The NFL playoffs are here. I was thinking about what I should write for my final non-“what did I learn here?” post of the year, and I thought playoff predictions would be perfect. I’ve done it throughout the year, and I have to make them anyway, so why not?
I’ll give my predictions for each round of the playoffs, along with a score for no good reason. I’d like to tell you all that I usually do pretty well in my annual playoff pick ’em, but that would be a lie.
One thing I know will be true, though: these should be some really good games.
AFC WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
#6 San Diego Chargers at #3 Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are a really good home team, while the Chargers got into the playoffs despite needing about 38 different things to happen. Yet, for some reason, I sense a Chargers upset here. Why? Well, there is a quirky little thing involving the team that plays the Philadelphia Eagles in the Eagles’ home opener: in each of the last three seasons, that team has won the Super Bowl. That team has also lost to Washington and defeated Dallas and the New York Giants. Only one team meets that standard in 2013: San Diego.
Chargers 23, Bengals 21
#5 Kansas City Chiefs at #4 Indianapolis Colts – These two met a couple weeks ago, and the Colts cruised. The Chiefs started the season 9-0, then lost four of the next six. With their seed locked in before Week 17, they sent their reserves out onto the field and almost (maybe should have) beat the Chargers. Of course, those guys won’t be playing in this game.
Colts 20, Chiefs 16
NFC WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
#6 New Orleans Saints at #3 Philadelphia Eagles – Yes, I’m a homer. But Drew Brees and the Saints really struggle on the road, and this game will be played on a Saturday night with a raucous (read: probably drunk) crowd and temperatures in the 20s. There may be snow on the ground from a storm earlier in the week. Just saying.
Eagles 35, Saints 31
#5 San Francisco 49ers at #4 Green Bay Packers – The 49ers went 12-4 this year. The Packers went 8-7-1. However, because the Packers won their division, they get to host this game. That seems unfair, but hey, the Saints won one more game than the Eagles and they have to go on the road as well. Normally I would look at how good the 49ers are and say it doesn’t matter, but Aaron Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone in Week 17 and threw a game-winning touchdown pass to put Green Bay into the tournament, and if there’s anyone who can swing a game like this, it’s Rodgers. But he won’t.
49ers 24, Packers 13
AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
#6 San Diego Chargers at #1 Denver Broncos – I just have one thing to say about this game: the Chargers beat the Broncos a few weeks back. It won’t happen again.
Broncos 42, Chargers 20
#4 Indianapolis Colts at #2 New England Patriots – These two franchises used to meet in the playoffs all the time, but while Tom Brady still runs the show in New England, it’s Andrew Luck at the helm of the Colts offense. I want to pick an upset here, but I don’t see it. Not in what will surely be a night game in Foxboro.
Patriots 28, Colts 20
NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
#5 San Francisco 49ers at #1 Seattle Seahawks – This could be the best game of the entire playoffs. Divisional rivals that really don’t like each other, they split their two games this season, with each team team winning at home. The Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in the league, maybe even all of sports, and that will be the difference here. Make sure you watch this one.
Seahawks 17, 49ers 14
#3 Philadelphia Eagles at #2 Carolina Panthers – It’s strength against strength if these two get together, as the Eagles’ dynamic offense battles the Panthers’ stalwart defense. On the other side of the ball, while Cam Newton is tough to handle, the Panthers have struggled on offense at times, and are hoping Steve Smith returns from a knee injury in time for the game. If he doesn’t, I don’t think the Panthers will win. If he does…I still don’t think they win. Yes, I’m a homer.
Eagles 26, Panthers 17
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#2 New England Patriots at #1 Denver Broncos – Ah, there it is. Manning vs, Brady, Episode #3,907. The Patriots seem to be missing all of their key guys, but keep winning. You expect the shoe to drop at some point, and this is that point.
Broncos 34, Patriots 24
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#3 Philadelphia Eagles at #1 Seattle Seahawks – I know the Seahawks don’t lose at home. Except they did, just last Sunday, to the Arizona Cardinals. And that’s with Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer throwing four interceptions. How do you pick a guy off four times and lose? Nick Foles won’t throw four interceptions. And the Eagles also have LeSean McCoy, who led the league in rushing yards. Add in that the Seahawks have a weakened offensive line, and don’t really have a healthy playmaking receiver to capitalize on the Eagles’ weak pass defense…it doesn’t sound so crazy now, does it?
Seahawks 23, Eagles 20 (OT)
(I’m a homer, but I also know how to hedge my bets.)
SUPER BOWL XLVIII
Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks – It’s going to be cold in New York, er, New Jersey, on Super Bowl Sunday. That might be a factor. It might not. Look, I don’t know, and I don’t know why you’re still reading this after I tried to talk you into the Eagles winning in Seattle.
Broncos 27, Seahawks 13
Enjoy the playoffs!