We have been projecting the playoff picture all season, and now it's time to fill out that bracket.
The playoff field is all set, and the NFL's tournament kicks off on Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis. So we brought together the Shutdown Corner crew of Frank Schwab, Jay Busbee, Eric Edholm and Anwar Richardson to predict the entire playoffs, from the Chiefs-Colts game to Super Bowl XLVIII, and they answer the pressing questions from those picks.
The Bengals in the Super Bowl? Are you OK?
Yep, doing fine. The AFC is wide open. I don’t fully trust the Broncos defense or the Patriots to keep winning in spite of some major injuries. The Bengals are better than people think, especially on offense (of course, that's if Good Andy Dalton shows up, not Bad Andy). Many times over the past few seasons, a team that plays in the first weekend makes an unexpected run. Your 2012 Ravens? This season, it’s the Bengals.
Patriots to win the AFC? Won't all their injuries prevent them from winning at Denver?
You're assuming Denver even makes it to the conference finals! Just kidding, Broncos fans. Yes, the Patriots have a high mountain to climb to defeat Denver (a mile-high mountain, you might say, if you were a hack sportswriter), but I'm not sold on Denver's D. Peyton Manning will be spectacular, but with time to prepare, Bill Belichick can be terrifying. This one's going down to the wire, and the specter of Rahim Moore will haunt the Broncos a full year later.
Eagles all the way to the NFC championship game? Big believer in Chip Kelly?
I am a big believer that the Eagles are playing their best football right now, and have been (save for that Minnesota hiccup) since the midpoint of the season. Their style, speed, depth and stamina will challenge even the best teams in the playoffs, and they are drawing a Saints team in the first round that has struggled on the road. It lines up for the Eagles to win two playoff games and have a mountain of buzz and unreal expectations heading into next season.
I see you're the only one to pick the Broncos to win the Super Bowl. Don't you know Peyton Manning can't win in the playoffs?
Let me get this straight. Peyton Manning set a single-season touchdown record, single-season passing record (well, sort of), but I am supposed to bet against him? Everyone who likes to point out Manning’s postseason struggles conveniently ignores he actually does have a Super Bowl ring. This is not Tony Romo or Jay Cutler struggling in December. Yes, Manning has struggled in the past, but Denver is the AFC’s best team. If the only argument against Manning is he always loses in the postseason, it is a weak counterpoint considering how well he has played this season.