2010 NFL Regular Season Standings
* - Wildcard berth Top NFC Seeds are Packers (1), Cowboys (2) and Saints (3) based on strength of victory tie-breaker.
Ravens No. 2 seed; Chargers No. 3 seed based on conference record.
Jets over Dolphins in AFC East based on conference record.
Dolphins No. 5 seed; Texans No. 6 seed based on wins versus common opponents (Jets, Titans, Raiders, Ravens).
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at 3. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
The Saints beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship. I have the same thing happening in the 2010 season opener. Hell, even in my 2009 NFL Season Preview, I had New Orleans defeating Minnesota in a playoff meeting (albeit in the first round). The Saints clearly own this rivalry, at least in the Superdome. They're just so tough to beat at home with all of their crazy fans and the insane crowd noise.
Saints 27, Vikings 24
5. Atlanta Falcons (11-5) at 4. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
I can already see it: The Falcons are -3 over the 49ers despite being the lower seed and the road team. The public is betting the hell out of Atlanta. "How are the 49ers going to beat the Falcons?" clueless ESPN analysts will ask. "San Francisco stinks! They're only in the playoffs because the NFC West sucks!" most casual football fans will exclaim.
But not me. San Francisco has been waiting for a playoff game since 2002. The rabid fans will be going nuts. Plus, the 49ers have the better defense.
This will be my January NFL Pick of the Month - and I'll be eight units richer by the time this game is over.
49ers 20, Falcons 13
6. Houston Texans (10-6) at 3. San Diego Chargers (12-4)
A quick checklist: Is the choking kicker still on the team? Check. Is the overmatched head coach still pacing the sidelines? Check. Is the defense still soft? Check.
The Chargers have a phenomenal, Super Bowl-worthy offense, but you just can't trust Norv Turner or Nate Kaeding in a playoff game - especially one that they're supposed to win.
Texans 31, Chargers 24
5. Miami Dolphins (11-5) at 4. New York Jets (11-5)
The Jets are at home. Their quarterback has more playoff experience than Miami's. Their defense is better.
That's all great. I'm picking the Dolphins.
New York's an awesome team capable of winning the Super Bowl, but I don't like Mark Sanchez being in a situation where he's expected to win at this stage of his career. It's one thing to go on the road with absolutely no pressure, but this would be the first time Sanchez is expected to come away with a victory in a huge game. Whether or not he succeeds in this situation depends on how much he evolves as an NFL quarterback in his second season.
Dolphins 16, Jets 10
2010 NFL Playoff Predictions - Divisional Round
4. San Francisco 49ers (9-7) at 1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
The 49ers are a great story and Mike Singletary is awesome, but this is the end of the line for them. Alex Smith just isn't good enough to go into a hostile environment like Green Bay and come away with a playoff victory. It's a shame too because San Francisco has a Super Bowl-type roster if the quarterback position is ignored.
Packers 34, 49ers 17
3. New Orleans Saints (12-4) at 2. Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
The Saints have a very talented roster, but there are two problems:
First, they're a different team on the road because they don't have their rabid fans making things hectic for the opposing quarterback. And second, like all Super Bowl winners, there might be some complacency following last year's championship.
I had New Orleans going to the Super Bowl in my 2009 NFL Season Preview. They could certainly make a repeat trip in 2010, but things will be much more difficult this year.
Cowboys 30, Saints 27
6. Houston Texans (10-6) at 1. Indianapolis Colts (13-3)
There's always at least one upset in the divisional round of the playoffs, so this is the one I'm projecting.
The Texans had the Colts on the ropes twice in 2009. With a sound rushing attack, maybe they'll actually be able to hold on to their late-game leads against Indianapolis. Call it a hunch, but I really think Houston gets over the hump in 2010.
Texans 24, Colts 23
5. Miami Dolphins (11-5) at 2. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
This is a rematch of a Week 9 battle in which I have Baltimore winning, 27-24.
Lots of thought and analysis was put into the three seconds it took me to determine that outcome and score, so I think it would be smart to use that as a reference point for this prediction.
In all seriousness, I really like the Ravens this year. Had Joe Flacco not suffered multiple leg injuries last season, Baltimore could have advanced all the way to the Super Bowl. Plus, Cam Cameron owns his former team.
2. Dallas Cowboys (12-4) at 1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
I'd love to give you detailed analysis of this highly anticipated NFC Championship. However, the following post-game interaction between Wade Phillips and the press is a better indicator as to why Green Bay will win this contest.
Reporter: "Why did you punt on 4th-and-4 at midfield with 2:10 remaining, down four points and only one timeout remaining?"
**Wade Phillips looks confused.**
Wade Phillips: "What?"
Reporter: "You punted when you were down with barely any time and only one timeout in reserve."
Wade Phillips: "That's not true..."
**Wade Phillips looks even more confused.**
Reporter: "It's not true?"
Wade Phillips: "Sometimes you get the ball back..."
**Wade Phillips looks unbelievably confused.**
Good lord, why does this guy still have a head-coaching job?
Packers 31, Cowboys 27
6. Houston Texans (10-6) at 2. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
The Texans have an awesome team capable of going the distance, but can they win a big game in a frigid, hostile environment? Maybe.
The greater concern is that the Texans tend to have major problems against these defensive powerhouse 3-4 teams. In three meetings against the Steelers, Jets and Ravens the past two years, Houston has lost by a combined score of 103-37.
Ravens 27, Texans 17
2010 NFL Playoff Predictions - Super Bowl XLIV at Dallas
Green Bay Packers (12-4) vs. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
This would be a great Super Bowl - Both teams have outstanding quarterbacks with tons of playmakers at their disposal. Both squads also have terrific defenses. The line would probably be Packers -4, and if so, I'd have immense difficulty picking a side.
I really can't get the 2009 meeting out of my mind. I know it was at Green Bay and Joe Flacco was hurt at the time, but the Packers whacked the Ravens, 27-14. The score could definitely be reserved this time, but it could just be that Green Bay has something on Baltimore's coaching staff, much like Sean Payton always beats Andy Reid, and hard work always beats Jack Del Rio.
This is a very close call, but I'm taking the Packers because of Aaron Rodgers. Detractors will say that he's 0-8 in games decided by four points or fewer, but seven of those losses were in 2008. His only defeat in this manner last season was against Pittsburgh. Was it his fault that Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown strike with a few seconds remaining on the clock? Rodgers was 26-of-48 for 383 yards and three touchdowns in that contest.
I'm taking Baltimore to cover, but Green Bay to win. The good news for Ravens fans is that the team I picked to lose the Super Bowl last year actually won the whole thing. So be happy that I went against you.