Thursday, January 05, 2012

2011 Playoff Predictions

I don't think this is the year for the Steelers, but I never think it's their year.  I didn't think it was their year in 2005 or 2008 or 2010, but I totally thought it was their year in 1998 and 2006, so there's that.  Having said that, there are only four teams that scare me in both brackets.

In order of most scary to least scary:

  1. The Saints (indoors)
  2. Green Bay
  3. Hated Ravens
  4. New England
If I were a playoff team, those are, in order, the four teams I would not want to play.  I'm not saying that anyone else in the bracket is a pushover, I'm just saying those are the scary teams.  Given that New Orleans has zero chance of playing indoors throughout the postseason, I don't think they're going to make it.  If they somehow make it all the way to Indy, I feel sorry for the AFC team that has the misfortune of playing them in a dome.

On with the predictions.  Hopefully, I'll do slightly better than I did last year.  By "slightly better" I mean "not completely getting everything wrong and looking like an idiot."

AFC Bracket:

I know that TJ Yates has an injured shoulder and that the Texans backed into the playoffs.  I also know that it's his non-throwing shoulder and he's practiced all week.  Cincinnati didn't exactly storm into the playoffs.  They went 3-5 in the second half of the season.  They beat Arizona, Cleveland, and St. Louis.  They went 0-7 against playoff teams.  Houston wins this weekend and then has to travel to Baltimore, where they already lost convincingly way back when Matt Schaub was their quarterback.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to say that the Bengals really scare me.  They got AJ Green and Andy Dalton in this year's draft and they fleeced Oakland out of a bunch of picks in the Carson Palmer trade.  They scare me more than anyone in the AFC over the next five seasons, including the Patriots and hated Ravens.

The Texans have themselves an exceptional offensive line and a couple of great running backs.  They also have a solid defense, especially now that Wade Phillips is back on the sidelines.  But, they still have TJ Yates as their quarterback and that's not going to cut it against the Ben Roethlisbergers and Joe Flaccos and Tom Bradys of this bracket.

Football Jesus will also fall short against a real defense and a real quarterback, but that game is going to be ugly.  If I wasn't obligated to watch it, I think I would pass.  There are going to be bad passes, turnovers, failed red zone opportunities, and half the Steelers hobbling around with injuries.  It's going to end with someone winning 16-12 and I believe that someone is going to be the Steelers.

Houston travels to Baltimore and gets crushed.  The Steelers will have to go to Foxborough, where the Patriots are 0-2 in their last two postseason games.  I don't think that means that they just roll over and die.  The fact that they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and Wes Welker and two of the best tight ends in the NFL, plus a great offensive line, makes them dangerous in a single elimination tournament.  Since I know I'll be wrong anyway, I may as well pick the Steelers to go to New England and finally beat Tom Brady when it matters.

If the Steelers play the hated Ravens at any point in the playoffs, that's going to be Baltimore's Super Bowl.  They're going to go all out and they will not allow themselves to lose.  If the hated Ravens need to go to Foxborough, I think they still win.  They have the best individual athlete in the AFC bracket (Ray Rice) and the best defense.  They have a veteran roster that is loaded with postseason experience.  They used the offseason and regular season to prepare themselves for this run.  They will beat anyone that stands in their way, even the Steelers.

You know who says it's tough to beat a team three times in one season?  Teams that already lost twice.  It's hard to beat any team once, especially when that team is a playoff team.  The fact that you already beat them twice only gives you confidence.  It also gives you film that you can look at and say, "Oh, yeah.  That's how we beat those guys the other two times.  Let's do that again."

As much as it pains me to type this, the Hated Baltimore Ravens will be your AFC representative in this year's Super Bowl.  Now for the NFC...

NFC Bracket:

If the road to the Super in the NFC went through the Super Dome, the Saints would play in -- and win -- Super Bowl XLVI.  But, they have to go outdoors and the non-dome version of the Saints don't scare me.  I think that they crush Detroit at home on Saturday, but I think they fold outside the friendly confines of their dome in San Francisco.

The 49ers are a great team, but they're not a championship team.  They're too conservative, too unreliable when they get inside the 20, and Alex Smith is their quarterback.  Smith has done a good job of making the right decisions and not turning the ball over, but he's not going to be able to cut it when he has to throw down against Aaron Rodgers and an opportunistic Packers defense.

Eli Manning is a great story and the Giants have a lot of playoff experience, but that only goes so far when it comes to bridging the talent gap.  Atlanta has Matty Ice, a still-feisty Michael Turner, and an explosive offense.  They don't play enough defense to win it all, though.  The Falcons traded away their future to get Julio Jones and make it to the next level, but I don't think they've done enough to get past Green Bay.

For a 15-1 team, the Packers aren't a prohibitive favorite.  One of the reasons people are down on Green Bay is because they finished dead last in total defense in terms of yardage allowed.  But, they finished 14th in points allowed and first in total points.  When it comes down to it, they have an aggressive bend-don't-break defense and an incredibly efficient offense.  They also have the best quarterback in the bracket in Rodgers.

Atlanta beats New York, New Orleans beats Detroit, San Francisco beats New Orleans, Green Bay beats Atlanta, Packers beat 49ers to advance to the Super Bowl.

That means it'll be a Packers-Hated Ravens Super Bowl and I'm not sure who I'll root for.  The old adage is that defense wins championships.  That will be put to the test this postseason.  Will the Packers be the first team to finish last in total defense but still win the Super Bowl?  Will Baltimore have enough on defense to slow Green Bay down?  I'm really not sure.

My gut feeling is that the hated Ravens protect the ball well enough to not make key mistakes against the Packers.  I think they score enough points and play well enough on defense that they can win a close game.

It pains me even more to say this, but...


AFC Playoffs:
Houston over Cincinnati
Steelers over Denver
Baltimore over Houston
Steelers over Patriots
Baltimore over Steelers

NFC Playoffs:
Saints over Lions
Falcons over Giants
Packers over Falcons
49ers over Saints
Packers over 49ers

Super Bowl:
Hated Ravens over Packers


  1. Keller I have to say this is by far the best post I have seen from you all season. To have the Ravens come out on top. Love it! Good luck to your Steelers this weekend. I'm right there with you terms of picks but wavering on the GB vs SF game. I'm leaning at this point with SF slipping by. Happy New Years fellas!

  2. Thanks, man! It pains me to pick it this way, but that's how I see it shaking out. Happy New Year to you and yours.