Early 2014 NFL Playoff Predictions

Well hello.  It’s nice to be back here.  I have abandoned this blog for about a month.  I love writing about the Steelers, but after the letdown that was the 2013 season, I was ready for a break.  I’m not sure what exactly I’ll be doing with this blog in the coming months.  I will probably write about the Pirates, Pens, maybe even some exciting Olympic events, possibly the NCAA tourney.   Probably throw in some pop culture posts occasionally (The “Home Alone” post from December seemed to go over well).  I love other sports, but admittedly don’t have the same knowledge base as I do with football.  Nor do I know as much about the MLB and NHL as I do about the NFL.  We’ll see where the road leads in the coming months. 

With all that being said, I’ve decided today to post some predictions for the 2014 NFL Playoffs.  Before the offseason signings and the draft, I’m going to attempt to predict the 12 teams that will be in the hunt for another ring 11 months from now. 

AFC

AFC East Winner–Patriots:  Ugh.  Of course it will be the Patriots.  As long as Tom Brady is playing, it’ll be the Patriots.  

AFC North Winner–Ravens:  Their offensive struggles in 2013 were well documented.  I think new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak greatly improves their offense.  That, coupled with the Bengals regressing, will lead to the Ravens to another division championship.

AFC South Winner–Colts:  It’s hard to pick against the Colts in this division.  Andrew Luck did a lot with the receivers he had, and a healthy Reggie Wayne will make the offense better. 

AFC West Winner–Broncos:  Can’t see the Broncos regressing to the point of not winning their division.  It’s doubtful we’ll see anything like their offensive numbers repeated, but Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning.

AFC Wild Card–Titans:  Ken Whisenhunt may bring new life to this team.  We’ve seen what Whiz can do with a young QB, and I think he can help improve Jake Locker’s game. 

AFC Wild Card–Steelers:  Total homer pick?  Yes.  Wishful thinking?   Maybe.  However, I do think the Steelers will be a better team in 2014 than they were in 2013.  The offense really put it together in the second half of the season.  The defense is obviously where all the questions lie.  Regardless of what happens on the defensive side of the ball, this offense could be good enough to get the Steelers a playoff spot.  I can see them getting to 9-7, which may be all they need to get in. 

2013 playoff teams that’ll miss out in 2014:

Chiefs:  The 2013 Chiefs were an amazing story…for the first nine games.  They benefitted greatly from a weak schedule early on.  Their 2014 schedule won’t be quite so easy:  They’ll obviously play the Broncos twice, and they couldn’t beat Denver in 2013.  They also play the Patriots, Seahawks, Cardinals, Niners, and Steelers, with those last three games away from Arrowhead. 

Bengals:  The Bengals lost both coordinators to head coaching positions.  Andy Dalton is still their quarterback, and now he has to get used to a new offensive coordinator and system.  They were the best team in a really bad division in 2013, but I think both the Ravens and Steelers fare better in 2014.  Plus, they have the pleasure of playing a first-place schedule next season, which means playing both Brady and Manning.  Good luck with all that, Andy. 

Chargers:  The Chargers barely beat the Chiefs’ second-teamers to get into the playoffs.  Sure, they dominated the Bengals, but considering the Bengals didn’t throw in any new wrinkles into their offensive game plan, I’m pretty sure my high school football team could’ve dominated the Bengals in the playoffs.  The Chargers also have pretty rough schedule in 2014. 

NFC

NFC East Winner–Giants:  This pick may seem somewhat crazy, considering how poorly the Giants played in 2013.  But this is the NFC East we’re talking about.  The division is seemingly never decided until the last day of the season, it’s generally a crapshoot, and I have no faith in the other three teams.  Tom Coughlin is the best coach in this division and I don’t think any of the other teams are all that great. 

NFC North Winner–Packers:  Aaron Rodgers.  That’s all I really need to say to back up this pick, but I’ll also add that a healthy Clay Matthews will make this team better than the 2013 version.  Plus Eddie Lacy is only going to get better, and he’s already pretty damn good.

NFC South Winner–Panthers:  I’ve been on the Carolina bandwagon, and I’m going to stay there.  Losing to the Niners in the playoffs isn’t something to be ashamed of.  Cam Newton now has a playoff game under his belt, and I like how he plays the game.  It’s hard not to like what Luke Kuechly did this year, and I believe he only gets better as well.

NFC West Winner–Seahawks:  Were you expecting anyone else?  The defensive performance the Seahawks put on not only last night, but throughout the 2013 season, was truly something to behold.  Their defense is smothering, dominating, and doesn’t let up.  It’s tough to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but I think the Seahawks have the best shot to do so since the Patriots did it in the early 2000s.  They’re young and they have the best team, player for player, in the NFL.  Right now it’s a Seahawks world, and the rest of the NFL is only just living in it.

NFC Wild Card–49ers:  Can’t count the Niners out.  I’d pick them as division winners if they played in any other division.  They’ll be back in it again next year. 

NFC Wild Card–Buccaneers:  I was going back and forth between the Cardinals and Saints, but those picks seemed too easy.  So I’m going to say Lovie Smith completely changes the culture in Tampa and the Bucs shock the world. 

2013 playoff teams and that’ll miss out in 2014:

Eagles:  I simply can’t see a repeat of the Chip Kelly/Nick Foles magic that occurred this season.  They played in a really bad division in 2013 and still didn’t make the playoffs until the last day of the season.  Which is more a testament to the sheer incompetence of the Cowboys and their laughable defense.   I don’t think the 2013 version of the Eagles was very good, and I have no reason to think they’ll get any better.

Saints:  They weren’t terribly impressive towards the end of 2013.  Brees will be a year older.  I have no reason to say they won’t make it other than I wanted to pick a team out of left field.  I’m admitting to totally bullshitting my way through this.

Super Bowl XLIX

 Colts vs. Seahawks

I like Andrew Luck and the Colts offense.  I was really impressed with Luck’s ability to keep his composure after throwing three interceptions against the Chiefs in the playoffs.  I think they are a team on the rise, and if they can become more consistent,  I think they can beat just about anybody in the league.

Picking the Seahawks doesn’t require much evidence to back it up, especially less than 24 hours after they completely dominated the best offense in NFL history.  Along with every other football fan out there, I absolutely LOVE their defense.  As I said before, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them repeat next year.  

Those are my predictions as of today.  I will be posting and changing my predictions many, many times over the course of the next year but for right now, watch out for the Bucs and Titans!  (Wow, I really just typed that.)  Only 7 months until a meaningful NFL game is played, folks!  Get pumped!

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