NFL Predictions: All 12 Playoff Teams Plus The Super Bowl Champ

super bowl logo

The last item on the NFL Preview list is for guest blogger Neil and I to predict all 12 playoff teams, their seedings and the eventual Super Bowl Champs. If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll notice that I picked some teams to make the playoffs who I initially had finishing under .500 in the win-loss record blogs. NFL predictions is a constantly fluid situation. I’ve changed my mind on this stuff at least 20 times in the past few hours. That’s how it goes until the regular season kicks off.

But these are the teams we’re finally willing to commit to in terms of who’s going places this year. Enjoy.

NFC PLAYOFF SEEDINGS

Neil:

  1. Green Bay
  2. San Francisco
  3. Washington
  4. Tampa Bay
  5. Seattle
  6. New Orleans

Ross:

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Atlanta
  4. Washington
  5. San Francisco
  6. Tampa Bay

Explanation

Neil: Although I think San Francisco and Seattle might be the strongest regular season teams, they’re going to have trouble getting a top seed in the playoffs because they have to play each other and the NFC South. So basically they play the two toughest divisions in football, which may cost them the extra win or two they need for the top seed. That leaves my other two projected division winners in the NFC, Green Bay and Washington. I’m going to go with Green Bay as the #1 NFC seed, followed by San Francisco at the #2 and Washington at #3. The #4 seed is tough because the NFC South may be the best division in football and I can realistically see any of the four members winning the division. I’m picking Tampa to get the #4 seed. Even though they have the biggest question at QB in the division, they probably have the most complete team. Seattle gets the #5 seed and I’m going to give the #6 to New Orleans due to their schedule being slightly easier than Carolina’s (extra games are St. Louis & Dallas compared to Seattle & New York).

Ross: I’ve talked myself into Seattle being a slightly better team than San Francisco. And I trust the Seahawks to live up to my lofty expectations more than Green Bay, who was shaky all of last year. So the road to the Super Bowl goes through Seattle, and every analyst will say it’s a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks go all the way because their home field advantage is so devastating. Atlanta shows they’ll stick around the playoff conversation for the foreseeable future and barely beats out Washington for the #3 seed. San Francisco goes 12-4 and gets the #5 seed, which is rewarded with a 1st round game at Washington. And Tampa, despite Josh Freeman, punches its ticket to the playoffs in the final week of the season.

AFC PLAYOFF SEEDINGS

Neil:

  1. Denver
  2. New England
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Baltimore

Ross:

  1. Denver
  2. New England
  3. Indianapolis
  4. Cleveland
  5. Pittsburgh
  6. Kansas City

Explanation

Neil: Even though Denver’s defense is not going to be nearly as good as last year, they have an extremely easy schedule. So unless Peyton is done (I’d say only a 10% chance) they should easily go 13-3 and be the #1 seed in the AFC. I’m going with New England as the #2 seed, and even though I don’t think Houston is a great team they play in an easy division so let’s pencil them in for the #3 seed. The #4 seed in the AFC is one of the toughest to pick because you have to choose the AFC North winner. I think any of the four teams in the division could win it. I’m going to flip my four-sided coin and…Pittsburgh gets the #4 seed in the AFC. Picking the AFC wild card teams is tough because you are looking for two teams who only kind of suck. (Answering this question really reinforced how much better the NFC is than the AFC.) The AFC North, although not having any great teams, is probably the best division top to bottom in the conference, so let’s give Cincinnati the #5 seed and Baltimore the #6 seed.

Ross: I’m doing some wholesale changes on the bottom part of the AFC bracket. Gone are Baltimore, Houston and Cincinnati. The AFC is just bad enough that the mediocre teams blend together with the terrible teams to form some kind of unwatchable football smoothie. I might as well take some longshots to make the playoffs in this conference. It should also be noted that every year there are about 4-5 new playoff teams who didn’t make it the previous season. Since I can’t bring myself to predict more than 1 new playoff team in the NFC, I’m going with 3 of them in the AFC. Denver as the #1 seed makes sense because of their schedule and the offense might cover up defensive weaknesses at least for a while. New England with the other bye because frankly, who else is gonna take it? And I’m buying into Indy being better than Houston, just slightly, and I’ll give them the #3 seed because the AFC North is battling it out where an 8-8 or 9-7 team will get the 4th seed. I’m giving Pittsburgh and Kansas City the edge over other wildcard contenders like Cincy, Houston and Baltimore for no real reason except gut feel.

SUPER BOWL PREDICTIONS

Neil: In the Super Bowl, Mike Shanahan is going to get revenge over his old team when the Redskins beat the Broncos. OK, probably not really. That is my “longshot” Super Bowl pick if somehow Washington can move up to the #1 seed in the NFC. More realistically, I see New England beating Green Bay by a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Seattle this year. I think if they get the #1 seed, they probably go to the Suer Bowl, but I’m worried about their tougher schedule forcing them to play at Lambeau in the playoffs.

Ross: My longshot prediction is for the Denver Broncos to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. If you’re smart enough to scroll up just a bit, you’ll notice that these two teams are the #1 seeds in their respective conferences according to my playoff projections. So why is this a longshot pick? Because the top teams never face each other in the Super Bowl these days! No, what we need to figure out if we’re truly going to predict the correct Super Bowl matchup is which mediocre team that basically backs into the playoffs is going to get randomly hot in January and make the run through the wildcard round all the way to the makeshift stage on February 2nd, 2014, where they’ll be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Who’s going to be last year’s Ravens, 2011’s Giants or 2010’s Packers? Figure that out and you got yourself the Super Bowl winner. I say Atlanta is that team this year. A tough division might cause them to limp into the playoffs looking more like a pretender than a contender, but the key is just getting there. They’ll improbably move through the NFC bracket while the AFC bracket essentially goes as expected. Atlanta beats Denver in the Super Bowl. Count on it.

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NFL Predictions Continued: Superlatives & Individual Awards You Don’t Want To Win!

Last week we gave you predictions for what every team’s win-loss record would look like by season’s end (NFC Predictions HERE, AFC Predictions HERE). Now we’re moving on to individual awards.

Some categories are your basic MVP, players of the year, stats leaders stuff, and others are the fun awards…first coach fired, first QB benched, first team that has to deal with a player arrest, etc.

Enjoy.

trophies

 

League Leader In Passing Yards

Ross: It’s weird that I didn’t even consider Drew Brees for this award. The smart money’s probably on him since he now regularly exceeds 5,000 yards passing and his defense might be atrocious once again. But I’m going with a dark horse in Peyton Manning. He was 6th in the league in passing yards in 2012, some 500 yards behind Brees’ final number. But Manning’s schedule is so damn easy this year, I can’t help but think he puts up 300+ yards in most games and then sits the final eight minutes while their blowing out the competition.

Neil: I think Matthew Stafford wins this award, but if I was picking a longshot, it would be Jay Cutler.

League Leader in Rushing Yards

Ross: To find the top rusher in the NFL, you have to eliminate anyone who won’t get 300 or more carries during the season. I checked as far back as 2002 and the person who wins the rushing title always has at least 300 carries. So certain guys are automatically out: Ray Rice and Frank Gore are out because their teams are trying to decrease their workload and neither guy had close to 300 carries last year. C.J. Spiller’s probably out because he had 207 carries last year and I doubt he’s going to increase his rushing attempts by nearly 100 this year. Even Jamaal Charles, who had 285 carries in 2012, might be out because Andy Reid is likely to increase his workload through receptions not rushes. I’m eliminating Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch because they have QBs who might snatch some of the rushing yards for themselves. Arian Foster is out because I’m worried about his nagging injuries and Ben Tate seems totally capable of taking on some of Foster’s workload to keep Houston’s lead rusher fresh for December and January. That leaves Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. I’m buying into Martin because he has an improved offensive line and his team has more offensive weapons to take the defensive focus off him than AP has. He also has a much easier schedule from a running standpoint than Peterson. Doug Martin is my 2013 rushing champ.

Neil: This is going to be Doug Martin. I know Adrian Peterson is the obvious choice here, but with Christian Ponder as his QB, every opposing defense is going to put 10 men in the box this year, right? My longshot would be Maurice Jones-Drew.

League Leader in Receiving Yards 

Ross: Just like it would have been easy to pick Brees in the passing yards category, and it would have been even easier to pick Peterson in rushing yards, Calvin Johnson is the obvious name with receiving yards. He’s won the title the past two years and nobody thinks Detroit is suddenly turning into a ground & pound team. But we’re here to have fun, not to get on board with the obvious, unsexy predictions. I’m doubling down on the Denver easy schedule and lots of throwing theory. I’m going with Demaryius Thomas to lead the league in receiving yards. He was only 530 yards short of Calvin’s record last year. Should be pretty easy to close that gap.

Neil: I’m going with Calvin Johnson to lead the league in receiving yards. I know its not a sexy pick, but I just don’t trust The Ginger Prince (that would be Andy Dalton) to get A.J. Green there. And my longshot in this category would be Vincent Jackson.

2013 MVP Award

Ross: This is an award for quarterbacks or running backs. The MVP has been awarded for the last 56 years, and only three times has it not been a QB or RB. We got our “once every few years a RB has to win it” quota out of the way last year, so I’m focusing on quarterbacks. I can envision a narrative where the Saints go 12-4 and Brees wins the MVP for leading the turnaround, but his league-leading interception total from 2012 has me worried he’s slowly morphing into Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers can win this just by replicating last year’s 108 passer rating and crossing his fingers that a running back doesn’t go off for 2,000 yards again. But I’m actually debating between the elder statemen of quarterbacks, Manning and Tom Brady. What if Brady throw for 5,000 yards, maintains his 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio and leads the Patriots to 13 wins? After all, we’ve spent the entire offseason crying for the guy because he gave up money on his contract just to watch all his receivers either leave voluntarily, leave in handcuffs or leave in an ambulance. If he puts up those numbers with this cast of characters… But since the Mannings have a seemingly endless deal with the devil, I’m going with Peyton Manning to win the 2013 MVP Award, and sadly I think that offense might look like the 2007 Patriots when it’s all said and done.

Neil: The MVP is going to be Peyton Manning. As much as I hate it, their defense isn’t going to be good and their WRs are. Their schedule is easy so he’s going to be throwing the ball all over the place throughout the entire season. My longshot would be Doug Martin.

Offensive Player of The Year

Ross: Often different than the MVP, but almost never a wide receiver. Jerry Rice is the only non-QB/RB to win this award. I’m going with Tom Brady. Manning gets the MVP and Brady gets the “but you had a good season too, Tom” award.

Neil: It’s Peyton Manning again for the same reasoning as the MVP Award. Longshot here would be Jamaal Charles.

Defensive Player of The Year

Ross: Earl Thomas, free safety for Seattle is my choice. That might be one of the best defenses in recent memory and he’s the anchor. You do not pass on this team and he’s a huge reason why. Seattle’s coming out party began last year with Russell Wilson and the offense bursting on the scene. Now I think they keep the momentum going and have the league talking about their D all year long.

Neil: J.J. Watt because he’s just a beast. Longshot is Julius Peppers.

Comeback Player of The Year

Ross: This one’s simple. It’s RGIII. Adrian Peterson finished 2nd in the comeback voting last year and he essentially got hurt at the end of the 2011 season just like RGIII got hurt at the end of the 2012 season. So there’s no rule that says the comeback player has to have missed game time with the injury. If RGIII starts even 10 games this year, he wins this award.

Neil: I say comeback player is Maurice Jones-Drew and my longshot is Brian Orakpo.

Head Coach of The Year

Ross: The New England fan in me wants to make the case for Bill Belichick. With the offseason he’s endured, if he gets this team to 11 or 12 wins, it could be his finest hour. But he’s held to such a high standard these days. Basically if the Patriots win 14 or more games, he’ll be considered. Anything less will be just another typical season. It’s time to back my prediction of Cleveland winning the AFC North. If they do that, Rob Chudzinski automatically wins Coach of the Year so that’s who I’m picking.

Neil: Greg Schiano from Tampa Bay. Long shot is Andy Reid.

First Coach Fired

Ross: At first there seemed to be only three choices for this “award”: Rex Ryan, Jason Garrett and Jim Schwartz. And I do feel any of those three could get fired during the season. But then a 4th option emerged that I like better than the rest. Mike Munchak of the Titans. It was just last December when Titans owner Bud Adams was hinting at a future coaching change through the media after a terrible 55-7 loss to the Packers. And have you seen Bud Adams? The man’s 90 years old. He obviously doesn’t have a lot of time left. If anyone’s going to have an itchy trigger finger it’s the man who may not live long enough to see the Titans win a Super Bowl if he doesn’t do something IMMEDIATELY. The Titans also have a relatively easy schedule, so if they get off to a 1-6 start, the ax is going to fall quickly on Munchak.

Neil: The first coach fired this year is going to be Rex Ryan. I really wanted to go with Jason Garrett here, but Jerry Jones seems to be in love with him, whereas the new Jets front office was not part of the Rex Ryan hire. My longshot is Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

First QB Benched (Due to Ineffectiveness)

Ross: The conservative part of me wants to say Blaine Gabbert or Geno Smith. I have no doubt Rex Ryan will jerk Geno around all season and may even pull him after week 1 if he plays particularly bad. And once the Jags find out by week 4 that Gabbert is not the long term answer, he gets pulled for Chad Henne. But I’m going with an extreme longshot here. I’m saying Josh Freeman is the first quarterback benched due to ineffectiveness. Mike Glennon gets the call and improbably leads the Bucs to the playoffs.

Neil: Whoever the Raiders start in week 1 is a good candidate, but I have no idea what the Raiders are doing or thinking. They have four QBs and two punters on their 53-man roster. Even though it is a somewhat easy pick, I think Blaine Gabbert gets benched in favor of Chad Henne by week 5. My long shot is Michael Vick.

First Devastating Injury from a Fantasy Standpoint

Ross: (What we mean is that while a significant injury to a team’s left tackle could be a season-crushing loss, we’re more interested in the highly-rated fantasy player who might suffer a major injury).

I’m going with running back David Wilson. No real reason. I do wish badness on the Giants so why not hope for a devastating injury.

Neil: Sorry to all you fantasy owners out there who kept or spent a lot of money on C.J. Spiller, but he is going to be our first big injury of the year. He was healthy all last year, but historically has injury concerns, so law of averages.

First Player Who Gets In Trouble With the Law Once The Season Starts (Name The Team)

Ross: Ridiculous category, right? It’s a total flip of a 32-sided coin. And it’s a good thing I specifically said “once the season starts” because between the time I emailed these categories off to Neil to get his answers (about 4 days ago) and now, a Colts player was arrested on three charges after resisting arrest. I’m going to say the Ravens have the first player arrested. Fingers crossed that it’s Terrell Suggs and that he’s going away for years, but most likely it’ll be a practice squad player for a DUI.

Neil: The first team that has a player get in trouble with the law once the season begins is going to be Detroit. We’ve seen this team’s discipline on the field, I can’t imagine it is another team.

The Last Winless Team

Ross: We’ll get to the last undefeated team in a minute. But sometimes it’s even more fun to laugh at the team that just can’t seem to capture that first win of the year. Last year Cleveland was that team, starting off 0-5 before taking care of the Bengals 34-24 in week 6. This year my choice is between Arizona and Miami. It’s purely based on schedule. Even though I think Jacksonville and Oakland are the two worst teams by far in the NFL, they actually play each other in week 2 so someone’s gotta win. I’m going with Arizona and I don’t think they win a game until week 11. There I said it. I think the Cardinals only have one winnable game before week 11…a week 5 home game against Carolina. Outside of that, I dare you to find an easy win for Arizona over the first two months of the season.

Neil: The last team to win a game is going to be Buffalo. It would be easy to pick Oakland or Jacksonville for this, but those two teams “battle” each other in week 2, so if you hitch yourself to the wrong wagon you are wrong with this pick early. My longshot is Minnesota.

The Last Undefeated Team

Ross: If Denver gets by Baltimore in the opener, they’re pretty much a lock to stay undefeated the longest. Seattle is the only other team I’m considering. If you think Seattle starts the season 2-0, you’re basically saying they’re going to be 9-0 before facing their first true test with a road game against Atlanta in week 10. I’m getting on board with Seattle for this pick.

[Editor’s Note: Wow, I just looked at Neil’s pick for this category and I can’t believe how precisely the same our picks and reasoning are. Scary.]

Neil: Picking the last undefeated team is a little bit tricky. Several of the best teams have games in the first week or two that could easily trip them up, especially Green Bay and San Francisco, who have tough road games. This pick is down to Denver and Seattle for me. I’m actually more worried about Seattle on the road at Carolina in week 1 than hosting the Niners in week 2. For Denver, if you think Peyton can get by his younger brother with more Super Bowl rings in week 2, they have easy sailing until they travel to New England on November 24th. I’ve picked Denver for too many things already, so let’s go with Seattle as the last undefeated team. My longshot is New England. They start with two easy games, but weeks 3-6 are brutal.

AFC Predictions Expanded

Just a heads up for you football lovers, the blogs are going to come fast and furious today. Later on Neil & I will be back at it with our predictions on which teams make the playoffs, and ultimately, who wins the Super Bowl. And we’ll also throw around some thoughts on individual awards…the lame stuff like “who will lead the league in passing” and the fun stuff like “who will be the first coach fired.”

For now, here’s an expanded version of my AFC win/loss predictions blog, which I wrote on the website I Hate JJ Redick (a Baltimore-based sports blog that I’m writing for).

If you want to read more than the quick blurb I included with each prediction last week, and you want to read some funny recaps to each team’s 2012 season in 140 characters or less, go to: http://www.ihatejjr.com/content/nfl-predictions-part-2-afc-winloss-records