NFC Playoff Picture
So seeing as how I made all these picks, I guess it would behoove me to get a sense of finality for this whole football season. Lets start with the NFC. The divisional winners would be the 49ers in the west, Saints in the South, the Vikings in the North and the Cowboys in the East. That gives Wildcard berths to the Eagles and Packers. Based on my predictions of records I give New Orleans and Minnesota byes the first week, which leaves the Cowboys hosting the Packers (because you can’t host an interdivisional rival if you can help it) and the Niners hosting the Eagles.
‘Boys vs. Packers is an intriguing matchup, and probably will end up being the best game of the weekend. Based on QB play, overall defense and talent at offensive line, I have to give it all to the Packers. Rogers is a better QB already than Romo, the defense has a legitimate secondary and doesn’t rely solely on pass rush to get stops, and the run defense, top 5 last season, is only getting better now that Aaron Kampman has been removed. This is addition by subtraction right there, and allows for someone to play that’s not out of position. It won’t be a blowout, but it will definitely make Jerry Jones start complaining real quick. The Cowboys are too offensively minded, and this will be to their detriment in the postseason. Out west, despite a new hard-nosed approach, the Niners don’t have the talent to beat the receiving corps of the Eagles. Kevin Kolb is looking shakier than most had hoped in the preseason, but he has a lot of talent around him to pick him up. Though San Francisco has the front seven to battle anyone, their secondary even with Taylor Mays at safety needs a little more time, especially against a pass-happy coach like Andy Reid. Frank Gore will have a good game, but the defense will hold on enough to give Philly the game.
Round two in the NFC then would look like the Vikings hosting the Eagles and the Packers on the road to New Orleans. That Vikings-Eagles matchup looks like a second coming of the Niners a week earlier, but the Vikings are built like the Niners, just better in all aspects. All-everything Adrian Peterson will be able to run over even LB Patrick Willis, and Brett Favre being healthy or hopped up on pain killers is a definite upgreade over Alex Smith. I have to give it to the Vikings, even with all the talent on the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles. Plus, with Jared Allen and company desiring only to behead him, Kolb will be too shook up to be effective. In New Orleans, it looks like we’d have another shootout like Arizona had against the Pack last year. I would say the defense would carry the Pack because the QB’s match up so evenly to me, but Sean Peyton isn’t one to be fooled by something so simple as a 3-4 scheme with talent. The Packers are better defensively, make no mistake about that, but the Superdome is a tough place to win any time of the year and no matter who you are. You know what though? I think this is a year for Aaron Rogers to really emerge as he and Drew Brees trade TDs, and they’ll squeak by on a Mason Crosby last-second field goal from the 40.
Vikings-Packers in the NFC Championship? I say hell yes. I can’t imagine the Packers would be easy on Favre, since there were reports last year of the entire team including Rogers rooting against the Vikings while watching the NFC Championshipat a bar last year. This would probably be the best game of the postseason, two divisional rivals with loathing on top of hatred facing off. And though it would be story-book for Favre to pull one out over his old team and finally make it back to the Super Bowl, I feel instant karma will rear its ugly head again and Charles Woodson will waltz into the endzone with the deciding TD after Brett throws it right to him. Yes, after many years, the Green and Gold will see the big one once again.
AFC Playoff Picture
Plainly the best records in the AFC will go to the Colts and the Patriots. The other teams have too brutal of schedules in their own division (yes, the Jets and Dolphins are tough, but playing the Steelers and Ravens twice is just too much) so the Pats and Colts will rest for a week, seemingly like usual. So a Jets-Bengals rematch, the same two teams that faced eachother last Wildcard Week. If you’ll remember, Chad Ochocinco said that if CB Darrelle Revis shut him down, he would change his name back to Johnson. It happened, and nothing came of it. Now, with the whole Revis situation killing the Jets along with Terrell Owens on the Bengals, this is a whole new ballgame. T.O. may not be what he once was, but him as a number 2, plus Jordan SHipley in the slot, gives Carson Palmer a pile of weapons to rival Rambo. I don’t see the Jets pulling this one out, even if Revis comes back, because there’s just too much talent for the Bengals to beat them with. Recent injuries and too much tough talk are going to sink the Jets season and Mike Francesa will be impossible to shut up.
Out in San Diego, the Ravens, plain and simple, are going to utterly dismantle the Chargers. Recent developments of wide receiver Vincent Jackson holding out combined with too many losses of talent are going to doom San Diego. Plus, the Ravens are a dangerous team in every respect now, with offensive threats to match number 52 and the rest of the big D. Like the Vikings-Packers game will be the best game, this will be the ugliest and most one-sided.
Divisional week would see the Bengals in Foxboro to face the Patriots and the Colts playing host to the Ravens. Much as I like the Bengals, Bill Belichick is just too good at what he does and will have too much time prior to the game to be able to lose. Brady and Palmer will have a shootout, with TD’s lighting the board up everywhere, but vintage Brady will show up in the last 1:30 of the game with a game-winning drive down the field. The Colts meanwhile will have their hands full. Despite upgreades to the D, the Ravens will be able to do as they please and it will be on Manning, as always, to win. This time though I think the Ravens are just too good in every respect, and will be able to bludgeon Manning out of his comfort zone. Flacco won’t outgun the great QB, but the rest of the team, healthy, will do it Baltimore style and take the game in Lucas Oil Stadium.
A a win in Indy would send the Ravens to New England the next week, and though it won’t be the same as last year, the outcome will be the same. Brady is now two years removed from knee surgery, and traditionally that’s how long it takes to come all the way back. He will have a clean game and the offense will be as-ever unstoppable, but the defense is either too old or too young at this point, and will be beaten right back. A key stop by one of the big guys in purple will be the deciding factor, whether its a tackle behind the line by Lewis or a late pick by Reed, but over the season it will become apparent the Ravens are a team of destiny. Maybe it’s a once-a-decade thing, but the Ravens will get back to the Promised Land again this season.
So a Packers-Ravens Super Bowl would be in the offing. Unlike the last time Baltimore was there, this opponent isn’t a surprise that rode some good luck like the 2000 Giants. The Packers are a real threat, and will show it quickly. This game will be more balanced than anyone would expect, neither a defensive battle or an offensive shootout. Rogers is really good, and will have his way at times with that Baltimore secondary. Ed Reed will show what makes him so great with a couple picks though, and the hard-nosedness of the Ravens will be the deciding factor. Ray Lewis is too dominating to be forgotten, and will spend a lot of time in the backfield. The Packers are expecting a lot out of a young o-line, and Terrell Suggs, Lewis, Ngata, and the rest will have a good time with them. A matchup like this has to go Ravens, with Lewis (hopefully not) riding off into the sunset. So there it is, through process of elimination and stream of consciousness thinking, the Baltimore Ravens will be Super Bowl Champs. Out on a limb? Maybe, but they’re a good team and could be great. And any time I get to watch 52 play is a bonus.