The MMQB 2013 Playoff Predictions

January 2, 2014 by Tom Mantzouranis
(AP [2] :: Icon SMI)
(AP [2] :: Icon SMI)

The NFL playoffs are often unpredictable (see: Ravens, 2012; Giants, 2007 and 2011), but we’re going to try to predict them anyway. Why not, right?

Below, our four staff writers weigh in on who they thing will make and win the Super Bowl as well as the Super Bowl MVP award, with an explanation of their thought process. For more postseason goodness, check out Peter King’s breakdown of all 12 teams. As far as wild-card weekend goes, Greg A. Bedard muses on whether the Packers can avenge last postseason’s loss to the 49ers, while Robert Klemko writes that the Bengals’ secret weapon is a rookie who can do it all.

On to the picks:

Peter King

Wild Card
AFC NFC
 No. 3 Bengals def. No. 6 Chargers  No. 3 Eagles def. No. 6 Saints
No. 4 Colts def. No. 5 Chiefs No. 5 49ers def. No. 4 Packers
Divisional
AFC NFC
No. 1 Broncos def. Colts No. 1 Seahawks def. 49ers
No. 2 Patriots def. Bengals Eagles def. No. 2 Panthers
Conference
AFC NFC
Patriots def. Broncos Seahawks def. Eagles
Super Bowl
Patriots def. Seahawks

Super Bowl MVP

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

My thoughts

In the last six weeks, Edelman has become Tom Brady’s Calvin Johnson. He’s actually out-Calvined Calvin. Edelman has been targeted 73 times in his last six games (Johnson: 60), for 53 catches (Johnson: 31). The comparison is to the last six games each man played; Johnson was inactive in Week 17. Tom Brady always finds a receiver to win with as the season goes on, and that was Edelman this year. He was as slippery as Wes Welker ever was, and his production even when foes knew he was getting the ball all the time stayed very high. I expect the Bengals and Broncos to fail to contain him, and in the Super Bowl, the officiating crew is going to have a bearing on the outcome of the game. Seattle has a physical secondary. How pass-interference is called in the game could be a huge factor in the outcome. I think Edelman understands how far to push the physical envelope, and we’ll see how the crew calls it.

Greg A. Bedard

Wild Card
AFC NFC
 No. 3 Bengals def. No. 6 Chargers  No. 3 Eagles def. No. 6 Saints
No. 4 Colts def. No. 5 Chiefs No. 5 49ers def. No. 4 Packers
Divisional
AFC NFC
No. 1 Broncos def. Colts 49ers def. No. 1 Seahawks
No. 2 Patriots def. Bengals Eagles def. No. 2 Panthers
Conference
AFC NFC
Broncos def. Patriots 49ers def. Eagles
Super Bowl
49ers def. Broncos

Super Bowl MVP

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers

My thoughts

I’m sure my 49ers-over-Seahawks pick is to get the Napoleonic Seattle fans all riled up. Yes, I know the 12th man will be loud as hell. And, yes, I’m also aware that Seattle has whupped the Niners by a combined 71-16 in consecutive beatdowns at CenturyLink Field. But Seattle hasn’t played well in a month, and neither has Russell Wilson mostly thanks to a pass-blocking line that’s been decidedly poor all season. If the Niners can weather the initial flurry, they’re the better team with Michael Crabtree back.

Robert Klemko

Wild Card
AFC NFC
No. 3 Bengals def. No. 6 Chargers No. 6 Saints def. No. 3 Eagles
No. 4 Colts def. No. 5 Chiefs No. 4 Packers def. No. 5 49ers
Divisional
AFC NFC
Colts def. No. 1 Broncos No. 1 Seahawks def. Saints
No. 2 Patriots def. Bengals Packers def. No. 2 Panthers
Conference
AFC NFC
Colts def. Patriots Seahawks def. Packers
Super Bowl
Seahawks def. Colts

Super Bowl MVP

Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks

My thoughts

I picked the Colts to win the AFC before the season began and I see no reason to go back on that prediction. Granted, Andrew Luck saw his completion percentage and yardage slip and his turnovers increase when wide receiver Reggie Wayne was lost for the season in Week 7, and the Colts added nothing but a warm body with a midseason trade for Trent Richardson, yet they’ve done much to suggest a finish far better than their wild-card exit a year ago. The pass protection is much improved due in large part to the quick maturation of left tackle Anthony Castonzo, and a dreadful run defense has been completely revamped with the emergence of Cory Redding and free-agent addition Ricky Jean Francois. Still, Indy was tremendously inconsistent in 2013, beating Seattle, San Francisco and Denver and laying eggs vs. Arizona, St. Louis, and recently, Cincinnati. I’d expect a tremendously motivated showing in the playoffs from a Chuck Pagano coached team, though that 23-7 Week 16 trouncing of Kansas City will probably seem like a distant memory when the two meet in the first round. I trust Alex Smith to improve on his worst game of the regular season, but I don’t believe Kansas City will have cleaned up poor safety play of late from Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps. Down the road, the Colts are set up nicely to expose the two AFC favorites in Denver and New England. Broncos left tackle Chris Clark has been better than adequate as a fill-in for the injured Ryan Clady … with the glaring exception of a Week 7 embarrassment at the hands of Colts linebacker Robert Mathis (two sacks, two hits, one hurry). In that game, Broncos linebacker Von Miller was pretty much the only rusher to consistently bother Luck, and Miller’s out for the season with an ACL. No. 2-seeded New England limped into a first-round bye having lost Rob Gronkowski, who was far more essential to Brady’s production than Wayne was to Luck’s. See Indy’s 34-28 win vs. Seattle for an idea of what Indy’s defense is capable of when facing an elite QB with a dearth of receiving options.

Jenny Vrentas

Wild Card
AFC NFC
 No. 3 Bengals def. No. 6 Chargers  No. 6 Saints def. No. 3 Eagles
No. 5 Chiefs def. No. 4 Colts No. 4 Packers def. No. 5 49ers
Divisional
AFC NFC
No. 1 Broncos def. Chiefs No. 1 Seahawks def. Saints
No. 2 Patriots def. Bengals Packers def. No. 2 Panthers
Conference
AFC NFC
Broncos def. Patriots Seahawks def. Packers
Super Bowl
Broncos def. Seahawks

Super Bowl MVP

Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos

My thoughts

Sure, the Broncos have flaws. The loss of Von Miller to an ACL tear only further weakens a defense that has been thin on impact players all season. But many of this year’s playoff teams are unbalanced, and this is an offense-driven league. The Broncos averaged 37.9 points per game this season. That’s 10 more than any other team. So I’m going with the team that had the best unit in football and the best player in football this season. We’ve seen a lot of playoff darkhorses in recent years, but would it be so crazy to think the favorite might actually come through?