Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NFL Playoff Projections

With 5 weeks remaining in the regular season, here are my projections for the playoffs:

1) Patriots (13-3)
2) Ravens (12-4)
3) Chargers (11-5)
4) Colts (10-6)
5) Jets (13-3)
6) Steelers (11-5)

I think the Patriots win this week's matchup against the Jets, and if they beat the Packers in week 15 (and all else plays out as expected), they could win the division on the 3rd tiebreaker (common opponents - Jets beat Browns but lost to Ravens and Packers; Patriots beat Ravens but lost to Browns). Baltimore beats Pittsburgh this week and only loses one more game (at home vs. Saints) the rest of the way. Next week's Chiefs-Chargers matchup could decide the fate of the West. If San Diego wins and doesn't get upset against either the Raiders or Broncos, they win the division based on the 2nd tiebreaker (division record). The Jets are a scary #5 seed, and the Steelers win a tiebreaker over the Chiefs for the final spots (conference record; Pittsburgh currently 6-2, KC 4-4).

1) Falcons (13-3)
2) Packers (12-4)
3) Eagles (11-5)
4) Rams (8-8)
5) Saints (12-4)
6) Bucs (10-6)

The Falcons have been just about as impressive as I thought they'd be; passable on defense and dangerous, if not dynamic, offensively with a QB who doesn't lose at home. Wrapping up the #1 seed and home field advantage would be huge for the Falcons. I think they beat the Bucs this week and lose only one more time, to the Saints in week 16. If Mike McCarthy is smart, he'll continue to heavily feature 4 wide sets, sit Aaron Rodgers in the shotgun, and let him dissect defenses with his arm and legs. I don't think they lose the rest of the way, and yes, that includes an upset in New England in week 15. Philly's sad showing in Chicago last week has sapped a little of my confidence in that team (especially because I still think the Bears aren't that good), but I've got them losing one the rest of the way (one of their two matchups with Dallas) and winning the important week 15 matchup with the Giants. The Rams go 3-2 the rest of the way, winning on the road at Arizona and Seattle and beating the 49ers at home. That gets them to 8-8 and avoid the embarrassment of making the playoffs with a losing record (not that .500 isn't bad enough). The Saints, like the Jets, are a very dangerous #5 seed. I still think the defending champs can beat anyone on any week. The Bucs close out the year with wins at Washington and at home against the Lions and Seahawks. They lose to the Falcons and Saints. The Bucs get in over the Giants, who lose at Minnesota and Green Bay in addition to the home loss against Philly. After beating the Lions this week, the Bears will go on to lose their last 4 (Patriots, Vikings, Jets, Packers) and provide the Bucs with the window to grab the final playoff spot.

Wild Card Round
Steelers @ Chargers - Chargers
Jets @ Colts - Jets
Bucs @ Eagles - Bucs
Saints @ Rams - Saints

Divisional Round
Jets @ Patriots - Patriots
Chargers @ Ravens - Chargers
Bucs @ Falcons - Falcons
Saints @ Packers - Packers

Conference Championships
Chargers @ Patriots - Patriots beat the Chargers for the second time this year
Packers @ Falcons - Packers win the rematch in Atlanta

Super Bowl
Packers beat Patriots - Aaron Rodgers MVP

I’m sticking with the Packers from my preseason predictions, and in a repeat of Super Bowl XXXI, I’m calling for them emerge victorious against the Patriots. I think they should have won the game last Sunday against the Falcons and, should they meet again in the playoffs, will be the team that benefits more from having faced the other once before.

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