Early NFL Playoff Predictions

The clock is running out on the 2013 NFL season, and it’s been a wild one. Who would have thought at this point that the Houston Texans, Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons would be vying for the #1 overall pick (well, the Redskins gave theirs to St. Louis already), while the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers would be preparing for the playoffs.

Though much has changed, one thing has stayed consistent throughout the season: the two best teams in the NFL right now are the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. I fully expected to see both of them in the Super Bowl back in August, and they’ll remain my picks today.

The Seahawks are a young team with a ton of confidence in their 2nd year franchise QB Russell Wilson. What doesn’t get a lot of press is two key factors. First, they run the ball more than just about anyone in the NFL. This keeps the pressure off of Wilson, and allows the Hawks to control the ball. The other is their stout defense. With only 279 yards allowed per game, Seattle’s defense is head and shoulders better than Carolina (at 296) and one of only three teams in the NFL under 300. This team has few apparent weaknesses, and balanced teams do well in the postseason.

With Denver, of course, it’s all about the offense, which is led by the franchise QB of all franchise QBs, Peyton Manning. While Seattle is only one of three NFL teams to hold its opponents under 300 yards, the Broncos are part of a trio of franchises to rack up over 40 yards per game. Manning’s offense is churning up 40 yards more per game than the 2nd place Eagles, and Manning himself is set to break a series of long-standing passing records.

Though these two set firmly atop the NFL (and likely booking their tickets to the Snow Bowl in New York), the rest of the recently murky playoff picture in the league is starting to clear up. Here’s my playoff predictions.

NFC
1. Seattle (West Division winner)
2. Carolina (South Division winner)
3. Philadelphia (East Division winner)
4. Green Bay (North Division winner)
5. New Orleans (Wild Card)
6. San Francisco (Wild Card)

AFC
1. Denver (West Division winner)
2. New England (East Division winner)
3. Cincinnati (North Division winner)
4. Indianapolis (South Division winner)
5. Kansas City (Wild Card)
6. Baltimore (Wild Card)

NFL WILD CARD ROUND
San Francisco at Philadelphia
The 49ers are a very solid team, but you get the feeling that they’re not playing with quite as much confidence and momentum as the Eagles right now.
Winner: Philadelphia

New Orleans at Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers will be back on the field for the Packers for sure and Green Bay is a horrible place for any visiting team in January. New Orleans is a dome team and has been languishing lately; give this one to the Pack.
Winner: Green Bay

Baltimore at Cincinnati
If this happened, it would be the second time in as many weeks that these two division rivals face off in Queen City. It’d be very deja vu-ish to see the Birds beat the Bungles twice in back to back weeks, but that’s what I see happening. Baltimore’s playoff experience should carry the day, even if their depleted roster doesn’t match up as well on paper.
Winner: Baltimore

Kansas City at Indianapolis
The Colts are in one of the weakest divisions in the league, with Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston combining for a total of 11 wins thus far – the same as the Chiefs. Indianapolis hasn’t been the same team without Reggie Wayne, while Kansas City has been on a tear this season.
Winner: Kansas City

NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND
Philadelphia at Carolina
Two teams with little post-season experience in the ranks. Both have been hot in recent weeks. This will be a hell of a game, but feel like Philly will grab this one from the Panthers.
Winner: Philadelphia

Green Bay at Seattle
The Pack aren’t good enough to hang with Seattle at this point, even with their QB back in the saddle.
Winner: Seattle

Baltimore at Denver
A little revenge for Broncos fans after last season’s playoff escapades.
Winner: Denver

Kansas City at New England
New England generally finds a way to win when they have to. But Kansas City is the better team this year while the Patriots just have too many holes.
Winner: Kansas City

NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Philadelphia at Seattle
This will be a hell of a game, and probably pretty close too. But you know my pick already.
Winner: Seattle

Kansas City at Denver
There’s no way Peyton Manning will lose this game – experience wins out at this stage of the NFL playoffs.
Winner: Denver

SUPER BOWL
Denver vs. Seattle
Want to see my winner?

The blog is taking a vacation for the next couple of weeks due to the holidays and while I hole up in an undisclosed location to write the first draft of a short film. I plan to produce and direct this film in March or April.

The blog will be back on Thursday, January 9 with updated Divisional Playoff predictions, and my prediction in the Seahawk – Bronco showdown. Until then, I sincerely hope that you and yours enjoy a happy and safe holiday season. See you in a couple of weeks.