With just 4 weeks to go, it’s time for our third instalment of “If the Season Ended Today“. For those who might have forgotten, these are the 12 teams who would qualify for the playoffs right now, and my predictions as too how those games would play out, right through to the Super Bowl. This might not mean anything in the NFC where the playoff picture is still a mess, but in the AFC there probably won’t be any dramatic changes between now and the end of the season. What you see now in the American Football Conference, is probably what you’re going to get.
Your Playoffs Teams would be (in seeding order):
NFC: 1.ATLANTA (11-1) 2.SAN FRANCISCO (8-3-1) 3.GREEN BAY (8-4) 4.NY GIANTS (7-4) 5.CHICAGO (8-4) 6.SEATTLE (7-5)
AFC: 1.HOUSTON (11-1) 2.NEW ENGLAND (9-3) 3.BALTIMORE (9-3) 4.DENVER (9-3) 5.INDIANAPOLIS (8-4) 6.PITTSBURGH (7-5)
WILD CARD ROUND:
SEATTLE @ GREEN BAY: The Seahawks finally proved themselves capable on the road by winning in Chicago, but could they do the same in Green Bay? The centerpiece of the Packers offense, Aaron Rodgers, is certainly vunerable with a patch work offensive line protecting him. And Seattle is certainly the kind of defensive, physical team that has given Green Bay trouble in the past (see NY Giants and San Francisco).
Still I’m not ready to trust rookie QB Russell Wilson on the big stage just yet, and the Seahawks would be missing half their starting secondary to drug suspensions. You have to like Rodger’s chances picking on second stringers, so I’ll reluctantly take Green Bay.
CHICAGO @ NY GIANTS: Four weeks ago I picked the Bears to upend NY in the playoffs, but that was when a 3rd of their offensive line wasn’t injured and they were playing at home. Travelling to New York without reliable options to protect Jay Cutler from the Giants monstorous D-Line is a recipe for disaster. Give me New York.
PITTSBURGH @ BALTIMORE: The Steelers won in Baltimore this past week with Charlie Batch behind center. So how can I pick them to lose a game Big Ben would possibly start in? I can’t. Give me Pittsburgh for another win over Baltimore when it really matters.
INDIANAPOLIS @ DENVER: The most excited people for this playoff matchup won’t be Broncos or Colts fans, but the executives at CBS or NBC Sports. This battle between past and present Colts progidys, Manning and Luck, should be one of the highest rated games in the playoffs.
That doesn’t mean it will make for a great game on the field. Despite last week’s heroics in Detroit, Andrew Luck has struggled on the road, and with Champ Bailey locking up star receiver Reggie Wayne in a battle of crafty veterans, things won’t get any easier for him here.
On the other side of the ball Peyton will pick apart this flimsy Colts defence.
But when it comes down to it there’s no way Peyton is going to lose to the guy that replaced him as Indy’s favourite son. Give me the Broncos.
GREEN BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO: I had Green Bay barley winning at home versus Seattle and the 49ers are a much better version of the Seahawks. I like San Francisco to win and it won’t be close.
Matt Ryan hasn’t been on his game for the past 3 weeks, which doesn’t bode well when going against this prime time defensive unit. The Falcons do have recievers that can expose New York’s defensive backs, but it won’t mean anything if Ryan doesn’t have time to throw downfield. I’ll take the Giants.
PITTSBURGH @ HOUSTON: This is interesting, because if Big Ben proves fully functional the Steelers might be the most balanced team in the league. They can pass, run, defend both facets of the game and have reliable special teams. Houston may be better, but with Jonathan Joseph still out, they do have one major weakness: pass defence.
The Steelers are battle tested on the road in the playoffs, while the Houston franchise only has 2 postseason games to their name. But untill Rothliesberger proves his ribs can take a couple of hits from a mountain of a man like J.J. Watt I have to stick with the Texans.
DENVER @ NEW ENGLAND: Maybe I spoke to soon when declaring Denver-Indianapolis the biggest ratings bonanza of the playoffs. Manning versus Brady always attracts even the most casual football fan.
Unlike Denver’s first game this should prove a more competitive contest. Once again Manning won’t be facing the strongest of pass defences, and with his connection with Demaryius Thomas getting stronger everyweek I can’t imagine any clever Belichick schemes slowing him down.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos Von Miller led defensive line can apply the type of pressure that gives Tom Brady fits.
If the Pats had they’re full complement of players I might have leaned their way, but with no Rob Gronkowski to team up with Aaron Hernandez against that soft Denver middle, I’m taking the Broncos.
NY GIANTS @ SAN FRANCISCO: As good as he can be, Eli Manning actually didn’t play that well in last year’s NFC Championship Game or this season’s week 6 match-up, both in San Francisco. The Giants won those games on the backs of their defence and special teams. It’ll be a little harder for the NY defence to prepare when they don’t know what starting QB they’re preparing for and the 49ers won’t have a rookie returning kicks this time around.
San Francisco avenge those losses and advances to the NFC Championship game.
DENVER @ HOUSTON: A hobbled Big Ben might not have been able to take advantage of a suspect Texans secondary, but a well protected Peyton Manning certainly can. This is not the same pass rush he faced in Denver in week 3, and even then the Broncos nearly pulled out a win.
Believe it or not playing this rematch in Houston might be a better situation for Peyton, as he thrives in domes.
No-one can shut down Arian Foster, but the Denver Run D should be able to slow him down just enough to keep the Texans away from those multi-play clock eating drives they’re so fond of. The more frequently Peyton can get on the field, the better.
I’ll take Denver for the upset.
DENVER VS SAN FRANCISCO: This would be a rematch of Super Bowl 24 won by San Francisco 55-10. I don’t think the score will be the same, but I do have the same franchise holding up the trophy at the end of 4 quarters.
For the first time in 4 games Manning will have had to face an all pro caliber secondary, and this only after having to survive a potent 4 man pass rush and a slew of playmaking linebackers. As good as Peyton has been, his 2 previous Super Bowl performances have been less than spectacular, and I think those struggles might revisit him here.
On offense, Kapernick will be the perfect counter to a sometimes over agressive pass rush, and unless Champ Bailey shadows him (which would leave a steadily improving Michael Crabtree to flourish), I see TE Vernon Davis having his best game of the playoffs. It won’t be smooth, but Jim Harbaugh’s crew is well adapt at winning ugly.
St.Louis may have given the 49ers all kinds of fits this season, but the Rams wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs if the regular season ended today. With that in mind I have the 49ers winning 3 in a row, including a win over Denver, to earn their 6th Super Bowl title.
Before moving onto my picks, I feel I’d be amiss not to comment on this weeks’ tragic events in Kansas City. I’m not a phycologist or a qualified support worker, so while I won’t attempt to make sense of this horrific situation itself, I will comment on the NFL’s handling of it.
I question the league proceeding with the game as scheduled, but I also recognize there might not have been a correct decision to make. Do you go ahead with a sporting event that is meaningless when compared to the loss of two lives or do you refuse to let the selfish actions of one person derail the day to day lives of thousands? I have my opinion, but I can definitely hear the other side of it.
I guess the most important thing is that we don’t let that debate overshadow the tragedy itself and what we can be learned from it to help prevent the thousands of cases of domestic abuse that happen across North America everyday.
I pray that those that bore witness to the tragic act, Romeo Crennel, Scot Pioli and Kasandra Perkin’s mother and daughter get the help they will need to cope with it. And of course our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of both Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins.
WEEK 14 PREDICTIONS (Sunday and Monday predictions to be released on Friday)
DENVER @ OAKLAND: If this was an NBA prediction article (Nuggets vs Warriors) this game between these two cities might be interesting. But it’s not, it’s the NFL and the Raiders (3-9) are still the sad sack franchise they’ve been for nearly the last 20 years.
Tags: nfl, NFL PREDICTIONS, Sports Betting