As you probably saw in the previous articles from Tuesday, we here at Packers 101 believe the Broncos, Patriots, Texans, and Bengals will all win their divisions in the AFC. In the NFC, we believe it'll be the Packers, 49ers, Falcons, and Giants bringing home division titles.
The Wild Card teams in the AFC are clear-cut, as we believe both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will feast on NFC North and AFC East competition and earn the last two playoff spots. In the NFC, we project the Seahawks' 13-3 record will not be enough to clinch the NFC West divisional crown, and the Carolina Panthers (yes, the Panthers), will earn the NFC's final wild card spot over the division-rival New Orleans Saints by the virtue of a conference tiebreaker.
Before we get into our playoff projections, here are our pre-regular season award winners in 2013:
2013 NFL Pre-Regular Season Award Winners
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots
Comeback Player of the Year: OLB Terrell Suggs, Ravens
Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Tavon Austin, Rams
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DT Star Lotulelei, Panthers
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Peyton Manning, Broncos
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Patrick Willis, 49ers
Most Valuable Player: QB Tom Brady, Patriots
And now, the moment all of you readers have been waiting for—our 2013 NFL playoff projections:
NFC Wild Card Round
(6) Carolina Panthers vs. (3) Green Bay Packers
Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers shock the NFL world and reach the NFL playoffs behind improved play from their quarterback, and an underrated and stout defensive unit. The Packers win the NFC North for the third-consecutive season, but fall short of earning a first-round bye. Newton and the Panthers though struggle on the frozen tundra, and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers earn their third-consecutive trip to the NFC Divisional Round.
Packers 24, Panthers 13
(5) Seattle Seahawks vs. (4) Atlanta Falcons
The Seahawks put together the second-best NFL regular season record, yet hold the NFC’s fifth playoff seed after losing to the San Francisco 49ers by virtue of a tie-breaker. No matter, the Seahawks avenge last year’s 30-28 playoff loss in Atlanta, as quarterback Russell Wilson exploits the poor Falcons defense. The Seahawks defensive pass rush also proves as no match for the Falcons, as quarterback Matt Ryan deals with on-going pressure throughout the entire game.
Seahawks 34, Falcons 20
NFC Divisional Round
(5) Seattle Seahawks vs. (1) San Francisco 49ers
Ahh, the match-up the entire football world wants to see, the battle between the NFC West division-rival Seahawks and 49ers. Both teams possess young dual-threat quarterbacks (Wilson-SEA, Colin Kaepernick-SF), both teams have defensive units loaded with superstars (Richard Sherman-SEA, Patrick Willis-SF), and both team’s head coaches just flat-out do not like each other. Possible the best playoff game to watch on television this postseason, this game certainly does not disappoint.
Seahawks 31, 49ers 30
(3) Green Bay Packers vs. (2) New York Giants
The Packers and Giants have seen each other too often lately (this game would be the sixth match-up between the two teams in the last four seasons), and all Packers fans would think is “here we go again”. Counting our regular season projections, the Giants have beat the Packers in the last three games between the NFC rivals. The Packers have the opportunity to take advantage of a weak and hobbled Giants secondary, but the playoff demons continue to haunt the Packers against the Giants in another quick playoff-exit for Green Bay. Here we go again.
Giants 27, Packers 17
(5) Seattle Seahawks vs. (2) New York Giants
The Seahawks will enter MetLife Stadium on Championship Sunday with a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in eight seasons, while the Giants could become the first ever NFL team to play a Super Bowl at their home stadium. The most physical, most clutch, and most disciplined football team will win this game. The Seahawks, riding strong momentum from the regular season into East Rutherford, have won their last five games, and show no fear against the often physical, clutch, and disciplined Giants.
Seahawks 17, Giants 13
AFC Wild Card Round
(6) Baltimore Ravens vs. (3) New England Patriots
The Ravens look to defend their Super Bowl crown in New England, where the Patriots will look to avenge their AFC Championship loss against the Ravens from the previous season. The Ravens, who squeak into the AFC Playoffs, will have much trouble with the Patriots balanced offensive attack and improved postseason play from Brady and running back Stevan Ridley. The Patriots defense, much healthier than the previous year, shut-down running back Ray Rice and make the Ravens one-dimensional.
Patriots 26, Ravens 17
(5) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (4) Denver Broncos
Pittsburgh, a surprise to see in the AFC Playoffs, takes advantage of an extremely poor schedule and find themselves in Denver, where the playoffs have not been kind to them (remember Tebow?). The Broncos trio of receivers (Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker) take advantage of a Steelers’ defense which would be without safety Ryan Clark (sickle-cell anemia) and James Harrison. Manning and the Broncos offense put on another offensive show for the fans, and the defense stymies Ben Roethlisberger’s Steeler bunch.
Broncos 30, Steelers 14
AFC Divisional Round
(4) Denver Broncos vs. (1) Houston Texans
Denver faces the AFC regular season champion Texans at Reliant Stadium—perfect conditions for an offensive shootout. The Broncos and Texans, both ousted in the past two AFC Divisional Rounds, shake off the cobwebs and get in an old fashion Texas Tussle from the opening kickoff until the final horn. The determining factor will be who gets to the quarterback more often—Denver’s Von Miller or Houston’s J.J. Watt? The Broncos don’t have Elvis Dumervil anymore, while the Texans have a healthy Brian Cushing. Nail in the coffin.
Texans 34, Broncos 31
(3) New England Patriots vs. (2) Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals in the AFC Divisional Round?! Who would’ve thunk of it?! The one team though who could give them fits is Brady and the Patriots. The Pats come out firing from the openings horn, putting the Bengals’ offense in a quandary. The key to beating the Bengals is getting ahead of them early—a lesson the Patriots learn after their Week Five loss at Cincinnati during the regular season. This time around though, Brady and his new class of receiving weapons are at an all-time high in chemistry, and it shows in brutal AFC Divisional fashion.
Patriots 27, Bengals 10
(3) New England Patriots vs. (1) Houston Texans
Fans won’t get to see the highly-anticipated Brady vs. Manning match-up, but the Patriots and Texans will provide an intriguing match-up. Tom Brady leads New England to their third-consecutive AFC Championship game, while the Texans look ahead to their first Super Bowl appearance in the short-term history of the franchise. As a result of the noisy Reliant Stadium Texans home crowd, Brady has trouble communicating with his inexperienced receiving group, and the offensive line has no answer for the tremendous Texans defensive front-seven. Quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Arian Foster provide well-struck balance needed to beat the Patriots, and the Texans will be on their way to New Jersey.
Texans 27, Patriots 16
Super Bowl XLVIII
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
(NFC) Seattle Seahawks vs. (AFC) Houston Texans
This year’s Super Bowl is projected to be chilling (average temperature in East Rutherford in February: 39 degrees), exciting (both the Texans and Seahawks have never won a Super Bowl), and proof that NFL success is consistently a revolving door of success around the league. The Seahawks franchise, yet none should declare it yet, has been saved by an undersized, third-round quarterback, and the Texans franchise reached the next level of success by the outstanding play of their former collegiate tight end defensive lineman. Nobody could see either of these teams competing for a Super Bowl at this time as little as three years ago, but hope eventually becomes reality for both franchises.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will be blitzed and sacked often by Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt and the defense, but the swarming defense and big lights won’t phase the second-year QB. The Texans will continue providing a balanced offensive attack which stymied the Patriots defense two weeks ago, keeping the Seahawks defense out of rhythm. The greatest factor though in this game will be which team will provide the biggest plays—odds are, the smallest starting quarterback in the league will provide the biggest plays on the field.
Seahawks 16, Texans 13
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