Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons are the NFC’s number one seed. Is it the year that they make a deep playoff run?
By Brandon Pemberton
Well after an exciting 2012 NFL season, the playoffs are here. We have three rookie quarterbacks in this year, proving my point that if you draft a true franchise, you can win instantly in this league. The quarterback class of 2012 has started to make a name for it’s self already. I will preview the playoffs in each conference and give my predictions all the way through the Super Bowl. Before the season, I picked the 49ers and Texans to play and the Texans to win it all:( http://brandononsports.me/2012/09/09/2012-nfl-season-preview-via-brandononsports-sportstrapradio/ ) and things have played out differently down the stretch, especially with the Texans. But I won’t spoil it for you read and enjoy!
Wild card Round
6 Minnesota Vikings at 3 Green Bay Packers
The Packers and Vikings split the season series 1-1 with each team scoring 57 points a piece in the two games. Adrian Peterson has savaged the Packers defense, rushing for 409 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Vikings have been able to run the ball effectively, even with teams loading the box to stop AD. The deciding factor for the Vikings this year vs the Packers has been QB Christian Ponder, in the loss this season, he passed for 112 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT’s. In the week 17 win, he was 16-28 for 234 yards, 3 TD’s and no interceptions.
In a game like this, a elite QB like Aaron Rodgers could get hot and dominate, but in order for him to do what he does, his offensive line has to do a better job of keeping him upright. It would also help if they could run the ball a little bit. The Packers haven’t had a 100 yard rusher all season, forcing them to be a one dimensional team.
Defensively, the Vikings must get a constant pass rush on Rodgers and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. They also must avoid giving up the big plays in the passing game. Tackling the Packers WR’s immediately after the catch is essential. The Green Bay Packers obviously haven’t been able to stop the Vikings from running the ball and they have to stop him and put the game in Christian Ponder’s hands.
My Prediction: The Packers are 7-1 at home this year and I simply trust Aaron Rodgers more the Ponder to win this ball game.
5 Seattle Seahawks at 4 Washington Redskins
If you would have told me these two teams would be playoff teams and both with rookie quarterbacks, I would have called you nuts. But Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III have had epic rookie seasons and have their teams in the elimination tourney and could possibly end up a world champion.
The Redskins offensive success is all based upon their ability to run the ball. Sixth round draft pick Alfred Morris has had a All-Pro season, 335 carries 1613 yards and 13 TD’s. His ability to run inside and pound teams effectively, along with the threat of RGIII with the occasional option play is what allows the Redskins to have one of the league’s best play action passing games. The Redskins doa good job winning time of possession, allowing it’s defense to rest and keeping teams offense on the sidelines. Also, RGIII has only turned the ball over seven times on the season.
The Seahawks offense is built similar to the Skins, except they use a bit more traditional I-formation and two back sets. Marshawn Lynch has been a horse all season, carrying the ball 315 times for 1590 yards and 11 TD’s. The Seahawks are a run first team who uses the play action to get big plays down the field and convert 3rd downs. Russell Wilson was great in college at the play action pass and it carried over to the NFL. Sidney Rice finally looks healthy and Golden Tate is coming into his own.
Defensively the Seahawks have the better unit, they have the best defensive backfield in the NFL hands down. Mel Kiper said the Seahawks had the worst draft in the league, but MLB Bobby Wagner and DE Bruce Irvin have played great this season, Wagner arguably at a All Pro level. The Seahawks are a tough physical team defensively 1-11.
The Redskins have stepped up defensively during their seven game win streak. Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett has done a decent job mixing up looks and coverages, confusing the oppositions quarterbacks and not allowing the big play.
My Prediction: The Redskins are hot and supposedly RGIII is 100%, but I believe defense and the running game travels and I like the Seahawks to win.
5 Seattle Seahawks at 1 Atlanta Falcons
As I said before, defense and the running game travels and even though the Falcons are deadly at home, their inability to run the ball and stop the run is the reason why they lose at home. The Seahawks and Russell Wilson make the NFC Championship game
3 Green Bay Packers at 2 San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers choice of Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith costs them a Super Bowl trip. I’ll take Aaron Rodgers and his big game experience over the Kaepernick any day. The Packers defense is an opportunistic group and they will force Kaepernick into mistakes and win this ball game on the road.
5 Seattle Seahawks at 3 Green Bay Packers
A rematch of the infamous replacement referee game from earlier this season, that ultimately led to the real officials coming back to work. This time the game will be played at Lambeau field where the Packers have played their best football all season. I expect another close game, but Aaron Rodgers will make enough clutch plays to get the Packers back to the Super Bowl.
Wild Card Round
6 Cincinnati Bengals at 3 Houston Texans
The Houston Texans were my favorite to win it all before the season, and started the season 11-1, and then stumbled down the stretch, going 1-3 in their last four games. The went from being the number one seed and having home field advantage, to being the three seed and playing the Bengals in the Wild Card round. The Texans need to get back to being a physical, run first team and then using the play action pass to get the ball in Andre Johnson’s hands. Arian Foster’s play is clearly the key to this team having success offensively in my opinion.
The Bengals have made the playoffs in the 1st two seasons of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green’s career, while saving head coach Marvin Lewis’s job at the same time. During the season the offense has been hot and cold, and at times one dimensional.While going 7-1 in the second half of the season, Benjarvus Green-Ellis has run for 100 yards or more in 4 of those games. The Bengals must have a good run pass balance and do whatever it takes to keep Texans DE J.J. Watt quiet.
Defensively the Texans haven’t been the same overall as a unit since the lost All Pro ILB Brian Cushing. Not only was he a stud versus the run, he was great in the pass game, whether it be blitzing or in coverage. His versatility allowed them to do some exotic things defensively. The Texans are still solid vs the run, but have been giving up a lot of big plays in the passing game. A.J. Green is a threat on the outside, in the slot and especially in the red zone. The Texans have to take him out of the game if they want to advance.
The Cincinnati Bengals defense have been playing exceptionally well, allowing a league best 12.7 ppg over the last 8 weeks of the season. The have one of the best defensive lines in football with Carlos Dunlap and Micheal Johnson at defensive end and Geno Atkins(12.5 sacks) and Demata Peko inside at defensive tackle. The Bengals took rookie free agent Vontaze Burfict, a player that was scrutinized and said wouldn’t ben any good in this league, put him at weakside linebacker and he has be good for them. He’s racked up 127 tackles (73 solo) and forced two fumbles. The defensive backfield has been solid all season, Cornerbacks Leon Hall, Adam Jones and even Terrence Newman are all doing a great job in the Bengals press man to man scheme. The key for the Bengals to be successful is shutting down the Texans run and making them one dimensional, and knocking Matt Schaub around.
My Prediction: I like the Bengals to get the upset victory. Defense playing great and A.J. Green has a big time game for Cincinnati.
5 Indianapolis Colts vs 4 Baltimore
The great Ray Lewis announced at a press conference that he was retiring after the season and this could possibly be his last football game. It’s been a honor watching him play football over the last 20 year(3 at U of Miami and 17 with Ravens), and he’s easily in the top 5 defensive players I’ve seen play. But let’s get back to football, the last two games he’s started, the Ravens gave up over 200 yards on the ground in those games. Ray Lewis is still a great leader and motivator, but he clearly isn’t the same guy from about 3-4 years ago.
This Ravens team is an offensive lead team, by it’s quarterback Joe Flacco, who was a dropped pass/ missed field goal away from a Super Bowl appearance last season. The Ravens can be explosive in the passing game, but they have to run Ray Rice and expose the Colts weak run defense. Beat them up and then go up top to Torrey Smith deep.
The Colts drafted Andrew Luck and put a lot on his plate, and he has done a good job for a rookie quarterback. But Andrew Luck is going to have to play better if the Colts have a chance to win. In his last five games, he’s completed 50% or less of his passes and they’ve won 4 out of 5, but the playoffs is a different animal. They really need a solid performance from rookie running back Vic Ballard, who’s averaging 86 yards per game over his last four games. Andrew Luck can’t hold onto the ball and make mistakes with the ball like he’s done plenty in his rookie year(18 Int’s).
The Colts defense is ranked 26th in the NFL in yards allowed per game(374.9) and 21st in points allowed(24.2), this is their 1st season playing in the 3-4 and they still need the proper pieces to be effective, especially versus the run, where they can be gashed on a regular basis. They have to stop Ray Rice and get off the field on 3rd downs.
My Prediction: The Colts have had a storybook season with the whole “Chuck Strong” thing, and it’s amazing that he has made it back to the sidelines, but the Ravens are the better team and playing at home. Ravens win.
6 Cincinnati Bengals at 1 Denver Broncos
This game will be a rematch, as during the regular season, the Broncos down 20-17 in the fourth quarter came back and won the game 31-23. This time around it will be in Denver and the Broncos, led by Peyton Manning and Von Miller win the game.
4 Baltimore Ravens at 2 New England Patriots
This will also be a rematch from the regular season. In week 3 , the Ravens overcame a 30-21 deficit in the 4th quarter and won the game 31-30. This time around the game will be played at the Patriots place and I have to go with Tom Brady, Vincent Wilfork and Bill Belichick.
2 New England Patriots at 1 Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL coming into the playoffs, Peyton Manning is playing out of his mind and the defense has played much better this season then I thought they could. That being said, I expect an all time game, instant classic, a shootout between two of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen. I think the Broncos take advantage of home field and Von Miller defensively will be the difference. Broncos win.
Super Bowl XLVII
Green Bay Packers vs Denver Broncos
This is a quarterback driven league and two of the league’s best will face each other on the final Sunday of the 2012 NFL season. Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning both have one ring under their belts and are looking for number two. On the field, the difference in this game would be Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil vs the Packers one dimensional offense and weak offensive line. The Broncos have the ability to cause havoc rushing the passer, forcing fumbles and QB’s into mistakes. The Packers defense has been much better then it was last season, has been hurt with injuries down the stretch to key players and have some holes that can be exposed.
I know I picked the Houston Texans to win the Super Bowl before the season, but after watching how the season played out, doing countless hours of film study, I believe the Broncos will win it all.