Who’s ready for that headline on February 2?
As we gear up for the NFL Playoffs it’s time for predictions. And since I enjoy people telling me I am wrong I will share my predictions. I like the Pittsburgh Steelers entering the playoffs. And you have to like the Seahawks because they are the hottest team entering the playoffs and play at home where they rarely lose. So those are my favorites.
And here is how we get to the Super Bowl.
Saturday, January 3
Arizona Cardinals (11-5) @ Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)
Many will probably agree the NFC South didn’t deserve a team in the playoffs, but due to the current format someone had to get in and well, it’s the Panthers. Not only did the Panthers manage a tie this season but they have won their last four games and are confident entering the postseason. No, I don’t think a team with a sub-.500 record should host a game, but they don’t let me make those decisions. I don’t think home-field advantage plays a factor here, but they Cardinals are a sinking ship with questions at quarterback. Arizona is 3-4 since losing Carson Palmer and it looks like a season that began with promise will end early in the playoffs. I’ll take the Panthers to move on to the next round.
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Well I already spoiled this one, the Steelers can’t get to the Super Bowl without winning the first game. Even if Le’Veon Bell can’t play this week the Steelers can still get it done through the air. Antonio Brown is a serious weapon for Big Ben, especially with guys like Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Lance Moore and Heath Miller on the field. In this game, home field does matter. Steelers win.
Sunday, January 4
Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
This is going to be one of the best matchups in the first round. Jeremy Hill has turned into a stud for the Bengals this season He hadn’t broke out yet the first time these two teams met – a 27-0 Colts win in Indy – but he has now. He is a dangerous running back that can help relieve pressure from Andy Dalton, which has to be the top key for a Bengals win. The Colts have their quarterback of the future in Andrew Luck, but he won’t be enough to save the Colts in the first round this year. Bengals win.
Detroit Lions (11-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
If star power being on the field wasn’t so important to ratings and, ultimately, money, Ndamukong Suh wouldn’t be on the field Sunday. However, he will be on the field and it could cause problems for the Dallas offensive line. I like the Cowboys. I think they are built to make a run in the playoffs. Tony Romo can play and is surrounded by weapons. The Lions lost the last time out after a four game win streak, but, to be fair, two games in that steak were against the Bears and the other two against the Buccaneers and Vikings. The Lions aren’t there yet and Dallas will get a rare win at home this season.
Saturday, January 10
Cincinnati Bengals (11-5-1) @ New England Patriots (12-4)
The Patriots are tough to beat at home. New England will make things tough on Andy Dalton with a slowed down running game and ultimately will find a way to win this divisional matchup. I can see the Bengals sneaking out one road with, but not two. Tom Brady is tough to bet against. He will find a way to get points, even with a struggling running game. Patriots win a close one.
Carolina Panthers (8-8-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
Carolina will be coming off a home win over Arizona, extending their win streak to five when they travel to Seattle. The Panthers kept it close the first time around, but that was in Charlotte. The Seahawks have put together six straight wins and don’t lose often at home. This will turn into a route by Seattle.
Sunday, January 11
Dallas Cowboys (13-4) @ Green Bay Packers (12-4)
You won’t see the stage set like this too many times in the NFL, but in this one an unbeaten road team will play an undefeated home team. The Cowboys are 8-0 on the road this season and Green Bay is nearly unbeatable at home. It will be a showdown between a couple of really good quarterbacks. In the end I think Dallas finds a way to get it done in Green Bay.
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) @ Denver Broncos (12-4)
The Broncos, too, are tough to beat at home. Denver has many weapons and Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game. I think this will be a fantastic game and a true battle until the end. Both offenses can strike with a big play at any time so it should be fun. Pittsburgh gets the last laugh.
Sunday, January 18
Dallas Cowboys (14-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (13-4)
Remember in October when the Cowboys rolled into Seattle and dealt the Seahawks a rare loss at home? The Cowboys will be playing with a lot of confidence entering this game. It’s tough to win in Seattle and maybe more tough with a team rolling the way the Seahawks are. Can Dallas do it twice on one season? I don’t think so. Seahawks win a tight one.
Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5) @ New England Patriots (13-4)
A classic battle between Pittsburgh and New England in Foxborough. The Patriots may find a way to keep this close because they always do, but Pittsburgh has too much offense to lose this one. The Steelers are headed to the Super Bowl.
Sunday, February 1
Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4) vs Seattle Seahawks (14-4)
This sets up a great matchup in Arlington, Texas. The Seahawks aren’t going to be able to pull away like last year (ahem, Broncos). The Steelers might find a little trouble against the Seahawks defense, but with a healthy Le’Veon Bell they add a dimension that some teams don’t have. If Bell’s patience running style can’t find holes he will burn you with a catch out of the backfield. This opens the passing game as well and Big Ben is able to overcome a couple of turnovers to sneak out a win, earning the Steelers its 7th Super Bowl Championship and first since 2008.