Monday, January 4, 2016

2015-2016 NFL Playoff Predictions

One of the kicks from following sports is making predictions, right? Or maybe I just like being horrendously wrong with my sports predictions? If so, this blog is a testament to that.

Anyway, after what felt like the most unpredictable, topsy-turviest NFL season yet, we have arrived to the playoffs. In both conferences, the 4th seeds—not surprisingly—appear to be the weakest teams while the 6th seeds look like the most dangerous teams playing in the opening round. The NFL should take the NBA’s lead and change their playoff bracketing to eliminate mediocre to piss-poor division winners from automatically qualifying for the playoffs and instead reward teams based on their records. It just seems more practical, which is why the League of Denial probably won’t do it.

But enough pish posh! Here are my playoff predictions.

Kansas City (5) at Houston (4)
Kansas City has been one of the hotter teams down the stretch with a nasty defense coupled with a just-effective-enough offense that doesn’t turn the ball over much. (Kansas City is a distant second behind the Panthers in Turnover Differential with a +14.) Though they’re on the road, I’m taking the Chiefs.

Pittsburgh (6) at Cincinnati (3)
If you’re one of the few persons on this planet who have followed my past inane NFL playoff prediction posts, (hi Sarah!) it shouldn’t surprise you to see that I am enamored, yet again, with the Steelers as a dark horse candidate out of the AFC. Last year, before the playoffs began, I picked them to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl—and then they lost their opening round game. (Thank god I don’t bet on this shit!)

I hope Andy Dalton plays and wins his first playoff game (and one for Marvin Lewis), but I think Pittsburgh will prevail.

Kansas City (5) at New England (2)
Despite having Gronk back from injury, New England’s offense has sputtered in the past few weeks. That’s cause for alarm, especially against a team with the 3rd ranked scoring defense in the NFL. This could be a boring, low-scoring showdown, but New England should have WR Julian Edelman and RT Sebastian Vollmer back for this game. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s this: it’s not wise to bet against Brady if Gronkowski’s on the field. I’m taking the Pats.

Pittsburgh (6) at Denver (1)
Who will Kubiak start at QB, Manning or Osweiler? What could end up being a more important question is: will DeAngelo Williams be able to effectively play? Pittsburgh’s defense will have to create turnovers—or hope Kubiak starts Manning and pray he is still the early-season version of himself (9 TDs to 17 INTs). Big Ben can’t afford to toss an interception or two like he often has this season. Though I have no confidence in this pick, I’ll take Denver at home with their dominant defense.

AFC Championship
New England (2) at Denver (1)
A few weeks ago, after Seattle manhandled the Vikings in Minnesota, I texted my buddy, Jeff, and boldly predicted a rematch of Super Bowl 48:

And so, I’m picking Denver’s ferocious defense and Osweiler(?) (or Manning?) over Supreme Leader Belichick and Kylo Tom.

Green Bay (5) at Washington (4)
Last year, Seattle needed an epic (and I mean epic) choke job from Green Bay to return to the Super Bowl. About a year later, Green Bay looks like one of the top three candidates for one-and-done in the playoffs. The Derogatory-Term-Towards-Native-Americans have been strong at home this season: 6-2. I’m taking Washington.

Seattle (6) at Minnesota (3)
I’m no Vikings fan, but Minnesota had two opportunities to make a big-statement victory at home this season: against Green Bay on November 22nd and the aforementioned blowout loss to Seattle on December 6. Other than depth chart changes in the Seattle backfield, I don’t feel like much has changed between either team since that 38-7 loss. I think Seattle will convincingly win. Bridgewater and Minnesota is still a little too green to win a game like this against a bonafide playoff-tested champion.

Washington (4) at Arizona (2)
Throughout this season, Arizona has consistently flattened bad to mediocre teams. With two weeks rest, I think Arians will have the Cards ready to steamroll the Derogatory-Term-Towards-Native-Americans. 

Seattle (6) at Carolina (1)
Awwwww, shit! This might be the best matchup we’ll get in the entire playoffs. This game might be the true Super Bowl. You Niners fans might remember when Jim Harbaugh was your coach and a quarterback named Colin Kaepernick led the offense into Carolina. I have never been to Bank of America Stadium in Charlottte, NC, but the Niners were not intimidated to play there in the playoffs. I highly doubt Pete Carroll’s Seahawks will either. Plus, I still think the Panthers might be closer to the team that lost to Atlanta two weeks ago than a 15-1 juggernaut, and Russell Wilson has been the MVP in the last quarter of the season. I’m taking Seattle.

NFC Championship
Seattle (6) at Arizona (2)
Awwwww, shit! This might be the best matchup we’ll get in the entire playoffs! This game might be the true Super Bowl! Wait, didn’t I just say that a paragraph ago? Oh wait, I did.

This is a toss-up, but I have somewhat followed Carson Palmer’s career over the years. After all, Hue Jackson gave up a ransom to pluck him from the Bengals and then proceeded to play like a has-been for my Raiders before morphing into a viable MVP candidate with Bruce Arians (who is a top-5, probably top-3 coach in the NFL). It’s purely intuition, but I can’t help but feel like Palmer is still due some devastating bad luck this season. That’s why I’m picking the Seahawks to win this one.

Super Bowl
Denver vs. Seattle
It won’t be a blowout, and should be a much closer contest than Super Bowl 48, but I think Seattle’s going to win again. A vanquished, 40-year-old Peyton Manning will ask George Lucas where Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker got their robotic forearms and try to come back for one last season but I’ve said it before and I’m sticking to it—and I have nothing against him—but Peyton, the greatest regular season quarterback ever, will never win another Super Bowl. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I also hate being wrong.)

And the Seahawks and their annoying 12th Man Fans will celebrate a Super Bowl victory in Jed York’s $1.3 billion dollar Money Trap in Santa Clara.

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