Monday, January 2, 2012

NFL Playoff Predictions

The euphoria hasn't passed yet. With the 49ers clinching the No.2 seed and a first round bye in their defeat of the Rams yesterday, I believe they have a chance to win the Super Bowl. However, they're not my pick to win it all. Here are my predictions for the NFL playoffs.


Wild Card Round
Cincinnati Bengals over Houston Texans
Yes, I know, the Bengals haven't looked good as of late, but neither have the Texans. The Texans currently are starting their 3rd string QB, TJ Yates, and I don't have Matt Schaub-like confidence in Yates' abilities. The Bengals have Pro Bowl WR AJ Green, who will likely be at full strength for Saturday's game, and Rookie of the Year candidate Andy Dalton. The Bengals have the 10th best rush defense to counter the Texans' illustrious running game led by Arian Foster. If Cincinnati can stop Foster, the Bengals will win this game.

Pittsburgh Steelers over Denver Broncos
Let's face it, defenses have figured out Tim Tebow. And when you pit Tebow against a stellar defense like Pittsburgh's, they don't have a chance. Pittsburgh's D is tops in total yards and passing defense and 8th in rush defense. As we witnessed in Denver's game against Kansas City, Denver is dysfunctional on offense. Even though the Broncos have one of the best defenses in the league, you still have to score points to win a game. If Denver's defense can't generate turnovers, something they've struggled at throughout the year, it'll be hard to beat Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Divisional Round
New England Patriots over Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals will actually have a pretty good shot in this one, but I'll give the edge to the Patriots because of their experience. I'm not that convinced that this Patriot team can go all the way, mainly because of their lackluster defense. However, against an inexperienced Bengals squad, the Patriots offense will thrive. Brady has too many weapons at his disposal, including his phenomenal tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and of course Wes Welker. The Bengals have only beaten one team above .500 this season and they won't be able to get it done here.

Baltimore Ravens over Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens have beaten the Steelers twice this season, who's to say they won't do it again? The Ravens, in my opinion, have the superior running game, passing game, defensive line, and secondary. The Steelers have regressed this year and are no longer that elite defense that they once were. Pittsburgh's defense is just alright. Joe Flacco will have fun throwing to Anquan Boldin in this one and the Ravens will come out on top in a close one.

AFC Championship
Baltimore Ravens over New England Patriots
As I said earlier, I don't believe in the Patriots this year. The Ravens have the superior defense and an offense to rival the Patriots. Yes, Tom Brady is better than Flacco. But I can't shake this feeling that the Patriots will flat this season. They don't have it, and the Ravens, in my opinion, do.


Wild Card Round
New Orleans Saints over Detroit Lions
The Lions looked awful in their loss to the Packers on Sunday. Ndamukong Suh is not the headache for the offensive line like he used to be last year. Jahvid Best is struggling to get the Lions' run game churning. The Stafford to Johnson connection remains, but nearly every factor that contributed to my preseason wild card prediction has not lived up to expectations. That being said, the Saints are playing great football. Drew Brees is clicking and should win the MVP award in my opinion. The offense puts up enough points to make up for the mediocre defense. The Saints should win this game easily.

Atlanta Falcons over New York Giants
The New York Giants squeaked past the Cowboys, but now they'll have to face the formidable Falcons. This was one of my favorite teams coming into the year. Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White give Matt Ryan two strong targets to throw to. Michael Turner's bruising style of running will be effective against a 19th ranked Giants defense. The Falcons defense is strong too, with Ray Edwards and John Abraham constantly pressuring Eli Manning from the corners. The Falcons should overpower the Giants in a physical match.

Divisional Round
Green Bay Packers over Atlanta Falcons
Somewhere along the way, the Packers are going to lose, but it's not going to be here. However, this game will be closer than many people would presume. Atlanta has a very balanced team and they could pose serious problems for the Packers average defense. However, the Packers have shown the ability to just win over the course of the season and my gut instinct tells me that they will defeat the Falcons in this one. The Pack has already beaten Atlanta this season, I can't wait to watch them do it again.

San Francisco 49ers over New Orleans Saints
Let's take a look at New Orleans' strengths. They excel in their passing game and their running game has flourished this season as well. Their defense is only alright. The 49ers strengths are run and pass defense (they have two Pro Bowlers in the secondary) and special teams. In a game like this, pitting an offense-oriented team against a defense-oriented team, the defensive team normally comes out on top. And Andy Lee's punting could definitely keep the field position in favor of the 49ers throughout the game. 

NFC Championship
San Francisco 49ers over Green Bay Packers
The old adage goes, "defense wins championships," and the 49ers have the better defense in this one. Much like how San Francisco's defense will bottle up Drew Brees and the Saints' passing attack, Aaron Rodgers will be neutralized against the team that could've drafted him 1st overall in 2005. The only question in this one is the 49ers' offense. If Frank Gore can overcome the Packers 14th ranked rush defense and Alex Smith can connect with his below average receiving unit against Green Bay's pitiful pass defense, the 49ers will be in good shape for this one.

Super Bowl

Baltimore Ravens over San Francisco 49ers
I've been going back and forth on this one, but I think the defenses of these two teams are a toss up and the Ravens have better receivers and a better quarterback than the 49ers. Otherwise, both these defenses are strong: the Ravens are 4th in pass defense, 2nd in rush defense, and 3rd in total yards whereas the 49ers are 19th in pass defense, 1st in rush, and 4th in total yards. In a game like this, it could very well come down to turnovers and the 49ers lead the league in turnover margin. However, my gut tells me to go with the Ravens.

Too bad the Raiders didn't make it, we get to watch Tebow instead.

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