We sit just two football games away from knowing which two teams will be squaring off in Super Bowl XLIX. The first game will feature the Green Bay Packers at the Seattle Seahawks. The second game is the Indianapolis Colts at the New England Patriots. The Wild Card was good with a 3-1 record based on the predictions made here. The Divisional round was a perfect 4-0 based on the predictions made last week. Let’s make it 2-0 again this week.
Green Bay Packers (13-4) at Seattle Seahawks (13-4) – 3:05 PM ET Saturday on FOX
The Packers escaped last week at home against the Dallas Cowboys with a 26-21 victory. That game, of course, was marred by the controversial call regarding Dez Bryant’s catch near the end zone. That would prove to be the difference.
Now the Packers have to contend with the Legion of Boom while Aaron Rodgers still has an injured calf. In last week’s game it was apparent that Rodgers was till feeling the effects of his calf tear. Rodgers went 24 of 35 for 316 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks. Most impressive was his 13 yard touchdown strike to Richard Rodgers with 9:10 remaining in the game, which was a pinpoint throw between two defenders.
The Seahawks defeated Carolina 31-17 last week with a ridiculously impressive performance from KamChancellor. Chancellor was all over the field on Saturday night making tackles, nearly blocking field goals, and his 90 yard pick-six that sealed the victory.
Rodgers and the Packers will be up against the stingy Seattle defense and the rowdy crowd. They were crushed in week 1 when Seattle held the Packers to 255 yards of offense in a 36-16 win for the Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch had 110 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries.
Prediction: Seattle’s defense, led by Chancellor and the Legion of Boom, will defeat the Packers 23-14.
Indianapolis Colts (13-5) at New England Patriots (13-4) – 6:40 PM ET Saturday on CBS
The second conference championship will feature the red-hot Indianapolis Colts taking on the NewEngland Patriots.
The Colts are coming of back-to-back wins against Cincinnati and at Denver. More impressively, the defense stepped and confused Peyton Manning. Manning went 26 of 46 for 211 yards and only 1 touchdown. Andrew Luck has shown he was well worth the 2-14 season the Indianapolis fans endured in 2011. He has made nearly every throw and can beat teams with his feet as well.
Next up for the Colts is Tom Brady. Brady went 33 of 50 for 367 yards with 3 touchdowns and one interception last week against the Ravens. He also scrambled for a touchdown. All of this was done with the Patriots gaining only 14 yards on 13 carries as a team for the entire game.
Of course, many will point to the week 11 meeting in which the Patriots ran all over the Colts in a 42-20 win. Jonas Gray had his breakout game with 201 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns, as the Patriots piled up 503 yards of offense. However, Sunday’s game will be a bit different. Gray has not featured much in the offense during the latter portion of the season for the Patriots while the Colts have surrendered only 99 yards a game in their two playoff games.
Prediction: Andrew Luck has struggled against the Patriots with 6 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in three games. The Colts have been crushed in all three games including the Divisional playoff game last year. Luck has thrown for over 300 yards in each game, but will need to take better care of the ball if the Colts are to reach the Super Bowl.
Despite how impressive Andrew Luck has been in his short career, this game feels like it will be another New England victory and appearance in the Super Bowl. The Patriots come out on top 38-28.
Super Bowl XLIX
Based on the predictions above, Super Bowl XLIX will be between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.
The Wild Card round was pretty dull until the final game between Detroit and Dallas. That game more than made up for lack of action with a flurry of missed calls and the penalty that was not midway through the final quarter. We can only hope that the Divisional Round produces as much excitement as the Lions-Cowboys game. After going 3-1 last week, let’s hope we can make it 4-0 this weekend.
Baltimore Ravens (11-6) at New England Patriots (12-4) – 4:35 PM ET Saturday on NBC
What a game to start the weekend with. The top seed in the AFC, the New England Patriots, will be playing the Baltimore Ravens at home for the fourth time in the playoffs. Baltimore has a winning record in the first three games at 2-1. However, those games came in the 2009-10 and 2012-13 seasons. The latest game between the two teams was in Week 17 of the 2013 season where the Patriots won 41-7 on the road.
What makes the Ravens so good at beating the Patriots is they get pressure on Tom Brady. Doing so again would be advantageous once again for the Ravens, but they also need quarterback Joe Flacco to keep excelling on the road. Flacco owns a 10-4 record in the playoffs and has 7 wins on the road.
For the Patriots, they will need to protect Tom Brady to have enough time for him to find his targets. His primary target will be Rob Gronkowski, but if the Ravens take him out of the plan the Pats still have a myriad of other options.
Prediction: While the Patriots are favored by a touchdown, this game feels like it is a field goal difference. The Patriots find a way to win 24-21.
Carolina Panthers (8-8-1) at Seattle Seahawks (12-4) – 8:15 PM ET Saturday on NBC
After last week’s expected win at home against Arizona, the Panthers travel to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seattle Seahawks. These two teams are familiar with each other as they have faced off during the regular season the last three years.
In 2012, 2013, and earlier in 2014, the Seahawks traveled to Carolina and won all three games. None of the games were high scoring with all three of them also being close until the end. The average score was 14 to 9 in favor of the Seahawks.
The one thing to note is that the Seahawks are now playing at home against the Panthers for this first time since 2010. The Seahawks won that game 31-14, but that seems like ages ago given how they have been built into a Super Bowl Champion. The Seahawks boast a 7-1 record at home this season while the Panthers have struggled on the road going 3-4-1.
Once again, this game figures to be defensive in nature, but the Seahawks are getting hot at the right time. They are winners of 6 straight and have yielded a total of 39 points in those 6 games. In only 1 game have they given up more than a touchdown. That happened to be on the road at Philadelphia.
Prediction: The combination of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch (and how could we forget the defense?) will be too much for the Panthers. Seattle wins 27-3.
Dallas Cowboys (13-4) at Green Bay Packers (12-4) – 1:05 PM ET Sunday on FOX
This game will be dictated by how well Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers can play through his calf injury. He was clearly bothered in the season finale against Detroit and even missed some game time due to the injury. If he is at 90 or 95%, the Packers will be tough. However, we will not know who healthy he is until game time.
For the Cowboys, they look to continue their perfect road record for the season. They will be lead by DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards. He will be tested by the always dangerous linebacker Clay Matthews on the other end.
The Cowboys also have the dynamic Dez Bryant to catch passes from Tony Romo. Bryant was held to only 3 catches for 48 yards last week against Detroit, but he had 6 touchdowns in the final 3 regular season games.
The Cowboys are certainly not a popular choice after last week’s controversial game, but they have a shot if Aaron Rodgers is not healthy enough to make the passing game go.
Prediction: Rodgers is good enough to lead the Packers over the Cowboys, 28-21.
Indianapolis Colts (12-5) at Denver Broncos (12-4) – 4:40 PM ET Sunday on CBS
The Colts come into this game off a 26-10 win against a listless Cincinnati offense that struggled to do much on offense without A.J. Green. Now, they have to face the Denver Broncos on the road.
The two teams met in the season opener with Denver racing to a 24-0 lead before halftime and then led 31-10 midway through the fourth quarter. The Colts came back with two touchdowns in the in the final half of the quarter, but their rally came up short as they lost 31-24.
Andrew Luck had a solid game going 35 of 53 for 370 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 picks. He also ran in for a score. However, another two interception game would probably cost the Colts once again. Facing him on the defensive side for the Broncos is Brandon Marshall who returns after a foot injury.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have a bit to worry about with their quarterback Peyton Manning. There is little doubt he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but the final quarter of the season have some concerned. In the final four games he failed to throw a touchdown twice and had 6 interceptions. His game at Cincinnati was particularly worrisome because he had 4 picks compared to 2 interceptions and appeared to not have the same velocity. The game time temperature for Sunday will probably be in the 30’s, which may be an issue.
Prediction: Andrew Luck and the Colts manage to go into Mile High and win 31-28.
Based on the predictions above the conference championships would be:
AFC Championship: Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
This week has already seen two playoff games go in the books, albeit on the college level, but that means the 2015 NFL Playoffs are ready to kick into high gear. There will be four games this weekend with 2 on Saturday and another 2 on Sunday. Let’s take a look at the 2015 NFL Wild Card Predictions.
Arizona Cardinals (11-5) at Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) – 4:20 PM ET Saturday on ESPN
This game features the most controversial participant in the NFL Playoffs, the Carolina Panthers. Their record of 7-8-1 has caused loud claims of changing the seeding of teams in the playoffs. Regardless of that, Carolina still hosts a playoff game this weekend.
The Arizona Cardinals started 9-1 this season before finishing 2-4. That record, of course, is due to the loss of both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. Stanton had a small chance of playing in this game, but Bruce Arians ruled him out this week. The reins fall to Ryan Lindley, who has produced less than stellar play in his time at QB. Lindley has gone 45 of 93 for 562 yards with 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in the last 3 games. Lindley looked the best against San Francisco with 316 yards passing and 2 touchdowns, but he also threw 3 picks.
The Cardinals have also seen an injury to their top running back Andre Ellington. Ellington was placed on IR in early December and Kerwyn Williams stepped in to fill the absence. He has run for 246 yards on 53 carries and caught 2 passes for 11 yards and a touchdown. Stepfan Taylor will also see a bit of action in a backup role.
Meanwhile, Carolina went on quite the roller coaster this season. They started 3-2 and then went on a winless streak of 7 games to fall to 3-8-1. However, they were not out of the NFC South race and won their last 4 games to reach the Playoffs. They crushed New Orleans and Atlanta on the road while struggled at home with Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
The Panthers have Cam Newton at quarterback with his dual-threat ability. Newton was plagued by a lingering rib injury in the season opener before missing week 15 against Tampa Bay after being involved in a car accident. Newton has run 103 times for 539 yards and 5 touchdowns. Jonathan Stewart will the go-to back with 809 yards and 3 touchdowns on 175 carries. Newton has 2 primary targets in Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin. Both players have 1,008 yards receiving. Olsen has 84 catches and 6 touchdowns while Benjamin has 73 catches and 9 touchdowns.
Ultimately, this game will come down to the defenses. Arizona averages 19.4 points per game while giving up 18.7. The Panthers score 21.2 points and allow 23.4 points. This game does not have the feel of an excellent offensive showing for both teams. The run game for Carolina will be heavily featured while Arizona’s defense is hoping to get them to the Divisional Round.
Prediction: Carolina defeats Arizona 16-10.
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) – 8:15 PM ET Saturday on NBC
This great rivalry continues here in the Wild Card round. These two teams have met in the playoffs three times previously (all in Pittsburgh) with the Steelers emerging victorious each time. In this game, the Steelers will be missing running back Le’Veon Bell, who was ruled out after injuring his knee in week 17 against Cincinnati.
The two regular season games in 2014 were dominated by the home teams. First it was Baltimore winning 26-6 while forcing 3 turnovers from Pittsburgh. The second game was Ben Roethlisberger’s second straight 6 touchdown passing performance in a 43-23 victory.
As big as Le’Veon Bell’s injury will be to Pittsburgh, it is important to note that Bell had only 79 rushing yards on 21 carries in the two games against Baltimore. He also caught 10 passes for 86 yards. Still, Bell was a workhorse in the final 6 games of the season and that production will certainly be missed.
It will take another big effort from Roethlisberger and All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown had 18 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown in the two games versus Baltimore. The Ravens have the 23rd ranked pass defense, which bodes quite well for Pittsburgh.
The Ravens will rely on big efforts from quarterback Joe Flacco and breakout star running back Justin Forsett. Flacco has thrown for a career highs of 3,986 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2014. Forsett has run for 1,266 yards in 2014, which is more than double his previous season-high he put up in 2009 (619 yards with Seattle).
Prediction: Pittsburgh beats Baltimore 23-20
Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – 1:05 PM ET Sunday on CBS
There is little doubt about Andy Dalton’s ability to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to the Playoffs. He has accomplished that feat in each of his first 4 season with the Bengals. However, when he and the Bengals reach the playoffs, it is a different story.
Andy Dalton has lost all three previous playoff appearances and has failed to play well. In fact, Dalton has gone 70 of 123 passing (56.9%) with 718 yards, 1 touchdown, and 6 interceptions. It is no surprise that Dalton has been the main reason why the Bengals have failed to win a postseason game the last three years.
Then there is the fact that Indianapolis crushed Cincinnati 27-0 at home earlier this year. The Colts held Cincinnati to 135 yards of total offense with Dalton going 18 of 38 for 126 yards and three interceptions. A.J. Green did not play in that game is doubtful for Sunday’s game as well due to a concussion. The Bengals hope that running back Jeremy Hill can shoulder some of the burden and provide more reasonable down and distances that do not affect the play calling too much.
The one area of concern for Indianapolis is that they were 2-4 against Playoffs teams in the regular season. Their two wins were against the Bengals and Baltimore, both at home. However, the Colts have looked better at home than on the road this season with the two losses coming against Philadelphia in week 2 and to New England in week 11.
Andrew Luck has certainly improved over his first three seasons and he looks to make it back-to-back years with a postseason victory. He has thrown for 4,781 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2014, both career highs. He should have some success against the Bengals who rank 22nd in pass defense.
Prediction: Indianapolis wins 34-23.
Detroit Lions (11-5) at Dallas Cowboys (12-4) – 4:40 PM ET Sunday on FOX
This is quite the intriguing matchup because playoff wins have been hard to come by for both teams. Dallas last won a playoff game in 2009 against Philadelphia, but prior to that, they had not won a playoff game since 1996 (Wild Card win over Minnesota 40-15).
Detroit, on the other hand, has not won a playoff game since the 1991 NFC Divisional Round against the Dallas Cowboys. Detroit is 0-7 since that victory with the most recent appearance being a 45-20 loss at the New Orleans Saints in 2011.
This game features strength on strength. Dallas boasts the second best rushing attack at 1471 yards a game led by DeMarcoMurray while Detroit has the best rushing defense allowing only 69 yards a game. The Lions are led up front by tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
Then there is the matchup of all-star receivers Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant. Johnson has 71 catches for 1,077 yards and 8 touchdowns while Bryant has 88 catches for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. Bryant has been amazing in the last three games with 15 catches for 286 yards and 6 touchdowns. Do not sleep on Golden Tate for the Lions who is the leading receiver. He had 99 catches for 1,331 yards and 4 touchdowns in the regular season.
It would be remiss of yours truly not to mention how well Tony Romo has played this year. Romo’s worst games were in three of the four Dallas loses, predictably. Romo did not play against Arizona a game the Cowboys lost 28-17 at home. Part of that is undoubtedly due to Murray’s great rushing season (1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns) that has opened up passing lanes for the Romo.
Prediction: Dallas wins a thriller 31-27.
Based on the predictions above the Divisional matchups would be as follows: