NFL playoff predictions
Josh Dulany | Monday, November 3, 2014
The NFL season just wrapped up the ninth of its 17 weeks, and as the schedule eclipses the halfway point, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Football is a crazy sport. Just ask Dallas how an injury can change things. Still, we have seen enough to get a feel for how teams will perform and predict which teams will make the playoffs.
Let’s start with the NFC:
NFC North Champion: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s bye week was perfectly timed to help Aaron Rodgers bounce back from a gimpy hamstring and start doing Aaron Rodgers-things over the last part of the season. Eddie Lacy is picking up steam after a slow start, and if the defense contributes anything at all, this team should be able to overcome Detroit’s division lead. Plus, the Detroit Lions will likely do Detroit Lions-things down the stretch and find ways to lose. They have played in four games decided by a touchdown or less, so they are living on the edge already. This could come down to the season’s final game, and the Lions have to travel to Lambeau Field in December. Advantage: Packers
NFC East Champion: Philadelphia Eagles
Eli Manning is about the only healthy quarterback in this division, but believe it or not, Mark Sanchez proves a strong backup option for the Eagles. Demarco Murray and the Cowboys will be a factor if Tony Romo can get healthy, but Philadelphia looks like a more complete team and should hold on to win the division.
NFC South Champion: New Orleans Saints
Well, somebody has to win this division. Even if the Saints had never won on the road, eight home wins probably would have been enough to win this terrible division. Add in the fact that the Saints may have solved their road woes at Carolina and may actually be able to get to a strong 10 or 11 wins. They have a huge talent edge on the rest of the division. In other words, they are sort of actually good at football. Unless Carolina’s defense rediscovers some kind of edge, the Saints should run away with this.
NFC West Champion: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona has a two game advantage on the defending champs but has yet to play a division game. The 49ers are banged up, the Rams will be playing the spoiler role all season and the Seahawks have yet to rediscover championship form. The Cardinals should ride their stingy defense and quality coaching to a good second half. If they can even just split their series with the 49ers and Seahawks, then they should be able to capitalize on their strong start and take the division.
NFC Wildcards: Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks
These teams will be heading opposite directions: the Lions letting a division lead slip away and the Seahawks finding their groove just in time for the postseason. Still, a ton of talent exists on both teams, and they should get to play football into January.
As for the AFC:
AFC North Champion: Cincinnati Bengals
Hmmm … basically, a toss up. These are four physical teams slugging it out. Roethlisberger and the Steelers have looked great the last two weeks, but they looked awful earlier in the season. Hard to believe a team that lost to Tampa Bay can win a division. The Bengals also have already taken down the Ravens twice and should be able to hang on. The Browns are better but don’t have enough offense to get over the hump.
AFC East Champion: New England Patriots
That 41-14 debacle at the hands of the Chiefs seems like forever ago. The Patriots stand 5-0 since and are back to looking like one of the league’s premier teams. The Dolphins might be coming on strong, but Bill Belichik and Tom Brady are still around here. The Dolphins (or the Bills) will have to mount a heroic charge to take away the division crown.
AFC South Champion: Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is very good. The Jaguars, Titans and Texans are very bad.
AFC West Champions: Denver Broncos
The Chiefs have found their game and the Chargers got off to a strong start, but Peyton Manning still plays for the Broncos and he is throwing to a ridiculously talented corps of receivers. Plus, the Broncos defense has been exceptional, except for the New England game. This is a talented division, but the Broncos have the most talent of anyone in the league.
AFC Wildcards: Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins
Both will be a bit surprising to see in January, but as the Steelers cool off the Dolphins will stay hot. Alex Smith will game manage his way to another post-season appearance and a shot at redemption for his last heartbreaking loss in the wildcard round.