It is almost midway through the NFL season and we have seen our share of surprises and our share of disappointments. With that said, if I had to predict how the playoffs would turn out here is what it would look like.
1. Tennessee Titans 13-3 (proj)- Tennessee has shocked everyone by starting out 6-0 this season. They have played very physically and have bullied their opponents. Albert Haynesworth is as good as it gets at DT and run-stopping while Kyle Vandenbosch and Jevon Kearse have created a solid pass rush. They have solid leadership from Keith Bulluck and a secondary that forces turnovers on a regular basis. That, plus their two dimensional rushing attack, has been the epitome of an undefeated team.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers 13-3 (proj)- Pittsburgh has played well and poorly at times this season, but the fact is that they are 5-1. They have had a solid rushing attack even without Willie Parker in the lineup. They have had a great defense and a balanced offensive attack. They are in a bad division which should lead to a first round bye.
3. Buffalo Bills 11-5 (proj)- The Bills have shocked everyone by being in front of the Patriots this year. Trent Edwards has made great strides at QB. Lynch has run extremely well, and their defense has been surprisingly effective.
4. San Diego Chargers 9-7 (proj)- The Chargers have been on and off and have had two wins stolen in the last minute. There has been much controversy over the bad call by referee Ed Hochuli against Denver week two which led to a loss. Denver has started to play lousy and it looks like they will collapse. With no one else able to compete, the Chargers find a way to get the division title.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars 11-5 (proj)- Jacksonville has played well. They play physical football and are balanced in all aspects of their game. The Jaguars (and Titans) will knock Indy out of the playoffs.
6. New England Patriots 9-7 (proj)- The Patriots aren’t the [almost] undefeated Patriots of last year, but they still are the Patriots. They still have a good offense without Tom Brady and still have a solid front-7. Plus, they still have Head Coach Bill Belichick.
1. New York Giants 13-3 (proj)- Except for their one loss to the Browns, the Giants have given everyone every reason to think they can repeat their run to the Superbowl. Even without Usi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, Mathias Kawinuka and Gibril Wilson they still have a great defense. Their offense has played well, also, and should be a dominant force in the surprisingly good NFC.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12-4 (proj)- Tampa Bay leads the league in take-aways this year. They are a force to be reckoned with and have an impressive resume beating Carolina and Green Bay in the last three weeks. The Buccaneers should come out of the NFC South and have a first-round bye in the process.
3. Arizona Cardinals 10-6 (proj)- The Cardinals have had a high-powered offense even without Anquan Boldin for the last few weeks. Due to their cruddy division, the Cardinals should win the division with a good record.
4. Chicago Bears 9-7 (proj)- The Bears have beaten the Vikings, which gives them a tiebreaker head to head thus far over them and they have a better division record than Green Bay. Chances are they will hold on to their division.
5. Carolina Panthers 9-7 (proj)- The Panthers have looked good so far, but can they keep it up? I predict they slip-up a little, but they pick it up in time to get into the playoffs and be a threat.
6. Philadelphia Eagles 9-7 (proj)- The Eagles have played well beating teams like Pittsburgh, San Francisco and St. Louis. Philly will only get better when they get #1 wide-out Kevin Curtis back.
6 New England Patriots at 3 Buffalo Bills- This match-up has everything a fan could want. It would have cold weather, physical play and exciting plays. Coach Belichick is a genius in the playoffs and I think the Patriots will find a way to sneak out of Buffalo with a win. NEW ENGLAND
5 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4 San Diego Chargers- This game would be great, as well. In this one, though, the Chargers may have too many weapons for the Jaguars and the Jags may not be able to keep up, especially with their passing game down. Vincent Jackson would have a big game since #2 wide-outs usually have success against Jacksonville. SAN DIEGO
6 New England Patriots at 1 Tennessee Titans- Another tough matchup for the Patriots since Tennessee bullies teams around with their great O and D-lines. The Titans would not disappoint at home and would push around the Patriots. Moss would be tough for Tennessee but their secondary is #1 versus the pass. TENNESSEE
4 San Diego Chargers at 2 Pittsburgh Steelers- This game would be the best AFC playoff game to watch. In the cold tundra of Pittsburgh in January, the Chargers are hungry for that chance at a Superbowl and they get away from the Steelers in a great game and an even more exciting finish. SAN DIEGO
4 San Diego Chargers at 1 Tennessee Titans- This is a rematch from last year’s wild card game at San Diego. Tennessee is hungry for revenge and for a Superbowl and will crush San Diego’s dreams again, beating them in the Conference Championship by shutting down LT and taking away everything else thereafter. TENNESSEE TO THE SUPERBOWL
6 Philadelphia Eagles at 3 Arizona Cardinals- Both teams have high-powered offenses. The difference is Philly’s defense is significantly better. Philly wouldn’t let the Jets score 56 on them ever. The Eagles may be one of the only teams in the NFL with a secondary good enough to keep Boldin and Fitzgerald in check. PHILADELPHIA
5 Carolina Panthers at 4 Chicago Bears- This game was already played this year in Chicago. Carolina won that game in a close one. This time, Chicago gets their revenge at home when it counts and gets away from the Panthers. CHICAGO
6 Philadelphia Eagles at 1 New York Giants- The Eagles are a good team, but the Giants are a better team. The Giants would be too tough for the Eagles defensively. It would be a low-scoring game but the Giants would pull it out. NEW YORK GIANTS
4 Chicago Bears at 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Both of these teams are take-away machines on defense and surprisingly effective offenses. I’m going to give it to the home team as Tampa Bay is the better overall team and has home field advantage. TAMPA BAY
2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 1 New York Giants- There are some games where the Giants make you scratch your head. This will be one of them. The Buccaneer’s defense will do its job and confuse Eli and cause a few turnovers. TAMPA BAY
TAMPA BAY vs. TENNESSEE- This game will be very defensive and may be as boring as they come. Both teams will try to punch it on the ground with 2-dimensional run defenses. But who will do better? Tennessee. They have a better run game and defense and will escape in this Superbowl. TENNESSEE WINS SUPERBOWL 44.
Up to this point in the season, there have been surprises and disappointments. Minnesota was a popular Superbowl favorite in the preseason but they haven’t gotten good special teams or QB play, which is why they are 3-4. Houston has struggled in their secondary and at QB, which is why they have one win in the AFC. Detroit and Cincinnati are the last two winless teams. Both teams will win one game and that’s it. Tennessee will lose its first game when they play Jacksonville again in Jacksonville since the Jaguars came close in week one but couldn’t pull it off.