NFL Playoff predictions
As the NFL Playoffs begin, one of the bigger questions asked is, "Can anyone go into Seattle and beat the Seahawks in the playoffs?"If there's one team that can do it, I'm convinced it's the Carolina Panthers. But who do I think will win the Super Bowl? I revealed my complete playoff predictions to begin the second hour of Friday's show.
Here they are, in print:
Before the season began, I picked the New England Patriots over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVIII. Knowing what we know now -- 17 weeks later -- my NFL Playoff predictions are a little different. But one thing remains the same:
AFC WILD CARD ROUND:
(3) Cincinnati Bengals over (6) San Diego Chargers
--At 11-5, the Bengals are better than I thought they'd be, entering the season. And while the Chargers have big wins over Kansas City and Denver, I'm still saying Cincinnati wins it in their own building. San Diego is just one of those teams that can't get over the hump. And I can't get over the fact that the Chargers lost to teams like Houston, Oakland, and Washington in the regular season. I'll give Philip Rivers a shot in this one, but if you're asking me to put my money on him, I just can't do it.
(5) Kansas City Chiefs over (4) Indianapolis Colts
--Alex Smith is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the league. And at 11-5, Kansas City is no joke. Indianapolis boasts the same record, but the Chiefs rested a lot of their key players in Week 17, knowing that they had secured the fifth seed. So KC will be fresh, fresh enough to send Indy home early.
NFC WILD CARD ROUND:
(6) New Orleans Saints over (3) Philadelphia Eagles
--The Saints are about as tough a Wild Card opponent as you'll get if you're a division winner and a No. 3 seed in the NFL playoffs. And while the Eagles have won seven of their last eight entering the game, Drew Brees and the Saints are a better team, and are only a No. 6 seed because the Carolina Panthers won the division as one of the best teams in the league. Philly's magic will run out in the first round.
(5) San Francisco 49ers over (4) Green Bay Packers
--Aaron Rodgers is back, but the 49ers enter the playoffs winning six straight, including a win over the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks. San Fran might not get back to the Super Bowl, as I had originally predicted, but they are too good to be out in the first round, against a Packers team that isn't a powerhouse.
AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND:
(1) Denver Broncos over (5) Kansas City Chiefs
--If this was in Kansas City, maybe it would be a different story. But Peyton Manning will show up Alex Smith in a shootout. The Broncos are just too good to not advance to the AFC Championship. And being at home in the Divisional Round is something that will benefit Denver.
(2) New England Patriots over (3) Cincinnati Bengals
--The Bengals got their playoff win against San Diego. But the Patriots -- as banged up as they are -- will take full advantage of the bye week, and will take care of Cincy at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots will not lose to the Bengals, at home, in the playoffs. It just won't happen. Not while Tom Brady is the quarterback and Bill Belichick is coaching.
NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND:
(1) Seattle Seahawks over (6) New Orleans Saints
--Consider me to be absolutely wrong about Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. The kid is a legitimate star quarterback, and should get some MVP votes. And I never thought I'd say that about him. At times, he seems unstoppable, as does the entire Seattle team in their own building. The question has been asked many times this season. Who can go into CenturyLink Field and win in the playoffs. The answer is not the New Orleans Saints.
(2) Carolina Panthers over (5) San Francisco 49ers
--The Panthers are a title contender. Cam Newton has turned into the big-game quarterback and leader that I never thought he'd become. And the Panthers defense? Maybe the most dangerous in the playoffs. The Panthers may be the only team that has a shot to win a playoff game in Seattle. They'll have a shot to do so after they beat San Fran.
(2) New England Patriots over (1) Denver Broncos
--I've said it for weeks, if the Pats can get to Denver for the AFC Championship, they'll advance to the Super Bowl. Not just because I'm from New England, but because it's just a fact: Bill Belichick owns Peyton Manning. Belichick will come up with a defensive gameplan -- regardless of personnel -- that will confuse Manning at the line of scrimmage and force him to turn the ball over. If New England doesn't fumble early on like they did a few weeks back against the Broncos, Tom Brady and the Patriots will be going to MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2.
(2) Carolina Panthers over (1) Seattle Seahawks
--The Panthers' defense is the only thing that puts them over the top with this pick. Will I be surprised if Seattle wins this game? No. But I'm putting my money on Carolina making some noise with a game-winning touchdown drive that will silence Seahawks fans. Cam Newton will lead the way in a 17-14 win. And he may even do it with his legs.
SUPER BOWL XLVIII:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS over Carolina Panthers
--When this happens, all the "experts" will ask, "Who would have thought the Patriots would even be here, with all the injuries they've had this season?" You can tell them I thought so. It's not a homer pick. It's reality. When Rob Gronkowski went down for the season, people hung their heads. When they then lost to Miami, they lost even more faith in the Patriots. All the while, I told you that the mistakes in the Miami game were correctable. You saw that when they went on to defeat Baltimore and Buffalo and capture a first-round bye. My overall message to those in New England who lost all hope when Gronk went down: When are you going to learn? "Next man up" isn't just a philosophy in Foxboro. It's reality. Guys step up, and under Belichick's defensive gameplan, they execute. And oh yeah, Tom Brady is still the quarterback. Rob Ninkovich will have a fumble recover and an interception, but Shane Vereen will win MVP for his three touchdown receptions.