The NFL playoffs kick off this weekend as the Super Bowl champion will soon be crowned. This post will include my predictions leading up to the Super Bowl champion. As I did last year, I will post my week-by-week predictions for games in a different post. Those will include a more in-depth analysis for each game. Let’s get started!
The 2016 NFL season is about to begin, so I think it is fitting to make some predictions for this fall. Last season, the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50. Can they repeat this year after Peyton Manning’s retirement? Will Carolina’s Cam Newton put up similar numbers this season? I will begin by breaking down each division, including an overview and projected records. Here are my predictions for this season!
Denver Broncos vs Carolina Panthers
Number 1 defense vs Number 1 offense.
Peyton’s potential last ride vs Cam’s first dance
Why I Would Pick Denver:
The defense is spectacular. The Broncos in my opinion have four starting OLBs. Their depth is insane on that front seven. Peyton obviously has been studying all day and night for this game. He is going to know what the Panthers are going to do on every formation and route they show. Peyton will have the thirst for going out on top as will Demarcus Ware. Von Miller is looking for a big pay day and a huge Super Bowl day will only help that. The only thing lacking is the run game. I do not think the Broncos will be able to lean on that, but it could be opened with some short dumpoffs, screens, and short passes. If the Broncos can keep the game manageable with short fields and get pressure on Cam. I think the game is theirs.
Why I Would Pick Carolina:
All year they proved they were the best. They have pretty much dominated (at least a half) every playoff game. They can create turnovers and Kuechly is a huge key. He is the best cover linebacker in the game right now. Cam has the big play potential every snap. Cam has been getting results with a very lacking receiver core. These guys are hungry to prove they are the best. The only thing holding them back is Cam’s completion percentage and lack of experience.
My Gut Feeling:
Peyton wants so bad to go out on top. Broncos by a touchdown.
My Researched Opinion:
The Panthers are on a tear. Panthers by two touchdowns.
My Final Prediction:
50% Peyton Manning predicted stats: 24/38, 259 yds, 2 tds, 1 int
40% Demarcus Ware predicted stats: 6 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble
10% Brandon McManus predicted stats: 3/3 XP 1/1 54 yards, 1/1 59 yds
Super Bowl 50 Preview/Predictions
Finally, Super Bowl 50 is here. The Denver Broncos beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to represent the AFC. Carolina continued their dominating ways as they easily handled the Arizona Cardinals on their way to the NFC Championship. With this likely being Peyton Manning’s last game in the NFL, how much does he have left in the tank? Manning threw 17 interceptions in the regular season, but has thrown zero in the playoffs. Will the Panther’s defense be able to get the best of Peyton? Cam Newton continued to show us why he is the NFL MVP last week. Undoubtedly, the test against the Denver defense will by far be his hardest. Denver forced two Tom Brady interceptions last week, a rare stat line against Brady. They were also constantly putting pressure on him and knocking him to the ground. Will they be able to do the same against Cam? Which team will go home as Super Bowl Champions?
Carolina Panthers (15-1) vs Denver Broncos (12-4)
- Kickoff: 5:30 PM CST
- Location: Levi’s Stadium (San Clara, CA)
- Odds: CAR -5.5
- Over/Under: 45.
Case for Carolina: The Panthers just keep on winning. It is as simple as that. Carolina made a joke out of Carson Palmer and the Cardinals in the NFC Championship. Going into this game, Carolina has earned their place as the favorite to win. Cam continues to play on another level than every other quarterback and the defense is improving every week. The no-name receiving corp for Cam is also playing exceptionally well in the playoffs to this point. This team must feel very confident going against Peyton Manning considering his arm strength is weaker than his younger years. In oder to win this game, Carolina needs to jump out to an early lead, which they are definitely capable of doing. Denver’s offense isn’t built to make a comeback, especially against a defense as good as Carolina’s. Look for the Panther’s offense to take some shots early in the game and attempt to run away with this game.
Case for Denver: Denver is hot right now, taking down the best quarterback in the NFL in the AFC Championship. While many believe that Denver will get blown out again in the Super Bowl, as they did two years ago, I think they are wrong. Denver’s defense is the best in the NFL. No chance this team is allowing more than 25 points, no matter how good Cam Newton is. To stop Carolina’s offense, Denver will need to stop the rushing attack. Jonathon Stewart is a good runner, along with Cam Newton on the scramble. The front 7 for Denver are up for the challenge and will force the Panthers into tough pass situations. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are hungry and playing their best football. It will be a challenge to contain Cam in the pocket, but these two edge rushers are more than ready. They will force turnovers and give Peyton short fields to work with, just like they did against the Patriots. Offensively, the Broncos must play perfect. If they turn the ball over to Cam, they have little to no chance of taking this game. Denver will give everything they have to help Peyton win his last NFL game.
Prediction: Denver 20, Carolina 17
MVP Prediction: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver – 21/35, 237 YDs, 2 TDs
Confidence: Very, very low
Difference of Game: Denver’s defense doing just enough to put Cam in tough situations on each drive.
Conference Championship Round Preview/Predictions
After an unforgettable Divisional Round, NFL fans cannot wait for the Championship games. The Patriots knocked off the red-hot Chiefs while the Broncos handled a beat-up Steelers team. The Panthers built a strong lead on the Seahawks and held on, while the Cards barely defeated the Packers after a tremendous Aaron Rodgers’ comeback. New England gets a rematch against Denver in what may be the final Brady vs Manning matchup. Which teams will advance to Super Bowl 50?
New England Patriots (12-4) at Denver Broncos (12-4)
- Kickoff: Sunday at 2:05 PM CST
- Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver, CO)
- Odds: NE -3
- Over/Under: 44.5
Case for New England:
Just like every other year, New England is again competing for a spot in the Super Bowl. Just like every other year, Tom Brady is leading this team. The Patriots started this season 10-0 before injuries of key players costed them a loss (of course, to the Broncos). Following that loss, the Patriots won 2 of their final 3 to finish 12-4 and a second place finish in the AFC. Last week, with many players coming back from injuries, the Patriots handled the Chiefs fairly well in 27-20 win. Going into this week, New England looks like an early favorite for this game. New England has been outstanding on offense, averaging 29.1 points per game, good for 3rd in the NFL and 1st in the AFC. Defensively, this team finished in 10th for yards allowed, but New England is always known for playing it’s best on the defensive side of the ball in the playoffs. This looks like good news after watching the Bronco’s offense struggle against a weak Steeler’s defense. If the Patriots play their best game, they should be competing in Super Bowl 50.
Case for Denver:
After claiming the #1 seed for the playoffs in week 17, Denver gets to host New England for a chance at another Super Bowl. Going into the playoffs, the Broncos didn’t know who their starting QB would be until Manning was called up to lead this team. This team is feeling very confident against a New England team they defeated earlier in the year, a 30-24 overtime win. Offensively, this team has been inconsistent. Some weeks, they are able to score a lot of points, but others, they fail to score a touchdown. While Manning has had trouble scoring, he does have something on this team that he has never had before in his career: An offensive rushing attack. CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman will be able to take some weight off Manning’s shoulders. Defensively, it is hard to argue that the Broncos do not have one of the league’s best. With Demarcus Ware and Von Miller rushing the quarterback, Chris Harris Jr and Aqib Talib locking down receivers, it will be a challenge for any quarterback. Brady has been known to struggle against good defenses. Denver’s defense ranks 4th in points and 1st in total yards (1st against the pass and 3rd against the rush). If the Broncos are able to stop New England when the run the ball, they will able to force Brady into making tough throws when they expect it. This may lead to turnovers, giving Manning and the offense extra chances to put points on the board.
Prediction: Denver 23, New England 20
Confidence: Very, very low
Difference of Game: Denver’s defense being able to stop Brady and give Manning chances on offense.
Arizona Cardinals (13-3) at Carolina Panthers (15-1)
- Kickoff: Sunday at 5:40 PM CST
- Location: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, NC)
- Odds: CAR -3
- Over/Under: 48.0
Case for Arizona:
After a crazy game that finished in Arizona’s favor last week, the Cardinals are looking for another Super Bowl appearance. Carson Palmer is having an MVP-type season and he proved that last week leading his team down in overtime. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald continues to dominate after having 176 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime last week. David Johnson has also been great this year as this team’s running back. This team also finished 1st in total yards and points per game. Defensively, this team has been tremendous. Cornerback Patrick Peterson leads this squad that finished 5th in yards allowed. Even though defensive back Tyrann Matheiu is out for the remainder of the season, the Cardinals still have great players that cause havoc for most quarterbacks in the NFL. Even though Aaron Rodgers brought his team back in the final seconds of last week’s game, this team still maintained him for a majority of the game.
Case for Carolina:
After leading the game 31-0 at halftime last week, the Panthers were able to stop a Russell Wilson comeback and seal the 31-24 win. The Panthers offense scores more than every team but one in the first half of games this season. Cam Newton, with the lack of weapons he has, has dominated all season long. It’s hard to argue that he isn’t the front running for MVP. Running back Jonathon Stewart has played his best year, helping the Panthers finish 2nd in league rushing yards. Carolina has been extremely efficient this season, finishing +20 in turnovers this season. Defensively, led by DPOY candidates Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short, and Josh Norman, have played fantastic this season. This defense has a knack for forcing turnovers and turning them into points. While this team looks like the NFL’s best at some points (First half of last week’s game), they have played poorly at other times. If Cam and his team play as good as they are capable of, no team will stop them from reaching their goal.
Prediction: Carolina 27, Arizona 23
Difference of Game: Cam Newton and his explosive offense being able to score quick points on the Cardinal’s defense.
Arizona at Panthers
I think this game comes down to how effective Arizona can keep Cam guessing. They are one of the better teams in switching up their looks and not showing blitz until the last second. If Cam can recognize this he will have a hay day with either running for the first or finding the open guy. This is the game that not having Tryann could really hurt the Cardinals. Another key is Arizona’s run game. It didn’t have much juice against the Packers and the Packers aren’t known for their rush defense. If Zona can get DJ going this game should take shape on the Cardinals side.
Arizona 24 Panthers 21 OT
Patriots at Broncos
The big Brady v Manning. Wouldn’t it be a lot more fun if it was Osweiler v Garoppolo. The Patriots are pretty beat up right now and I was thinking, does the mile high city increase some injury concerns, hmmmm. Manning seemed like he couldn’t really get a touch on the ball, but they won. I wonder if the Broncos two qb this game. That would be a hell of an idea. Let Osweiler start and get going. If it gets to high pressure situations toss in Manning, give him a mic and let him talk to Brock all game. It probably wont happen but still I can dream. I am thinking it comes down to time of possession honestly. Whoever can keep the chains moving wins this so I am flipping a coin for my pick and yes I will actually flip it. Heads=Mr Forehead Tails=I can’t think of something funny so Pats are tails.
Broncos 17 Patriots 16
1. Divisional Round. What a round of football! All the games were way close and had plenty of drama. We had the Patriots over the Chiefs, Broncos over the Steelers, Panthers over the Seahawks, and the Cardinals over the Packers. Here are our thoughts on the outcomes:
Tom: When was the last time we had both 1-2 seeds in both championship games? 2004? So far this playoff I am 5-3. Not too bad considering I never guessed only 1 and 2’s would remain. I am excited for the championship matchups. All of the teams have some injury questions along with can their QB get it done question. Peyton and Tom and old and have their whole rivalry. Cam is young and hasn’t been here before. Carson is old and hasn’t been here before. It should be a good weekend of football coming to us. Look for my picks later in the week.
Josh: Just like the Wild Card weekend, the Divisional round only got better. We kicked off with Brady handling the Chiefs at home and cruising to yet another AFC Championship game appearance. Saturday night, the Cardinals and Packers played in one of the greatest games I have ever witnessed. Aaron Rodgers led his team, with a receiving corp that even I could start on, down the field against one of the NFL’s best defenses in their house. Rodgers proved he is easily one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now and one of the most skilled of all time. It was unfortunate that he didn’t get a chance to win the game in OT, but the Cardinals moved on. On Sunday, the Panthers played amazing in the first half, but horrendous in the second half. For Seattle, vise versa. Either way, the Panthers advanced. The Broncos took on the beat-up Steelers and finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and won the game. Looking ahead, the Patriots look like the early favorites in the AFC, while the Cardinals and Panthers are even. Either way, I picked all four games correctly and I cannot wait for the Conference Championships!
Tom: There is no place for people like this in the NFL. He deserves every second of this suspension and more. If you are deliberately trying to hurt people then get out, just leave and do not ever come back. My thoughts are the same of OBJ. Yes there are big hits that is part of the game, but when you target players and attempt to injure them you aren’t only hurting them for this game but the next you could put their lively hood at stake. The Bengals should release him and every NFL team should watch him go by their team on the waiver.
Josh: Unlikely for Burfict, he will be out the first three games of next season. While watching the game, I really didn’t think it would be a penalty. After watching the replay, it CLEARLY wasn’t a penalty. Burfict didn’t even touch him with his head! The league is very strict on helmet to helmet hits, and Burfict didn’t use his head. I understand the need for player safety, so maybe the rule should be changed to not hits to the head with any part of the body. The rule should be changed and Burfict shouldn’t be punished.
3. Carson Wentz Rising Up Draft Boards
Tom: I have seen multiple placed that Carson is a top 3 qb even the top qb prospect. With this league being a qb-starved as it is, I will not be surprised if Wentz, Lynch, and Goff are gone by ten. I could even see another name squeaking in. Carson was under-recruited because of where he played and he was under-the-radar for NDSU because of where he played again. He is a big athletic quarterback. He can make the throws and has great awareness. I am leaning as him being my top qb for this draft as of right now.
Josh: In the league today, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo, and Ryan Fitzpatrick are notable players that played in the FCS. Of these players combined, they have one Super Bowl win. I was initially shocked when I saw Wentz as an early second round selection. Today, I am still questioning it. As a FCS quarterback, he dominated. How well does that translate to the NFL? He has good size with a strong arm. Still, is he better than Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook? On my board, he is the #4 QB. It would be very risky to take Wentz anywhere near the top 10 and I don’t see it happening or working out.
Divisional Round Preview/Predictions
Wow, what a Wild Card weekend! With all road teams coming away with victories, the road warriors will look to do the same in the Divisional round. The Chiefs, after an embarrassment of the Houston Texans last weekend, travel to the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots to try and knock off Tom Brady. The Green Bay Packers look to avenge their terrible week 16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Cam Newton and the 15-1 Panthers look to continue their winning ways with defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks travel into their house. The Pittsburgh Steelers, barring all their key injuries, will attempt to knock off the Denver Broncos.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at New England Patriots (12-4)
- Kickoff: Saturday at 3:35 PM CST
- Location: Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, MA)
- Odds: NE -5
- Over/Under: 44.0
After a dominating win last week, the Chiefs are gaining respect throughout the NFL. Their defense held the Texans to just 226 yards and forced 5 turnovers. The Patriots appear to have several players coming back from injuries that held them out for most of the season. Julian Edelman, Donte Hightower, Devin McCourty, and Danny Amendola are all returning to take some weight off of Tom Brady’s shoulders.
Prediction: New England 27, Kansas City 17
Difference of the Game: Tom Brady being Tom Brady.
Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
- Kickoff: Saturday at 7:15 PM CST
- Location: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, AZ)
- Odds: ARZ -7.5
- Over/Under: 49.5
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers looked like their usual selves last week, handing the Redskins 35-18. Green Bay hopes to avenge their 38-8 loss to Arizona just a few weeks ago. The Cardinals, led by MVP candidate QB Carson Palmer, are one of the most consistent teams this season. The defense has many players that may give Rodgers a lot of trouble tonight in Arizona.
Prediction: Arizona 33, Green Bay 26
Difference of the Game: The Cardinals defense slowing down Rodgers for the 2nd time this season.
Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Carolina Panthers (15-1)
- Kickoff: Sunday at 12:05 PM CST
- Location: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, NC)
- Odds: CAR -2
- Over/Under: 44.0
Russell Wilson and his Seahawks are coming off a win over the Vikings in the final seconds. While the offense struggled to score for most of the game, the Seattle defense held the Vikings to under 200 yards of total offense. Cam Newton and the Panthers are coming into the game with only one loss all season. While Cam has put up huge numbers for the lack of weapons he has on offense, the defense of this team has dominated all season long.
Prediction: Carolina 20, Seattle 17
Confidence: Very Low
Difference of the Game: The big play ability of Cam Newton.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) at Denver Broncos (12-4)
- Kickoff: Sunday at 3:40 PM CST
- Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver, CO)
- Odds: DEN -7.5
- Over/Under: 40.5
With a big win over the division rival Cincinnati Bengals has the Steelers coming into this game with a lot of confidence. This week, the Steelers will be without All-Pro WR Antonio Brown and RB DeAngelo Williams. Ben Roethlisberger is also banged up with a shoulder injury on his throwing arm. This will be tough to overcome going up against the good defense in Denver. With Peyton Manning being named starter, the Broncos hope to use his experience to get back to the Super Bowl. While the offense has been inconsistent all season long, the Denver defense has kept them in games.
Prediction: Denver 23, Pittsburgh 17
Difference of the Game: Too many injuries for the Pittsburgh offense to be able to compete against one of the league’s best defenses.
Next Week’s Matchups
New England at Denver (AFC Championship)
Arizona at Carolina (NFC Championship)
Here are my last minute picks for this weekend’s playoff action!
Chiefs at Patriots Chiefs 17-16
Packers at Cardinals Cardinals 35-17
Seahawks at Panthers Seahawks 42-34
Steelers at Broncos Broncos 33-12
Last week I was 3-1
Here is our inaugural installment of The Bell. On a weekly basis, Every week we will highlight prominent stories. This week we highlight Calvin Johnson, Coaches, and the wildcard games.
1. Calvin Johnson is reportedly considering retirement.
per Dave Birkett Calvin’s Statement
Josh: Following my first look at this story, I was very shocked about “Megatron” even considering retirement at this stage of his career. Given he has had several injuries throughout his career, he is still 30 years old with several good seasons ahead of him. I truly do not believe he retire. Is he really going to exit his career like this? Calvin, next to Randy Moss, is the most athletic receiver to play the game. He should not cut it short. One idea I do get out of this story is that Calvin is trying to escape from Detroit (and I do not blame him one bit).
Tom: This is both really surprising and not a surprise to me. With Borland retiring last year after dominance it spurred the conversation if more NFL players would retire early. I understand where Calvin is coming from contemplating this, he and the next few generations of his family should be set for life and he might as well go out on top regarded as at least one of the best receivers.
2. Wildcard Weekend Reaction
Josh: Wow was that a crazy weekend of football?!? All 4 road teams won! While I only predicted 2 of the 4 games correctly, I still had a good time watching these games. The Chiefs extended their winning streak t0 11, the Packers (and Aaron Rodgers) got back on track, the Steelers winning off two defensive penalties in the final minute, and the Vikings giving away a 4th quarter lead at home and missing a chip-shot field goal. Going ahead, it looks as if the Chiefs will give Tom Brady a run for his money and the Seahawks get a rematch against Cam and the 15-1 Panthers. Can all 4 road teams come away with victories again?
Tom: The AFC pretty much happened how I expected. The NFC was a completely different story. The first game was insane, defensively. The second game started off looking like packers were done with two minutes played in the game, but Rodgers took charge, made actually good play calls by going no huddle, and won. I cannot wait until next weekend to see what it brings.
3. Coaching vacancies and hirings
Josh: From this past week, I was most shocked about the firing of Tom Coughlin. How many coaches have 2 Super Bowls under their belt? The Colts and Saints retained their coaches, which wasn’t a surprise. The Browns fired their coach,again (and it won’t work out next year, again). I was very shocked that the Bucs fired Lovie Smith after a good turn around last year from their previous 2-14 season. The Dolphins scored on Adam Gase, who was previously the offensive coordinator for the Bears. I like this signing because Gase drastically improved Jay Cutler’s play when it seemed impossible. I think he will do the same for Tannehill. Also, after another playoff loss, will the Bengals part ways with coach Marvin Lewis? Watch out, more coaching changes are coming soon!
Tom: I read an article talking about Tom Landry and how if he coached today he wouldn’t have been Tom Landry. It took him six seasons to show actual results. Today he would have been fired halfway through season three. Anyway, I hate how a lot of the time teams just talk to known coaches for example Rex Ryan. Eagles and Giants flip flop coaches?!?!? At least Gase got some recognition. He has done pretty well with qbs however his run game is lacking and that means Lamar Miller IS GOING TO DALLAS! I will give my thoughts once all the coaching positions are filled.