Seventeen weeks of hard hitting football have passed and now we find ourselves at the business end of the season, the play-offs. Thirty two teams become twelve as the best of the best (sort of…) battle it out to make it to the big game and lift that Lombardi Trophy above their heads.
Just in case you didn’t know which teams have made it to the post season, here’s a list for the AFC in seeded order: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers; and for the NFC (also in seeded order): Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints.
When I wrote my NFL season preview I managed to get 9/12 correct (although not in the right order) which isn’t too bad. Oddly enough when I wrote a mid-season review I also got 9/12 right, but they weren’t the same nine and they were more in line with the order that they actually finished in, so overall not too bad.
I’m going to run through each stage of the play-offs and talk about what I think will happen in each stage and eventually will finish with the teams who I think will make the Super Bowl and which one I think will win it.
Wild Card Round
Chargers @ Bengals
I’m not quite sure how the Chargers made it into the play-offs, and you have to wonder how man lives they had in their final match against Kansas City, but sadly for Charger fans I think they’ve used them all up and the Bengals will be marching on to the divisional round quite comfortably.
Chiefs @ Colts
A really tight match-up between two good teams that is pretty tough to call. What puts me off of picking the Colts is that a number of times they have been blown out by at best average teams, and they also don’t look like the high scoring team they did last season. The Chiefs on the other hand have had a self-enforced bye week, and can play on both sides of the ball, which is very important in the play-offs. I think it will be tight, but I think the Chiefs will take it in the end.
Cheifs @ Broncos
The Broncos beat the Chiefs twice in the regular season, and I think it will be a hat trick of wins for them this year. The Broncos are the best scoring team in the NFL and I can’t see Alex Smith managing to keep up in a shoot-out (also hurting Charles’ playing time) with Manning, and for that reason and the Broncos strong home advantage, I think it will be Denver.
Bengals @ Patriots
This is one of the worst Patriots teams I have seen, yet they are seeded as the second best team in the AFC, which says a lot about Bellicheck and Brady, they know how to win football games. The Bengals beat the Pats in the regular season in Cincinnati, but that was a different game in a different place. This is one of the best match-ups of the play-offs as the talented Bengals go against the crafty Patriots, a classic young and upcoming against a crafty old vet. I think the Bengals will edge it though, I feel they are better on both sides of the ball, and the Patriots are lacking in quality targets which is a must at this stage of proceedings. I wouldn’t however rule them out, because it would be typical Pats if they still somehow managed to go on and win it all, although I doubt it will happen.
Bengals @ Broncos
I think that whichever team that is going to beat the Broncos will have to have their defence control the game and stop Manning from putting up high scores. Nobody will compete with the Broncos in a shoot-out, they are just too good. This is a tough one to call, because my instinct tells me to choose the Broncos, but I have a feeling that the Bengals are a team built to beat them. If it’s a shoot-out I don’t see the Bengals keeping up, but if it is anything else I think the Bengals take it to the Super Bowl. I could see it going either way, but I chose the Bengals pre-season and I’m sticking by that choice here.
Wild Card Round
Saints @ Eagles
The Saints lost 4 games this season, all of which were away from home. The Eagles are a team on lightning form, winning seven of their last eight, with an unexplainable lose to the Vikings thrown in there to boot. All signs point to an offensive shoot-out, and all signs point to an Eagles win, but it is that loss to the Vikings which gives a degree of uncertainty to proceedings. Nonetheless I think it will be the Eagles who win the matchup.
49ers @ Packers
An almost impossible game to call; mainly because it depends on how well Aaron Rodgers plays. If he plays well, then the Packers will win, if he still looks rusty and off the pace then the 49ers will win. I called the 49ers the most talented roster in the NFL pre-season, but they’re offence has dropped off considerably from last year. These two teams played each other in the first game of the regular season at Candlestick, and in that game the 49ers came out on top, the one thing that puts me off picking the 49ers in this game is that although they only lost 4 games this year, all of those games were to other play-off teams. I think they are going to come up short once again in this match and the Packers will go through.
Packers @ Seahawks
I think the Packers are a real dark horse for making the Super Bowl on the NFC side and if they were to get through the Seahawks they would be my pick to win it all. However I don’t think that the Seahawks lose this game. I think the Seahawks are the best all round team in the NFL, with an excellent running game and the best D in the league, and they have that enviable home atmosphere. Although the Seahawks lost at home to the Cardinals near the end of the season, I don’t see the Packers being able to make it two losses in a year.
Eagles @ Panthers
To go from 1-3 to 12-4 is very laudable, the Panthers are arguably the most on form team in the NFL and they have one of the best defences in the league, which is the perfect match-up against the Eagles. Pure defence meets pure offence. I think that this is one of the most interesting match-ups of the play-offs because both teams are polar opposites of each other. The Eagles have however shown that they can score on anyone, and you have to wonder if the Panthers offence is mature enough to play in an all-out shoot-out. For me this really is a coin toss, and my coin says Eagles go marching on.
Eagles @ Seahawks
The bird-off! Much like the Panthers-Eagles match-up, I think this is another belter. The difference for me between this match and the Panthers one, is that the Seahawks are a better offence than the Panthers. I’ve talked about it already and I’ll say it again, the Seahawks are a very good home team, and Qwest Field is one of the hardest places to go in the NFL. I think that because of that reason the Seahawks will be heading to the Super Bowl once again and the Eagles will have another disappointing NFC Championship loss.
Bengals vs Seahawks
This is the Super Bowl which I predicted pre-season, and there is no real shock that I still think that it will happen. Neither team has done anything to show me that they aren’t capable of making it to this stage and I genuinely think that this will be the Super Bowl. It will be interesting to see how both teams cope with the dynamic of playing the Super Bowl in New York, rather than playing it in a sunnier climate. Luckily for both teams, they are both used to adverse weather conditions that this shouldn’t really be a factor. There is no point of me comparing both teams against each other, because if you have read the rest of this post you will know what I think about both teams. So I will say straight out that I think the Seahawks will win it, and I think they will win it because they are an excellent running team, an excellent defence and can throw the ball to a high level when it is required. It is a lot of pressure to expect Russell Wilson to produce a Super Bowl in just his second season, but I think he has shown this season (as well as last) that he is a clutch player and incredibly mature for his age. I like the Bengals, but I think it would be a real upset if they were to beat the Seahawks in this match.
Super Bowl Champions
So there you go, that is how I see the NFL play-offs panning out. No doubt it won’t be right, but there you go. Leave a comment on how you think the NFL play-offs will play out, and whether you think that the Seahawks will be able to pick up their first Lombardi Trophy. Don’t forget that all the latest bm23sportsreviews updates can be found on Facebook and Twitter.