The 2015 NFL playoffs get underway later this afternoon, and it's an exciting time for the National Football League. Twelve teams will be competing for their ultimate goal over the next month, and that goal is to win the Lombardi Trophy and be Super Bowl champions.
In advance of the playoffs officially starting, we asked some of our writers to share their predicted Super Bowl matchup and their predicted champion. Here are Stampede Blue's writer's predictions for the big game on February 1:
|Josh Wilson||Matt Grecco||Stephen Reed||Andrew Aziz||Ben Lamers|
|Super Bowl||Seahawks vs. Patriots||Packers vs. Patriots||Packers vs. Broncos||Packers vs. Ravens||Seahawks vs. Colts|
|Super Bowl Champion||Seahawks||Packers||Broncos||Packers||Seahawks|
Later this morning, we'll bring you our predictions for all four Wild Card games this weekend. Here's the overall NFL playoff picture, as our own Ben Lamers offers up a brief preview of each team and why each team will win and won't win.
Why they will win: The simply answer is Bruce Arians. Somehow he seems to be able to inspire players to play far better than they should be able to. If he can transform Ryan Lindley into even a serviceable quarterback, the Cardinals could have a chance. If they can find Larry Fitzgerald on offense, they could be tough to tangle with.
Why they won't win: If Lindley plays like we all expect him to, the Cardinals might win a game, but not the whole shooting match. The offense has stagnated with a third string QB, and rightly so. Even a solid defense won't be of much help if the Cardinals can't put up points of offense.
Why they will win: Cam Newton stays healthy and the Panthers continue to roll. During their winning streak, the Panthers have obliterated the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons while playing on the road. This season, of course, that doesn't carry as much as some years. Still, Newton has the ability to carry this team. Three weeks into the season I pegged the Panthers as my NFC favorite. Obviously that has changed, but this team has the ability.
Why they won't win: While they Panthers have shown up at times, they have not shown up just as many times. The Panthers aren't good enough to overcome mistakes, so if they make some against the better NFC teams they will be done. Additionally, if Newton can't hold up, from a health standpoint, the team won't go very far.
Why they will win: This team is dripping with experience. It was only two years ago where they made a run from the Wild Card to the Super Bowl, beating the Colts, Broncos, and Patriots along the way. While Joe Flacco isn't great, he's shown the ability to play lights out in the playoffs. The addition of Steve Smith won't hurt either.
Why they won't win: The defense isn't what it was. The Ravens will be in more shootouts against the high powered offenses of the AFC than we have seen them play before. If the defense can't slow down some of these teams, the offense will have trouble keeping up. While a talented unit, they have yet to replace the leadership of Ray Lewis.
Why they will win: A buddy of mine said that the AFC favorite would be "the team that randomly gets hot at the end." This year, that would be the Steelers. The team has won important game after important game, and often a team that does this makes a run. Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell are key contributors on one of the most balanced offenses in the league.
Why they won't win: Let's remember that the Steelers lost to Tampa Bay this season. While that was a long time ago, that team could show up again. The defense is good, but aging, which could play a factor against the AFC's elite teams. On the offensive end, Bell is already a question for Saturday, if Roethlisberger gets banged up, they could be in trouble.
Why they will win: Other than the fact that Andy Dalton is due? The defense is already good enough to win a championship, but the offense is too inconsistent. If A.J. Green can be healthy and effective it would be huge. If Dalton avoids the mistakes he seems to make once a game they could go far. I mentioned the Panthers were my Week 3 NFC favorite, well the Bengals were my AFC favorite.
Why they won't win: This is simple. If Green is injured, Dalton has no one to throw the ball to. Teams can then key in on the run game, and force Dalton to throw. I guarantee the Bengals to not want to have Dalton slinging the ball all over the field all game.
Why they will win: If Andrew Luck can cut down on turnovers, this offense could be unstoppable. If the defense can figure out how to stop the run, teams will struggle to move the ball. I think the biggest factor could be Hakeem Nicks. If he rediscovers his 2011 playoff self, the Colts offense could be near impossible for defenses to stop.
Why they won't win: If the defense can't figure out how to stop the run, it's over. The Colts likely would go from Cincinnati, a good running team, to New England, a team that has run the ball all over the Colts. Also, in three playoff games, Luck has thrown eight interceptions, seven last year. If he continues this turnover rate, the Colts will go nowhere fast.
Why they will win: If Matthew Stafford can recapture the magic the Lions offense had earlier in the season, look out. Reggie Bush, Golden Tate, and Calvin Johnson are all healthy. If Stafford can hit them, which he has struggled with in recent weeks, these Lions could score lots of points. It will also help if a player on their team doesn't stomp on an opposing player.
Why they won't win: Much like the Colts, the Lions have started slow in a lot of games. They won't beat any of the top NFC teams if they fall behind early. Detroit needs to have something resembling balance on offense, and getting behind throws that away. I'm also not sure the Lions defense, specifically the secondary, can stop the top QBs in the NFC.
Why they will win: They keep playing the way they have been. Yes, pundits point to three home losses. But Brandon Weedon started one of those, and played about half of the other. The most balanced offense in football can beat teams by running or throwing. This offense is built for playoff football this year. Let's not discount that the Cowboys are 8-0 on the road, including a win in Seattle.
Why they won't win: An injury to Tony Romo or DeMarco Murray would be devastating to the offense. That and maybe having to make a return trip to Seattle in the NFC Championship are the only things that could derail the Cowboys this postseason.
Why they will win: Julius Thomas returns to form and Peyton Manning shakes off his late season slump. When healthy, the offense has too many weapons for teams to stop. Honestly, the defense only needs to get a few stops, and can let the offense do the rest.
Why they won't win: Well, a trip to New England would be difficult. Also, I've said all season that Denver has looked vulnerable. They don't look as good as last season. If Manning continues to struggle, and the offensive line continues its shaky play, Denver will be in trouble.
Green Bay Packers
Why they will win: They have, in my opinion, the best QB in the league. Aaron Rodgers has been lights out at home all year. The last time the Packers won the Super Bowl, they had a running game in the playoffs. That's something they could have this year with Eddie Lacy. The offense is potent and the defense is much improved.
Why they won't win: The defense might be improved, but it isn't great. More importantly, the Packers have struggled on the road this year, and may have to go to Seattle. Rodgers' calf injury could be a concern moving forward as well. It's worth noting that Rodgers only has one home playoff win in his career, against the Joe Webb led Vikings.
New England Patriots:
Why they will win: The Patriots certainly seem to be a cut above all other AFC teams. Tom Brady is rolling, they have a run game, and Rob Gronkowski is an animal. As long as the road goes through Foxboro the Patriots have to be the favorite. They have played three AFC playoff teams (Indianapolis, Denver, and Cincinnati) and blow them all away.
Why they won't win: In recent years, starting in 2007 (in my opinion) the Patriots have looked vulnerable in the playoffs. Whether it be Super Bowl losses to the Giants, or going one and done against the Jets and Ravens, they haven't been the same. A bigger key would be if Gronkowski is injured. Two of the Patriots losses this season came when they didn't have him.
Why they will win: The road in the NFC goes through Seattle. That's about all I need to say. This is the third time Seattle has homefield through the playoffs, the previous two times they have gone to the Super Bowl. Oh, and the defense is allowing less than 300 yards per game, which is more than incredible.
Why they won't win: Barring any major injuries, the only way I see Seattle losing is by getting to overconfident. Having such gaudy stats, and playing at home could get to their heads. While, admittedly, unlikely the Cowboys and Packers have the ability to go into Seattle and win.
So what is my Super Bowl pick you ask? For the NFC, I would love to see Dallas make it all the way. I just don't think that will happen, so I'm taking the boring way out and picking the Seahawks. In the AFC, my bold prediction is that it will be a team from the Wild Card round. Maybe (probably) my homerism is getting in the way here, but I'll take the Colts.
I've got the Colts and Seahawks in the Super Bowl down in Arizona. However, while it would crush me, I would have to take Seattle to win it and repeat as champs.