2014 NFL Regular Season Standings
* - Wildcard berth Green Bay finishes ahead of New Orleans because of a head-to-head victory.
St. Louis finishes ahead of Chicago because of conference record.
New England finishes ahead of Denver because of a head-to-head victory.
San Diego finishes ahead of Baltimore because of a head-to-head victory.
6. St. Louis Rams (10-6) at 3. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
The Rams are a very tough team that will push for a postseason spot despite playing in the brutally difficult NFC West. Unfortunately, they don't appear to have the quarterback play to make a deep playoff run. The Saints are just too strong at home anyway.
Saints 27, Rams 16
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at 4. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
The Seahawks aren't nearly as good of a team on the road, but they're still the superior squad in this matchup. Having said that, I don't see Seattle going very deep into the playoffs. There are just too many distractions, and a post-Super Bowl hangover could definitely be in the works. The Eagles once again are only in the playoffs because their division is terrible, but they may pull off a victory this time.
Eagles 23, Seahawks 20
6. Baltimoe Ravens (9-7) at 3. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
Two years ago, the Ravens knocked the Colts out of the playoffs in the first round on their way to a Super Bowl victory. It's payback time for Andrew Luck. Baltimore isn't nearly as good on the road, and Luck, now in his third year, is ready to take the next step.
Colts 31, Ravens 16
5. San Diego Chargers (9-7) at 4. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
Philip Rivers led an upset victory over another AFC North team in the opening round of the playoffs this past January. Can he do it again? Sure. If Rivers is hot, he can beat anyone. However, he won't be battling the limited Andy Dalton this time. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a career year, so if he maintains his high level of play, he could lead Pittsburgh deep into the postseason.
Steelers 27, Chargers 24
2014 NFL Playoff Predictions - Divisional Round
4. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) at 1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
We've seen a handful of home underdogs pull off upsets over teams with better records in the first round of the playoffs recently. This includes Tim Tebow's Broncos over the Steelers, and the Marshawn Lynch-led Seahawks over the Saints in that earthquake game. You know what these teams have had in common? They've been absolutely obliterated in the following round. That's what will happen to the Eagles, who are no match for the 49ers.
49ers 38, Eagles 13
3. New Orleans Saints (12-4) at 2. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Interestingly enough, I had this second-round matchup printed in my 2013 playoff preview. Here's what I wrote: "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." I still stand by that, so my prediction will remain the same.
Packers 30, Saints 24
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) at 1. New England Patriots (13-3)
The Patriots have dominated the Steelers over the years, and there's no reason for that not to continue, especially given that New England has the superior squad. The Patriots are geared up for another Super Bowl run, so they'll be highly disappointed if they don't at least get to the AFC Championship.
Patriots 34, Steelers 23
3. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at 2. Denver Broncos (13-3)
I wrote earlier that Andrew Luck is ready to make the next step in Year 3. That most definitely is the case, but the same can't be said for his atrocious defense. Just as New England did this past January, Denver should be able to score at will against a horrific stop unit.
2. Green Bay Packers (12-4) at 1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
This has been a one-sided rivalry. The 49ers have absolutely owned the Packers. It's gotten so bad that Green Bay decided to change its defensive philosophy to stop San Francisco. Unfortunately, the Packers just haven't done enough quite yet. The 49ers are the best team in the NFL, so barring injuries, they're the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
49ers 27, Packers 20
2. Denver Broncos (13-3) at 1. New England Patriots (13-3)
"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."
I wrote that last year. These teams met in the AFC Championship, as predicted. What I got wrong though was it being a pleasure to watch. The Broncos dismantled New England. Manning was branded as a choke artist earlier in his career, but Brady has been the one who has gagged lately. Perhaps that will change, but Denver has the superior roster, so I'll give it the edge, even though this contest is in Foxboro.
Broncos 34, Patriots 30
2014 NFL Playoff Predictions - Super Bowl XLIX at Arizona
San Francisco 49ers (13-3) vs. Denver Broncos (13-3)
Last year's predicted matchup was the Seahawks-Broncos, with the NFC contestant winning, 24-21. The two teams actually did battle each other, but it was a complete one-sided affair, with Seattle coming out on top, 43-8.
It would be great to watch a more competitive Super Bowl. Unfortunately, this game won't be much better. While the Broncos have obtained a few upgrades this offseason, the 49ers hail from the superior conference and have the better talent. They're also just so much tougher. The Seahawks pushed Denver around in last year's "big game," and San Francisco figures to do the same.