NFL Postseason Predictions

Posted: January 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Once every winter, the gladiators of gridiron join together to compete for their beloved goal. When it all begins on Saturday, there will be 11 games remaining. A handful of victories are all that sit between one team and football immortality. Think you have what it takes to predict which team will win it all? A few facts, first, to digest before SkoodSports’ picks are made:

– Think Seattle vs. Denver is a lock? Since 1995, there have been 36 #1 seeds between the two conferences. 18 of them have made it to the Super Bowl (50%). Since 2010, that percentage gets smaller, just one has reached the final game (New England in 2011).
– What’s the secret to postseason success? Many will say a good defense. However, since 2005, just 3 of the 8 champions had defenses that were in the top-10 with regards to scoring. The real test is turnover differential. All but one of the last 8 Super Bowl champions were top-5 in the league during the regular season with regards to turnover differential. The one exception is the 2007 New York Giants, who were 26th. This season, the top five in turnover differential are: Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Indianapolis, and Carolina. Consider these teams your favorites as the postseason begins.
– Run, run, run! Having a strong running game can help you win the Super Bowl. Since 2005, 5 out of the 8 league champions outran their opponent in the big game.
– Bye week bow out? Only 2 of the last 8 league champions had bye weeks heading into the playoffs.

Oh the Places They Could Go…

Denver Broncos
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Dream Scenario: The sky is the limit for Peyton Manning and the Broncos. With home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, Denver won’t have to leave their friendly confines until the Super Bowl. Their third victory of the season over Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs sets up a championship game rematch with Tom Brady and the Patriots. After Peyton and co. avenge a midseason loss to New England, Denver trounces Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl, where Manning is awarded his second championship game MVP.

Nightmare Scenario: The winter struggles that have personified Peyton Manning’s career continue in his second season in Denver. After collapsing against Baltimore a year ago in their playoff debut, Denver succumbs to another young blossoming star in Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck. The Colts utilize their short passing game to perfection and pick Manning off twice en route to their second victory of the season against the future Hall-of-Fame QB.

Seattle Seahawks
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Dream Scenario: Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have lost at home only once since his career began in 2012. That number doesn’t shift as the Seahawks trounce the Saints in the Divisional Round before edging Carolina in a nail-biter to advance to their second Super Bowl. In the cold and wintry temperature of MetLife Stadium, Marshawn Lynch goes “Beast Mode,” trouncing the Broncos’ banged up defense en route to a Super Bowl MVP award and Seattle’s first championship since the SuperSonics in 1979.

Nightmare Scenario: Fresh off their first loss at home two weeks ago vs. Arizona, the Seahawks struggle to get back in the groove in their first game vs. San Francisco. The 49ers, prepared for the Seahawks after facing them four times over the past two years, shut down Lynch and put together enough of an offensive performance to knock Seattle out of the playoffs.

New England Patriots
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Dream Scenario: The Patriots may be banged up on both offense and defense. But, they still have a healthy Tom Brady and a wise Bill Belichick on the sideline. The duo cannot be underestimated, and they’ll put together a strong enough game plan to overcome Cincinnati in round two before defeating Peyton Manning in typical New England fashion. In a cold and wintry night at MetLife Stadium, Brady channels his “Snow Bowl” days, throwing three touchdown passes in a route of Seattle.

Nightmare Scenario: The Patriots, as they have for the past ten years, continue to struggle offensively in the postseason. Brady’s loss of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez finally begins to show in the playoffs, when defenses key on the Patriots’ running game and force Brady to beat man-to-man coverage in the secondary. Cincinnati’s pass rush delivers yet again, and the Patriots lose to the Bengals in their first playoff game.

Carolina Panthers
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Dream Scenario: Cam Newton and the Panthers’ ferocious defense echo the sentiment that “defense wins championships” by dominating the Philadelphia Eagles’ up-tempo offense in the Divisional Round. They then get a lucky break when Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers overcome Seattle’s home field advantage. In a home Conference Championship Game, the Panthers’ defense lassos Aaron Rodgers, holding Green Bay to 13 points in a 27-13 triumph. The Panthers’ spectacular run comes to an end in the Super Bowl, where they are defeated by Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Nightmare Scenario: Carolina is rusty after two weeks off and falls in their first game at home. The Philadelphia Eagles, fresh off an impressive win against New Orleans, keeps the Panthers’ defense off guard with their running game and play action passes en route to a 27-21 win.

Cincinnati Bengals
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Dream Scenario: Andy Dalton captures his first postseason victory by throwing for four touchdowns in a 38-30 victory over the San Diego Chargers in the Wild Card Round. One week later, the Bengals’ defense does enough to make Tom Brady uncomfortable as the Bengals advance to their first AFC Championship Game since 1988.

Nightmare Scenario: San Diego’s hot finish to the season (won four in a row) continues into the postseason. Dalton throws four interceptions for the second straight game, and the Bengals lose in the first round for the third consecutive season. The loss drops Marvin Lewis to 0-5 in playoff games and puts him firmly on the hot seat heading into 2014.

Philadelphia Eagles
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Dream Scenario: The Eagles’ high powered offense and turnover forcing defense finally does it for the City of Brotherly Love. After dispatching the road weary Saints and the rusty Panthers in their first two games, the Eagles get the benefit of a home championship game after Green Bay upsets Seattle. Philadelphia’s running game keeps the rock out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands as the Eagles advance to their first Super Bowl in nine years. Facing the Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX, the Eagles have just too much offense in the snow, overcoming Tom Brady’s three touchdown passes to win their first Super Bowl.

Nightmare Scenario: All the “road woes” of the Saints are overstated, the Eagles’ struggles against the pass are understated, and Drew Brees and New Orleans come out like gangbusters early and often against Chip Kelly’s inexperienced Eagles squad. Philadelphia puts up a second half fight. But, their deficit is just too much to overcome in a 35-27 loss to the Saints in the first round.

Indianapolis Colts
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Dream Scenario: Andrew Luck and the Colts appeared to have finally recovered their groove late in the season. That momentum continues into the playoffs, where they quickly dispatch the Chiefs before shocking the Broncos for the second time this season. New England’s cold weather and fearsome pass rush end the Colts’ season in the AFC Championship. But, it’s a very successful run deep into the playoffs for Luck in his second season.

Nightmare Scenario: Luck loses his second consecutive playoff game, this time at home, as the Colts cannot stop Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs’ running game. Kansas City gets revenge for their loss at home two weeks ago against Indianapolis.

Green Bay Packers
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Dream Scenario: With Aaron Rodgers’ return, the Packers found their Super Bowl equation. The veteran QB throws three touchdowns as the Packers defeat the 49ers in -25 degree temperatures on Sunday. They then slam the Seahawks and pound the Panthers en route to their second Super Bowl appearance in four years. In that game, Rodgers and co. utilize the weather to their advantage, corralling Tom Brady and defeating the Patriots for their second Super Bowl championship in four seasons.

Nightmare Scenario: Despite the return of Rodgers, the Packers have no answers for San Francisco’s dominant running game and defense. Rodgers is knocked out early and Matt Flynn is forced to lead a comeback in the Wild Card Round. Predictably, this doesn’t happen, as the 49ers advance to face the Seahawks.

Kansas City Chiefs
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Dream Scenario: Andy Reid’s Chiefs may not have that explosive offense. But, their defense knows how to force turnovers, and that is a key aspect of winning in the playoffs. Kansas City uses this ability to upset the young Andrew Luck before going into Denver and shocking the Broncos. Reid’s run comes to an end once again in a conference title game, as the Chiefs fall in New England to Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Nightmare Scenario: The 2-5 finish that the Chiefs endured continues into the playoffs, as Kansas City’s offense starts sluggish in a Wild Card loss to Indianapolis. Alex Smith throws 3 interceptions, raising questions as to whether or not he’s the long term answer for K.C. at QB.

San Francisco 49ers 
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Dream Scenario: The 49ers, champions of the NFC a year ago, storm through the postseason yet again. In the Wild Card round, San Francisco trounces the Packers in the frozen tundra. Colin Kaepernick then flashes the brilliance of his legs in a victory in Carolina before finally taking down Seattle on the road in the NFC title game. In Super Bowl XLVIII, the 49ers finally capture their 6th title by limiting the Patriots to a lone offensive touchdown in a 17-13 thriller in the snow.

Nightmare Scenario: San Francisco, despite their success against Green Bay of late, cannot overcome the blistering cold of Lambeau Field. Kaepernick throws two interceptions, one that is returned by Tramon Williams for a touchdown, and the Packers send the 49ers home early in the Wild Card round.

San Diego Chargers
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Dream Scenario: Philip Rivers once again comes to play in January. The man with the best active record in December (30-6) delivers once the New Year turns around as the Chargers go into Cincinnati and keep the Bengals’ playoff woes rolling with a 30-23 victory. San Diego then ventures to Denver, where they are soundly defeated by Peyton Manning for the second time this season. Still, a playoff win in year one of the Mike McCoy era is a strong beginning for a Chargers team short on historical achievement.

Nightmare Scenario: The Chargers, who needed a bit of a miracle just to make the playoffs, prove that they don’t belong by getting squashed by Andy Dalton and the Bengals in the first round. San Diego had trouble stopping Knile Davis and the Chiefs’ backups last week. That trend will continue as the Bengals score early and often both on the ground and through the air to end San Diego’s season.

New Orleans Saints
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Dream Scenario: The Saints ride the momentum of a big win in week 17 to a road triumph over Philadelphia in round one. The Eagles’ defense struggles to stop Jimmy Graham, who catches 10 passes for over 100 yards and two touchdowns en route to a New Orleans win. The Saints are then squashed in Seattle. But, the team gets their first road playoff win in franchise history.

Nightmare Scenario: The cold-weather blues continue as New Orleans falls to 0-6 on the road in their history by succumbing to Philadelphia on Saturday. The Saints, 19th in the league against the run, fail to shut down LeSean McCoy, who gallops for nearly 200 yards in an Eagles’ rout.

Postseason Predictions

Wild Card Round

Kansas City Chiefs – 26
Indianapolis Colts – 20

The Colts are at home. But, the Chiefs have the better running game and defense. Look for a lot of Jamaal Charles early in this game. The team that wins the turnover battle will advance.

New Orleans Saints  27
Philadelphia Eagles – 31

Philadelphia’s ability to hang on to the football as well as force turnovers over the second half of the season has them in the position they’re currently in. That is, hosting a first round playoff game against a team that has NEVER won a road playoff game in their history. Drew Brees (also winless on the road in the playoffs) will give the Eagles a scare. But, the offense is just too good to lose at home right now.

San Diego Chargers – 17
Cincinnati Bengals – 24

Cincinnati might not be a perfect team right now. Andy Dalton throws too many interceptions and their defense is a bit banged up. But, the monkey on their backs can only be removed with a playoff win. Marvin Lewis, one of the longest tenured coaches in football (hired prior to 2003) is 0-4 in the playoffs. Without a victory, he could be treading water sooner rather than later. I think the Bengals find a way to overcome their turnovers and clip the Chargers, who don’t have as much to play for.

San Francisco 49ers – 23
Green Bay Packers – 24

Many are giving the Packers no chance at winning this game, which I don’t understand. Is San Francisco the more talented team? Yes. But, come the postseason, it’s all about the quarterback and intangibles. The Packers have probably the best QB in football. Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick has been nothing more than mediocre most of the season. With the temperatures well below zero, Green Bay will ride home field advantage to a nail biting victory.

Divisional Round

Green Bay Packers – 27
Seattle Seahawks – 24

Seattle’s home field advantage is considered the best in football. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in football. His return to Green Bay coincided with their surge back into the playoffs. No one thinks they have a chance. Well, that’s just ridiculous. Despite the loss of Clay Matthews, Green Bay still possesses one of the best offenses in football. If Seattle isn’t popping the steroids prior to this game, they may have trouble handling the Green Bay attack. Russell Wilson will need to play a perfect game. I just don’t see it happening.

Cincinnati Bengals  14
New England Patriots – 31

Cincinnati’s defense dominated the line of scrimmage in their victory against the Patriots earlier this season. Unfortunately, the Bengals have no Geno Atkins and that could prove fatal against a well rested Patriots’ team. Expect at least one defensive touchdown from New England, who gallops into the AFC Championship Game for the third consecutive season.

Philadelphia Eagles – 25
Carolina Panthers – 27

Philadelphia has the offense to triumph over the stout Carolina D’. But, can they stop Cam Newton? That is the question as the Eagles take to the road against Carolina. I see this game coming down to a last second field goal either way. But, Newton’s ability to run the football presents a perspective that Philadelphia’s defense hasn’t seen since Terrelle Pryor in week nine; and Newton is quite a bit more refined than the former Ohio State Buckeye.

Kansas City Chiefs – 27
Denver Broncos – 37

The Chiefs have fallen to Denver twice already this season. They say that it is often difficult to defeat the same team thrice in a single regular season. But, it’s been done before and it will be done again. Denver, having lost in their first game at home a year ago, won’t let it happen again vs. a team that they’re quite familiar with. The Chiefs should keep this game relatively close due to their experience against Manning and co. But, the Broncos have too much firepower for Alex Smith to keep up with.

Conference Championship Round

New England Patriots – 24
Denver Broncos – 21

Brady and Manning meet again in the conference championship game. It’s the third time that the two superstar quarterbacks will meet with the berth in the Super Bowl on the line (Brady beat Manning in 2003, Manning beat Brady in 2006). I think this game will come down to whichever defense forces that critical turnover late in the game. From past experience, Manning is much more likely to make the critical, gut wrenching mistake than Brady. Due to that fact, I believe that Brady and Belichick will be heading to the Super Bowl once again come February.

Green Bay Packers – 16
Carolina Panthers – 13

In 2011, the 6th seeded Packers were led by Aaron Rodgers to three road victories over Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago. They then captured their fourth Super Bowl title in Dallas against the Steelers. With Rodgers healthy, that scenario will mimic itself in 2014. Green Bay will prove that sometimes, all you need is a great quarterback to succeed in January.

Super Bowl XLVIII

Green Bay Packers  27
New England Patriots – 14

The Packers win the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons by applying pressure to Tom Brady and utilizing their lethal passing attack in the cold weather at MetLife Stadium. Green Bay, dead to rights in week 16, found second life with a victory over the Bears last week. They’ll take full advantage of their “gift” by riding that momentum to a fifth championship. Rodgers is named MVP after throwing two touchdowns.

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