2014 NFL Playoff Preview

playoffsThe NFL Playoffs are here and there will be 12 teams marching to unfamiliar territory this year as the AFC and NFC look towards New Jersey as the light at the end of the tunnel. The Super Bowl will be in a strange place this year as New Jersey and MetLife Stadium will be the hosts this year. It is the third time that the NFL will go to the Northern USA and it will mark the first time ever that the NFL will move to an outdoor stadium in the Northern USA. The NFL has remained in the South for a long time as they try to remove other issues from the game. The Super Bowl is the biggest game of the year and one of the biggest events in the world and having something change the outcome that shouldn’t, can mean plenty of upheaval. So the NFL remained in the south where the weather was generally predictable in February. It might have been a little colder than expected and at times rain would have its effect but in the grand scheme the south was a place that would see decently warm temperatures that would leave the game unaffected by the weather. It would mean that two teams would fight between themselves to determine who the better team was without having to fight the weather along with the other team. Then the NFL would make a decision to move the game outside in a place that is less than friendly during the month of February. It is a winter climate unlike the friendly confines of South Florida or California and so the weather will have an impact. Whether it snows or not is a big discussion but that will not be known until closer to the date. Instead the worry for most teams should be whether or not they will be able to handle the cold weather as it is sure to be a cold one of February 2nd. The decision is a controversial one as the weather will have an effect on the game and the two teams but that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Every team and every player, and sometimes every fans, are always looking for perfection in sports but that is not sports. Sports are imperfect and imperfection makes sports more interesting. College football is extremely entertaining to watch because mistakes are made leading to wild finishes. Bringing in the unpredictable weather for the Super Bowl may make a lot of people angry but it could provide one of the most memorable games in Super Bowl history. Of course there are two important factors to making the game and those would be the teams as 12 teams begin their run at the playoffs after a long and difficult season for many teams two will make their way to New Jersey for Super Bowl XLVIII in what could be a legendary game.

 

American Football Conference

afc

The AFC has not seen a whole lot of change in the year as there will be a lot of familiar faces that will make their way to the Super Bowl. Once again the top of the conference has been ruled by the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots led by the two greatest QBs of the era. Peyton Manning and the league’s best off the Denver Broncos have taken the top spot and are hoping that this year they will not see the disappointment they faced last year against the Baltimore Ravens. The New England Patriots have gone somewhat quietly about their business with Tom Brady under centre. They have been a team that is constantly considered the best every year but this year it was almost a second thought next to the Broncos season. Still they put together 12 wins this year like every other year and are hoping to take that under the radar status to another Super Bowl. The Cincinnati Bengals are back in the playoffs once again this year as they took their second straight division title. They are looking to take that next step now as they have had enough success to make the playoffs but rarely enough to move on further in the playoffs. This year they are hoping that they can end that trend and earn a spot in the playoffs as they try to avoid being that team that can’t win the big one. The Indianapolis Colts are also back this year as they have been one of the most consistent teams in the past decade. Only missing the playoffs once in the last 11 seasons the Colts are once again riding the play of their young QB and looking to make an impact and announce that they are serious contenders. The Wild Card are the surprises this year as the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers were not considered playoffs teams at different points in the season. The Chiefs were just finished a terrible season in 2012 and they were not looking like a playoff team this year. Then Alex Smith and Andy Reid would make their mark leading the team to a 9-0 start to the season. They would extend an undefeated record the longest of every team and that was a good thing as they would finish the season horribly but made it into the dance with the strong start to their season. The Chargers were a team that many did not know how to take at the start of the season but many believed they would be in the hunt. Then the season progressed and the Chargers would find themselves in need of a win and two teams losing to make the playoffs. That would happen as the Chargers would beat the Chiefs in overtime and see Miami and Baltimore lose to earn a playoff spot as they are playing with house money and looking to take it to the Super Bowl. There are the super powers and the underdogs in the AFC this year and as much fun as it would be for the underdogs to make a run the super powers may be too much for every other team.

 

1. Denver Broncos
Strength: Offence (Peyton Manning leads the best offence with the greatest QB season ever)
Weakness: Inconsistent D (They have been good but against the best will they hold up?)
How They Win:
Keep Peyton Manning on the field and overwhelm their opponents with a great offence

2. New England Patriots
Strength: Getting the Best (The names aren’t big but the Pats continue to perform above their head)
Weakness: Defence (The D is still weak and great offensive teams will take full advantage)
How They Win:
Let Tom Brady lead the Pats and ensure they do not need the defence to win the game

3. Cincinnati Bengals
Strength: Defence (Their defence is stellar ranked in the top 5 in passing, rushing and total defence)
Weakness: Turnovers (Andy Dalton has a habit of giving the ball up)
How They Win:
Andy Dalton needs to be smart so make it simple for him and reduce the chance of mistakes

4. Indianapolis Colts
Strength: True Leadership (Andrew Luck is a true leader and can bring the Colts far)
Weakness: Aging Defence (Robert Mathis is getting up there and if this defence falls apart its trouble)
How They Win:
The defence needs to make sure that everything does not fall completely on the lap of Luck

5. Kansas City Chiefs
Strength: The Playmakers (Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles can change games)
Weakness: Their Cold (2-5 in the last seven weeks does not boad well for the playoffs)
How They Win:
Shake off the slow end to the season and get back to their 9-0 start style of playing

6. San Diego Chargers
Strength: Experience (They have some leaders in the locker room that should know what they need to do)
Weakness: History (The Chargers are notorious for flopping in the playoffs)
How They Win:
Shake off the past and prove that they belong by continuing their late season surge

 

Wild Card:
Cincinnati Bengals 24 – 17 San Diego Chargers
– The Chargers barely got into the playoffs and their stay won’t be long as the Bengals defence will stop the Chargers and Andy Dalton will hold onto the ball to bring the Bengals to the Divisional round

Indianapolis Colts 31 – 28 Kansas City Chiefs
– The Chiefs would be a favorite if this was the start of the season but it is the end and their terrible end to the season will continue in the playoffs as the Colts will move on thanks to Andrew Luck and the Colts offence

Divisional:
Denver Broncos 34 – 24 Indianapolis Colts
– The Colts are a good team but this defence is no match for Peyton Manning and the best offence in the NFL as Manning will pick them apart and lead the Broncos to the Conference Finals

New England Patriots 24 – 21 Cincinnati Bengals
– It will be a close one as the Pats will be able to force one too many interceptions from Andy Dalton and Tom Brady will be able to dissect the good Bengals defence to earn the win and return to the conference finals

Conference:
Denver Broncos 38 – 31 New England Patriots
– It is the matchup that everyone wants to see as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face off once again for  very important game but in the end it will be Manning that will be able to get past the Pats defence one more time to earn a spot in the Super Bowl

 

National Football Conference

nfc

The NFC is far from the powers and underdogs of the AFC as there are a number of teams who barely got in and are looking to carry their momentum. The NFC is full of hot teams on streaks looking to take their streak into the playoffs and into New Jersey. At the top of the heap is one of the few teams to be at the top of the conference for the entire year. The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the best teams from start to finish this year and they are looking to continue their dominance with the only true home field advantage in the league. The Carolina Panthers would earn their first round bye and division title in the last week of the season after a terrible start to the year. The last half of the year has been completely different though as the Panthers have caught on fire with everything working for them. This hot streak would give the Panthers their first division title since 2008 and has given them plenty of confidence heading into the playoffs. The Philadelphia Eagles were much the same as the Panthers as they would see a change in the last half of the season that they would ride to the division title. It was not the strongest division throughout the year but ever since Nick Foles took over under centre the Eagles have been on fire and are hoping that it can continue all the way to New Jersey. The Green Bay Packers are somewhat the opposite as they would look great at the start of the season until Aaron Rodgers missed 7 weeks with a fractured collarbone leaving the Packers without their best player. They would somehow stay in the fight for the NFC North earning just enough to give Aaron Rodgers the chance to put them into the playoffs in week 17, which he would do. In the wild card are two teams that are not used to being ranked among the bottom teams in the conference as the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints get the toughest road to the Super Bowl. The NFC has the most dangerous wild card teams in the playoffs as they both may have finished barely in the playoffs but both are more than capable of beating almost any team in the NFC. The 49ers finally figured it out this year and began a run at the end of the season but it was too late to overtake the Seahawks for the division. Instead they took a wild card spot and went from Super Bowl favorites to start the season to underdogs. The Saints would see a new defence give a lot of hope to fans but the late surge of the Panthers was too much for them. They would give up the lead to the Panthers and find themselves at the last playoff spot with a chance to upset. The NFC is full of teams that barely made it this year and for some that means they are hot coming into the playoffs which can sometimes be the most important part of any playoff run.

 

1. Seattle Seahawks
Strength: CenturyLink Field (It is truly the only home field advantage in the entire NFL)
Weakness: Inconsistency on Offence (Their offence can disappear at times)
How They Win:
Use the fact that they have home field the entire playoffs to their full advantage

2. Carolina Panthers
Strength: Their Hot (The Panthers have only lost one game in the last three months of the season)
Weakness: One Trick D (Without a good pass rush this defence gets exposed)
How They Win:
Ensure the Pass rush is going because if it is not this pass defence may be exposed

3. Philadelphia Eagles
Strength: Their Hot (The Eagles changed QBs and changed their fortunes to sprint into the playoffs)
Weakness: Inexperience (They have not been in the playoffs too often and their coach is a rookie)
How They Win:
Let LeSean McCoy run wild and overwhelm teams on offence

4. Green Bay Packers
Strength: Aaron Rodgers (He is back and more healthy than any other playoff year)
Weakness: Injury Bug (The rest of the team is not back as they are missing come key pieces)
How They Win:
Don’t get tight realize that they have fought their way in and continue to fight

5. San Francisco 49ers
Strength: Complete Team (The injury bug is gone and the best players are back in the lineup)
Weakness: Aging D (Their defence is getting up there so how will they last in the playoffs)
How They Win:
Play the underdog and realize that they are still better than most of the teams

6. New Orleans Saints
Strength: The Offence (Drew Brees leads the 4th ranked offence in the NFL)
Weakness: Road Woes (They are 3-5 on the road and will have to play every game there this playoffs)
How They Win:
Forget the road woes and realize that if they want to win they need to play up to their standard

 

Wild Card:
New Orleans Saints 34 – 28 Philadelphia Eagles
– The Eagles are hot but their defence is no match for Drew Brees while the new defence of the Saints will be just good enough to stop the Eagles and earn a spot in the divisional round of the playoffs

Green Bay Packers 28 – 27 San Francisco 49ers
– The NFC rivalry is heating up again and the Packers are sick of losing as Aaron Rodgers will be able to get by the Niners this time and earn some revenge for last year’s playoff loss while continuing their run in the playoffs

Divisional:
Seattle Seahawks 34 – 21 New Orleans Saints
– The Saints are a great team and one that could surprise but they are not good away from home and when they have to play in the worst road stadium in the NFL it will show as the Seahawks move on

Carolina Panthers 24 – 21 Green Bay Packers
– The Packers are looking like a strong team to make a run but they will meet a very good defence in Carolina and the pass rush will get to Aaron Rodgers while the Packers will not be able to handle Cam Newton

Conference:
Seattle Seahawks 21 – 20 Carolina Panthers
– The Panthers are looking like a strong team to make a run while the Seahawks have been that team all year and in the safety of their own home they will win this battle of defences and mobile QBs in a thriller

 

Super Bowl XLVIII:
Seattle Seahawks 31 – 28 Denver Broncos
– The Seahawks have a good offence and the Broncos have the best but the difference in this game will be the defences as Denver’s is not stronger than the Seahawks and the Seahawks will prove it as they will slow down Peyton Manning and give Russell Wilson the chance to win Seattle’s first Super Bowl

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