We are nearly through the initial 15 week of the 2012 NFL regular season and a lot has been decided. With that in mind, there is still a lot of drama ready to take place in the remaining two weeks of the season heading into the playoffs in January.
I decided that it made sense for us to take a look at the playoff matchups if the second season were to start today. Who would have the upper hand in each game? What the Super Bowl might look like? Of course this can all change within the blink of an eye.
(5) Seattle Seahawks at (4) Washington Redskins
Russell Wilson taking on Robert Griffin III in an opening round playoff game. The NFL seriously couldn’t draw it up any better if this were to happen. These quarterbacks are playing at the highest levels we have seen for rookies in quite some time, it not ever. They have combined for 48 total touchdowns and just 13 interceptions, while leading their teams to playoff contention.
Washington currently sits in a three-way tie for first in the NFC East and Seattle has the inside shot for the first wildcard spot.
This game comes down to a couple different factors. Despite winning two consecutive road games, Seattle really isn’t that good away from the Pacific Northwest. It will be going into a hostile environment with a rookie quarterback making his first playoff start. That usually spells doom. However, Washington’s defense ranks among the worst in the entire NFL against the pass, which bodes well for Wilson.
In the end, I will take the rookie playing a home over the rookie making his first playoff start on the road in a hostile environment.
(6) Minnesota Vikings at (3) Green Bay Packers
On the surface, this game wouldn’t even be close. Aaron Rodgers and the NFC North Champions taking on a struggling Christian Ponder at home in January. There is no way Minnesota would even be able to keep this game close. Well, that’s just on the surface.
The Vikings have someone by the name of Adrian Peterson, who is putting together one of the most impressive seasons for a running back in NFL history. He is currently on pace to surpass the 2,000 yard rushing mark after tearing up his left knee less than a year ago. Just think about that for a second.
I still don’t see Minnesota being able to pull out what would be a surprising playoff win in Lambeau. While the Packers come away with the win, this game would be much closer than originally anticipated.
(5) Indianapolis Colts at (4) Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore has not lost three in a row, but was able to sneak into the playoffs after a bunch of other AFC teams laid eggs in Week 15. While the Ravens have yet to clinch the AFC North, it’s looking more and more like they’ll end up with the No. 4 seed.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis is having one of the most surprising seasons in the entire NFL. It is 9-5 through 15 weeks and nearly assured of a playoff spot. What Andrew Luck has done as a rookie is nothing short of amazing.
This is a good matchup for the Colts as well. Baltimore ranks in the bottom 10 of the NFL against the pass, which indicates Luck would have a solid game. While the Colts secondary leaves a lot to be desired, I can easily see Indy pulling off a minor upset here.
(6) Cincinnati Bengals at (3) New England Patriots
New England lost a golden opportunity to earn a first-round bye when it fell to the San Francisco 49ers at home on Sunday. It is now probably going to have to take on the final AFC seed at home in the wildcard round.
The Patriots will not lose a home wildcard game against a team like Cincinnati. It just isn’t going to happen.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
(4) Washington Redskins at (1) Atlanta Falcons
Can Atlanta actually win its first playoff game under Matt Ryan? While the Falcons have been the best team (record-wise) in the NFC this season, there is a feeling that they’re vulnerable in the playoffs.
I just don’t envision Robert Griffin III being able to go into the Georgia Dome and coming away with a victory. Washington, no matter how great it has been playing recently, isn’t Super Bowl contenders at this point. Expect Atlanta to take care of business in a relatively easy manner.
(3) Green Bay Packers at (2) San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco already defeated Green Bay once this season. It went into Lambeau in the season opener and really dominated what is a great Packers team. The 49ers have an added dimension on the offensive side of the ball in the form of Colin Kaepernick, who was riding the pine behind Alex Smith in September’s game.
I wouldn’t expect this game to be too close. Aaron Rodgers can pick apart a secondary, but he won’t have an opportunity to going up against what is the most dominating front seven in the NFL. San Francisco wins by multiple scores here.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
(5) Indianapolis Colts at (1) Houston Texans
The Colts dream season comes crashing down in this one as the franchise realizes it isn’t ready to compete with the big boys on the biggest stage. Arian Foster will be able to exploit a weak Colts front seven and Houston will make it to the AFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history.
(3) New England Patriots at (1) Denver Broncos
This would be one hell of a game. Peyton Manning against Tom Brady, part…… Well, you get the point. There is a real chance that Denver will go into this game in the midst of a 11-game winning streak. By no means does that indicate that it will run all over the defending AFC Champions.
While I expect this game to be really close, Manning pulls it out in front of the home crowd in Denver and takes it to the conference championship.
NFC Championship Game
(2) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Atlanta Falcons
This is a really good matchup for San Francisco. Its defense has the ability to turn Atlanta into a one dimensional offense, which will not work out too well with the type of scheme the 49ers run. While Roddy White and Julio Jones do create a tremendous amount of mismatches at wide receiver, I fully expect Carlos Rogers, Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown to be up to the task.
If this game is left into the right hand of Matt Ryan, Atlanta will be in trouble. We have seen the 49ers defense make elite quarterbacks look average over the course of the last couple seasons. That won’t change it Atlanta is unable to generate a running game with Michael Turner.
On the other side of the ball, Atlanta also matches up well against San Francisco’s offense. John Abraham and the pass rush should be able to put ample pressure on Colin Kaepernick. The one thing that I see San Francisco being able to take advantage of is Kaepernick’s athletic ability and willingness to run the ball on his own. If Atlanta is forced to the box in order to prevent him from running, we could easily see Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis with one on one coverage.
In the end, San Francisco pulls off the mild upset and returns to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.
AFC Championship Game
(2) Denver Broncos at (1) Houston Texans
While Houston would be considered the “favorite” here, I just don’t see them being able to stop Peyton Manning and the Broncos passing game. The Texans have a wide array of issues in the defensive secondary and will struggle to keep with Demaryius Thomas and Erick Decker down the field.
On the other hand, Denver should have issues being able to stop both Arian Foster Andre Johnson in this one. Its front seven isn’t the greatest in the world and can be beaten off the line. If the Broncos give Foster any type of holes to run through, he will eat them apart.
Expect a high-scoring game, but the road-tripping Broncos will take it and return to the Super Bowl for the first time since last millennium.
Denver Broncos vs San Francisco 49ers
John Elway will look to get his revenge against the franchise that embarrassed him in Super Bowl XXIV by the score of 55-10. The good news for Elway is that he won’t have to play against San Francisco’s dominating defense. The better news for Elway and company is that the 49ers don’t have Joe Montana to throw the ball to Jerry Rice in this one.
While many of us are probably pulling for a Patriots-49ers rematch, especially after how Sunday night’s game went, Denver will spoil the part.
Manning should be able to do what no quarterback in the NFL has done against San Francisco this season. That is, of course, being able to stand strong in the pocket and finding his receivers on the outside with a decent lane to throw to. Manning has been sacked the least amount of times in the NFL this season, and don’t expect San Francisco’s front seven to be able to put a whole lot of pressure on him.
On the other hand, Colin Kaepernick matches up well against Denver’s defense. He has the arm strength to get the ball deep against lackluster corners and can easily use his athletic ability to get out of the pocket and make something out of nothing.
This would be a really high-scoring Super Bowl with Denver coming out on top by something to the tune of 38-34.