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Sunday, January 22, 2017

All Four Super Bowl Previews XI

Episode 11 of my favorite post of the year! Championship Sunday is my favorite football weekend so it makes sense that the post that ruminates about it would be as well! (If you'd like to see how I've fared with my predictions over the past ten years, you'll find them listed at the bottom of this post along with links if you're interested in my previous analysis.)

My accuracy rating took a major hit last year as managed to go 0 for 3: I predicted both Championship games incorrectly and got the winner of the actual Super Bowl game wrong too. I fell from 56% all the way down to 50%! Ouch! Hopefully, I'll rebound this year! On to the predictions:

I want to start by saying that these two games are incredibly difficult to predict. I'm vacillating greatly on who I'm going to choose. Also, this may be the single greatest grouping of QBs in the Championship games ever!

Alright, here are this year's games from least compelling* to most: *("Compelling" refers to how interested an average viewer might be and which game the networks are hoping for)

Steelers vs Falcons
When the potential QBs who could play in the Big Game are made up of Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, and Ryan, deservedly or not, Ryan is going to get the least celebration. While the Falcons have had an amazing offense this year they've flown under the radar having been overshadowed by the Cowboys & Packers in their own Conference. The Steelers have had a rocky season, losing to the Cowboys and the Dolphins while nearly giving the Browns their second win of the year. The Steelers are the worst team still in the playoffs. This game pits the worst offense still in the running against the worst defense still in the running. The opposite is not true, while the Falcons have the best offense in the playoffs, the Steelers D isn't strong enough to stop them.
Winner: Falcons
Losers: All of the companies who saved some money by having their ads air after half time

Patriots vs Falcons
Between people not understanding the historical significance of Brady playing in his 7th Super Bowl and not recognizing just how good Ryan is this game won't have much viewership. Even though it won't garner the same level of interest as the next two games This is the game we will have the pleasure of seeing. This match-up ranks higher than Pittsburgh v Atlanta because this game pits the top two offenses against each other. The same can't be said about their defenses. The Patriots defense has been fantastic this year while the Falcons have struggled. Atlanta has needed their over-powering offense to win having given up at least 4 touchdowns 9 times this year! You can't allow Brady to score 28 points and think you are going to win. I'd say you can't give Rodgers that many points and think you'll win either, except that they did defeating Green Bay by 1 point during the regular season. That doesn't happen twice. We won't see this game but if we did, Atlanta's D can't stop Brady enough times to win.
Winner: Patriots
Loser: Roger Goodell

Steelers vs Packers
FOX is chomping at the bit in the hopes that they might have two weeks to promote Big Ben vs Discount Double Check Rodgers. Beyond the story of the QBs there's also the "rematch" angle of Super Bowl XLV (45) where Rodgers and the Packers edged out Ben and the Steelers by 6 points. Ben wants revenge, Rodgers wants his second ring. Two storied franchises with stalwart fan bases facing off for the Lombardi Trophy. These two teams are also somewhat evenly matched. Both have middle of the road defenses and somewhat above average offenses. The Steelers D is better than the Packers, while the Packers offense is better than the Steelers. This game could be a nail-biter where Rodgers needs to lead a late drive to retake the lead before Big Ben tosses a game ending INT attempting his own miracle come-back.
Winner: Packers
Loser: Fans of the other teams in the NFC or AFC North. These fans can be unbearable as it is even without a Championship

Patriots vs Packers
This game has the best story-line: The King of the NFL seeking to secure his legacy against the heir-apparent looking to dethrone the reining regent. This is also a rematch: Super Bowl XXXI (31) in 1997 when Favre out gunned Bledsoe 35-21. While not the same major players, and therefore not quite as compelling as Steelers v Packers but who can pass up on a Brady v Rodgers match-up? They've only met one time in the past and this may be their only opportunity as they aren't scheduled to meet in the regular season until 2019 (Brady would be 42 and may be retired by then). So what will happen? Will Brady defeat the next QB destined to be in the "best ever" conversation? Yes, and he will set himself apart as the GOAT once and for all. Here's why: "Do your job." This is the mantra of the Patriots. Rodgers strangely, has a better passer rating when he is outside of the pocket. This means that the play has broken down and it's a scramble drill. The Patriots outside defensive linemen will contain Rodgers not allowing him to escape to where he is the most effective. Brady will be able to dissect the Packer's mediocre defense for his 5th (and possibly not last) Super Bowl ring.
Winner: Patriots
Losers: Joe Montana

Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Here are the links to my previous predictions, analysis, winners, and losers:

2007, Colts over Bears;
Game Predicted: Saints over Colts.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Colts;

2008, Giants over Patriots;
Game Predicted: Accurately predicted the Giants vs the Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Patriots;

2009, Steelers over Cardinals;
Game Predicted: Steelers over Eagles.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Steelers;

2010, Saints over Colts;
Game Predicted: Purposeful lack of prediction.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Colts;

2011, Packers over Steelers;
Game Predicted: Accurately predicted the Packers and Steelers
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Steelers;

2012, Giants over Patriots;
Game Predicted: Giants over Ravens.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Patriots

2013, Ravens over 49ers;
Game Predicted: 49ers over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: 49ers

2014, Seahawks over Broncos;
Game Predicted: Seahawks over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Seahawks

2015, Patriots over Seahawks;
Game Predicted: Seahawks over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Seahawks

2016, Broncos over Panthers;
Game Predicted: Patriots over Cardinals.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Panthers

Friday, January 13, 2017

2016-2017 NFL Playoff Preview

I've decided that the NFL season gets shorter every year, and it's reached the "too short" point. Probably the funniest part of this year's post is that I'm stressing to get it done before the first game starts, as though anyone will read this. Anyway, here's the perennial look back at how I did last year:

AFC:
Chiefs v Texans: Prediction Chiefs, actual Chiefs
Steelers v Bengals: Prediction Steelers, actual Steelers
Chiefs v Patriots: Prediction Patriots, actual Patriots
Steelers v Broncos: Prediction Steelers, actual Broncos
Steelers v Patriots: Prediction Patriots, actual Broncos

NFC:
Seahawks v Vikings: Prediction Seahawks, actual Seahawks
Packers v Redskins: Prediction Packers, actual Packers
Packers v Cardinals: Prediction Cardinals, actual Cardinals
Seahawks v Panthers: Prediction Panthers, actual Panthers
Cardinals v Panthers: Prediction Cardinals, actual Panthers

Super Bowl
Cardinals v Patriots: Prediction Patriots, actual Broncos

While neither of my predicted Super Bowl teams made it to the big game, I did alright with the games leading up to it. And as a person who isn't particularly fond of Manning or Newton last year's Championship game couldn't have ended any better: Neither QB played well and Denver's Defense allowed Peyton to limp into retirement with his second Ring - tying his far less talented brother. So I got 64% right (7 out of 11). That's 1 better than last year. Let's see if I can get one better this year!

I got 100% last year's wild card weekend. That's not easy to replicate but here we go (I'll review them in the order in which they will be played):

AFC Saturday 1st game Raiders at Texans
Until about two weeks ago, the Raiders were the second scariest team in the AFC and were making a play at 1st overall. Then Carr broke his leg and their back up, McQloin, injured his non-throwing shoulder. They fell from fighting for first to fifth. While the Texans have had a mediocre season at best they have the good fortune of facing a decimated Raiders offense. Texans walk through this one.
Winner: Texans

NFC Saturday 2nd game Lions at Seahawks
This is a fairly evenly matched game: Two teams with better than average defenses playing with QBs who have been working with injuries this year. That means what might typically be considered a minor difference may end up being a major in the outcome. While Wilson dealt with a more serious injured earlier in the year, Stafford suffered a finger dislocation towards the end of it. Stafford's injury is on his throwing hand and has impacted his numbers - and the overall success of the team - ever since. The Lions finished the season on a three game losing streak (Giants, Cowboys, Packers). All three losses were to playoff teams but one would hope for at least one victory (which could have awarded them the division). Another factor to consider is the location. A few years ago, when the Seahawks won their division with a losing record they still went on to win their first playoff game because it was at home. Seattle is a difficult place to visit and win. I think the combination of 12th man pushes the Seahawks over the top for the win.
Winner: Seahawks

AFC Sunday 1st game Dolphins at Steelers
I don't put much stock in the Dolphins. They started the year 1-4 (their only win coming against the hapless 1-15 Browns) and faced 6 teams all year that finished the season .500 or better. The Dolphins went 1-5 in those six games. I feel like this playoff appearance is a consolation prize for being the best of the worst of the AFC. The Steelers should have little difficulty ending the Dolphins playoff hopes.
Winner: Steelers

NFC Sunday 2nd game: Giants at Packers
In typical Giant fashion, they had flashes of brilliance and moments of utter confusion. They handed the vaunted Cowboys 2 of their 3 losses this year but then floundered against the likes of the mediocre Vikings. That type of inconsistent play has plague Eli his entire career (see: defeating the undefeated Patriots & starting a season with more interceptions than receptions). That's one thing that makes predicting Giant games so difficult. Especially when playing against a QB who has a higher passer rating when he is outside of the pocket than when inside!
Winner: Packers

Divisional Round:
AFC Saturday 1st game Seahawks at Falcons
This is a fascinating match-up. Falcons over-powering offense (#1) vs Seahawks stingy defense (#3). What makes this more interesting than the possibility of a Falcons v Patriots (#1 defense) match-up is that these two teams are equally weak on the opposite side of the ball (Seahawks #18 in offense, Falcons #27 in defense). While they say that defenses win championships and one, therefore, should side with the Seahawks, most of their great defense came against flat-out bad teams. The Falcon's offense, on the other hand, fared much better against strong defenses than the Seahawk's defense did vs stronger offenses. Accordingly, we predict the Falcons will move on to the Championship round.
Winner: Falcons

AFC Saturday 2nd game Texans at Patriots
Once we enter the divisional round, the Texans will be the worst team remaining in the playoffs. Even if they had JJ Watt, the Texans would have a difficult time stopping TB12 and the Patriots. In order to keep the game competitive, the Texans will have to have at least two defensive/special team TDs. While the Patriots have been giving fans heart palpitations late in games recently, I don't think they will collapse to that extent. Look for Belichick's crew to waltz past the vastly over-paid Osweiler and the Texans.
Winner: Patriots

NFC Sunday 1st game Steelers at Chiefs
"Don't be too proud if this [bye-week] terror you've constructed." If not for the devastating injury to Derek Carr the Chiefs would be sitting in 5th place and traveling to Foxboro this week after defeating the Texans rather than hosting the Steelers. The Chiefs only dropped two games at home this year but got embarrassed in Pittsburgh losing by 29 points. The Steelers had an easy trip into the post season, at least, on paper. They won their last 7 games against teams that won less than 1/3 of their games (31-64-1) and even faced a playoff team during that run. However, they didn't win convincingly, finishing out the season with four wins of only one score (and nearly allowing the Browns to notch a second win). Those factors make this a difficult game to evaluate. Additionally, I'm uncomfortable choosing all of the home teams and, though you've not read my Packers/Cowboys pick - that's what I've done. If I had to pick a visiting team to win, it would be the Steelers. Having said that, I won't be picking the Steelers.
Winner: Chiefs

NFC Sunday 2nd game Packers at Cowboys
Well put me in a time machine and zap me back to the 90s! I love this match-up: Favre vs Aikman - I mean Rogers vs Prescott. These two teams faced a few of the same opponents this year but without providing a definitive conclusion as to which team is clearly better. The Cowboys lost to teams that the Packers defeated and vice versa. As long as the Cowboys can keep Rogers in the pocket they will win easily. If they are unable to contain Rogers, the 'Boys will still walk out with the win but it will be much closer.
Winner: Cowboys

Championship Round:
AFC
Chiefs at Patriots
Out of all of the AFC teams, the Chiefs are the team I didn't want to face (after Carr's injury. Prior it was the Raiders). They have a decent defense and an adequate offense. They match-up well against the Patriots. The Chiefs, however, have the misfortune of facing the team ranked #1 in points allowed and #3 in points scored (and remember, for the majority of the year they've been without either Brady or Gronk - and for some games - without both!) The Chiefs will put up a fight early, but the game will not be in doubt late.
Winner: Patriots

NFC
Falcons at Cowboys
Picking the home team for every game is like choosing all chalk in the NCAA March Madness Tournament - and, for as much as I want to choose the Falcons, I simply can't. While the top four contenders for NFL MVP are still paying at this point (Brady, Prescott, Elliot, & Ryan) it is the likely front runner for MVP (Ryan) who will walk out of Dallas with the L. My gut tells me that Dallas will lose this game. The 'Boys have had to score 24 points in order to walk away with a win for the majority of the season. That doesn't bode well for a team playing this late in the post-season. However, when I looked at the Falcon's defense they ranked 27th in the league for points against. Dallas is 5th. I'm not ignoring the fact that the Seahawks (whom I've picked to lose to the Falcons) are 3rd in defense The major difference is that the Falcons are 1st in offensive scoring, the Cowboys are 5th (the Seahawks wallow in 18th). I'm forced to predict the Cowboys as the victors.
Winner: Cowboys

Super Bowl
Cowboys vs Patriots
I feel like I've predicted Cowboys v Patriots a number of times prior to this. And I have: Once before. I've also predicted Falcons v Patriots once in the past as well. Nearly every time the Patriots are in the playoffs I've chosen them to make it to the Super Bowl. I'm fairly confident this year that they will advance, once again, to the Big Dance but I'm not excited about facing either the Falcons or the Cowboys. All in all, I'd rather see the Cowboys who have zero experience against a Belichickian defense. I believe that Brady will prove himself once and for all the GOAT in earning his 5th (and, astonishingly, not necessarily last) Super Bowl victory.
Winner: Patriots

So I've probably cursed the Patriots to a heart-breaking, last minute loss at the hands of the Seahawks! I still very much enjoy the process of evaluating the post-season teams and predicting the outcome of all of the games. I selected no upsets this year which doesn't sit well with me but we shall see how it all turns out. Go Patriots!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

All Four Super Bowl Previews X

It is hard to believe this is the tenth episode of "All Four Super Bowl Previews!" I suppose it's somehow fitting that my 10th is the NFL's 50th. (If you are interested in how I did with the previous nine predictions you can find the links to the previous editions at the end of the post.)

Perennially I update my prediction record. In reviewing my figures I located an error that I will correct from here forward. Scoring is as follows: 1 Point for correctly predicting the AFC winner, 1 point for the NFC winner, and 1 point for correctly predicting the winner of the contest of the actual Super Bowl teams. A potential of 3 points per year with one exception: For some inexplicable reason I intentionally made no prediction regarding which teams would go to the Super Bowl in 2010. However, I did (incorrectly) predict a winner of the actual game that occurred. That year shall count for 1 available point. So, up until my predictions for 2015, I was 12 for 22 (54.5%). Last year I correctly predicted that the Patriots would face the Seahawks in the Big Dance, however, I guess I thought the Seahawks would run the ball at the goal line and not toss Malcolm Butler the game winning interception. (An identical prediction to the one I made the year before when the Seahawks trounced the Broncos.) However, going 2 for 3 last year increases my record to 56%! Ok, on to the predictions for this year:

Interesting fact regarding this year's QBs: Three out of four of them are over 35! Newton is the baby of the bunch at 26.

Alright, here are this year's games from least compelling to most:

Patriots vs Cardinals
I feel the need to briefly define how I'm using the term "Compelling" in this ranking structure. I don't mean the quality of game that will be on display for the fans to watch. I mean the story - the selling factor that CBS can milk to try to entice the casual viewer to the couch for the game. That being said this game is the one that no one wants to see. Here's why: Nobody (outside of New England [and their fans]) wants to see Brady in another Super Bowl. His legacy is set, his HOF ticket is stamped, it's time to share with the other children. Everyone (outside of Arizona and the fans of the other NFC South Teams) wants to see Cam Newton on the Big Stage (and, no, I don't mean singing with Coldplay.) So if there's no Newton and there is Tom Terrific then few people will be happy. This is unfortunate as I believe this will be the best game to watch. The Cardinals and Patriots both have the best offense for their respective leagues and adequate defenses to make it difficult for the opponents offense to simply move the ball all over them. This is the game I expect to see and I believe that Belichick and Co will find a way to befuddle Palmer into making enough mistakes that the Patriots will be the first to repeat as Super Bowl champions since... oh yeah, The Patriots.
Winner: Patriots
Losers: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms as they have to say nice things about the Patriots (they will later gargle with antiseptic mouthwash).

Broncos vs Cardinals
It may be surprising to find this game listed second considering how much the average fan doesn't want to see Brady in the Super Bowl, so his absence might appear to be drawing factor. However, I believe that Newton's absence would cause more people to not watch than Brady's presence. In regards to the game, the Broncos have a decent defense but not enough to win a championship. Their offense isn't what it used to be either. This game won't feel like it's over because the Nantz and Simms will continually fawn over Manning and herald him as the football Messiah (never once mentioning the HGH scandal that is currently surrounding him) but he will be unable to overcome the Cardinals. Peyton will fall to 1-3 for his Super Bowl appearances.
Winner: Cardinals
Loser: Manning's HGH provider as demand plummets.

Patriots vs Panthers
While CBS will get some play out of the "rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII" angle (Cam Newton was a freshman in high school when that game was played), the major story-line here is that the Panthers are seeking to mirror the Patriots feat of finishing a season 18-1. The only difference is, when the Patriots finished 18-1 they were 18-0 headed into the final game of the year. The Panthers had an opportunity match the Patriots undefeated 16 game regular season but fell to the Falcons week 15. Now, had they managed to overcome their divisional rival CBS would be selling their souls for this match-up. Imagine the hype: "The Panthers are on a mission to be the first undefeated team in the 16 game era. The only obstacle still in their way? The last team to attempt the seemingly impossible feat. The Patriots hope to add another team with an 18-1 record to the annals of NFL History." Instead, it's the Panthers hoping for a better 18-1 record, where they hoist the Lombardi trophy at the end and the Patriots hoping to send "SuperCam" Newton home with 17-2 record for the year. If this is the game that we see, my emotions say that the Panthers will win, but my head says the Patriots. I don't expect the Patriots to spot the Panthers 31 points like the Seahawks did last week and if the Panthers D couldn't stop the Seahawks from coming within a TD of victory, they won't be able to stop Tom, Edelman, Gronk, and Amendola.
Winner: Patriots
Loser: Roger Goodell

Broncos vs Panthers
This is the game that everyone without a dog in the fight wants to see. They want Peyton to have his swan song and go out on top like the last great Broncos QB, John Elway, did. Not only that, but they want it to be against a rising star QB Cam Newton. A passing of the torch, if you will. They picture Newton congratulating Peyton at the 50 just after Manning has announced that now that he's won the Super Bowl he's going to fly the Millennium Falcon to Disney World (Because they can't cross reference that enough!) Both QBs smiling from ear to ear as Manning says, "You'll get yours next year kid" and, in oblivious to the irony, hands Cam the game ball. Too bad that isn't what is going to happen. This game will be over by the middle of the 3rd. The Panthers won't fall for Manning's new patented "Look at me guys, I'm giving myself up!" play. Manning will be benched after he throws his 3rd INT (2nd Pick-six [4th turnover including an earlier strip sack]). Brock comes in the game but it's too little, too late as the Panthers role over the Broncos by 3 scores. The Panthers will finish the season 18-1, but this time with a championship.
Winner: Panthers
Losers: Everyone tired of hearing about the 1972 Dolphins

Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Here are the links to my previous predictions, analysis, winners, and losers:

2007, Colts over Bears;
Game Predicted: Saints over Colts.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Colts;

2008, Giants over Patriots;
Game Predicted: Accurately predicted the Giants vs the Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Patriots;

2009, Steelers over Cardinals;
Game Predicted: Steelers over Eagles.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Steelers;

2010, Saints over Colts;
Game Predicted: Purposeful lack of prediction.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Colts;

2011, Packers over Steelers;
Game Predicted: Accurately predicted the Packers and Steelers
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Steelers;

2012, Giants over Patriots;
Game Predicted: Giants over Ravens.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Patriots

2013, Ravens over 49ers;
Game Predicted: 49ers over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: 49ers

2014, Seahawks over Broncos;
Game Predicted: Seahawks over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Seahawks

2015, Patriots over Seahawks;
Game Predicted: Seahawks over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Seahawks

Friday, January 08, 2016

2015-2016 NFL Playoff Preview

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Nope, not Christmas time, NFL Playoff time! Hard to believe it's been another year since I posted but I simply can't refuse the siren call of predicting the NFL Post season. Here is how I did with last year's playoff predictions.

AFC:
Ravens v Steelers: Prediction Steelers, actual Ravens
Colts v Bengals: Prediction Bengals, actual Colts
Bengals v Patriots: Prediction Patriots, actual Patriots
Colts v Broncos: Prediction Broncos, actual Colts
Colts v Patriots: Prediction Patriots, actual Patriots

NFC:
Panthers v Cardinals: Prediction Panthers, actual Panthers
Cowboys v Lions: Prediction Cowboys, actual Cowboys
Seahawks v Panthers: Prediction Seahawks, actual Seahawks
Cowboys v Packers: Prediction Cowboys, actual Packers
Cowboys v Seahawks: Prediction Cowboys, actual Seahawks

Super Bowl
Cowboys v Patriots: Prediction Patriots, actual Patriots

It didn't look like my final prediction was going to hold true with the circus catch and Beast-Mode expectation until Butlers INT. I I went only 6 for 11 for 54% which is unfortunate seeing as half of those predictions were the Patriots! On to this year: Here is how I believe the second best tournament of the year will work itself out (NCAA basketball is #1):

I felt like last year's Wild Card Weekend was up-in-the-air. This year I feel like it's nearly a gimmie. That being said, I'll probably be lucky if I go .500 so don't rush to Vegas with my predictions. I'll review them in the order in which they will be played:

AFC Saturday 1st game Chiefs at Texans
If I were to power rank all 12 of the playoff teams the Texans would be at the bottom. I've heard many people talking about the Chiefs as the sleeper team of the post season. Momentum is a fairly important aspect of the NFL and the Chiefs are carrying a 10 game winning streak. Now, the flip side of that stat is that their wins were against pedestrian teams. Only 2 of which finished the year over .500 and three of their opponents winning fewer than a third of their games. This game will be a close one with Houston's excellent Defense holding KC's very good offense and KC's adequate defense stopping Houston's below average offense. When the clock stops, it's the Chiefs that will be moving on.
Winner: Chiefs

AFC Saturday 2nd game Steelers at Bengals
As a Patriots fan, the Steelers are the team that concern me the most. It wouldn't surprise me if Belichick lost to the Jets to give them control of their own destiny and keep Pittsburgh out of the post season. Then, when he saw that the Bills were whooping up on the Jets he chose to lose to the Dolphins so that if the Patriots had to meet the Steelers it wouldn't be until the AFC Championship game The Bengals, on the other hand would be ranked just above the Texans. With a back up QB and only a few challenges this year, less than half that they rose to, the Bengals are benefiting from early success. That success will not carry them into the next round of the post season. This game will be over by halftime. The Bengals have gone 24 years since their last playoff win. That tally will increase to 25.
Winner: Steelers

NFC Sunday 1st game Seahawks at Vikings
The biggest headline of this game will be the weather. Not because it will be the coldest game of all time, not even close. But with temperatures expected to be around 8 degrees Fahrenheit the NFL could put an end to "Deflategate" (or "Framegate" as it is more appropriately called) once and for all. Simply test those footballs at half time and make the results public. Of course, this will never happen. So, on to the game: Of all the games for wild card weekend, this is the most difficult to predict. The Vikings have had a late season push to finally wrestle the division from the claws of the Packers. Seattle has also had some success against key teams this season, most notably the Cardinals and the Vikings. If we were to go by the meeting in the regular season one would expect the Seahawks to run away with this one as they won by 29. However, the way the Vikings played against the Packers when it mattered gave a glimpse of what the team can do when their back is against the wall. The Seahawks have overcome the curse of the losing Super Bowl team not making the playoffs, but only just barely. It may be interesting to note that the teams who which the Seahawks have lost have the second highest winning record (behind only the Bengals)and the teams they beat have the 3rd lowest winning record (behind the Texans and Bengals). That means they lost to the good teams and beat the bad teams. That might make this pick easier if the Vikings hadn't done much of the same. Edging out the Seahawks by 1.76% in winning percentage of the teams they've beaten. So who comes out on top? The boys from Washington
Winner: Seahawks

NFC Sunday 2nd game: Packers at Redskins
The Packers of late have not been the Packers we've come to know and love (Or otherwise, depending on which team you favor). While the Redskins have emerged from the worst division of the NFC (When a team is 4-10 week 15 and still not mathematically eliminated from the post season [Dallas], there's a problem). The Redskins have the distinction of having lowest winning percentage of the teams against whom they won. Interestingly, they also lost teams with the second lowest winning percentage (The Panthers had the lowest winning percentage of teams they lost to [which was only one (Falcons)] at 50%). This means the Redskins had the easiest schedule out of all of the playoff teams and they still limped in. It feels odd going with all of the road teams but I can't find a good reason to pick the Redskins.
Winner: Packers

Divisional Round:
AFC Saturday 1st game Chiefs at Patriots
While I would much rather have seen the Bengals in this slot, we'll take the Chiefs. Hopefully, Edelman, Amendola, Gronk, and Brady will all be at 100%. If they are, then I have little concern that the Patriots will move on to the next round. If they are not all available to play, I still believe that the Patriots are matched up will against the Chiefs. People may point to the Patriots having gone 2-4 in their final 6 games but remember a few things: The Broncos game could have easily gone either way, the Eagles loss was a major special teams debacle and the Patriots still had a chance to win, and the losses to the Jets and Dolphins may have been intentional. The Patriots usually save a few special plays for the post season (See: Ravens controversy last year that we all forgot about because of "Framegate). The Chief's hopes for a championship end in Foxboro.
Winner: Patriots

NFC Saturday 2nd game Packers at Cardinals
The Packers aren't as fortunate this round having to travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals. The Cardinals have already disposed of the Packers once this season and it was the current team who doesn't look like the Green Bay of old (Or even week 5). Palmer will beat Rogers and give the Cards the win.
Winner: Cardinals

NFC Sunday 1st game Seahawks at Panthers
The Panthers looked like they were going to match the Patriots feat of 2007 of going the entire regular season without a loss. They still have a chance to match New England's 18-1 record if they can bring home the Lombardi Trophy. First they have to get past the Seahawks. The likelihood that the Panthers were going to go undefeated decreased greatly when their star running back Jonathan Stewart went down with an injury. Two games later they lost to the Falcons. The Panthers faced teams with the worst overall winning percentage but part of that is that they defeated 93.75% of those teams. However, those same teams didn't do a lot of winning apart from when they faced the Panthers either. It would be a great disappointment if the Panthers went out the first round. Rumor has it that Stewart will be back. The Panthers don't disappoint.
Winner: Panthers

AFC Sunday 2nd game Steelers at Broncos
This is a game I (wrongly) predicted last year. But this year I'm even more sure it will happen. The Steelers are one of the healthiest teams in the AFC and that goes a long way in the post season. The Broncos have to choose between an injured geriatric with a bum neck and an unproven QB who they pulled from the final game of the year when it really mattered. I believe they are going to go with Manning and he will be the Manning of late (which is the Manning we've come to expect in the playoffs). He will throw no fewer than 2 interceptions. He will get a hit that will give the Broncos and excuse to pull him in favor of Brock but it will be too late. Big Ben will march the Steelers to a Mile High victory ending Manning's final chance at equaling his younger (and far less talented) brother's Super Bowl victories.
Winner: Steelers

Championship Round:
AFC
Steelers at Patriots
This is the game I dreaded. Can the Patriots #DefendtheWall against the Steelers in Foxboro. The Patriots have defeated Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game twice in the past, both times in Pittsburgh, and both times the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl. Can the Steelers return the favor? Can Big Ben waltz into Foxoboro in late January, defeat the Patriots and then beat the NFC's Super Bowl Representative? I don't think so (that, and every time I've picked against the Patriots I've regretted it).
Winner: Patriots

NFC
Cardinals at Panthers
As informed as I try to be I haven't had much opportunity to see the Cardinals this year. Stats show that they are evenly balanced but can they stop the double pronged run and shoot offense of Stewart, Newton, and the Panthers? While Cam is certainly the shoe-in for NFL MVP this year, I'm not 100% sure that he can beat the Cardinals. If they did, I think they'd win the Super Bowl. I've even typed the Super Bowl match up of a Panthers v Patriots rematch but it didn't seem right. Despite my better judgment and what all the experts are saying, I'm going with Palmer and the Cardinals.
Winner: Cardinals

Super Bowl
Cardinals vs Patriots
This actually will be a better game than Panthers v Patriots. Cardinals v Patriots will have more fan-favorite passing and a advertising preferred high-scoring game. Like every other Patriots victory, this game will be decided by less than a Touchdown in the closing minutes of the game. Unlike other Patriots games, this game will have two teams pushing, if not breaking, the 40 point barrier. If you're a gambler - take the over (Not really because, as I've proved in the past, what do I know?!)
Winner: Patriots

There you have it. If you are a betting person, I recommend betting on what I predicted will NOT happen. If one were to do some reconnaissance on my previous NFL predictions during the preseason, I'm pretty sure we'd see that the Dallas v New England Super Bowl is one that is most commonly predicted. However, this year I believe it's a very high likelihood. Enjoy the games. What a great time of year!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

All Four Super Bowl Previews IX

As my faithful readers are aware (both of you) I look forward to this post as soon as the preseason begins. I'm not even sure what it is about this post; I enjoy analyzing the differences of each possible game, I (obviously) like (incorrectly) predicting the outcome of games, and I particularly enjoy picking the losers of each game. As this is the ninth (I'm just as shocked as you!) episode - the links to the previous edition are getting a bit long and will now appear at the end of the post. I will, however, update my Super Bowl Preview record. Last year I accurately predicted that Seattle would be in the Big Game. Additionally, I was one of the few people who said that in the match-up between the Seahawks and the Broncos the Seahawks would not only win, but win easily. Those two accurate predictions improve my to 13 for 24 which brings me back to 54% since I began this in 2007! Ok, on to the predictions for this year:

Interestingly enough: all four remaining quarterbacks wear the #12!

Alright, here are this year's games from least compelling to most:

Colts vs Seahawks
No one really wants to see what amounts to a rematch of last year's Super Bowl. Of course, once the networks get ahold of this match-up and over hype the fact that these two Quarterbacks were from the same draft class then people are gonna start caring. Otherwise, there isn't too much to get excited about here. Andrew Luck lead the league in passing and the Seahawks Defense looked like last year's defense down the stretch. As I pointed out last year: no quarterback who lead the league in passing for the year has ever won the Super Bowl! If Luck even makes it (which I doubt) he will be only the fifth QB who lead the league in passing to make the Big Game. All five of them will have lost (Luck 2014, Brady 2007, Gannon 2002, Warner 2001, Marino 1984). Just like last year, this game would be over by half-time and Russell Wilson will have his second consecutive Super Bowl ring - in his third year in the league!
Winner: Seahawks
Losers: RGIII, Tannehill, Luck, Weeden, and Foles, the other "future elite" QBs drafted in 2012.

Colts vs Packers
Not sure there is much of a story-line with a match-up between an Aaron Rogers at 75% vs Andrew Luck and his hyper pass offense. Rogers would be trying for his second ring and Luck attempting to win his first. The Colts rank #1 in passing offense while the Packers rank 8th in passing defense. Essentially, the Colts would be playing right into the strength of the Packers and, as we know from last year, Defense wins championships! Luck leaves his first Super Bowl performance with a dubious 3 INTS, a sack/fumble, and only 2 TDs.
Winner: Packers
Loser: The companies who thought it was a good idea to "save some money" and air their commercial after half-time.

Patriots vs Seahawks
Unsurprisingly, I picked the Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl last year. I also predicted the Seahawks. So if this game is the game that occurs then, really, I predicted it a year in advance! While I had picked this as the least compelling game last year it has moved up in the rankings. The Patriots are better and the Seahawks aren't quite as good. Even though this is Russel's second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl It's hard to imagine Belichick being unable to scheme a defense that wouldn't confuse Wilson or the offensive coaching staff (just like he did with his offensive moves against Harbaugh and the Ravens). The Patriots have a new weapon this year: a running game! This will prove useful in their quest for a fourth ring since 2001. This is a tough game to call: Both teams lost to the Chiefs, but the Seahawks lost to the Chargers whom the Patriots defeated, but the Seahawks beat the Packers; a team the Patriots lost to. In the end, I think the Seahawks D will be able to slow the Patriots offense to a greater extent than vise versa.
Winner: Seahawks
Loser: People who think QBs need to have been in the league more than 3 years before they get to be in the elite/best ever conversations.

Patriots vs Packers
A rematch of the 97 show-down (that was never really a game) pits two teams against each other that now have completely different personnel (including coaches). Defending the Packers becomes slightly easier for Belichick and Co because of Roger's limited mobility due to his injured calf and because the Packers showed some of their trickery when they beat the Patriots in the regular season. They'll have to pull out something new to if they want to confuse the Patriots D again because Belichick won't allow the same tricks to work twice (unless the Defense wants to walk home from Arizona.) When the final whistle blows, I think the Packers will have needed a fully healthy Aaron Rogers to over come the Patriots D.
Winner: Patriots
Loser: All non-Patriot fans and Brady-haters. Also, anyone who still wants to argue that Peyton is better than Tom

The game I expect to see is the one I predicted last year (Kinda like when Anakin was before the Jedi Council and he saw the ship before it appeared on the screen): Patriots v Seahawks. Rogers was able to over come the Cowboys and I think his D can put an end to Wilson's bid at a second ring. The Colts suffered a serious drubbing at the hands of the Patriots week 11. While it won't be as much of a blowout the Patriots will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Here are the links to my previous predictions, analysis, winners, and losers:

2007, Colts over Bears;
Game Predicted: Saints over Colts.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Colts;

2008, Giants over Patriots;
Game Predicted: Accurately predicted the Giants vs the Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Patriots;

2009, Steelers over Cardinals;
Game Predicted: Steelers over Eagles.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Steelers;

2010, Saints over Colts;
Game Predicted: Purposeful lack of prediction.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Colts;

2011, Packers over Steelers;
Game Predicted: Accurately predicted the Packers and Steelers
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Steelers;

2012, Giants over Patriots;
Game Predicted: Giants over Ravens.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Patriots

2013, Ravens over 49ers;
Game Predicted: 49ers over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: 49ers

2014, Seahawks over Broncos;
Game Predicted: Seahawks over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Seahawks

Friday, January 02, 2015

2014-2015 NFL Playoff Preview

It's time once again for the annual recap of JMO's football predictions. The only problem? I didn't make any! Those of you who are aware of the myriad of major life changes over the past year hopefully will forgive my blogging absence. So let's begin this year's installment with a recap of how I did with last year's playoffs:

AFC:
Colts v Chiefs: Prediction Colts, actual Colts
Chargers v Bengals: Prediction Bengals, actual Chargers
Colts v Patriots: Prediction Patriots, actual Patriots
Chargers v Broncos: Prediction Broncos, actual Broncos
Broncos v Patriots: Prediction Patriots, actual Broncos

NFC:
Saints v Eagles: Prediction Saints, actual Saints
49ers v Packers: Prediction 49ers, actual 49ers
49ers v Panthers: Prediction Panthers, actual 49ers
Saints v Seahawks: Prediction Seahawks, actual Seahawks
49ers v Seahawks: Prediction Seahawks, actual Seahawks

Super Bowl
Broncos v Seahawks: Prediction Seahawks, actual Seahawks

Yes, I was one of the few analysts that predicted the leagues best defense would overcome the leagues best offense. I did fairly well overall going 8 for 11 for scoring 73% accuracy!

And now for this years predictions. First, let me say that I don't remember a Wild Card Weekend as up-in-the-air as this one. I don't feel 100% about any of these games. I barely feel 75% about any of them. This will be a very difficult year to predict. I'll do my best to explain why for each game. I'll review them in the order in which they will be played:

NFC Saturday 1st game Cardinals at Panthers
As we a few of this weekend's games, this is a match-up of two teams headed in completely opposite directions. The Cardinals started out with the NFL's best record, lost two QBs and proceeded to lose all offensive power. They scored only 4 offensive TDs in 75 drives and their current QB now holds the record for most NFL passing attempts before securing his first NFL Passing TD. The Panthers, on the other hand, started the year in the hole. Then their defense came alive and began shutting other teams down allowing an average of just over 10 points per game for the final 4 games of the year. The Panthers are the second team in NFL history to host a playoff game with an over all losing record. While the Cardinals defense has kept them in playoff contention I don't see how they can carry the team from Arizona into the next round of the playoffs. This game will likely be very low scoring with the distinct possibility of the Cardinals not scoring an offensive TD. Like the last team to host a post season game with a record below .500 (Seattle Seahawks) the Panthers will emerge victorious and move on to the Divisional Round.
Winner: Panthers

AFC Saturday 2nd game Ravens at Steelers
If the Steelers were at full strength I'd call Big Ben and theTerrible Towel crew in a rout. But they aren't. They are without their top running back Bell who accounted for over 30% of their offense throughout the year and without top Defensive player Polamalu. Those major losses might give the edge to the Ravens. However, consider this statistic: The Steelers are 5-1 against teams with a winning record this year while the Ravens have gone 1-6! The Steelers still have the #1 wide receiver in the league by receiving yards while the Ravens have Flacco and Smith. I'll leave it up to you to decide if Flacco goes in the positive or negative column. I believe it will come down to pressuring the QB. Both Ben and Joe have been known to make poor decisions when facing pressure, particularly up the middle. Which team will move the QB more often? The Steelers, and which QB is more likely to make an error when forced from the pocket? Flacco. The Ravens are facing another team that finished the year over .500 and they will finish this year with a record of 1-7 against such teams.
Winner: Steelers

AFC Sunday 1st game Bengals at Colts
No playoff team has been more inconsistent than the Colts. They blanked the Colts one week only to give up more than 50 to the Steelers the next. The Bengals are not exactly the picture of consistency but their ups and downs have been more like gentle ocean waves rather than the tumultuous roller coaster of the Colts. The question is, can the Bengals win on the road? They beat Denver late in the season to punch their ticket to the post season but the Bengals have struggled in the NFL's second season. They haven't won a playoff game since '91 and are on the verge of setting a record if they lose this game having dropped their last 3 consecutive playoff appearances. Luck leads the lead (tied with the Steeler's Big Ben) for most passing yards this year, but the running game of the Bengals has picked up since they've begun relying more on Rookie Jeremy Hill. Not being sure which Colts team will show up on Sunday, I have to go with the lesser of the two inconsistent teams.
Winner: Bengals

NFC Sunday 2nd game: Lions at Cowboys
Remembering a last second defeat at the hands of the Lions (When Stafford pretended like he was going to spike the ball at the Cowboy's 1 yard line and dove over his offensive linemen for the game winning score) from week 8 of last year, the Cowboys will be out for revenge. This will be a game of great offenses vs suspect defenses. Both the Cowboy's and Lion's running games have been fantastic with the Lions on an up-tick and the Cowboys seeing a slight downward trend in that stat. Both QBs feel like they have something to prove, perhaps Romo more than Stafford as Tony has been blasted for not being able to win when it matters for longer than Matthew. Sporting an 8-0 road record, the Cowboys might prefer this game to be played on the road. But while Reggie Bush and his counter-part Bell have been eating up yards on the ground, the Cowboys have been quietly setting records of their own: Murray's 12 games with greater than 100 yards rushing eclipses Emmitt's franchise record of 11, Romo's three game stretch of 10 TDs with zero picks is better than any 3 game stretch by Aikman, and their 41.3 point per game average in December is fourth only to the '13 Broncos, '07 Patriots, and '01 Rams. Now, if Roger Goodell were a REAL commissioner, then Suh would NOT be playing in this game due to his conduct and intentional attempt at injuring the Packer's QB Aaron Rogers. However, his appeal allows him to suit up and bring his dirty play to this game. That levels the playing field a bit more but I foresee the Cowboys still coming out on top.
Winner: Cowboys

Divisional Round:
AFC Saturday 1st game Bengals at Patriots
A game I (incorrectly) predicted would occur last year will likely happen this year. Not much to say about this game. The Patriots were (essentially) undefeated at home this year (losing the final game in a lack-luster performance where many starters didn't play and Brady played less than one half) and the Bengals were 5-3 on the road. Those three losses? All to playoff teams including the Patriots. Dalton's run at his first Super Bowl ends here.
Winner: Patriots

NFC Saturday 2nd game Panthers at Seahawks
While the Wild Card games were incredibly difficult to predict, the Divisional Games seem to be lending themselves to a greater amount of certainty. While the Panthers didn't exactly limp into the post season having won their final 4 games, they still have an overall losing record. Even after their victory over the Cardinals they'd still only be 8-8-1. When they head to Seattle to face the last team to host a playoff game with an overall losing record their outcome will be the same: win the first game, lose the second. While the Seahawks have not had the overpowering year they were hoping for, their defense has improved in these final few games and the Panthers offense will not be able to over-come it.
Winner: Seahawks

NFC Sunday 1st game Cowboys at Packers
This is definitely the most difficult of the four divisional games to predict. This rematch of the Ice Bowl features a Green Bay team that is not at 100% with a slightly injured Rogers and a banged up secondary. One can only guess what the cold will do to Roger's aching calf. It also features a Cowboys team that went 8-0 on the road. And these road wins were not all against the slouches of the NFL. They beat the Seahawks in Seattle and then defeated the (then) heir apparent to the NFC East title Philadelphia Eagles. Four of the five teams that have amassed undefeated road records made it all the way to the Super Bowl. I believe the Cowboys good fortune continues.
Winner: Cowboys

AFC Sunday 2nd game Steelers at Broncos
Even though Ben set a record this year with his consecutive week 6 TD pass performance, I still don't expect him to be able to march into Denver and win. Even though Peyton as been trending downward, relying more on the run game, and throwing 4 interceptions in the game against the Bengals week 16 (causing me to lose my fantasy football championship by a measly 2 pts) I still expect him to be able to read and dissect the Steelers D. With the Steelers unable to run the ball as well as they'd like and with the Broncos improving their running game giving more weight to Manning's play fakes, I don't see the Steeler's D as being able to stop the Broncos offense.
Winner: Broncos

Championship Round:
AFC
Broncos at Patriots
A rematch of last years AFC Championship game with one major difference: Location, location, location. The Patriots have already soundly defeated the Broncos at Foxboro earlier this year. However, the Broncos weren't running the ball as much as they are now (as evidenced by the fact that the leading rusher from that game was the Patriots Rookie Jonas Gray with 33 yards.) These two teams are very evenly matched and are within a few spaces of each other in such key areas as Offensive rushing per game, passing per game, and defensive run yards given up per game. The major difference can be found with defensive passing yards given up per game. Often, this is due to a team falling behind and needing to catch up and when dealing with a team that wins close games vs a team that wins blow-outs this stat can be misleading. However, the Broncos and Patriots are very similar in that respect. The Broncos sit at 24th in the league and the Patriots are in the top 50%. This will make the difference and the Patriots will be trying for another Lombardi Trophy.
Winner: Patriots

NFC
Cowboys at Seahawks
Does anyone have a coin? These two teams are very evenly matched and match-up well against each other. The venue seems to favor the Seahawks but the Cowboys have played very well on the road already defeating the Seahawks in Seattle this year. The Cowboys seem like a second tier team compared to the Seahawks and Packers but they have an identical record and if it weren't for tie breakers, they'd have had multiple home games and a bye. Perhaps taking 3rd place favors the 'Boys with their road record this year. The Seahawk's Defense has really struggled this year. They are dead last in passing D and 30th in rushing defense. As the adage goes (and was proved last year) Defense wins championships, and a lack thereof, consequently, losses them.
Winner: Cowboys

Super Bowl
Cowboys vs Patriots
Brady v Romo. Years ago, we'd have expected this to be a perennial match-up but ever since he fumbled the snap on the field goal attempt in his first post season game following the 2006 season, he's never seemed to be the same. Brady seeks to avenge his two losses to the NFC East (and the NFC East's worst QB) in the Big Game where as Romo is hoping for his first ring in his first Big Dance attempt. The Patriots have experience in big games while the Cowboys have experience losing big games. Even though Brady just restructured his contract he will have to answer questions about his possible retirement as he wins his 4th Super Bowl ring following his 6th appearance.
Winner: Patriots

There you have it. If you are a betting person, I recommend betting on what I predicted will NOT happen. If one were to do some reconnaissance on my previous NFL predictions during the preseason, I'm pretty sure we'd see that the Dallas v New England Super Bowl is one that is most commonly predicted. However, this year I believe it's a very high likelihood. Enjoy the games. What a great time of year!

Friday, January 17, 2014

All Four Super Bowl Previews VIII

It is difficult to believe that this is the eighth edition of what has come to be my favorite annual post: All Four Super Bowl Previews. (In case you are new to JMO, this post is where I break down all four possible Super Bowls, discuss who will win, which one I'd like to see, which one the league and the networks are pulling for, and who the losers are for each game.) I thoroughly enjoy NFL Playoff season. The best teams playing the games with the highest stakes. Some underdogs that "shouldn't win" shock the favorite, some games come down to the wire, some of the best teams show exactly why they belong in the playoffs. It's fun predicting the outcome of these next two games and the outcome of each of the possible Super Bowls. If you'd like to see how I've done in the past, you can read my previous versions here (I'll list them with the year the Super Bowl happened along with the actual teams that faced off):

2007, Colts over Bears;
Game Predicted: Saints over Colts.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Colts;

2008, Giants over Patriots;
Game Predicted: Accurately predicted the Giants vs the Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Patriots;

2009, Steelers over Cardinals;
Game Predicted: Steelers over Eagles.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Steelers;

2010, Saints over Colts;
Game Predicted: Purposeful lack of prediction.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Colts;

2011, Packers over Steelers;
Game Predicted: Accurately predicted the Packers and Steelers
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Steelers;

2012, Giants over Patriots;
Game Predicted: Giants over Ravens.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: Patriots

2013, Ravens over 49ers;
Game Predicted: 49ers over Patriots.
Predicted Winner of the Actual Super Bowl match-up: 49ers

Since I started this tradition I'm 11 for 21. (if I get 1 point for each team in the game and 1 point for the winner of the teams that actually played each other). I dropped from 55% to 52% having only accurately predicted the presence of the 49ers in last year's game.

Alright, enough about previous years! On to this year's potential Super Bowls!

An interesting aspect of this year's potential Super Bowls is the bizarre lack of uniqueness of each game. The team representing the AFC will be a high powered offense captained by a Hall-of-Fame bound franchise quarterback combined with a suspect defense lead by a defensive-minded head coach. The NFC will be represented by a team with a top-notch, league-leading defense on one side of the ball with a "next-generation" run-n-gun, read option quarterback who has had games where he lead his team in rushing and can dismantle the opposition's D with his arm or his feet on the other. All four games offer the old-guard vs up-and-comer storyline. I'll have to work pretty hard to find the differences between these four games.

Without further ado, here are this year's games from least compelling to most: (Again, there's not a lot of difference here)

Patriots vs Seahawks
I think this game has the least to offer to the average fan. Seattle isn't a very big market and everyone except Patriot fans are so sick of Brady and company. The Patriots have been in 8 out of the last 13 AFC Championship games. Ignoring the year Brady was knocked out week one, he's lead the boys from Foxboro to the Championship game 2 out of every 3 years of his career. (The next best team is the Steelers, achieving half of the appearances of Belichick and Brady in the same time frame). The Seahawks lead the league in a number of defensive categories but the Patriots offense isn't as explosive this year as Denver's. Interestingly, Seattle is better against the pass than the rush which, based on the playoffs thus far, would give the Patriots a better chance at winning than the Broncos. It's hard to imagine Belichick being unable to scheme a defense that wouldn't confuse Wilson on his first trip to the big game. But, if the Patriots are unable to stop the triple option offense of the Seahawks and are in a position where Brady has to air it out, that's playing right into the strength of the Seahawks defense. The Super Bowl is in New York this year. The cold weather would normally favor New England. But, unfortunately for the Patriots, Seattle is also a cold weather team. Either Wilson is unable to move the ball against Coach Bill's game plan or the Patriots fall behind and have to play catch-up. Either way, this one will be over early. Who will win? You'll see this a lot on this post: Defense wins championships. Oh, this is the game I'm predicting this year.
Winner: Seahawks
Loser: The TV show FOX is hoping will get a ratings boost by airing it immediately after the game.

Patriots vs 49ers
This game would be interesting. With Kaepernick's read option, Gore's running game, and the threat of Crabtree, Boldin and Davis it would be amazing to watch Belichick's defensive brilliance attempt to slow them down. And that's just half of the game! The other half is watching Brady, Edelman, Amendola, Vereen, Ridley, and Blount attempt to surgically dismantle the 49er's D. Other underlying stories: Gronk out. The weather favors the run which seems to be a push with the Patriots new-found, seemingly unpatriot-like, run and short passing games compared with Gore and Kaepernick's ability to move the ball with their feet. Normally, when discussing Super Bowl experience the scales tip toward the Patriots, but not this time. The 49ers have more players with Super Bowl experience than the Patriots do. The 49ers might be able to score against the Patriots average defense this year, but they won't score enough to prevent a late comeback by Brady and his receivers. With no Welker to drop the key pass this year, Edelman and Vereen become Brady's favorite targets as he drives down the field for a game winning touchdown.
Winner: Patriots
Loser: Joe Montana, either overshadowed by Brady, or replaced by Kaepernick.

Broncos vs Seahawks
The more discerning fan wants to see this match-up. The AFC's #1 offense vs the NFC's #1 defense. Truth be told, Denver and Seattle lead the entire league in their respective categories. This game will come down to turnovers. Seattle lead the league with a +20 turnover difference and Peyton has a frustrating habit (at least for Colts and Broncos fans) of turning the ball over when it matters most. Seattle excels at stopping the pass while the Broncos struggle against the run. There are two other factors that are key to determining who will win this game. First, no quarterback who lead the league in passing for the year has ever won the Super Bowl! In fact, only four of them have even made it to the big game and all four lost (Brady 2007, Gannon 2002, Warner 2001, Marino 1984). There's a reason for that: Defense wins championships. Peyton set an all time record for passing yards this year. Second, Peyton has only one a single game that was below 32 degrees in his professional career. For whatever inexplicable reason, this year's Super Bowl is in New York. That means cold weather and no dome. The Broncos may have an explosive offense and that got them to the big game, but it won't be able to close the deal. Defense wins Championships.
Winner: Seahawks
Losers: Brady, Peyton, Roethlisberger, Romo, Brees, and Rivers, as the torch is passed to the next generation.

Broncos vs 49ers
Let's be honest, when there's a chance for history to be made, it's what people want to see. Only Craig Morton and Kurt Warner have even had the opportunity to win two Super Bowls with two different teams. Both failed. Now Peyton Manning has that opportunity. Toss in the storyline of Peyton's recovery from multiple neck surgeries and the 49ers chance to redeem themselves from their questionable loss in the final few seconds of last year's game and you've got the most compelling game for both the networks and the casual fan. (This is a good time to mention that this is the game I'd least like to see.) But who wins? The 49ers defense isn't as tough as Seattle's but Denver is better at stopping the pass than the run. Neither team really benefits from the cold, but with Peyton's disposition for losing in cold weather combined with the whole league leading passer fact I don't think the Broncos win this game. Just in case you forgot: Defense wins championships.
Winner: 49ers
Loser: Joe Montana, either overshadowed by Manning, or replaced by Kaepernick

The game I expect to see is the one I've labeled as least compelling: Patriots v Seahawks. I didn't think the 49ers had what it took to defeat the Panthers and they certainly don't have the necessary tools to overcome Seattle. It will be cold in Denver when the Broncos take on the Patriots. Peyton has only beaten Brady once in the playoffs and that was in a dome. The Patriots have proven that they have a lot of weapons that Denver will have to somehow neutralize: the run, the screens, the short pass across the middle, the quick slants, then stretching the field. Belichick always seems to be able to take away the top two strengths of any offense. Denver will have to win without their run game and without Welker. Decker has a habit of dropping passes and Peyton will throw one pick too many. Oh, and both Championship games are rematches from the regular season. Peyton blew a 24 point lead to lose to Brady and Seattle smacked the 49ers with a score of 29 to 3! We'll see a repeat of both outcomes.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?