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Super Bowl XLVI Predictions, Proclomations, Educated Guesses and Random Thoughts

Salsa Time

Victor Cruz will have a big game. The Patriots’ secondary is below average and Cruz should be able to take advantage of being defended by wide-receiver-turned-safety Julian Edelman. He will find the endzone at least once, and he will salsa. It will be awesome. The question is, will NBC pipe in salsa music again if Cruz starts dancing? Cruz is my dark-horse pick for Super Bowl MVP, I’m thinking 8 catches, 150 yards and 1 TD.

Homer Alert

Former Wisconsin Badger Travis Beckum will come up with a big grab for a first down. With the Pats devoting their attention to Cruz, Nicks, Mannigham and Ballard, Beckum (a very poor man’s Aaron Hernandez) will find himself open in a big situation. A side note: If the Giants win, Beckum will be the first Super Bowl champion I ever saw order a sandwich at 1 a.m. After the Badgers got their ass kicked by Penn State in 2008, I ran into Beckum at Charley’s Subs in Madison (Good food by the way, but now closed). I was surprised to find out he has a very high pitched voice.

Lame Joke Alert

It will probably in your best interest to avoid Twitter or lame friends at halftime, unless you want to read/hear hundreds of variations of “Madonna is old jokes.” On the contrary, I have no problem with jokes about Madonna’s frightening chiseled arms, or her odd, on-again-off-again British accent. Oh, and I’m sure we’ll all hear a lot of “Kelly Clarkson is fat jokes” during the National Anthem. Just tell those people to shut the fuck up. If you’re going to make fun of Clarkson, feel free to mention that she’s a Ron Paul supporter.

Don’t Doubt THE GRONK

Rob Gronkowski will play, and he’ll be perfectly fine. Have you seen THE GRONK? Have you heard THE GRONK speak? The guy is a freak. HE’S THE GRONK. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t feel pain. I think we saw a lot of gamesmanship from the Pats the last two weeks, but I’m sure the Giants have been game planning as if Gronkowski is 100 percent healthy.

And yes, I have a irrational love for THE GRONK. He led my fantasy to team to first place after I picked him on waivers for five bucks.

Peyton Fatigue

Between his brother starting for the Giants and the game taking place in the stadium he helped build, a player who took zero snaps for a 2-14 team will get a lot of attention during the big game. Expect NBC to show more than a few Peyton reaction shots, while Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth debate a couple different Peyton-centric topics, like: Eli vs Peyton, Brady vs Peyton, Luck vs Peyton, Irsay vs Peyton, and where does Peyton play, if at all, in 2012? Don’t be surprised if Peyton is accidentally named MVP of Super Bowl XLVI.

Sidenote on Jim Irsay. Seriously, that guy runs an NFL franchise worth over a billion dollars? Have you seen his tweets? Here’s an example:

@JimIrsay Some of u guys sending ur negative hate will only get love n return,but ur off base; Peyton and I are close n have great love for each other

Cn u blieve ths guy?

Super Bowl Drinking Game Words and Phrases Sure To Make You Ask Who Won On Monday Morning

Peyton Manning

Jim Irsay

Re-Match

Sprained Ankle

Salsa

David Tyree

Legacy

A Super Bowl MVP Surprise

Four of the last five Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks, but someone other than Eli Manning or Tom Brady will take home the award Sunday. I like Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks if the Giants win, Wes Welker or Aaron Hernandez if the Pats win. And my Dexter Jackson Special long shots are Corey Webster and Julian Edelman (he has a chance to make big plays on offense, defense and special teams).

Are We In For A Super Let Down?

It’s been nine years since the last Super Bowl blowout, when the Buccaneers beat the Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. Not only that, we’ve been treated to some all-time great Super Bowls recently (Pats over Panthers, Giants over Patriots, Steelers over Cardinals). It really seems like we’re due for a dud, doesn’t it? It looked like we were in for a blowout for awhile last year. The Packers took a 21-3 lead late the in the first half, but the Steelers were able to cut the deficit to three in the fourth quarter, and ended up getting the ball late in the fourth quarter, down by six, with a chance to march down the field for a game-winning touchdown. With all the hype over the re-match, and almost everyone believing we’re in for a close, tight game, it just seems like we’re being set up for a gigantic let down.

Ewww, There’s Politics In My Super Bowl

Since we’re in the middle of a heated election cycle, I highly doubt Al Michaels will be able to resist infusing some of his conservative politics into the broadcast. He has a history. I know things can get pretty busy prepping for the Super Bowl, so here’s an easy one Al:

After Eli Manning completes a pass to tight end Bear Pascoe, the seventh Giants player to haul in a pass: “Eli is spreading the wealth out there tonight, President Obama would be proud!”

Thanks Again, Jerry

Former Bear Mark Anderson will record at least two sacks of Eli Manning. Why will it happen? Just to piss off Bears fans.

Please, No Goats

There is really nothing worse than watching someone fail on the biggest stage. Alright, that’s not exactly true, I have no trouble watching Tom Brady, Tony Romo or LeBron James mess up in big moments. But I hope that no one becomes famous on Sunday for all the wrong reasons. I want another David Tyree, not another Kyle Williams.

Regression To The Mean

The Patriots defense has played very well in the playoffs, much better than they did in the regular season, when they ranked 31st in the NFL in total defense. But you have to consider who they played. In the golden age of the quarterback, the Patriots reached the Super Bowl by defeating Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco at home.

As we’ve heard over a hundred times the last two weeks, Eli Manning is now elite, and he’ll present a much tougher challenge. Behind Eli, Nicks, Cruz and Manningham, the Giants will be able put up points on the Patriots’ questionable secondary.

Deja Vu All Over Again

I’m picking the Giants to win, 31-28.

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Revisiting History: A Running Diary of Super Bowl XLII’s Fourth Quarter

The greatest play in Super Bowl history?

With a re-match looming this Super Sunday, NFL Network showed a replay of Super Bowl XLII Monday night. It was one of my favorite Super Bowls, I have good memories of watching the game in my freshman year dorm at UW-Madison. The story lines were great: The Patriots going for the first 19-0 season in NFL History, Tom Brady going for his fourth ring. I love upsets, and have always disliked the Belichick era Patriots. So really, it doesn’t get better than Super Bowl XLII (Well, I guess my Bears could have been the ones to pull off the monster upset).

I thought I’d offer some observations and recap one of the most exciting fourth quarters in Super Bowl history. The Patriots led 7-3 entering the final quarter.

15:00 – One of the greatest fourth quarters in NFL history started off with one of football’s most boring plays, a punt into the end zone for a touchback. The punt returner for the 2007 Giants? None other than former Bears great player R.W. McQuarters.

14:52 – After coming back from commercial, FOX panned to some of the celebrities in attendance at the big game: LL Cool J, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Jordin Sparks, Peyton Manning and Frank Caliendo. In regards to the last “celebrity” shown, Joe Buck said he “has the ability to freak out his kids every morning by waking them up with a different voice.” Not true, even Frank Caliendo’s kids don’t think their dad has any talent.

The Giants entered the fourth quarter having not scored since their first drive of the game. On the team’s first offensive snap of the fourth quarter, Eli Manning hit Kevin Boss for a 45 yard gain. Boss ran past Adalius Thomas and Rodney Harrison for the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl XLII.

11:05 – Five plays later, Manning connected with David Tyree for the Giants’ first touchdown of the game and New York took a 10-7 lead. Asante Samuel was late getting over to cover Tyree, and Manning slipped a pass into the hands of Tyree. It would not be the last time Samuel failed to make a play, nor would be the only time Tyree came up huge. Buck noted that the catch was Tyree’s first touchdown grab of the season, calling it “the biggest catch of his life.” Well, for about half an hour.

10-7 Giants

10:26 – After Wes Welker picks up a first down, FOX showed Bill Belichick, wearing a bright red hoodie, on the sideline. He definitely looks better in his signature hand-cut, short-sleeve gray hoodie.

9:30 – The Patriots were unable to immediately respond to the Giants touchdown. As was the story throughout the game, the Giants defensive line got great pressure on Tom Brady. Osi Umenyiora forced Brady into rushing a pass to a covered Welker on 3rd and 7, and the Pats were forced to punt after earning just one first down on the drive.

9:20 – The Giants got the ball at their own 20-yard-line up by three with 9:20 left in the fourth quarter. Obviously, New York had two goals, extend their lead and eat up as much clock as possible. However, neither happened for the G-Men.

8:32 – Eli Manning escaped pressure from Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork, rolled left and overthrew a wide-open Plaxico Burress. It looked as if Burress slowed down while Manning expected the receiver to keep running. A completion would have gone for at least 25 yards, and maybe even a touchdown, as Troy Aikman hypothesized.

8:03 – Jeff Feagles punted it back to the Patriots. The Giants didn’t pick up a first down, and the drive lasted just 1:25.

5:27- After Brady hit Kevin Faulk for a four yard gain on first down, the FOX cameras panned to an obviously gassed Umenyiora on the sidelines. The Giants d-line had put forth an outstanding effort all game, but fatigue was understandably catching up with them. And it showed on the field, for the first time since the first quarter, Brady and the Pats marched down the field with ease.

5:01 – In the midst of a classic Tom Brady touchdown drive, Welker caught his 11th pass of the game, tying the record for most catches in the Super Bowl. It would be his last grab of the game.

2:42 – On third and goal from the 7-yard-line, Brady hit a wide open Randy Moss in the end zone. Corey Webster, who otherwise had a great game, fell down on his one-on-one coverage of Moss. Brady completed 8 of his 11 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown on the drive.

14-10 Patriots

2:39 – “Here comes Eli Manning, trying to answer Tom Brady.” – Joe Buck

2:09 – Eli threw a dangerous pass into double coverage to Burress that landed incomplete. It was the first in a series of ill advised passes Manning would make on his now famous fourth quarter drive.

2:04 – On the very next play, Manning threw a floater off his back foot into double coverage that was nearly picked off by Rodney Harrison. The replay zoomed in on Harrison, who was obviously pissed, knowing he was so close to all but sealing a perfect season for the Pats.

1:34 – On 4th and 1, Brandon Jacobs barely managed to get the first down, lunging to the New York 39-yard-line on his final effort.

1:28 – Manning just avoided getting stripped by Adalius Thomas after fleeing the pocket for a five yard run.

1:20 – This should have been the play that sealed a Patriots’ Super Bowl victory. Manning threw a pass, seemingly right into the hands of Samuel. Manning was angry, perhaps David Tyree, seconds away from Super Bowl immortality, ran the wrong route. After the play, Samuel put his hands on his head and screamed. The Lombardi Trophy slipped off his finger tips.

1:15 -“Pressue from Thomas off the edge. Eli Manning stays on his feet. Airs it out down the field. It is caught by Tyree.” – Joe Buck

Sigh, if only Gus Johnson had called Super Bowl XLII…

Manning somehow escaped from the pocket. Thomas, Seymour and Jarvis Green all got their hands on Manning, with Green getting a hold of Manning’s jersey. Referee Mike Carey has said that he was maybe a second away from calling the play dead, saying Manning’s forward progress was stopped. Out of the pocket, Manning threw a pass into the middle of the defense. Four Patriots defenders were around Tyree, with Rodney Harrison being the closest, breathing down Tyree’s neck. Tyree and Harrison both leaped for the ball, and somehow, someway, Tyree secured the ball between his hands and helmet. As Tyree and Harrison fell to the ground, the ball remained glued to Tyree’s helmet, and miraculously, stayed mere inches off the turf. It was a completion for 32 yards, perhaps the greatest completion in NFL history. Again, luck was on Manning’s side. He should have been sacked. He should have been picked off. But he wasn’t, it was just Eli’s day.

0:51 – Again, Eli got away with a risky throw. Manning threw another pass into double coverage. Notorious head-hunter and current Bears scrub Brandon Merriweather attempted to make a Willie Mays style catch. It went off his finger tips into the hands of Tryee, who almost made another impossible catch.

0:45 – On 3rd and 11, Manning completed a pass to Steve Smith for a first down. Smith caught the ball a couple yards short of the marker, but scampered along the sideline for the first down.

0:39 – “Manning lobs it. Burress alone. Touchdown New York!”

Burress burned Ellis Hobbs on a slant and go route, and Manning found him wide open in the end zone for the go ahead touchdown. FOX cut to Peyton Manning, who was clapping hard and screaming, showing more emotion than he ever did on a football field. Eli’s stats on the game-winning drive: 9-14, 152 yards, 2 touchdowns and all the luck in the world.

17-14 Giants

0:29 – The Patriots got the ball back at their own 21-yard line with all three of their timeouts remaining, needing just a field goal to tie. Brady had led drives that set up last second field goals in Super Bowls 36 and 38. Could he do it again?

0:25 – On second and 10, Jay Alford charged through the middle of the Patriots offensive line and sacked Brady for a ten yard loss. If any one play captured the story of Super Bowl XLII, this was it. The Giants won the game because they harassed Brady like no team had ever done.

0:19 – Brady threw a pass about 75 yards down the field that went off the finger tips of Webster and Moss. It was a brilliant throw that was just inches away from being legendary.

0:10 – Brady threw another incomplete pass towards Moss on 4th and 20. The Giants got the ball.  The Patriots are 18-1.

0:01 – The sidelines emptied, Coughlin got the ceremonial water bath, and the coaches met at midfield. However, there was still one second left on the clock. Everybody had to be cleared from the field and the Giants had to run one last play. It seemed pretty cruel to make the Patriots take the field for one last pointless play. Belichick and some Patriot players were already off the field before the clock read all zeroes.

Game Over – Giants 17 Patriots 14

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One More Miracle?: Saturday’s Divisional Round Playoff Picks

Saints (-3.5) vs 49ers

The second round of the playoffs kick off with what will probably be the most competitive game of the weekend. The Saints, who have never won a playoff game in an opposing team’s stadium, will most likely have to win two such games to reach the Super Bowl.

A lot of people seem to be already penciling the Saints in to the NFC title game, but this will not be an easy game. New Orleans doesn’t play as well on the road and their defense is average to below average.  The Niners boast one of the leagues’ best defenses, they’re one of the healthiest playoff teams in recent memory, and they have the luxury of home field advantage.

I still think the Saints will win, but it won’t be easy, and I will not be shocked if the 49ers pull off the upset.

Unsung Hero: Robert Meacham, NO; The Niners defense has been great in 2011, but they have been susceptible to the big play. Meacham and Devery Henderson should be able to slip by the Niners’ secondary for a big play or two.

Pick: Saints 24 49ers 22

Patriots (-13.5) vs Broncos

For the Broncos to win this game, everything will have to break their way. They’ll have to get constant pressure on Tom Brady and force him into a few turnovers. Tim Tebow will have to play a perfect game, and the Denver running game will have to consistently move the chains and eat up clock.

It won’t be easy, but the way things have gone for the Broncos this season, nothing is out of the question.

Still, I think this is the end of the road for Broncos and their folk hero. In his first career road playoff start, Tebow won’t be able to keep up the scoring pace with Brady, Gronk, Welker and the rest of the Pats offense.

But really, who knows, it’s Tebow.

Unsung Hero: Patrick Chung, NE; The Pats can’t let Tebow come up with big plays, and they should be able to force him into a few turnovers. Watch for Chung to make some noise with a forced turnover or two.  Chung, one of the best players on the Patriots’ below average defense, missed most of the season’s second half, including the first meeting with the Broncos.

Pick: Patriots 38 Broncos 14

 

 

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Revisiting My NFL Predictions and Revised Playoff Picks: Part Three, Super Bowl XLVI and Awards

SUPER BOWL XLVI

Preseason Pick:

Packers over Ravens

Revised Prediction:

Packers 31 Ravens 20

I’m not going to change a thing. I think the Packers ride home field advantage to another Super Bowl, where Aaron Rodgers wins the game’s MVP again as the Packers win back-to-back Super Bowls for the second time in their history.

POSTSEASON AWARD PICKS (Preseason picks in italics):

NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers, GB – 4,643 yards, 44 TDs, 6 INTs, 68.3 comp %

Preseason Pick: Aaron Rodgers, GB

You really can’t go wrong picking Rodgers or Drew Brees as the league’s MVP. They both had outstanding seasons, two of the best season-long performances in NFL history. You really have to nit pick to choose one over the other. In the end, I went with Rodgers because he threw less interceptions and won two more games, including the head-to-head match-up between the two quarterbacks way back on the season’s opening Thursday. Rodgers’ 44-6 TD-to-INT ratio was just out of this world good.

Honorable Mentions: Drew Brees, NO; Tom Brady, NE

Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees, NO – 5,476 yards, 46 TDs, 14 INTs 71.2 comp %

Preseason Pick: Rodgers

I hedged my bets by picking Brees as the offensive player of the year. Brees put up tremendous numbers, breaking Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season and his own record for completion percentage.

Honorable Mentions: Rodgers; Brady, NE; Calvin Johnson, DET; Matthew Stafford, DET; Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX; Rob Gronkowski, NE; Jimmy Graham, NO

That would be T-Sizzle, from Ball Hard University of course…

Defensive Player of the Year: Terrell Suggs, BAL – 70 tackles, 14 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 2 INTs

Another tough call here. I ended up going with Suggs because his numbers, 14 sacks and 7 forced fumbles, were too great to ignore. T-Sizzle made big play after big play this season, helping the Ravens to 12-4 record and AFC North division crown. 49ers’ lineman Justin Smith was also phenomenal this season, and was a big reason why the Niners had so much success his season. He would also be a deserving winner of this award.

Preseason Pick: Ndamukong Suh, DET

Honorable Mentions: Justin Smith, SF; Jared Allen, MIN; Jason Pierre-Paul, NYG; DeMarcus Ware, DAL; Darrelle Revis, NYJ; Jonathan Joseph, HOU

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Cam Newton, CAR – 4051 passing yards, 21 TDs, 706 rushing yards, 14 TDs

Preseason Pick: Mark Ingram, NO

This was a no-brainer. Newton had one of the best rookie seasons of all time. Newton has out of this world talent. I’m not sure there has ever been a quarterback with as much potential as Newton.

Honorable Mentions: A.J. Green, CIN; Julio Jones, ATL; Andy Dalton, CIN; DeMarco Murray, DAL

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Von Miller, DEN-  64 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Preseason Pick: J.J. Watt, HOU

Another really tough call here, this time between Miler and 49ers’ linebacker Aldon Smith. In the end, I went with Miller because he was the best player on a playoff team (be it as it may, an 8-8 playoff team). Tebow gets all the pub, but Von Miller was outstanding this season. Without Miller, the Broncos are likely out of the playoffs.

Honorable Mentions: Smith, SF; Watt, HOU

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Revisiting My NFL Predictions and Revised Playoff Picks: Part Two, NFC

Preseason Playoff Picks:

WILD CARD ROUND:

Falcons over Rams

Eagles over Bucs

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

Packers over Falcons

Saints over Eagles

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

Packers over Saints

I didn’t do as well with my NFC picks, I picked five of the eight playoff teams correctly. Picking the Bucs to earn a wild card slot really damages my limited credibility. I knew a big reason they won 10 games in 2010 was their incredibly easy schedule. But still, I saw a very talented roster led by quarterback Josh Freeman that I assumed would only get better with another year of experience. However, when the Buccaneer ship started to sink, that team flat out quit. I’m pretty sure the Colts would have beat them by four or five touchdowns if they had played in week 17. Raheem Morris deserved to lose his job, a coach just can’t let things get that ugly, that quick. A quick aside, there are rumors that the Bucs are looking at former Packers and Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman to replace Morris. Meh, that would be an uninspiring hire.

Actually, I’m not sure, picking the Rams to win the NFC West might be more embarrassing. Again, I saw a young team that barely missed out on the playoffs (albeit with a losing record), led by a young, talented quarterback, that should have only gotten better with a year’s experience. Alas, Sam Bradford couldn’t stay healthy and the Rams never got on track. I also didn’t expect the NFC West to feature one of the best teams in the NFL in 2011. The Jim Harbaugh-led 49ers were great from start to finish, and the Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks never had a chance.

I don’t regret my Eagles pick. The Eagles brought in a ton of new talent this season that didn’t really mesh until it was too late. That’s not all too surprising, considering the lockout washed out the offseason. Philly is expected to fire offensive line coach turned defensive coordinator (great idea, right?) Juan Castillo and replace him with Steve Spagnoulo, former Rams head coach and defensive coordinator of the 2007 Super Bowl champion Giants. If they draft or sign a legit linebacker or two, watch out for the Eagles in 2012.

Revised Playoff Picks:

WILD CARD ROUND:

Falcons over Giants

Saints over Lions

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

Packers over Giants

Saints over 49ers

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

Packers over Saints

As with my AFC picks, I’m sticking with my preseason conference championship pick, Packers over Saints. The Saints have looked sensational lately, they’ve been playing as well as any team in the NFL since their baffling loss to the Rams in week eight. While the Packers have cruised to a outstanding 15-1 record, one can argue that they have never looked as dominant as the Saints have since the team’s bye in week 11. The Saints have not just been beating fellow NFC playoff teams, they’ve been embarrassing them. They’ve beaten the Giants by 25, the Lions by 14 and the Falcons by 29.

However, all three of those games came at the Super Dome. If the Saints are to make it to Indianapolis, they’ll most likely have to win two road games, in San Francisco and Green Bay (Well, not if the Giants or Falcons knock off the Packers, but we’ll get to that later…).

I think a Saints/49ers match-up would be close and entertaining, but I like the Saints to win. The Niners defense, led by All-Pro lineman Justin Smith and linebackers Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, has been superb this season, but San Fran just won’t have the offense to keep pace with Drew Brees and company.

If the Saints end up playing the Packers in the conference championship game, I like the Packers to ride their home field advantage to a victory. I tend not to believe that home field advantage plays a huge role in determining a winner, but I believe it does in this circumstance. The Saints are so dominant in the Super Dome, and their offense is best in an indoor, controlled atmosphere. While the Packers’ offense is best in dome conditions, I think the Saints would be two or three point favorites in a home game against the Packers. But, Lambeau is Lambeau. The frozen tundra, where the Packers have just lost two playoff games in its history (2003 to the Falcons and 2008 to the Giants).

The Packers/Saints game in week one was sensational, and I believe a re-match will be as well. I like the Packers in a tight game, just like week one. I just can’t see the Saints defeating the Packers at Lambeau in January. I would love to be proved wrong.

On the other hand, I would not be shocked to see the Packers lose in the divisional round against the Giants, or even the Falcons. I think the Giants especially pose dangerous match-up problems for the Packers.

To beat Green Bay, you must be able to generate an effective pass rush with your front four. You can’t afford to sacrifice coverage by constantly blitzing linebackers and safeties against Aaron Rodgers. With Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants definitely have the ability to do that. Throw in the fact that the Packers enter the playoffs with an injury-riddled offensive line, Rodgers could face a lot of pressure in a potential match-up with the Giants.

The Giants offense should also put some fear into the Packers’ faithful. The Packers’ defense gave up the most passing yards in the history of the NFL this season. Eli Manning has entered the elite level of quarterbacks and, if they’re all healthy, Manning will be working with one of the best recruiting corps in the NFL (Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham).

The Packers have also had trouble stopping the run, and just stopping offenses in general, as they forced the least amount of punts of any team this season. The Giants haven’t run a ton this season, but with a solid O-line, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants should have the ability to hold the ball and control the pace of the game.

All that said, I still believe the Packers will get to Super Bowl XLVI. Do I think they’ll defend their championship belt in Indy? I’ll post my Super Bowl and award picks soon.

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Revisiting My NFL Predictions and Revised Playoff Picks: Part One, AFC

Now that the NFL regular season is over, I thought I’d revisit the playoff and award predictions I made before week one, and see how silly they look now. This ended up being longer than I thought, so I’m going to break it up into three parts, 1. AFC 2. NFC 3. Super Bowl and Awards. (Previous picks are in italics.)

Preseason Picks:

WILD CARD ROUND:

Jets over Chargers

Ravens over Texans

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

Patriots over Jets

Ravens over Steelers

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

Ravens over Patriots

I’m pretty happy with these picks. I got six of the eight AFC playoff teams right, missing on the two biggest surprises, the Bengals and the Broncos.

I actually had the Bengals going 2-14 to secure the coveted first pick in the NFL Draft. In my alternate prediction world, the Bengals would have picked Andrew Luck to be their franchise QB. As it turns out, they drafted their franchise quarterback in 2011. I had no idea Andy Dalton would be this good this quickly, even though I saw him carve up my Badgers in person during the 2011 Rose Bowl. The Bengals were paper tigers this season though, going 0-7 against playoff teams. They beat one team over .500, the 9-7 Titans.

I had the Broncos 5-11, and they were a few Tebow miracles and Marion Barber acts of stupidity from actually finishing with that record. Tebow gets all the pub, but linebacker Von Miller was the true revelation this season in Denver. He’ll be stud for years to come.

Revised Playoff Picks:

WILD CARD ROUND:

Steelers over Broncos

Texans over Bengals

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

Patriots over Steelers

Ravens over Texans

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

Ravens over Patriots

Even after 17 weeks of action, I still don’t really know what to make of the AFC, so I didn’t make many changes to my preseason picks. Thanks to some huge flaws (i.e. the Patriots’ defense) or major injuries (i.e. Matt Schaub and Mario Williams), every team is vulnerable.

The Steelers probably have too many injuries to too many important players. I’m not really including Rashard Mendenhall, I don’t think Isaac Redman is a significant downgrade, Mendenhall is overrated. Big Ben and LaMarr Woodley are nursing injuries, and Ryan Clark will miss the game in Denver due to a blood disorder.

The Texans have just been decimated by injuries. Schaub and Mario Williams are out for the season, and Andre Johnson’s health status is still uncertain. I just can’t see a team quarterbacked by T.J. Yates or Jake Delhomme going very far in the playoffs, even if they do have my man J.J. Watt anchoring the defensive line. If the Texans had the services of Schaub, Williams and Johnson, I would have loved their chances to make the Super Bowl this season. It’s really a shame, but kudos to the franchise for making the playoffs for the first time in its history.

The Patriots’ defense is just awful, there’s just no way around it. As great as Tom Brady and the Pats offense is, I just have a hard time seeing New England making it through the AFC without being betrayed by its porous defense.

I’ll stick with my pick as the Baltimore Ravens as AFC Champions, even if I still have many doubts about Joe Flacco and the rest of the Baltimore offense. Flacco showed me a lot in the Ravens’ comeback win at Heinz Field this year, but its still really hard for me to trust Flacco. My pick of the Ravens has a hell of lot more to do with Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarrett Johnson, Lardarius Webb and the rest of the Ravens defense.

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2011 NFL Predictions

AFC EAST

1. New England Patriots 14-2

2. New York Jets 11-5 (WC)

3. Buffalo Bills 4-12

4. Miami Dolphins 3-13

AFC NORTH

1. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4

2. Baltimore Ravens 12-4 (WC)

3. Cleveland Browns 5-11

4. Cincinnati Bengals 2-14

AFC SOUTH

1. Houston Texans 10-6

2. Tennessee Titans 9-7

3. Indianapolis Colts 8-8

4. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13

AFC WEST

1. San Diego Chargers 11-5

2. Oakland Raiders 7-9

3. Kansas City Chiefs 6-10

4. Denver Broncos 5-11

NFC EAST

1. Philadelphia Eagles 12-4

2. Dallas Cowboys 9-7

3. New York Giants 7-9

4. Washington Redskins 5-11

NFC NORTH

1. Green Bay Packers 14-2

2. Detroit Lions 8-8

3. Chicago Bears 6-10

4. Minnesota Vikings 6-10

NFC SOUTH

1. New Orleans Saints 12-4

2. Atlanta Falcons 11-5 (WC)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6 (WC)

4. Carolina Panthers 2-14

NFC WEST

1. St. Louis Rams 8-8

2. San Francisco 49ers 8-8

3. Arizona Cardinals 7-9

4. Seattle Seahawks 4-12

AFC PLAYOFFS

WILD CARD ROUND:

Jets over Chargers

Ravens over Texans

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

Patriots over Jets

Ravens over Steelers

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

Ravens over Patriots

NFC PLAYOFFS

WILD CARD ROUND:

Falcons over Rams

Eagles over Bucs

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

Packers over Falcons

Saints over Eagles

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

Packers over Saints

SUPER BOWL XLVI

Packers over Ravens

The title belt will stay in Green Bay.

Other Predictions:

NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers, GB

Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, GB

Defensive Player of the Year: Ndamukong Suh, DET

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Mark Ingram, NO

Defensive Rookie of the Year: J.J. Watt, HOU (Total homer pick)

Andrew Luck Sweepstakes Winner: Bengals (Panthers might get the #1 pick, but they picked Cam Newton last year…)

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