By Anthony Prestano (@AnthonyPrestano):
1. Houston Texans, 14-2 (proj.)
2. Denver Broncos, 13-3 (proj.)
3. New England Patriots, 12-4 (proj.)
4. Baltimore Ravens, 10-6 (proj.)
5. Indianapolis Colts, 10-6 (proj.)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-7 (proj.)
1. Atlanta Falcons, 14-2 (proj.)
2. San Francisco 49ers, 11-4-1 (proj.)
3. Green Bay Packers, 11-5 (proj.)
4. New York Giants, 10-6 (proj.)
5. Seattle Seahawks, 11-5 (proj.)
6. Minnesota Vikings, 9-7 (proj.)
Wild Card Games:
Pittsburgh @ New England
Two experienced vets going head to head in the playoffs, what could be better? The Steelers only hopes of going into Foxborough and taking down Brady rests on Big Ben’s shoulders. How far can he take this team? Pittsburgh clearly has the superior defense in this game, but Brady will be lighting up the scoreboard. The question is, can Roethlisberger keep pace? This game will be an absolute shootout. You’re not going to beat Brady 10-7, if you do it, you’ll have to score a good amount. That’s why I don’t like Pittsburgh in this game, and I’ll go with the Patriots, but in a closer game then most people would expect.
Winner: New England
Indianapolis @ Baltimore
At one point this season, the Baltimore Ravens were a quiet 9-2. Since then, they’ve been in an absolute tailspin. It’s all about who goes into the playoffs hot. Andrew Luck has been hot all season long, and I think this game will be the upset of the wild card round. If you had to take your pick, who do you trust? Joe Flacco or Andrew Luck?
I thought so.
Even though Luck lacks experience, he is a game-changer, and I think he sneaks out of Baltimore with a victory and shocks the mighty Ravens crowd.
Minnesota @ Green Bay
In my opinion, this will be the biggest blow out of the wild card round. I have Minnesota just sneaking into the playoffs with a win of the Pack in week 17. But don’t let that fool you, Aaron Rodgers will show no mercy in Lambeau. Adrian Peterson cannot carry the Vikings to the divisional round, because he has Christian Ponder under center. I don’t think the Vikings stand a chance in this game. The cheese heads win big.
Winner: Green Bay
Seattle @ New York
You may call it wishful thinking, but I call it logic. I think that with their backs against the wall, the Giants win out and steal the division, and you know the same old song and dance from their on out. Once again I’ll repeat, it is the team that gets hot that has success in the playoffs. Can they win it all? I’m not so sure. Can they beat Russell Wilson at home in round one? I believe so.
If this game were played in Seattle, it would be a different story, but I’m not so sure how I feel about a rookie going on the road in his first playoff game against the defending champs. I’ll take the G-Men in an exciting battle.
Winner: New York
Indianapolis @ Houston
This may be the game where, no pun intended, the Colts “Luck” runs out. Going into Houston against a 14-2 and rested Texans team will not be easy. The Texans have so many weapons available at their disposal, while the Colts have minimal options on offense. I think it will be a good game, but the Texans will pull away in the fourth and put an end to a very remarkable rookie season for Andrew Luck. Houston goes to the AFC Championship.
New England @ Denver
This will be the game of the year, maybe even bigger then the Super Bowl itself. Brady-Manning, Fox-Belicheck (Super Bowl rematch). At this time last year, we didn’t know if Peyton Manning would ever be the same. Now we know that he’s back, and possibly better than previously. Obviously home field advantage will be huge for Denver. These teams are so evenly matched that you might as well pick the winner out of a hat, but I think that Peyton Manning’s will to win and attempt to prove his critics wrong, gives him the edge and a return to the Superbowl.
New York @ Atlanta
Oh boy. Just thinking about match-ups like these makes me want the playoffs to be here already. Lets get one thing straight; the New York Football Giants were absolutely EMBARRASSED by the Atlanta Falcons in week 15, and Tom Coughlin’s teams won’t go down without a fight. However, I believe that this is Matt Ryan’s time. This will be heartbreaking for all Giants fans to hear, but Atlanta will sneak away with a victory in this game. I can’t go against the season that they’ve put together this year.
Green Bay @ San Francisco
A week one rematch that many thought had playoff implications indeed would make for an epic rematch. The only thing Colin Kaepernick has against him in this game would be his lack of experience. His first playoff game against the top quarterback in the league will certainly be a challenge, but the match-up to watch in a game like this is the Green Bay offense against the San Francisco defense. If the ’9ers can apply pressure to Rodgers and force him to make mistakes, they have a great chance in this one. If not, Colin will have to go toe-to-toe, score to score with Aaron Rodgers. Can he do so? I’m not exactly sure about that. Packers win this one.
Winner: Green Bay
AFC Championship Game:
Denver @ Houston
Many people in this game would automatically go with Denver, simply because of Peyton Manning’s playoff experience, and because Matt Schaub is Matt Schaub. The X-Factor in this game will be J.J. Watt and the Houston defense. We know that the Texans can score in bunches, but can they stop the mastermind that is Peyton Manning? He has so many weapons available at his disposal that it may seem impossible, but if there is any defense in the AFC that can do so it’s Houston (as seen in week 2). But quite honestly, I don’ t think the Denver winning streak is ready to come to an end yet. I’ll take Denver, but it can’t get any closer than this.
NFC Championship Game:
Green Bay @ Atlanta
You know how everyone thinks that Matt Ryan can’t get it done when it matters most, and that he crumbles under pressure? Well, I am one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, this has been the best season in the Falcons franchise since established in 1966, but I think he has an epic collapse in this game. Atlanta doesn’t have a defense that can compete with the Packers offense, and that will also be a major factor in this one. Ultimately, the Packers punch their ticket back to the Super Bowl after this one is all said and done. Sorry, Matty Ice.
Winner: Green Bay
Green Bay Packers – Denver Broncos
First things first. Show of hands if you thought that Peyton Manning would return to the Superbowl after an offseason including four neck surgeries, and an entire year away from the game of football? Certainly not me.
I thought best case scenario he makes it to the second round of the playoffs. But as the season wore on, I, like many, began to think wrong. Peyton Manning is just as good if not better before his injury, and I’m a believer.
The Packers won the Superbowl in 2011, and went 14-2 the next season, so where do they go from here? Back to the Superbowl. Rodgers is hungry.
This game will be far from a low-scoring, defensive battle. An epic shootout between Old School and New School is more like it. This could be one of the highest scoring Super Bowl’s in recent memory.
And who wins? You guessed it. The Denver Broncos. What a way to cap off a tremendous season. John Elway looks like an absolute genius as Peyton Manning more than earns his paycheck making the Denver Broncos back on top again – just like old times.
Superbowl XLVII Champion – Denver Broncos
Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images