National Football League playoff predictions


By Maria Kalaitzandonakes

Jacqueline LeBlanc

By Maria Kalaitzandonakes
By Maria Kalaitzandonakes
Here are the predictions for the next couple weeks leading up to the XLVII Superbowl, including the National Football League Wild Card Round, the Divisional Round, Conference Championships and finally the XLVII Superbowl. All of the outcomes are based on opinions.
NFL Wild Card Round: Jan. 5 – Jan. 6
Houston Texans (12-4) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Sat., 3:30 p.m., NBC
Going into December in the NFL, the Houston Texans held the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC, which entailed the home-field advantage, as well as a bye going into the playoffs and control of their own destiny. However, Houston faltered in December, losing three out of four games and slipping to the No. 3 seed, which meant losing out on a bye. The Cincinnati Bengals, on the other hand, had a rocky start to begin the season with a 3-4 record, but won eight out of their last nine games to secure a playoff berth. The Bengals are going into the game with a stronger defense than last year’s team and are seeking revenge from last year’s 31-10 loss at Houston in the AFC Wild Card Round. Houston will, however, have Matt Schaub as quarterback this year and has just as strong a defense as Cincinnati’s with J.J. Watt.  It will come down to whichever team has a better rushing game.
Prediction: Texans advance after a close game: Texans 24, Bengals 17
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) vs. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
Sun., 12:00 p.m., CBS
Similarly to Houston, December had not been kind to Baltimore, where they won only one game out of five. Indianapolis and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck have been on a roll, winning six out of their past seven. While Luck may have an impressive arm and spectacular fourth quarter production, Indy’s defense is dismal, and besides Reggie Wayne, their receivers are not guaranteeing a promising game. After making the playoffs for four straight years, Ravens’ coach, John Harbaugh, and quarterback Joe Flacco have the advantage with this home playoff game. If Ray Rice and Joe Flacco are able to explode on offense early, it will be too much for the Colts to handle. Not to mention the presence of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed on defense.
Prediction: The Ravens have the edge: Ravens 31, Colts 20
Green Bay Packers (11-5) vs. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Sat., 7:00 p.m., NBC
As the game is the third matchup between the two teams this year, both teams are very familiar with each other. Winning one a piece in their meetings this year, this game will be closer than what many expect. An explosive Adrian Peterson against an inconsistent Packer defense is favorable for Minnesota and a young Christian Ponder. Although Ponder had a strong performance against Green Bay last week (16-28, 234 yards, 3 TDs), the second-year quarterback will have to put up greater numbers and not turn the ball over to keep up with Aaron Rodgers, who will have a healthy Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones as receivers against a shaky Vikings secondary. Green Bay’s offensive line will have to do a better job protecting Rodgers against a strong Jared Allen and Minnesota pass rush, though.
Prediction: Expect a high-scoring game. Packers pull through: Packers 35, Vikings 31
Washington Redskins (10-6) vs. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
Sun., 3:30 p.m., Fox 
The Redskins and Seahawks have probably been the most surprising teams of the season, and the two strongest teams in the second half of the season. Both led by rookie quarterbacks and championship-winning head coaches, this matchup is probably the most intriguing of the wild card round. Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks and Robert Griffin III for the Washington Redskins threw for over 3,000 yards on the season and posses excellent mobility, and Adrian Peterson aside, Redskins’ rookie running back Alfred Morris and Seattle rusher Marshawn Lynch were the top running backs in the NFL this season. Offensively, Washington and Seattle seem to be evenly matched, and the outcome of the game will come down to whichever defense does a better job against the run.
Prediction: Seattle’s better defense will propel the offense against the Redskins: Seahawks 27, Redskins 13
NFL Divisional Round: Jan. 12 – Jan. 13
Italics indicate projected teams to advance from the Wild Card Round
New England Patriots (12-4) vs. Houston Texans (13-4)
Sun., Jan 13, 3:30 p.m., CBS
Houston traveled to Foxboro, Massachusetts to take on New England in week 14 during the regular season and was never able to keep up with Tom Brady and his explosive offense, losing 42-14. If the Houston Texans were to meet New England in Foxboro for the second time this year, it would most likely result in the same outcome. Tom Brady and New England coach Bill Belichick are all but unfamiliar with the playoffs, making it the tenth season in the 12 years Tom Brady and Belichick have been together, while this would be only the second year the young Houston Texans have made the playoffs. The return of Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski will allow Brady and the offense to explode against a Texan’s defense, whose performance has been declining in the past month.
Prediction: The Patriots pull off the easy win. Patriots 31, Texans 17
Denver Broncos (13-3) vs. Baltimore Ravens (11-6)
Sat., Jan 12, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The return of Peyton Manning to the NFL after a year off because of injury has done Manning well. Manning has proved all his doubters wrong and has been nothing less than excellent during his first year with the Denver Broncos. While Manning’s average statistics, quarterback rating and a record of 9-10 during the postseason may be considered below par compared to his performance in the regular season, his offense should be able to cut through the aging, banged-up Baltimore defense, which is not as impressive as they used to be. The young, spectacular Von Miller and elite veteran Champ Bailey on defense will be too much for Joe Flacco and Ray Rice to handle, elevating the Broncos above the Ravens.
Prediction: Broncos 28, Ravens 14
San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (12-5)
Sat., Jan. 12, 7:00 p.m., Fox
The 49ers and the Packers played a close game the first week of the regular season in Green Bay. San Francisco and their strong defense were able to overcome Green Bay, winning 30-22. Green Bay will be facing a different 49ers team this time around however, mainly because their quarterback is second-year player Colin Kaepernick instead of Alex Smith. The 49ers defense, led by Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith will be a match for the Packers’ offensive line and Aaron Rodgers, who has been sacked an NFL high of 51 times this season. The reigning NFL MVP Rodgers on a hot streak can be dangerous, however, and if he gets going, then Kaepernick and the 49ers defense just won’t be able to keep up. It could go either way depending on how the offenses do. The Packers and the playoff scene just prove to be too much for Kaepernick and the 49ers defense.
Prediction: Packers 23, 49ers 17
Atlanta Falcons (13-3) vs. Seattle Seahawks (12-5)
Sun., Jan. 13, 12:00 p.m., Fox
During the regular season, the Falcons were the last team to go undefeated and ended the season as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, the Falcons’ weak schedule may have given them a great advantage, only playing three teams with winning records during the entirety of the season. Matt Ryan and the Falcons are also notable for not being able to advance in the playoffs. The Falcons’ defense is known for not being able to stop the run, which is favorable against Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. The odds are all but favorable for the Atlanta Falcons, in what turns out to be another disappointing end to their season.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, Falcons 9
NFL Conference Championship: Jan. 20
Italics indicate teams projected to advance from Divisional Round.
AFC Championship Game
Denver Broncos (14-3) vs. New England Patriots (13-4)  
Sun., Jan. 20, TBD
The matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, if they were to both win their divisional round games, would be the 14th meeting between the two iconic quarterbacks, and the third time the two met in the AFC Championship game. The first time they met in the championship game during the 2003 season, Tom Brady prevailed 24-14. The last time they met, in the 2006 season, Peyton Manning came out on top 38-34. The two met up again during week 5 in the regular season, resulting in a Patriot win 31-21. Yet, the two teams and quarterbacks are different from when they played in the championship game and even when they met in week 5. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and their respective teams have greatly improved throughout the remainder of the season. Brady and Manning have both had MVP-like seasons and their receivers and running game are significantly better than they were at the beginning of the year. The game will come down to whichever team has the better defense to create an effective pass rush and turnovers. The Broncos are the No. 2 defense in the NFL in yards per game, but the Patriots are more effective at creating turnovers. Although the Patriots defense is often criticized for being inconsistent, when they play well, they play really well.
Prediction: Tom Brady pulls the upset and makes his sixth Super Bowl appearance: Patriots 27, Colts 23
NFC Championship Game
Green Bay Packers (13-5) vs. Seattle Seahawks (13-5)
Sun., Jan 20, TBD
If the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks were to both make it to the NFC Championship Game, it would be the second time they were to meet this year. The two teams met on a Monday night in week 3 in what would turn out to be a bland game, until the very last play. Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw a last effort Hail Mary to the end-zone in hopes of a winning score and what turned out to be known as the Inaccurate Reception, to Green Bay fans at least. Green Bay intercepted the ball, but the replacement referees called it a Seattle score, allowing them to win the game. I’m sure that if these two teams were to meet again in the championship game in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers and clan will not allow for the Seahawks to steal their victory again, and Seattle won’t have the replacement referees on their side this time. Russell Wilson had a great year and a spectacular run, but a rookie quarterback has never been to the Super Bowl and seeing the Seahawks win three road games in a row just doesn’t seem likely. Better luck next year Seattle.
Prediction: Packers 20, Seahawks 14
NFL Super Bowl XLVII: Sun., Feb. 3
Italics indicate teams projected to advance from the conference championship games.
New England Patriots (14-4) vs. Green Bay Packers (14-5)
Being past Super Bowl MVPs, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are familiar with the game. Rodgers won his first Super Bowl in 2010, and Tom Brady would attempt to win his fourth title after two disappointing losses in 2011 and 2007. Rodgers and Brady would both be dark horses to make the Super Bowl over Peyton Manning and the 49ers, so if they were to do so, their offenses would be on track and explosive enough to win the title. The Packers defense is not as powerful as they were in 2010, but a healthy Clay Matthews and improving young defense would immensely help Rodgers take the lead. The Patriots defense, led by veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork, would have had to done well in the past two games to most likely make it to this point however, and if anyone knows anything about playing in the Super Bowl, it’s New England head coach Bill Belichick. It would definitely be a thrilling, high-scoring game.
Prediction: Patriots 42, Packers 35
By Jacqueline LeBlanc