It’s never too early to talk about the NFL Playoffs. Here, we’ll see who the projected winners of each division are, as well as the teams who did well enough to squeeze by with a Wildcard spot. We’ll analyze each matchup and determine who is crowned the winner and the projected final score of each game.
1. Denver Broncos
2. New England Patriots
3. Indianapolis Colts
4. Cincinnati Bengals
5. San Diego Chargers
6. Miami Dolphins
New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts (3) vs. Miami Dolphins (6)
In this scenario, the Bill Lazor experiment works out perfectly. Ryan Tannehill makes the 3rd year leap and leads his Dolphins to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. However, Andrew Luck easily remains the better quarterback from the 2011 Draft.
Luck raises his Colts to elite status and a 3rd seed in the AFC while Miami barely hangs onto that wildcard spot. There’s clearly a distance between the two teams in terms of talent and production, and the Colts will take full advantage of it.
The Dolphins will just have to hope another marquee free agent wants to take his talents to South Beach in the 2014 offseason.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
Cincinnati Bengals (4) vs. San Diego Chargers (5)
Will San Diego upset the Bengals for the 2nd straight post-season? Philip Rivers re-established himself as a top-tier quarterback in this league last season, and with Keenan Allen developing into a legitimate #1 receiver, this team is on the rise.
Andy Dalton’s passing yardage and touchdown total continue to rise each year, but so do his interceptions. He has had a pretty up and down career, sometimes looking elite and sometimes looking hopeless.
This will be an exciting game to watch for sure, but Philip Rivers is a more experienced and overall better quarterback. Throw in Dalton’s awful playoff stats and you can see that the odds are in the Chargers’ favor.
Winner: San Diego Chargers
Denver Broncos (1) vs. San Diego Chargers (5)
The Broncos are ready to face their division rival in the Conference Semifinals once again. The Chargers may not be.
With a new and improved defense, the Broncos will be able to contain Philip Rivers, while the Chargers will embarrass themselves trying to contain Peyton Manning. Even with the loss of Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno, the Broncos are a better team, and Manning is still the best quarterback in the NFL.
Anyone looking for a tight, competitive game is going to be thoroughly disappointed.
Winner: Denver Broncos
New England Patriots (2) vs. Indianapolis Colts (3)
This might be the best playoff game besides the Superbowl.
Andrew Luck faces off with Tom Brady in an old school vs. new school showdown. This may be the same matchup as last year, but this is not the same game. Luck will have his 3rd year leap into stardom, while Brady continues his steady, hall of fame production.
Both teams have solid defenses, as well as less-than-stellar run games, so it will be up to the quarterbacks to determine the fate of the game. Brady and Luck will exchange punches, highlight play after highlight play, until 60 minutes has run off the clock.
In the end, I believe Andrew Luck will rise to the occasion in a symbolic passing-of-the-torch game.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
Denver Broncos (1) vs. Indianapolis Colts (3)
Directly after outplaying one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Luck must now face another all time great. I could repeat what I said about the Colts-Patriots/Luck-Brady matchup for Luck and Manning, but that would be pushing it.
This Broncos offense is historically great, and the defense is also respectable now. The Colts are going to need to land big name talent if they want to compete with a dominant team like the Broncos.
Will Luck have another highlight reel lined up, or will he play decently while Manning and his all-star cast of receivers light up the scoreboard? My guess is the latter.
Winner: Denver Broncos
1. Seattle Seahawks
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Chicago Bears
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. Detroit Lions
Bubble Teams: Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins
Philadelphia Eagles (3) vs. Detroit Lions (6)
On paper, these two teams are very similar.
Each has a young quarterback who rakes in the stats, a running back who can pick up yards on the ground or in the air, and an awful secondary. However, the combination of Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy is better than Mathew Stafford and Reggie Bush.
Calvin Johnson will make some fantastic plays, but he wont be able to save the Lions season. You can expect lots of offense with little resistance from these two teams, but the Eagles will be able to take this game from the hopeful Lions.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
Chicago Bears (4) vs. San Francisco 49ers (5)
These two teams, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different.
The Bears prefer to pass the football and put up points in a hurry while trying to mask a sub par defense. The 49ers prefer to pound the ball inside at a slow and steady pace on offense while terrorizing opposing quarterbacks on defense.
Jay Cutler looks to take advantage of his new health, receivers, and improved defense. However, Colin Kaepernick is out to prove that he’s worth the monster extension he signed this summer.
With a capable receiving unit bolstered by the addition of Stevie Johnson, an always productive running back, and a top of the line defense, the 49ers look to take care of business in the Windy City.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
New Orleans Saints (2) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (3)
Last year, the Saints were able to ward off the dynamic Eagles with an average defense. Now, with an improved one that opposing offenses must fear, the Saints look to beat the Eagles on the road once again.
This Saints team is poised to make a deep playoff run, complete on both sides of the ball. As for the Eagles, offense wins games, but defense wins championships.
Without a defense strong enough to stop the elite quarterbacks of the league, the Eagles will only enjoy moderate success.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
Seattle Seahawks (1) vs. San Francisco 49ers (5)
These two just can’t get enough of each other. This matchup is becoming one of the most exciting and anticipated rivalries in the league, and they will not disappoint.
Both teams have fantastic defenses and great young quarterbacks, so they’ll be just about evenly matched at every turn. However, Seattle usually seems to get the better of this matchup, and with these two teams looking relatively the same as last year, it’s hard to bet against the Seahawks.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks (1) vs. New Orleans Saints (2)
In yet another thriller, the Seahawks take on the Saints in the NFC Conference Finals. Drew Brees looks to add another Superbowl appearance to his historic resume, while the Seahawks try to make it for the second time in a row.
During the 2014 regular season, the Seahawks will only face 3 elite quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, and Peyton Manning. Coincidentally, those are the first 3 games the Seahawks play in the regular season. They will be totally unprepared for the passing attack of a top 3 quarterback after not playing against one for months.
That’s not to say they won’t put up one hell of a fight, but the Saints are coming at them with a dynamic offensive attack that they just can’t brace for.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
Denver Broncos vs. New Orleans Saints
Two high-octane offenses, led by legendary quarterbacks, facing off in the biggest game football has to offer.
Peyton Manning vs. Drew Brees.
An instant classic.
It will be a shootout from the beginning. Some will look at the Broncos’ shameful performance in their last Superbowl performance, but it took one of the best defenses of all time to hold that Broncos team back. The Saints defense will be good, but not nearly as good as the 2013 Seahawks.
Both teams will give it everything they’ve got, but in the end, Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ thirst for redemption will be too much to overcome.
Superbowl Champions: Denver Broncos
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