NFL Playoff Predictions: 20 Shockers to Brace for This Postseason

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2010

NFL Playoff Predictions: 20 Shockers to Brace for This Postseason

0 of 21

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles stands by the huddle against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    With this years NFL playoffs fast approaching, fans are beginning to take their picks as to who is in and out, and who is this season's Super Bowl favorite.

    But just like every year, there will sure to be some surprises come playoff time. With Week 16 coming up, and a number of close division races still to be decided, anything can happen in the final two weeks of the regular season and in the playoffs as well.

    In this slide show, we take a look at how some of these close division races will shape out and what might have some fans jumping out of their seat come playoff time.

    I'll take my best shot at predicting 20 shockers that people should prepare themselves for in this year's NFL playoffs.

20. Kansas City Will Hold Off the Chargers to Win the AFC West

1 of 21

    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 12:  Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a stop on third down against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 12, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    It all started in Week One, when Kansas City beat up on the Chiefs in their Monday night season opener.

    Now it's only fitting that this Division will likely be decided by one game, and that will determine which team will go to the playoffs and what team will be sent home packing.

    Both teams have favorable matchups in the final two weeks, and both teams should win those final two games. Unfortunately, for the Chargers, it is the Chiefs who control their own destiny, and with wins over Tennessee and Oakland in the final two weeks, Kansas City will be punching its ticket to the 2011 playoffs.

19. The Buccaneers Will Not Make the Playoffs

2 of 21

    TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 19:  Safety John Wendling #29 of the Detroit Lions tackles quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    It has been a memorable season for Tampa Bay, and most would agree that the Bucs have exceeded expectations this year.

    But after a costly, unforeseen loss to the Lions this past week, the Bucs have all but eliminated themselves from this year's playoff picture. They should be able to beat up on Seattle this coming week, but a Week 17 matchup against the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints, does not favor Tampa Bay.

18. The Oakland Raiders Will Spoil Some Playoff Plans

3 of 21

    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Rock Cartwright #25 celebrates after Hiram Eugene #31 of the Oakland Raiders recovers a fumble by7 Syd'Quan Thompson #22 of the Denver Broncos at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Ph
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    This is the best football that the Raiders have played since the Rich Gannon era.

    Darren McFadden has been a beast in the rushing game, and the Raiders defense continues to win football games with that bend, but not break mentality.

    While they won't top the Chiefs and Chargers in the AFC West standings, they very well could play the role of spoiler. The Raiders close out their final two games against Indianapolis and Kansas City, and it's certainly possible that they could put an end to one, or even both of those teams playoff hopes.

17. The Rams Will Win the NFC West with a 7-9 Record

4 of 21

    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams prepares to snap the ball during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Rams defeated th
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Who would have thought that we would see the day when a team with a below .500 record made the playoffs? Well, it is more then likley going to happen this year.

    This year's NFC West very well could be the worst division in Football over the past decade, but someone has to come out of it. What's even more dificult to grasp, is that the winner will also be hosting a playoff game.

    The winner will be decided in the final week of the season, when rookie Sam Bradford and the Rams top the Seahawks to win the division outright.

16. A Trick Play Of Some Sort Will Decide the Outcome of a Game

5 of 21

    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:   Thomas Morstead #6 of the New Orleans Saints kicks an onside kick against of the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Ima
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    It worked last year for the New Orleans Saints when they came out of halftime and started the second half off with an onside kick. It was one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history as the Saints went on to win the game.

    So, what makes one think that type of play can't happen again? When it comes to the playoffs, teams are often evenly matched and any bit of trickery and luck can help break open a game. Watch for a trick play of some sort to be the deciding factor in the outcome of a playoff game in 2011.

15. This Years Playoffs Will Not Include Peyton Manning and the Colts

6 of 21

    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 28:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts complains to a game offical after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown during the NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 28,
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Peyton Manning has been a mainstay in the playoffs throughout his career. He led the Colts to a Superbowl victory in 2007 and came up just short in 2010.

    But injuries and inconsistency have plagued the Colts this season. The Colts and Jaguars are both 8-6 heading into the final two weeks, but Jacksonville has the more favorable remaining schedule. This will be the year that the Jags top the Colts and represent the AFC South in the playoffs.

14. Matt Cassel Finds a Way to Take Out the Jets in the Wildcard Round

7 of 21

    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs in action during the game against the Denver Broncos on December 5, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Coming into this season, many expected the Net York Jets to be the Super Bowl favorite. Now with two weeks remaining in the season, and a quarterback who's play has been inconsistent to go along with a defense who has not quite lived up to expectations, not everyone is sold on the Jets.

    On the other hand, the Chiefs have exceeded expectations in a big way. Kansas City has relied on a dominant rushing attack and steady quarterback play from Matt Cassel to become one of the NFL's elite teams.

    While Cassel doesn't exactly jump off the page with his numbers, look for Kansas City's signal caller to have a big game against the Jets in the wild-card round and end New York's Super Bowl run, before it ever really gets started.

13. Tom Coughlin Is on the Hot Seat

8 of 21

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Tom Coughlin, Head Coach of the New York Giants looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game on December 19, 2010 at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Im
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Giants are in the playoffs, but just making it might not be enough as far as expectations go in New York.

    After that devastating loss to the Eagles this past week, there have been some rumblings about Tom Coughlin's job security with the Giants. That combined with the fact that former Steelers Super Bowl coach Bill Cower, recently listed the Giants on top of his coaching dream list, does not fair well for Coughlin heading into the playoffs.

    It might be fair to say that the G-Men will need to win one, if not two games this postseason to keep their coaches name off the hot seat.

12. The Ravens Will Advance with Offense, Not Just Defense

9 of 21

    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter of the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Pittsburgh won 13-10. (Photo by Geof
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Over the past couple of years, the Ravens have been known for their intimidating, hard-nose defense. The old saying of the Ravens will go as far as their defense will take them has held true, which was the case when they dismantled the Giants to win the Superbowl in 2001.

    But this year's Ravens team looks to be more balanced then in the past, and they will win at least one playoff game this year with outstanding play from their offense.

    The addition of Anquan Boldin has been huge for the Ravens offense and the development of quarterback Joe Flacco. After a slow start, Ray Rice is starting to play at an elite level and will be relied on if the Ravens have a shot at making a Super Bowl run in this year playoffs.

11. The Bears Fail To Make It Out of the First Round

10 of 21

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20:  Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears is congrtaulated by Greg Olsen #82 after scoring a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium on December 20, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matthew Stockma
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Congratulations to the Bears for winning the NFC North, which has been owned by the Packers and Vikings over the past couple of  years. Now, your prize will be that you get to play either the Giants or the defending Super Bowl Champion, Saints in the opening round.

    After a disappointing 2009 campaign, Jay Cutler has been much better this season. He has bought into Mike Martz and his offensive system this season, and has had some exceptional games along the way.

    But if the Bears' 36-7 home loss to the Patriots was any sign of what this team will play like against a quality opponent with high stakes on the line, this team is in for a rude awakening.

10. The Rams Will Have a Good Showing

11 of 21

    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 12:  Brandon Gibson #11 of the St. Louis Rams is tackled by Malcom Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 12, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    I'm not saying that the Rams are going to win their playoff game, but they won't get embarrassed and run off the field.

    As it stands now, it is foreseeable that the Rams could play the Saints in the second round. Rookie Sam Bradford has not played like a rookie this season, and he will have a solid showing in his first NFL playoff appearance.

    Some might look at this as being a 30-point blowout. I say, make it Saints win by 10.

9. The Giants Will Get Their Rematch with the Eagles, but To No Avail

12 of 21

    The Giants will be granted their wish, another shot at the Eagles. A chance for revenge after their embarrassing fourth quarter collapse against Philadelphia last week.

    But with their sights set on the Super Bowl, Michael Vick and the Eagles will get the best of the Giants and put an end to their season for good this time. Don't be surprised if this game isn't as close as their last contest.

8. The Steelers Dominate the Chiefs

13 of 21

    Kansas City has had a solid showing making it this far, but they will not able to matchup with the Steelers in the second round.

    Ben Roethlisberger will have a big game through the air and the Steelers defense will find a way to slow down the Chiefs rushing attack, forcing Matt Cassel into making plays that he is not accustomed to doing in big games. This very well could be the most one-sided games of the playoffs.

7. The Patriots/Ravens Game Will Be an Overtime Thriller

14 of 21

    This could very well be the best game of the 2011 playoffs. Both teams have been here before, and know what is needed to be successful in the later rounds.

    This game will be a high scoring contest, but in the end, Brady will lead the Patriots down the field for an overtime victory, securing the Pats a conference title shot against the Steelers.

6. The Super Bowl Champs Will Not Have a Shot at Defending Their Title

15 of 21

    Heading into the playoffs, the Falcons are arguably the most complete team, with solid play on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

    They will have a plan in tact to slow down Drew Brees and the Saints dangerous passing attack. Matt Ryan will shine in the spotlight and the Falcons defense will do just enough to preserve a victory and put Atlanta into the NFC title game.

5. Michael Vick Will Cement His Name in the Record Books

16 of 21

    It has just been that kind of a season for Michael Vick and the Eagles. And with a Superbowl appearance on the line, why would it be any different now?

    Vick will rush for over 100 yards against the Falcons and set his own mark for the most rushing yards ever by a quarterback in playoff history. He will have a memorable game as the Eagles advance their first Super Bowl since 2005.

4. Brady Leads Patriots Back To the Super Bowl

17 of 21

    The Patriots beat the Steelers 39-26 in a game earlier this season, which saw New England dominate from start to finish. This one promises to be a lot closer.

    Both teams will get solid play of their star quarterbacks, but with this game coming in late January and snow likely to be on the ground, we all know how Brady performs at Foxborough in the winter season. He caps off the game winning drive as the leads the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl of this past decade.

3. This Years Super Bowl Will Have the Highest Ratings in Super Bowl History

18 of 21

    Michael Vick vs. Tom Brady. MVP No. 1 vs. MVP No. 2. The Patriots vs. The Eagles.

    Everyone who watches the NFL knows that these have been the two most dominant teams over the final weeks of the NFL's regular season. And even if you don't watch football, chances are that you know who both Michael Vick and Tom Brady are.

    People will want to view this matchup between the NFL's two best players this season, and see how it plays out. Add that with the fact that the commercials are going to be funny as ever, you got yourself a record setting event.

2. The Super Bowl MVP Award Will Not Go To a Quarterback

19 of 21

    It would just make too much sense for the MVP to go to Vick or Brady. These teams will have ample amount of time to prepare for eachothers star quarterbacks, and why both will have good games, neither will make the game-winning play.

    Watch for this year's MVP award to be given to a defensive player, a special teams player, someone unexpected who will make the play-of-the-game that leads their team to victory.

1. The Eagles Will Be Crowned Champions

20 of 21

    The Eagles are able to contain Tom Brady and the Pat's high powered offense, and pull out a victory on the biggest stage.

    The game will be close and the score will go back and forth as each team's offense exchange big plays. But in the end, an unexpected hero will make the game changing play, giving Andy Reid his much-deserved Super Bowl trophy.

    Michael Vick hoists the Vince Lombardi trophy in the air, and while his image will still not escape him, he will be the king of the football world for this moment in time.

21 of 21