So, remember those predictions I made at the start of the season?
Well in an annual tradition, time to file them under things I have gotten wrong and start anew.
And to recap the picks, I offer congratulations to Ms. Monica Roberts on winning our weekly prognostication pool. I guess some of my good luck from last season rubbed off on her during our long productive talk in the hotel lobby during the Creating Change conference that took place in Denver last year.
So here are my predictions on how the playoffs will shape out and which two teams will end up in Northern California for Super Bowl
L 50 one month from
Chiefs at Texans
Steelers at Bengals
Seahawks at Vikings
Packers at Washington
Chiefs at Patriots
Packers at Cardinals
Seahawks at Panthers
Steelers at Broncos
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY
Steelers at Patriots
Cardinals at Panthers
The Chiefs are a hot team entering the playoffs having won 10 straight after starting the season 1-5. However, that will be all for naught with a loss at this stage of the season. One loss and the season is over. If the Chiefs can keep their winning streak going, they will hoist their first championship since winning Super Bowl IV in January 1970.
Another relatively hot team are the Steelers having come into the playoffs winning 4 of their last 6 including a 33-20 win over the Bengals in Cincinnati and a 34-27 win over the 1-seeded Broncos in Pittsburgh in back-to-back weeks last month. Pittsburgh almost did not make the playoffs. On the last Sunday of the regular season, the Steelers needed to beat the Browns (which there was no doubt about that) and root for the Bills to beat the Jets. Even more remarkable is the Steelers started 3 different signal callers under center and finished 10-6.
The Vikings won the NFC North with their 20-13 win over the Packers and their reward is a home game.
Against defending NFC Champion Seattle.
As of late, Russel Wilson has been putting together a case for why he should be the league MVP. Seattle will probably be relying more on the ground game as game time temperature in Minneapolis is expected to not get above zero.
As in zero F.
When these last two teams faced each other in November, the Seahawks easily defeated the Vikings in Minneapolis 38-7.
The Packers-Washington winner will likely be quickly bounced out in the divisional round. If the Vikings win, then the winner of this game gets to face 1-seeded Carolina and Cam Newton in Charlotte. If the Seahawks win, then it is to Phoenix to face the Cardinals and their swarming defense as well as their capable offense.
Pick your poison.
As for the teams with byes, Carolina started the season with 14 straight wins but split their final two games. In the Super Bowl era (1966-now), 6 teams have won 15 or more regular season games. The first two teams who achieved this feat won the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons: the 1984 49ers and 1985 Bears.
Since then, it has not been a mark of post-season success. The Vikings in 1998 were 15-1 in part due the wide receiver duo of Cris Carter and rookie Randy Moss. In the NFC Championship Game, Gary Anderson missed a field goal that would have sent the Vikings to their first Super Bowl in 22 years. In overtime, Atlanta’s Morten Andersen kicked a field goal to send the Falcons to their first and only Super Bowl where they were blown out by the Broncos 34-19 in John Elway’s final game.
In 2004, Ben Roethlisberger took over for an injured Tommy Maddox in Week 2 and from Week 3 onward started under center for the Steelers. Pittsburgh won the AFC North and were the 1-seed. Also during the season in back-to-back weeks the Steelers gave the Eagles their first loss of the season and ended the Patriots regular-season winning streak that started from the previous season. Their season almost ended in the divisional round but survived overtime against the 6-seeded Jets. The following week, Pittsburgh’s season ended at home with a 41-27 loss to the Patriots who went on to win their third Super Bowl in four seasons.
Speaking of the Patriots, 2007. Perfect regular season, heavy favorites to win the Super Bowl, Michael Strahan barking on the sideline “17-14 will be the final score,” Eli Manning to David Tyree, touchdown Plaxico Burress, and “The Patriots will not be perfect.”
In 2011, the Packers were the defending Super Bowl champions. And they kept on winning until a late season loss at Kansas City. Green Bay finished 15-1 and were the NFC 1-seed. It looked like the Packers were going to win another Lombardi Trophy. And then they played the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants in the divisional round. And the game wasn’t even close.
The Broncos might have the 1-seed but have now made a decision at quarterback: the team is starting Peyton Manning over Brock Osweiler. In last Sunday’s game against the Chargers, Manning replaced Osweiler to lead the Broncos in two second-half touchdown drives that clinched the win, the division, and the AFC 1-seed. If Manning should struggle, don’t be surprised if coach Gary Kubiak puts Osweiler back in.
I have yet to mention the Cardinals. I know they match up well against the Vikings after that 23-20 win on a Thursday night in December. They destroyed the Packers in Week 16. Arizona split the season series with Seattle having won 39-32 in Seattle but then not showing up with the NFC 1-seed potentially on the line last week at home.
And now for the Super Bowl…
SUPER BOWL 50
I think the Cardinals can go into Charlotte and give the Panthers a game, perhaps come away with a win. So entering the playoffs, the Cardinals are my (heavily revised) NFC Champion.
If the AFC championship game is between the Steelers and Patriots, the winner of that game will likely win the Super Bowl. At the beginning of the season I said the Patriots were going to win it all again. So I really see no reason to change that prediction.
Patriots over Cardinals