For today’s Friday 5, I’m going to kill two birds with one stone. I’m going to give you our playoff predictions in Friday 5 format. I’ll be going round by round, plus a special bonus prediction for the Pro Bowl! It’s not the Friday 4, after all.
First, I’ll give you Weller’s official playoff prediction:
Thanks, Weller. Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll provide a tiny bit more detail (and Weller, you should stop reading now.)
1. Wild Card Round
The Jets vs. Bengals might be the toughest game for me to pick. The 10-6 Bengals are the better team, I think, but they have been bad as of late, going 1-3 down the stretch. Granted two losses were against Minnesota and San Diego, but still. They also lost 37-0 to these same Jets last week in a game that didn’t matter to them. It’s still hard to ignore. The 9-7 Jets, on the other hand, went 5-1 in their last six with wins over Indianapolis, Carolina, and the aforementioned Bengals. But were Indy and Cincy really playing? We know Indy wasn’t. They also have a rookie QB playing on the road in his first playoff game. That’s why I’m taking the Bengals 24-20.
Tomorrow’s late game pits the 11-5 Eagles against the 11-5 Cowboys. I’m taking the Eagles 27-14. The Cowboys’ struggles in the playoffs are well documented and the Eagles are very difficult to stop on offense. Now, having said that, the Cowboys have pitched shutouts in their last two games against the Redskins and Eagles. Neither game really mattered in the grand scheme of things, but two shutouts are hard to ignore. Dallas also topped Philly 20-16 in Week 9, but it’s very, very difficult to beat a team three times in one year. Count this one as an upset.
On Sunday we’ll see 10-6 New England face off against 9-7 Baltimore. This is another game that’s tough to call and it’s made tougher with the loss of Patriots receiver Wes Welker. The Pats had a weird season. They should have lost several games that they won and probably should have won a few that they lost. They did beat the Ravens 27-21 way back in Week 4. The Ravens season went like this: Beat the bad teams and lose to the good teams (except San Diego). They went 1-6 against fellow playoff teams and 8-1 against non-playoff teams (they lost to the Steelers in Week 16.) With that in mind, give me the Welker-less Patriots 31-20.
The final Wild-Card game of the weekend will see Kurt Warner’s 10-6 Arizona Cardinals against the 11-5 Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The most important thing in this game is the health of Anquan Boldin. He will be a game-time decision with an ankle and knee sprain. If he plays, it opens up all sorts of options for Warner and the passing attack as well as the running game. If he can’t, the Packers can key in on Larry Fitzgerald with Charles Woodson and basically shut down that entire aspect of the game. That’s basically what happened last week when the Packers won 33-7 in Arizona. I think that happens again for the Packers as they win 31-10.
2. Divisional Playoffs
Obviously this becomes an inexact science since the match ups probably won’t look like this, but it’s fun anyway. First up are the 13-3 New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles. Much press was given to the Saints as they started 13-0 and looked pretty unbeatable until the Dallas Cowboys came into their house and won 24-17. The Saints went on to lost their final two games and limp into the playoffs. I think the week off will do them some good as the Saints win 24-21.
Next up, the 14-2 Colts will face the Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts will have had three complete weeks off by the time the Bengals come to town in mid-January. I think that’s too much and was the wrong decision, but that’s neither here nor there. We’ll now get to see what kind of coach Jim Caldwell is; if his team comes out listless and rusty, we’ll look back and see that I was right. If they come out high flying and ready then Caldwell will be a genius. I think this game will start out close and the Colts will pull away in the second half 34-17.
In the most intriguing Divisional Playoff game the 12-4 Vikings will take on Brett Favre’s former team, the Packers. I’m tired of hearing about it already. The two have played twice already with the Vikings winning both times. I don’t really see it going any different this time. Favre, Harvin, Rice, and Peterson will go over 30 points again and the Vikings break the state of Wisconsin’s collective heart 37-26.
Finally, we’ll see the 13-3 Chargers take on the Patriots. The Chargers are on an absolute tear right now, winning 10 straight games after a 3-3 start. I think this is where the Pats miss Welker the most as the Chargers have a very athletic secondary that can cover Randy Moss. Welker would have been able to expose the under side of the secondary as he has done to teams all year from the slot. The rested Chargers will take this one 17-13.
3. Conference Championships
It just occurred to me that I have the one and two seeds advancing to the conference championship games. The gap between the top 2 teams in each conference and everyone else is big enough to where I don’t feel bad about that. Oh well.
First up will be the Colts and Chargers. As I mentioned above, the Chargers are on a tear and the Colts have taken too much time off, in my opinion. The Bengals will have been a nice tune-up for the Colts, but they’re not on the same level as San Diego. As Weller chooses to forget, the Chargers have ousted the Colts from the playoffs each of the last two years, once in Indianapolis and last year in San Diego. As much as I hate to do this, I think the Chargers finally break through and get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. Chargers win 23-21.
The NFC Championship will see the Minnesota Vikings travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. The Vikings will be coming off their emotional high of beating the Packers, while the Saints will have taken out the Cowboys. Once the Vikings get this close to the Super Bowl, they’re going to win. The Saints defense will be tested again as they have given up 341 points this year, which is a lot. The Vikings have one of the most potent offenses in the league as well as one of the stingiest defenses. I think this one goes down to the wire with the Vikings prevailing 34-28.
2. Pro Bowl
For the first time ever the Pro Bowl will be held the week before the Super Bowl. This means I still won’t watch it and it still doesn’t matter. NFC wins! Go Rams!
1. Super Bowl
My Super Bowl teams are the Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Chargers. These are two very evenly matched teams as the Chargers scored 454 points this year and gave up 320 while the Vikings scored 470 and gave up 312. The media will eat up Favre’s return to the Super Bowl while San Diego will be in search of their first title ever. Since this game will probably not even take place, I’m just going to give the score. Chargers 27, Vikings 24.
Let me see your predictions in the comments.
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