NFL Playoff Predictions including Super Bowl XLVIII Winner (Yanotchko)
Here are my picks for all of the NFL postseason:
Wild Card Round
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
The Chiefs have been the best turnaround story all year, but their run will end here in the Wild Card round. The Colts thumped Kansas City in Week 16, and I love the matchup of Andrew Luck going up against a KC secondary that gives up 248 yards per game, and they can be attacked on the ground as the Chiefs give up 120 rushing yards per game as well. I think this is where Andrew Luck now takes that first step into the elite quarterbacks in the league.
San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals
Although when we had modified Super Bowl predictions mid-season, I think I put the hex on the Bengals as I stated they would represent the AFC and they promptly lost Geno Atkins the next week. The Bengals have been very strong at home, and even though Andy Dalton has looked shaky at times, I still love Dalton and A.J. Green going against a secondary that gives up 259 yards per game and opposing QBs complete 66 percent of their passes. While the Chargers have been a great story this year and Phillip Rivers has revived his career, I don't see them beating a great defense on the road. Bengals, 31-21.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles
The second best turnaround has to be Chip Kelly and the Eagles, and he has reinvigorated their offense, and they boast the league's best rusher in LeSean McCoy. The Saints have welcomed back Sean Payton from suspension, and he and Drew Brees have the offense humming once again. Even though the Saints aren't that great away from home, I still love the matchup of Brees and Jimmy Graham going against an Eagles pass defense that allows a league-high 290 yards per game. I think this game will be high scoring, but the Saints will have more than enough on the road. Saints, 38-34.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
The high in Green Bay for this game is expected to be 8 degrees, but the 49ers are the team that is built best for cold weather of these two. Colin Kaepernick and crew have owned the Packers as of late, as they bounced them out of the playoffs last year, 45-31 and also dispatched them 34-28 to open the year. Kapernick had a field day throwing for 412 yards, and the Green Bay pass defense allows 247 yards per game. Although Aaron Rodgers is back, I just don't see the Packers contending with this top-flight defense. 49ers, 24-20.
* DraftKings: Play Daily Fantasy Football throughout the playoffs and get a 100-percent bonus on your initial deposit.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Perhaps no team has done more with less than the Patriots this year, as they have lost several key starters to injury, yet at the end, here they are with the No. 2 seed. The Bengals beat the Pats earlier this year at home, but now they get to travel to Foxboro, where the Patriots are tough to beat at home. The Bengals were 8-0 at home, but 3-5 on the road, and New England still has the best coach to scheme and stifle the Bengals offense. At the end of the day, Tom Brady will make more plays, and the Pats will be back in the AFC championship for a third straight time. Pats, 27-20.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
The Broncos shattered all offensive records this year with Peyton Manning at the helm, and he surpassed the 50 TDs set by Brady, and Drew Brees's most passing yards in a season mark. The Broncos did lose to the Colts earlier this year, and I think the Colts can do it again. The Colts have the ability to exploit the Broncos through the air, and I think the Colts match up well against Denver. Cue the pundits wailing, but Manning will be one-and-done again in the playoffs, and it won't be his fault; it will be the Denver D. Colts, 38-35.
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have been a throwback team, based on running the football, and backed up by one of the best defenses in the league. The Panthers got the better of the 49ers earlier this year in a defensive slugfest 10-9 in San Francisco. Now the 49ers will have to travel to Carolina, but this time they will get the better of Cam Newton and company. I like the vaunted 49ers run defense to stop the Panthers, as they only give up 95 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. The 49ers will get the better of this game, as I trust Jim Harbaugh to have a better gameplan than Ron Rivera. 49ers, 16-13.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Who could forget earlier the beatdown Seattle gave to New Orleans on Monday Night Football in Week 13, 34-7? The Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in the league, and New Orleans always has a tough time when having to travel there. Seattle also has the league's best passing defense, as they only allow a league-best 172 yards per game, and they have also picked off opposing quarterbacks 28 times. Although New Orleans isn't as bad on the road as people think, their trip ends here. Seahawks, 27-17.
Championship Game Round
AFC Championship Game (past results): Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
This game will bring back memories of classic Brady vs. Manning battles, but of course this time it will be Brady against Luck. The Colts have been one of the hottest teams coming into the playoffs, and of course I have them knocking off both Kansas City and Denver on the road, but Foxboro is where hot streaks die. In this game, I can see the Patriots pounding out the game on the ground against a Colts rush defense that allows 125 yards per game, and 4.5 yards per carry. I also foresee Aqib Talib being able to shadow and shut down T.Y. Hilton, and allow the Patriots pass rush to get home against the league's most-hit quarterback in Luck. Like it or not, the Patriots will be back for the sixth time to the Super Bowl. Patriots, 31-30.
NFC Championship Game (past results): San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
The NFC could not be settled any other way, as most people had Seattle and San Francisco as the best two teams in the league. The 49ers have not had much luck going up to Seattle as of late, as they lost 29-3, but beat Seattle at home in Week 14, 19-7. The Seahawks have everything going for them, home field advantage, best passing defense, and the 49ers at home, but this time they will have the tables turned on them by Kaepernick and crew. In this game, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis will make all the difference, and this is where a lack of a playmaker will come back to burn Seattle. 49ers, 22-20.
The 49ers will find themselves back in the big game for a second straight year, and of course, their opponent is no stranger to the big stage as this will be the Patriots sixth Super Bowl under Brady and Belichick. The 49ers are a great team with a fast-pursuing defense, and they have one of the best offensive lines in football that leads a great running game.
The Patriots have certainly used the next-man-up theory this year, but they never are out of a football game as they have not lost by more than a touchdown all year. In this game, I foresee Brady being able to attack the San Francisco secondary, and the 49ers will have a tough day trying to cover Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen.
Although it hasn't been pretty, there is just something about this Patriots team that exudes mental toughness, and even though they have lost for the year Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski and Sebastian Volmer, they will hoist the Lombardi trophy for the fourth time. Patriots, 34-30.