Wildcard to Super Bowl: Playoffs Preview

It's been a while since I've done this, but it needs to be done. I got lazy towards the end of the season, and I'm grateful that I didn't publish my bowl picks because I'm doing so poorly in that that my girlfriend is tied with me going into the Rose Bowl with her picking USC and my Texas pick.

What I'm about to do is something that I've done in the past (obviously, not for a website, though) and that is pick the NFL playoffs. No, not just the games round-by-round, but I'm going to actually pick all the way through the playoffs — kind of like in March Madness. This will obviously make for more difficult, but I think I might have some success, considering two years ago when the Pats beat the Panthers, I went 8-3. So, that being said, onto the picks.

Wildcard Round

Washington Redskins (10-6) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)

This one should be an interesting one. They played a close offensive explosion earlier in the year with the Bucs barely winning. I'll be extremely surprised, though, if these two manage to put up 71 points again this week, though. The 'Skins have been scoring very well, but the Bucs' defense is better than the Cowboys'. Expect this one to come down to a late field goal.

Bucs 20, Redskins 17

Carolina Panthers (11-5) @ New York Giants (11-5)

You've got to wonder which of these two teams is going to show up. Whenever people were ready to crown the Panthers as the class of the NFC, they would play down to competition and lose, but then they showed the stuff that made them numerous Super Bowl picks. The Giants are the same way, almost beating the Seahawks, and then not showing up against the Redskins. The way Tiki Barber's playing right now, though, it's hard to pick against them.

Giants 28, Panthers 23

Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4) @ New England Patriots (10-6)

The Pats have been playing well recently and they have a good defense yet again. The Jaguars need David Garrard to play flawlessly if they want to beat the Pats in Foxboro this weekend. It's going to be cold, and the Pats are going to be hitting hard. The Jags' defense is good, as well, but Tom Brady will add to his playoff legacy this weekend.

Pats 27, Jags 13

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)

These two teams split their regular-season meetings, with both teams winning away. The Bengals have come a long way maturity-wise since their dismantling at home in the middle of the season, but the Steelers are coming off of some huge momentum wins and they're riding a four-game winning streak. This game will be about the rushing and Pittsburgh's defense is better at stopping that than Cincinnati's.

Steelers 24, Bengals 21

Divisional Round

Giants @ Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

The Giants played unbelievably close in Week 12 and could have won three times on Jay Feely missed kicks. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades, though, and Seattle is now the number one seed and the Giants have to go on the road. This one is going to be a good one with two titans of rushing facing off yet again. Last time that happened for the Giants, they won 27-17 against Kansas City and Larry Johnson.

Giants 31, Seahawks 27

Buccaneers @ Chicago Bears (11-5)

The Bucs are going to Chicago and they're trying to win a playoff game? I think they've only won in games where the starting temperature was below 40° once against Philly a few years ago. The Bears defense is giving up 12.6 points a game, and the last time the Bucs went on the cold road to face a good defense, the Patriots slapped them in the mouth.

Bears 13, Bucs 9

Patriots @ Denver Broncos (13-3)

This has the possibility of being the best game of the divisional weekend. The Broncos slipped under the media's radar and landed the number two seed. Honestly, what media outlet lower than 5,000 feet above sea level was talking about the Broncos this season? It was all about the Colts, the Bengals' great run, and the Patriots falling from grace in the AFC. All the while the Broncos have gone out and done what they needed to do to win games, and they're peaking at the right time. The Pats, on the other hand, might be looking towards a possible rematch with the Colts in the AFC Championship game. Shame on them.

Broncos 31, Pats 21

Steelers @ Indianapolis Colts (14-2)

Colts fans are left reminiscing about the days when there was talk of their beloved franchise setting records as the first team to win 19 games in a single season. Now that that distraction is behind them, it's down to business. The Steelers are another team that is peaking at the right time after a mid-to-late-season mini-slump. They're strong in the running game and they ask Big Ben to throw only enough to not screw up and they're very good at that. The problem is that the last time these two teams met in Indy the Colts won 26-7 and the game wasn't even as close as the score might show.

Colts 34, Steelers 13

Conference Championships

Giants @ Bears

Cinderella didn't have an ankle problem, and Jeremy Shockey does. Eli Manning isn't nearly mature enough to lead his team yet in the big games, and the Bears are going to be able to focus on stopping Tiki Barber. They'll be able to do that to a point, but Tiki alone shouldn't be enough to penetrate the Bears' defense. The Bears will have trouble scoring this season, as well, but seven of their 11 wins have come by 10 points or less. They were demoralized last week in Minnesota, but the dome in Minneapolis isn't quite Soldier Field in mid-January.

Bears 16, Giants 12>

Broncos @ Colts

The last time these two teams met, the Colts taught the Broncos a lesson in how to play football, winning 49-24 in the wildcard round of last year's playoffs. This is a different Broncos team, though, with Jake Plummer playing the best football of his career. The two-headed rushing attack of Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson is nothing to scoff at, either. This is the Colts we're talking about, though. The Colts are just too good, and it's been their year all season. This is the coming out of Peyton Manning and getting that damn monkey off of his back. Forget last year's record-setting year, this year is destiny, and the Broncos aren't going to keep up enough to give a good fight.

Colts 49, Broncos 21

Super Bowl XL

Bears vs. Colts, from Detroit, MI

Quickly, put yourself back in August of this past year. The NFL preseason is about to kick off, and you're talking to one of your buddies and he says that the Colts will be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl this season to which you easily nod your head in agreement.

Then, two minutes later, the same friend says that they'll be playing against the Bears, which makes you feel his forehead and wonder if something is wrong. What are the Bears doing in the Super Bowl? It goes along with the old saying that defense wins championships. NFC championships, to be exact. This is Peyton's year, there isn't anything that is going to stop him, and he'll finally be able to be put in the category of being better than Tom Brady (sorry, but Peyton is a better quarterback, while Brady is a better leader).

Colts 31, Bears 10


* Is it just me, or did UConn not look like they could compete for a Big East title, let alone a national title against Marquette? I understand Steve Novak had his best game ever, but come on, Marquette?

* Chelsea is so good that other Premier League leading managers are already conceding the season to the Blues and it's just passed its halfway mark. Chelsea are even already 1-2 favorites to win the Premier League next season. And people say the Yankees are too free with their money.

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