Another NFL regular season is in the books, and boy was it a good one. Drew Brees shattered Dan Marino’s single-season record for passing yards, while Tom Brady quietly broke the same record as well. In fact, nine quarterbacks, including rookie sensation Cam Newton, threw for over 4,000 yards.
The Green Bay Packers in their quest to defend their Super Bowl title went an astonishing 15-1 behind the stellar play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The “all talk team” known as the New York Jets, couldn’t fulfill the comments of their brash head coach, while the business like nature of the New England Patriots have them at 13-3 and home field advantage. The Baltimore Ravens finally got over the hump and won the AFC North, while the young and talented Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions surprised many to make the postseason.
And then there are the Philadelphia Eagles. The dream team, the next great football dynasty, couldn’t escape the hype they created with all their off-season moves and are on the outside looking in. Injuries plagued this team slightly, but mainly a poor coaching job by defensive coordinator Juan Castillo as well as inconsistent play out of their superstars, minus LeSean McCoy, has this team out of the playoffs.
Now onto the postseason matchups. The Packers come in as the favorites to repeat for sure, while the AFC is completely wide open. So without further ado, here are my predictions for the NFL postseason.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS VS. DETROIT LIONS- This is an extremely intriguing matchup between the upstart Detroit Lions and the veteran New Orleans Saints. A rematch of what was by all accounts a blowout in the regular season.
Drew Brees has the Saints playing their best football of the year, and Greg Williams, the Saints defensive coordinator, has his defense forcing turnovers once again. Detroit has arguably the best receiver in football in Calvin Johnson. “Megatron” has dominated defensive backs this season and should be a force in this league for a long time.
Now onto the matchup. New Orleans is going to score a ton in this game because they match up very well against the weak secondary of the Lions. This game will come down to Detroit’s offense vs. the savvy Saints defense. Matthew Stafford will have to play well for Detroit to pull off the upset. I think he will, but I don’t think it will be enough. Drew Brees is just too good right now and while I do like the Lions a lot, they’re not ready to take the next step just yet.
SAINTS 38 LIONS 28
NEW YORK GIANTS VS ATLANTA FALCONS- HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS?! Oh wait, they laid an egg on Sunday night. The Giants come into this postseason a little under the radar. Not expected to be here due to an impossible schedule, the Giants battled injuries, a tough New York media and behind stellar play from Eli Manning and the emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul won the NFC East and host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
The Falcons come into the postseason as underachievers. They were expected to challenge New Orleans for the division title and a first round bye, yet they stayed middle of the pack for the majority of the season. However, Atlanta has recently fixed their offensive issues and are poised to make a deep run in the postseason. This is one of the best games featured in the wild-card round. Both teams are very streaky and both teams mirror each other on the offensive end. They both have two dominant receivers (White and Jones vs Nicks and Cruz), both have two very good quarterbacks (Ryan vs Manning), and both are at their best when they can run the football effectively.
I believe this will be a tight game for 60 minutes and could wind up in overtime. I think Atlanta is the more talented team, and will win this game late behind Matt Ryan showing maturity and leading them on a game winning drive.
FALCONS 27 GIANTS 24
HOUSTON TEXANS VS CINCINNATI BENGALS- The Texans are in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and did it with stellar defensive play. After losing Mario Williams, rookie JJ Watt and veteran cornerback Jonathan Joseph commanded this defense and helped make them a force this season. Matt Schaub was lost in the middle of the season due to injury, but T.J. Yates has shown the ability to manage the game well and keep his team in games, letting Arian Foster and that defense win the game.
Cincinnati is a young team offensively, but defensively they are experienced and underrated. They have a very good front seven, anchored by Carlos Dunlap, Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga. Leon Hall commands a secondary that has looked poor at points this season, but overall played well. Andy Dalton under normal circumstances would have been rookie of the year and A.J. Green is an absolute monster. This should be great one, two good defenses, two young quarterbacks and two stellar wide receivers, A.J. Green and Andre Johnson.
The difference in this game will be the ground game for both teams. The team that runs the football better will take pressure off their young quarterback. I like the Texans ground game better, and I like the Texans in a close one.
TEXANS 20 BENGALS 17
DENVER BRONCOS VS PITTSBURGH STEELERS- If I have to dissect Tim Tebow for a week after this week, not only will I be stunned, but I will have to embark on a run around America in support of Tim Tebow. My apology for not as much analysis on this game, but Pittsburgh is bigger, faster, stronger and better.
STEELERS 20 BRONCOS 0
GREEN BAY PACKERS VS ATLANTA FALCONS- A rematch of the divisional round last year in which Green Bay went into Atlanta and dominated the top seeded Falcons. The Falcons will be out for revenge in this game and could pull it off. They have the ability to control clock on offense and the ability to score with the Packers if the game became a shootout. The question will be can their defense make enough stops against Rodgers, Jennings, Finley and the vaunted Packers offense. Atlanta keeps it close, but Green Bay pulls away late.
PACKERS 37 FALCONS 24
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS VS NEW ORLEANS SAINTS- The Niners would definitely come into this game as the underdog in the eyes of the public because of the division they play in. They’re a young squad, but have an incredibly talented defense anchored by the sensational Patrick Willis. Jim Harbaugh is easily the coach of the year for the job that he has done with this team and with their quarterback Alex Smith. Smith had the best season of his pro career by far and his effectiveness finally opened up a deadly Niner ground game led by star running back Frank Gore. However, we still don’t know if Smith can win a shootout. This game, despite not being in New Orleans, will be played in good weather (most likely). New Orleans isn’t a great road team, but is a great team in good conditions. The Saints will make the Niners score more than they can and come away with the victory.
SAINTS 30 49ERS 20
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS PITTSBURGH STEELERS- Despite the Steelers victory over the Patriots in the regular season, Tom Brady still owns Dick LeBeau in career matchups. He’s 6-2 vs. the Steelers in his career and it is in large part due to how well he matches up against a LeBeau defense. LeBeau tries to take away the deep pass when you play against him and he makes opposing quarterbacks play from 0-15 yards. Tom Brady excels in the 0-15 yard range. Brady dominates and the Patriots get revenge.
PATRIOTS 34 STEELERS 17
BALTIMORE RAVENS VS HOUSTON TEXANS- Many argue that the Ravens are the best team in the AFC. They have a phenomenal defense as always and one of the best running backs in the game in Ray Rice. Rice has an incredible combination of power and speed. He runs behind a great offensive line and one of the best fullbacks ever in Vontae Leach. Bottom line, if Cam Cameron chooses to run the football rather than trying to throw it 40 times with Joe Flacco thinking that Flacco is good, the Ravens should beat almost anybody. If he decides to pass and only give Rice 8 carries, they will lose to almost anybody. I have faith that Cameron will play to his team’s strengths and I like the Ravens in this game.
RAVENS 24 TEXANS 10
GREEN BAY PACKERS VS NEW ORLEANS SAINTS- This is a rematch of what was an incredible game to kick off the regular season. The Saints watched as the Packers were presented with their Super Bowl rings and then almost sent the Packers to their first loss of the season, but rookie Mark Ingram was stopped on the one yard line on the final play. However, revenge is a dish best served cold. In the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, Drew Brees will pick apart a weak defense predicated on turnovers. He will be smart with his decisions, he will use players like Darren Sproles and Lance Moore to his advantage, and the bid for a repeat will end for Rodgers and the Pack.
SAINTS 38 PACKERS 35
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS BALTIMORE RAVENS- The Ravens have owned the Patriots in their last two postseason meetings. Ray Rice dominated the Patriots defense, or lack thereof, and the Ravens defense was able to stymie Brady and the Pats. However, revenge is a dish…. Nope not this time. Rice will continue his dominance and the Patriots lack of a defense will finally matter in a game where Brady will not be able to score as much as he needs to. It will be a close game, but a late touchdown from the superstar Rice puts the nail in the coffin and gets the Ravens back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2000.
RAVENS 27 PATRIOTS 20
SUPER BOWL XLVI
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS VS BALTIMORE RAVENS- Drew Brees’s incredible season has his team poised for an incredible run. Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles and the rest of the New Orleans supporting cast have this team in a spot to win a second Super Bowl in three years. However, they go up against a defense in this game ready for the challenge. Lewis, Ngata, Reed, Suggs and the rest of the Ravens defense will be ready for everything Coach Sean Payton and Drew Brees can throw at them. In a matchup of contrasting styles (Ravens- ground and pound Saints- air it out) the difference in this game will be can Drew Brees score enough when he doesn’t have as much time. The Ravens will pound the rock with Ray Rice and Ricky Williams and only allow Brees 20-27 minutes of possession in this game. The question is can Brees and the Saints offense score enough in that time against a great defense to take pressure off their own defense and force Cam Cameron into throwing the football with Flacco. I don’t think they can. Ray Rice wins Super Bowl MVP and the Ravens are champions once again.
RAVENS 27 SAINTS 21