Cowboys' ability to stop the run while Green Bay struggles in that department. Lots of DeMarco Murray will keep Aaron Rodgers from putting up gaudy numbers as Dallas takes a close one.

A rematch of a Week 16 showdown, the Bengals meet Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos once again. The last time these teams met, Cincinnati picked off Manning four times. While the team may not accomplish that again, it proved to have the recipe for success against the Broncos, and that will lead to another win.

Conference Championship

Conference Predictions
Seattle SeahawksDallas CowboysCowboys
New England PatriotsCincinnati BengalsPatriots
Sean O'Donnell's picks

The NFC Championship Game marks an epic clash of the league's best defense against a red-hot offense. Dallas has the talent to put up points on the Seahawks, so it's up to Seattle's offense to keep pace. Without a potent passing attack, the Seahawks won't be able to take advantage of Dallas' biggest defensive weakness, and that will lead to a Cowboys win in a very close contest.

Cincinnati put up a valiant effort to get to this point, but it doesn't have a good enough offense to keep up with the Patriots. Well-rounded on both sides of the ball, New England will prove to be the better team, ending the Bengals' Cinderella run and advancing to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl

Super Bowl XLIX will take place between the Patriots and Cowboys. While New England was expected to go the distance due to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Dallas enters as a surprise team after taking down a couple of strong opponents on the road.

Both of these squads feature their own strengths and weaknesses. Dallas has the more balanced offense of the two teams, but New England has a stronger overall defense. This would certainly prove to be a compelling championship game, but the nod here has to go to the experience of Brady and head coach Bill Belichick in this situation.

Prediction: Patriots 30, Cowboys 27

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