By Owen Tedford
We’ve reached the end of another NFL season and that means that it’s time for the playoffs. The 12 teams have been decided with the Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, Texans, Raiders, and Dolphins representing the AFC and the Cowboys, Falcons, Seahawks, Packers, Giants, and Lions representing the NFC. Every team has had their share of ups and downs but they’ve all made it to the final stage where records mean nothing and all that matters is what they do going forward, as this is what will make them remembered.
By Bruno Velloso
As the football editor, I have decided to write a weekly column predicting each of the matchups in the NFL, at least for the remainder of the season. Please feel free to trash me in the comments section!
UPSET OF THE WEEK– Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions: Lions
Yes, last week the Falcons embarrassed the Giants. But they benefitted from two first-half interceptions thrown inside the Giants’ thirty-yard line that really allowed the game to get out of hand early. And if you look at the Falcons’ season game-by-game, it has simply been unimpressive. In Week 1 they beat Kansas City, but got outgained by 17 yards. Week 2 they beat the Broncos, but were again outgained. Week 4 they needed a last-second field goal to put away the Panthers. Week 5 they were down in the 4th quarter to the Redskins before pulling out a victory. Week 6 they needed a last-minute field goal to put away the Raiders, and were outgained by almost 200 yards! Week 11 they were again down in the 4th quarter to the Cardinals before winning by 4. In Week 12, they squeaked by the Bucs by one point. In Week 13, they were outgained 436 to 283 by the Saints, but still won. Call it clutch all you want, but a few plays the other way in each of those game, and the Falcons could easily be 9-5 or 8-6 at this point. Meanwhile, everything has gone against the Lions. 11 of their games have been decided by 8 points or fewer, and they are only 3-8 in those games. At some point, luck has to change. Take the Lions at home.
Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers: Packers
Quietly, the Packers have won 8 of their last 9 games, and Aaron Rodgers has been heating up. He is averaging 8.2 yards per attempt over his last five games, and an 83.4 QBR over his last three. Take out the loss to the Giants, and even the defense has played well, allowing only 16.5 points per game over the last 8 weeks. The Titans should be no threat at Lambeau.
Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers: Panthers
Oakland has been awful, allowing a league-high 28.7 points per game. The Panthers, meanwhile, are very underrated, and have won three of their last four games. And Cam Newton has been great the last 5 weeks: a 77 QBR, a 110.3 passer rating, and 8.57 yards per attempt, all this to go with 10 TDs and 0 INTs.
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: Dolphins
Miami’s 2-2 record over the last four games is a bit deceiving. They managed to beat the red-hot Seahawks in Week 12, lost two competitive games against the Patriots and Niners, and easily handled the Jaguars last week. The Bills’ 1-3 record isn’t. Their only win was against the lowly Jags and their losses were to the Colts, Rams, and Seahawks, by a combined 85-42.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: Steelers
I am not ready to give up on the Steelers. Roethlisberger has been really good this season: a 68.3 QBR (8th in the league) and a 98.3 passer rating (6th) have kept me optimistic. And the Steelers’ defense has been very good, leading the league in pass defense and total yards allowed per game. I expect the Steelers to limit the fumbles (they have the 2nd most in the league) and win this game at home.
New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars: Patriots
The Patriots’ offense is on pace for 578 points, which would be second all-time. The Jaguars are the Jaguars. Will they even be able to hold the Patriots under 50?
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs: Colts
I pick the Colts, but I have to admit I hesitated. If the Chiefs can get Jamaal Charles going, and if Andrew Luck continues to average a 22.9 QBR as he has the last three weeks, then anything is possible.
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys: Saints
This is a gut call. Last week, Drew Brees finally looked like Drew Brees again. And while the defense is poor, it has been able to turn the ball over the last 5 weeks, averaging 2.4 turnovers a game. I expect Tony Romo to have his yearly letdown this game, at home, where the Cowboys have looked very beatable.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: Redskins
I am taking the Redskins. The Redskins are just great on offense, 1st in the league with 6.2 yards per play, and have an improving defense (their front 7 is underrated). The Eagles, 29th in the league in points scored per game and 26th in the league in points allowed per game, have their work cut out for them.
St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Buccaneers
This game should be close. But given how great that Tampa offense looked just a few weeks ago, I will give the edge to the Bucs. Josh Freeman and Doug Martin should be able to turn it around.
Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans: Texans
I expect Adrian Peterson to get 150 yards. I just don’t expect anything from Ponder, and the Vikings’ league-worst passing offense. Texans are good against second-tier teams, and with the league-leading time of possession so far this season, they should keep Peterson off the field long enough to win the game.
San Diego Chargers at New York Jets: Jets
I have given up on the Chargers. With McElroy, the Jets should get improved QB play (it’s impossible not to.) In the preseason (I know, it’s just the preseason) he managed a 99.1 passer rating and a 69.6% completion percentage. I have no idea whether he is any good, but I just feel like he will give the Jets a spark.
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos: Broncos
The Browns haven’t been terrible, winning three of their last four. But against the Broncos’ top-five defense and Peyton Manning? Riding a nine game winning streak? Not a chance.
New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens: Giants
With their backs against the wall, the Giants thrive. And the Ravens, with a playoff spot somehow already secured, are in freefall. I will take the Giants, but who knows what team will show up?
Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals: Bears
Not as obvious a pick as it seems. But I expect the Chicago Bears’ defense (1st in the league in takeaways) to thrive against the Arizona QB mess (2nd in the NFC in giveaways). What scares me is that Cardinals defense. If Cutler is careless, that playmaking unit could pull off an upset.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: 49ers
This is a tough matchup between the top two scoring defenses in the league. But this game may come down to two surprisingly good offenses. Seahawks have posted back-to-back 50-point games, and the 49ers have scored 27 points or more in four of their past five games. I give the slight edge to San Francisco.