NFL Playoff Predictions
By: Wyatt Kmoch
DENVER BRONCOS– (12-4) 1 seed, Home Field Advantage, First Round Bye, AFC West
With Peyton Manning back, the Broncos are entering the playoffs coming off of a strong 27-20 comeback win over San Diego. The Broncos are now playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. Denver has skilled running backs with Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson in the backfield, along with Aqib Talib, one of the best cornerbacks in the league with two pick sixes. Denver has a balanced offense with 13 rushing touchdowns this year, along with 19 receiving touchdowns.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS– (12-4) 2 seed, First Round Bye, Won AFC East
The Patriots have a strong offense, though they struggled to end the season with a 20-10 loss to Miami. But two weeks since then, they have had time to recover. New England is arguably the best team in the NFL, after winning the Super Bowl last year. Their strong offense and defense pushes teams to the limit. Quarterback Tom Brady had only thrown for 134 yds, but their defense is strong. The Pats are 5-2 at home this season, only falling to the Eagles and Jets.They could do well in this weekend’s next home game vs the Chiefs.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS– (11-5) 5 seed, Wild Card, def. Houston 30-0 last week
Kansas City is on fire, with a 10-game winning streak to end the season, including last weekend’s 30-0 wild-card-round win against JJ Watt and Houston. Kansas City is strong all around, but their defense is what holds them up. With Justin Houston and Eric Berry, teams struggle throwing against them, which is what Brady and New England love to do. But back on offense, WR Jeremy Maclin and TE Travis Kelce have clicked this season, which might be strong enough to take down the Pats.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS– (10-6) 6 seed, Wild Card; def. Cincinnati 18-16 last week
With the fastest starting four wide receivers in the game, the Steelers are a major threat downfield. After losing Le’veon Bell halfway through the season, and DeAngelo Williams in week 16, their running game is falling apart, yet with a weakness in the secondary, passing teams could beat them. With Antonio Brown´s concussion status not looking good and Ben Roethlisberger’s day-to-day status, the Steelers will have a tough game in Denver. Losing a wide receiver with over 1,800 yards and 10 touchdowns could be tough.
CAROLINA PANTHERS– (15-1) 1 seed, Home Field Advantage, First Round Bye, Won NFC South
Carolina started off the season at 14-0, then fell to the Falcons in week 15. Led by QB Cam Newton, the Panthers offense is one of the best in the league. Connecting with Newton is TE Greg Olsen, WR Ted Ginn and RB Jonathan Stewart. Yet their defense is even better with LB Luke Kuechly, who has 118 Tackles, and Kawann Short, who has 11 sacks this season. With a strong CB in Josh Norman, the Panthers are fired up to play Seattle, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.
ARIZONA CARDINALS– (13-3) 2 seed, First Round Bye, NFC West
Arizona is one of the most underrated teams in the league. The Cardinals swept up the second best record in the NFL this year going 13-3. Led by QB Carson Palmer, the Cardinals have weapons all around, with wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, who combined for 24 touchdowns. Their defense is also amazing with 19 interceptions and 22 fumble recoveries on the year, lead by cornerback Patrick Peterson and Safety Tyrann Mathieu. Two of Arizona’s three losses came at home, which could spell trouble for them as they host a hot Green Bay team.
GREEN BAY PACKERS– (10-6) 5 seed, Wild Card; def. Washington 35-18 last week
The Packers were falling apart towards the end of the season, but a win in Washington last week put them back in gear with Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers. Their running game has not worked. With only seven rushing touchdowns this year, the Packers figured out throwing is the way to do it. Led by Richard Rodgers, Randall Cobb and James Jones, Green Bay has found out a way to win, and will head to Arizona this weekend.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS– (10-6) 6 seed, Wild Card; def. Minnesota 10-9 last week
Seattle barely survived the wild card round when Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missed the game-winning field goal. Seattle only put up 10 points that game, yet the weather barely reached 0 degrees in what was the NFL’s third coldest game on record. QB Russell Wilson has led the Seahawks especially by throwing this year, by connecting to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Seattle has not ran much this year, after losing Marshawn Lynch. Wilson has led the team completely, hoping to get revenge for the Super Bowl interception last year, and will head to Carolina this weekend.
PITTSBURGH @ DENVER- SUN 1/17/16, 3:40 PM on CBS
PIT 17-13 over DEN
Though Denver just got Manning back, his inexperience of playing this season will lack against the Steelers. With another game coming to the last minute, Pittsburgh will take the win in Denver.
KANSAS CITY @ NEW ENGLAND– SAT 1/16/16, 3:35 PM on CBS
KC 27-18 over NE
The Chiefs’ tough defense will stop Brady and Kansas City will move to a 12-game winning streak with a win in Foxborough.
SEATTLE @ CAROLINA– SUN 1/17/16, 12:05 PM on FOX
CAR 21-14 over SEA
With Seattle barely surviving last week to the Vikings, and with Carolina having rested for two weeks, the Panthers will rally late for the win.
GREEN BAY @ ARIZONA– SAT 1/16/16, 7:15 PM on NBC
ARZ 28-10 over GB
The Cardinals are too strong for the Packers. With Green Bay’s struggling offense, the Packers will not find a way to catch up to Arizona.