AFC Playoff Lineup
1. Denver Broncos
Manning and his arsenal of weapons enter the postseason as Super Bowl favorites, along with a revamped defense behind new additions of Demarcus Ware and more from an eventful free agency for the Broncos. Peyton Manning, being arguably the greatest QB of all time, will have this time hopping by playoff time.
2. Indianapolis Colts
The top teams in the AFC are defined by their Quarterbacks, so it’s fitting that the Colts finish just behind the Broncos in the AFC seeding. The Colts looked unstoppable before losing a confusing game to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, mostly because of Big Ben’s record breaking performance, which means they will regroup quickly. Luck and the Colts will be riding an extensive win streak into the Playoffs due to a favorable schedule down the road.
3. New England Patriots
The Patriots have continued to prove critics wrong by doing absolutely everything rights since Week 4, but a difficult schedule will have them at the Number 3 spot in the playoffs. Brady, Gronk, Revis Island and the rest of the Patriots will be very much alive come playoff time.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are perhaps the best of the inconsistent teams in the NFL. While that might not be a label the Bengals want, it describes them so far. However, they have one of the more talented rosters in the League, and the recent misfortunate could be blamed on a tough schedule and an injured AJ Green.
5. San Diego Chargers
Don’t count against Phillip Rivers at this point in time. The Chargers are on the cusp of elite, despite the fact that they couldn’t compete with their division rivals up in Denver this past Thursday. They win the top wild card spot and enter the postseason very much battle-tested.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
The three-headed monster that is the Steeler offense has proven that they can beat elite teams by beating the Texans in primetime in Week 7 and dismantling the Colts in Week 8. The Big Ben-Bell-Brown trifecta is becoming very difficult to stop, and the Steelers will be playing at a high level come January.
First 2 Out: Ravens, Chiefs
The Ravens are left saying “What about us?” at the end of 2014. They have been impressive so far this year, and they have a favorable schedule going forward. But the fact is that Phillip Rivers is going to switch into high gear and lead his Chargers in a playoff push, and the Steelers offense is too talented to miss out on January. Sorry, Joe Flacco. Maybe next year you’ll get your chance to finally prove yourself as elite.
The Chiefs have had their up and downs this year, and unfortunately they will end up losing three or four of their last five games, as they go up against the Chargers, Steelers, Cardinals and Broncos. These four teams will be in the middle of solidifying their playoff seed, and the Chiefs get left in the dust.
NFC Playoff Lineup
1. Arizona Cardinals
Every team in the NFL should fear the Arizona Cardinals. Every single one. Bruce Arians has built a team that is simply dominating in the NFL. We got to see just how deep this QB depth chart is, with all three strings playing at a high level because of injuries. Andre Ellington has emerged as the focal point of this offense, and Larry Fitzgerald has started playing at a high level once again. The defense, despite being worn down with multiple injuries, keeps finding a way. But it is not one element of the team that is responsible for this team’s success, and that is the scary part. The Cards enter January as the top ranked team in the NFC.
2. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have had their defensive struggles, but the offense more than makes up for it. When you have Aaron Rodgers, who Running Back Ahman Green calls the “Batman of the NFL”, along with Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, you are going to score points. Once the Packers start putting up points, they are very hard to beat. They are a team to fear at this time of year, especially in Lambeau.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles seem to be the best team that no one is talking about in 2014. They have competed with elite competition in the NFL at a high level, beating the Colts but losing to the 49ers and the Cardinals in close finishes. The fast-paced offense is led by some of the quickest, most exciting players in the NFL, with LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles in the backfield, as well as Jeremy Maclin at reciever. If Nick Foles can step up in key games down the stretch, this team will be as much of a contender as anybody.
4. Carolina Panthers
The awful NFC South spits out the Carolina Panthers, who may need only 8 wins to punch their playoff bid. The Panthers have had their defensive struggles, but the defensive effort against the Seahawks could be a sign of things to come. Also, the return of DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert will awaken this offense. Cam Newton is injury-free and is returning to his athletic, mobile self, and he will guide the Panthers past the Saints in the South.
5. Detroit Lions
The Lions finally seal the deal in 2014, with Matthew Stafford coming into his own. They can’t clinch the NFC North, but they reach the playoffs for the first time in four years. The Lions are capable of overcoming their reputation of losing late in the season, and they will.
6. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has been on a roll in the first half of the season. They have proven themselves with quality wins over the Saints, Texans and Seahawks. Tony Romo looks a little shaky, and this team digresses somewhat in the second half of the season. But they are able to secure the final wild card spot, and this highly talented offense will get its shot in the postseason.
First 2 Out: 49ers, Seahawks
The 49ers miss the playoffs for the first time under Jim Harbaugh, who led this team to three straight NFC Championships and one Super Bowl appearance. The Cardinals are going to win the NFC West, and the 49ers fail to secure the final wild card spot over the Cowboys. This may be the last year for Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers, due to internal issues.
There is just no room for the Seahawks in the playoff picture, after their slow start. Despite a furious push by Russell Wilson late in the season, this team fails to make the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl last year, which will raise all kinds of questions in the offseason. Not exactly the follow up year that the Seahawks had in mind.
Wild Card Round
4 Bengals vs. 5 Chargers
The Bengals are still looking for their first playoff win for the first time under Marvin Lewis, but they just can’t do it against Phillip Rivers.
Bengals 17- Chargers 31
3 New England Patriots vs. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers
Brady vs. Big Ben, a great matchup. The Patriots have the better defense and the home field advantage, they pull out a close one Foxboro.
Patriots 23- Steelers 17
4 Carolina Panthers vs. 5 Detroit Lions
A rematch from a Week 2 blowout in favor of Carolina, but Matthew Stafford is ready to go get his first playoff win against a team that has a multitude of defensive struggles. Stafford leads a game winning drive against Carolina.
Panthers 13- Lions 16
3 Philadelphia Eagles vs. 6 Dallas Cowboys
The two division rivals face off for the third time this season, the Eagles take apart the Cowboys defense at home.
Eagles 27- Cowboys 10
1 Denver Broncos vs. 5 San Diego Chargers
A monster matchup between division rivals once again, but really it is a battle between the top two elite Quarterbacks in the NFL. Peyton Manning won’t go down at home this early, no matter how tough the opponent.
Broncos 38- Chargers 28
2 Indianapolis Colts vs 3 New England Patriots
Last year, we saw Andrew Luck lead his team back on a 31 point comeback to beat the Chiefs, and then fall to the Patriots in the Divisional Round. Things go a little different this time around in Indy. Despite the seeding, this is definitely an upset. A heroic game winning drive from Andrew Luck seals it.
Colts 31- Patriots 27
1 Arizona Cardinals vs 5 Detroit Lions
The Cardinals shut down the dangerous Lions offense in an electric atmosphere in Arizona.
Cardinals 20- Lions 7
2 Green Bay Packers vs. 3 Philadelphia Eagles
A fantastic playoff shootout goes to the experienced home team. Get your popcorn ready.
Packers 41- Eagles 31
1 Denver Broncos vs. 2 Indianapolis Colts
Could you ask for more? Luck and Manning battle it out with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Peyton gets this one, because he is just too good. The dominant Broncos defense causes problems for the Colts receivers and Offensive line. Despite the loss, Luck takes a big step in his development into a Championship-caliber QB.
Broncos 23- Colts 21
NFC: 1 Arizona Cardinals vs. 2 Green Bay Packers
The well-built Cardinals team comes up short to Aaron Rodgers, and this Packers team. The injuries on defense slow the Cardinals, and they just can’t keep up with the dominant WR duo.
Cardinals 14- Packers 23
1 Denver Broncos vs. 2 Green Bay Packers
Both future Hall-of-Fame Quarterbacks go into the Super Bowl looking for their second Championship, but this is more meaningful to the Broncos and Peyton Manning, after being destroyed in last years Super Bowl by the Seahawks. The Broncos win, and Peyton cements his legacy.
Broncos 23- Packers 20
Super Bowl Champion:
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