With week 13 beginning on the first day of December, that’s a sign that playoff football is near.
The best teams traditionally start playing their best football this time of year. A strong, consistent running game and a healthy roster are two keys to a team’s chances of winning a Super Bowl.
The attrition of the NFL season is non-stop. Look at this past weekend in the Texans/Jaguars game. Matt Leinart is in for Matt Schaub after Schaub was placed on IR with a foot injury. Leinart was in the game for 26 plays before he injured his collarbone and is now also out for the year.
You don’t have to have the most talented roster. You need to be a team. I’d imagine being healthy is as big a concern for a coach as anything.
When people try to qualify the value of a team they use terms like “power rankings” and “if the playoffs ended today”–terms which are totally worthless.
Who ever won a Super Bowl based on power rankings? If the playoffs ended in week 3, the Bills would be the best team in the AFC with the NFL’s leading offense (37.7 ppg) with wins over the Raiders and the Patriots.
Who would take the Bills over either of those teams now? No one with sense.
After watching and studying the NFL this season, I’ve got a good idea about who will get to the playoffs and who will go far in the playoffs.
Here are my playoff predictions:
1) Baltimore Ravens
2) New England Patriots
3) Oakland Raiders
4) Houston Texans
5) Pittsburgh Steelers
6) Tennessee Titans
- 3) Raiders vs. 6)Titans
- 4) Texans vs. 5) Steelers
- 1) Ravens vs. 5) Steelers
- 2) Patriots vs. 3) Raiders
- 1) Ravens vs. 2) Patriots
AFC Champion: Ravens
- Baltimore has, by far, the better: run game, pass rush and overall defense (New England is the worst defense in the league, literally).
- The Ravens are also only one of two teams in the league that are undefeated at home and in their division (Green Bay).
1) Green Bay Packers
2) New Orleans Saints
3) San Francisco 49ers
4) Dallas Cowboys
5) Atlanta Falcons
6) Chicago Bears
- 3) 49ers vs. 6) Bears
- 4) Cowboys vs. 5) Falcons
- 1) Packers vs. 5) Falcons
- 2) Saints vs. 3) 49ers
NFC Champion: New Orleans Saints
- The Saints have the better offensive line and a better running game. They are equal in: coach, QB savvy and kick returners.
- Don’t forget, in their week 1 match-up, the Saints had a chance to tie the game from the GB 1-yard line on the last play of the game (after being down by 15 points with 2:20 remaining in the 4th quarter).
- Brees’ week 1 stat line: 32/49, 419 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
- Rodgers’ week 1 stat line: 27/35, 312 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
SUPER BOWL XLVI: Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints
- The Packers, Patriots or Steelers certainly have a strong chance to make the Super Bowl. For the Packers to go undefeated the year after they won the Super Bowl is improbable. Of course they have the talent and chemistry, but the law of averages suggests that they cannot maintain this level of play forever.
- New England and Pittsburgh are strong teams as well, but have holes at significant positions (PIT: offensive line, NE: defense–ranked last and are the 4th most penalized defense in the league).
- The Ravens and Saints have had just enough success and adversity to give them the proper amount of confidence and caution. Last year, in Baltimore, the Ravens beat the Saints, 30-24. If this is the match-up for Super Bowl XLVI, I think it will be a similar type of game.
Here are my predictions for who will win the individual awards:
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
- He’s the best player and the best player on the best team in the NFL.
- Rodgers leads the NFL in completion percentage (71.8%), TD/INT ratio (33/4) and QB rating (127.7).
Offensive player of the year: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
- Brees is on pace to throw for 5,366 yards in 2011 (282 yards more than Dan Marino’s all-time record)
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis, ILB, San Francisco 49ers
- Willis is the only player to currently have 90+ combined tackles, 10+ passes defensed, 5+ caused turnovers and 2+ sacks.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
- His team is 7-4. His main target is also a rookie. They lost to the Steelers and Ravens by a combined 10 points.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
- Miller ranks third in the NFL in sacks (10.5).
- He’s the only player in the league to have 50+ combined tackles, 10+ sacks and 3+ forced fumbles.
Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
- For a first-year NFL head coach, coming from the NCAA, to take a team from 6-10 a year ago to 9-2 and what could easily be a 13-3 record this year is nothing short of remarkable.
- Oh, by the way, there was no opportunity (mini camps, OTA, etc.) for Harbaugh to meet his new players and get acclimated with the team this past off-season.
Comeback Player of the Year: Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets
- Burress is tied for sixth in NFL in receiving touchdowns (7).
- He holds the second highest percentage of receptions resulting in 1st downs, among receivers with at least 30 receptions (85.3%).
Whatever happens for the last four games of the regular season and in the playoffs, I’m sure it will be the typical NFL we’ve come to know in this era: exciting, wild, controversial, must-see football action.
Thanks for reading.