2013 NFL Regular Season Standings
* - Wildcard berth Cincinnati finishes ahead of Baltimore because of conference victory.
Houston finishes ahead of Indianapolis because of common opponents.
Baltimore and Cincinnati finish ahead of Indianapolis and Houston because of strength of victory.
6. Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at 3. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
The Saints own the Falcons. They're 11-3 against them since the Superdome re-opened in 2006. Many will expect Atlanta to win the NFC South and challenge for the Super Bowl, but the team has lost so many important players this offseason. New Orleans, meanwhile, has its head coach back, so it will once again contend for the Lombardi Trophy. The Saints will begin by knocking off their divisional rival.
Saints 31, Falcons 27
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at 4. New York Giants (10-6)
The Seahawks are a hell of a No. 5 seed. They're the top team in this Web site's NFL Power Rankings, but are going just 11-5 because of a brutal schedule that includes a ridiculous five games at 1 p.m. This contest, however, is expected to be a late game because A) a New York team is involved and B) Seattle's the only West Coast team playing in the divisional round. The Seahawks can't win early because of Circadian rhythms, but they've proven that they can win on the road in games that start at 4 p.m. or later. More on this later.
Seahawks 27, Giants 20
6. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at 3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
The Bengals finally get a home playoff game, so will things be different this time for Andy Dalton and company? Probably not. Dalton is a smart quarterback who is very capable of beating up on inferior competition, but he's limited physically, which is why he'll have trouble winning in the playoffs unless his team is substantially better than the opposition.
Cincinnati is not substantially better than Indianapolis. Many expect the Colts to decline this year, but Andrew Luck is a special player who will likely lead his team to the postseason again. This time, he won't have to go through a buzz saw in his first game.
Colts 24, Bengals 23
5. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at 4. Houston Texans (11-5)
The Texans have been able to win their first playoff game two years in a row. That was against Cincinnati, however, so will a matchup against Baltimore be any different? Most would say yes, but keep in mind that Houston absolutely demolished Baltimore in a 2012 battle. The season before, the Texans nearly took down the Ravens in a road playoff game despite starting T.J. Yates. What if Houston's coaching staff simply has Baltimore's number?
Texans 20, Ravens 13
2013 NFL Playoff Predictions - Divisional Round
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at 1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
Everyone will say that the Seahawks can't possibly win this game because it's on the road, but as noted before, they have been victorious in contests that have not begun at 1 p.m. on the East Coast. They won in Carolina on Week 5 last year and actually were triumphant in three of their final four road battles of the season. They beat a solid Chicago squad in overtime and then took down the Redskins in the playoffs, and then were a Matt Bryant field goal away from upsetting the Falcons in the divisional round.
Having said that, this was a tough game to decide. The Seahawks are better than the 49ers, especially with Michael Crabtree out, so they get the edge here - even if they're on the road.
Seahawks 27, 49ers 24
3. New Orleans Saints (11-5) at 2. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
The Seahawks and Saints both have specific troubles on the road. Seattle's early-start problem rivals New Orleans' issue outdoors. Unfortunately for the Saints, they can't avoid that in this scenario.
New Orleans went to the Super Bowl after the 2009 season, but did so playing all indoor games. It's doubtful that a warm-weather squad can march into Lambeau and beat Aaron Rodgers.
Packers 30, Saints 17
6. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at 1. Denver Broncos (13-3)
It's the matchup everyone wants to see: Indianapolis' new quarterback versus Indianapolis' old quarterback. The ESPN coverage of this contest will be nauseating. "Can the rookie defeat the master?" will appear on the TV a billion times leading up to this week. Unfortunately, the game won't live up to the hype.
Andrew Luck will likely lead the Colts back into the playoffs, but he doesn't have the supporting cast to go deep into the postseason just yet. Peyton Manning's squad is just so much better. Manning will be able to make amends for last year's second-round defeat to Baltimore by beating the old Baltimore team.
Broncos 41, Colts 24
4. Houston Texans (11-5) at 2. New England Patriots (12-4)
It's unclear if the Texans do, in fact, own the Ravens. It's known, however, that the Patriots own Houston. New England is just in the heads of the Texan players and coaches. Blowout.
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at 2. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
The Saints couldn't win in Lambeau, but the Seahawks certainly can. If Seattle can triumph at Soldier Field and come inches away from slaying the Falcons in a raucous Georgia Dome, it can certainly defeat the Packers on the road. Again, the Seahawks are the top team in the NFL. They have a tremendous running game, several play-makers, a dominant defense, and most importantly, a great quarterback who knows how to win. The Packers have that with Aaron Rodgers, but his supporting cast isn't nearly as good.
Seahawks 26, Packers 24
2. New England Patriots (12-4) at 1. Denver Broncos (13-3)
This is the other game everyone wants to see. Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady. Their matchups have always been classics. This could be the final time they ever meet in the playoffs, so it'll be a pleasure to watch.
Brady owned Manning in the early stages of the previous decade, but Manning eventually took over following New England's third Super Bowl victory. Does that mean Manning will win again? Well, it would've been a tougher decision for me prior to this summer's events, but the Aaron Hernandez debacle makes it unlikely that New England will reach the Super Bowl. I still think Bill Belichick and Brady will get the Patriots into the playoffs, but winning multiple games with everything going on will be a hell of a challenge.
Broncos 34, Patriots 30
2013 NFL Playoff Predictions - Super Bowl XLVIII at New York
Seattle Seahawks (11-5) vs. Denver Broncos (13-3)
The first cold-weather Super Bowl! Should be a blast. All should pray for blizzard-like conditions, featuring heavy snowfall and 50-mph winds that won't allow the players or viewers to even see where any of the lines are. A 7-0 result, or something of that nature, would make Roger Goodell look incredibly stupid, which should make everyone very happy.
If the conditions allow for a real game, it should be a great one. The Seahawks are the better team, as I hinted at earlier. They also don't have to worry about any cross-country implications because the Broncos are essentially facing the same dilemma. This also sounds a bit crazy, but I trust Russell Wilson more in a bigger moment than Peyton Manning.