The week started with Black Monday, the NFL's version of The Apprentice, where coaches and GMs everywhere were being told, "You're fired!", unless their team's owner was more the Martha Stewart type in which case they got a politely worded letter informing them how they just didn't fit in there. In only a few short days we're starting to hear who the first of the new head coaches will be and it turns out to be one of the old head coaches, Andy Reid, who's close to signing with the Chiefs. But while that's interesting and all, this time of year is really about the playoffs. So I thought I'd take a look at the 12 playoff teams and why each one could win it all, or why they'll more than likely be watching a different team lift the lombardi trophy instead. As always just a reminder, I'm not an expert I just play one on the internet.
Goldilocks says, "Too hot!"
Why they could win it all: They're the hottest team in the NFL right now having won their last 11 straight games and Peyton Manning seems reborn, having statistically the second best season of his career. Also, thanks to some help from the 49ers and a late season collapse by the Texans, they get to stay at home where they're 7-1 this season.
Why they probably won't: That 11 game winning streak came in large part to playing in the AFC West and having only 2 games against teams with a winning record (@ Bengals 31-23, Ravens 34-17). Two of the three teams to beat the Broncos this season were the Texans and Patriots and the Texans actually did it in Denver. Plus there's the fact Tom Brady is 9-4 all time when playing against Manning.
Why they could win it all: They won their last 7 games and had the pleasure of watching Tony Romo fail to win a big game yet again. Robert Griffin III has exceeded all expectations and fellow rookie Alfred Morris has been a one man wrecking crew running the ball finishing second behind only the bionic man himself Adrian Peterson. Throw in RG3's own running ability and the Redskins gained more rushing yards than any other team in the NFL.
Why they probably won't: Their defense was hit hard by injuries early in the year and while they've played a lot better down the stretch, you have to wonder how they'll match up when they do play an offensive powerhouse. And while the additions of RG3 and Morris, not to mention Kirk Cousins, was a huge boon for the team (let's be honest, almost anyone is better than Rex Grossman), you have to wonder how those same rookies will handle the pressure of the playoffs.
Why they could win it all: They won 9 of their last 10 games with their only loss coming to the 49ers. They also have Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick, two guys who know how to win it all when they're not playing the NY Giants and luckily for them the Giants have already been eliminated.
Why they probably won't: They've blown out quite a few teams but they've also found themselves in dogfights with inferior opponents like the Cardinals and Jaguars, and the pass defense can be exploited. That could be bad news if there's a rematch against the Broncos especially since it will be in Denver, and while Brady is 9-4 all time against Manning, he's only gone 3-4 in their last 7 meetings. Yes I used their head-to-head matchup as a con for both players. It's my story and I'll cheat if I want to.
Why they could win it all: Won their final 5 games and were 7-1 over the second half of the season, including several dominating wins. Marshawn Lynch has been bowling over defenders averaging 5.0 yards per carry and rookie QB Russell Wilson not only knows how to win big, he knows how to come from behind late.
Why they probably won't: Their one weakness, they're not nearly as good on the road as they are at home. They went 8-0 at home but only 3-5 on the road and that included a "road" win in Toronto. Unless they play the Vikings they'll have to win 3 road games to reach the Super Bowl.
Why they could win it all: Like the Broncos the Packers began with a 2-3 record but went 9-1 over their next 10 games before losing in the season finale to the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers won this thing just 2 years ago and is one of only two starting QBs in the NFC to even play in a playoff game and the only one who's ever won one (Matt Ryan 0-3).
Why they probably won't: They've struggled against teams with a strong running attack and the top 4 running teams in the NFL are the Redskins, Vikings, Seahawks, and 49ers. If they get past a Vikings team that beat them just last week they'll have to play the 49ers who dominated them in a week 1 matchup in Green Bay.
Why they could win it all: Like the Packers the Colts started the season 2-3 before going 9-2 the rest of the way, including 5-1 over the last 6 games. They're also playing motivated football because of the fight their head coach has gone through in battling leukemia.
Why they probably won't: Their defense gives up a lot of yards and doesn't force many turnovers which can get them into trouble since Andrew Luck has had problems protecting the ball for most of the season resulting in a -12 turnover ratio. They also benefited from having one of the easiest schedules in football and going an incredible 9-1 in games decided by 7 points or less.
Why they could win it all: The Bengals are flying in under the radar but they went 7-1 over the second half of the season and their only loss was a game against the Cowboys where they led 19-10 midway through the 4th quarter before failing to hold on 20-19.
Why they probably won't: Like the Broncos their stretch drive benefited by having only 2 games against teams with a winning record (Giants and Ravens). And let's be honest, they're the Bengals which by itself is a weakness.
Why they could win it all: They won their last 4 games and have the best RB in the NFL today with Adrian Peterson.
Why they probably won't: Christian Ponder.
Goldilocks says, "Too cold!"
Why they could win it all: Despite losing the top overall seed and a first round bye they still get a home game and they open against the Bengals, a team they crushed in the first round last season when they had T.J Yates playing QB. They also know they can beat the Broncos in Denver since they already did earlier in the season.
Why they probably won't: At one point an argument could be made that they were the best team in football, but that was before they collapsed down the stretch losing 3 of their last 4 games. To make it worse their games weren't all that close as they lost games by 28, 17, and 12 points. To make it even (more worse/worser/the worstest) that 28 point loss come at the hands of the Patriots, a team they would play if they beat the Bengals.
Why they could win it all: The Ravens have never been one-and-done in the Harbaugh/Flacco era and they will be motivated to win for the retiring Ray Lewis. They also have the added motivation of playing at home against the team that skipped town in the middle of the night so they could hook up with Indy.
Why they probably won't: They started out much as expected going 8-2 but have since gone only 2-4. They will also need Flacco to win at least one, or maybe two, road games and he's been horrible on the road most of the season. And while they've never been one-and-done in the Harbaugh/Flacco era, they've also never made it past the AFC Championship game.
Why they could win it all: They get a first round bye and won't have to leave Atlanta until the Super Bowl and their offense can be explosive at times. Their defense also has a knack for causing turnovers in key moments.
Why they probably won't: They may have started the season 11-1 but they were winning by the skin of their teeth and a 2-2 finish to the season seemed to reaffirm that they maybe weren't nearly as good as their record seemed to indicate. They can't run the ball that well and also struggle to defend both the run and pass. In a way they're like the Saints defense used to be, not that good but able to come up with the big turnover in clutch situations. They also haven't won a playoff game since 1998, and Matty Ice is 0-3 as a starter this time of year.
Goldilocks says, "Just right!"
I will say this for the 49ers at least they've been consistent all season. I don't mean consistent in their play, just consistent in their results. They won their first two games, then they lost, then won two more, then lost, then won two more, then tied, then won two more, then lost, then won two more, than lost, then won their last game. So if the pattern holds they'll win their next game before...well, that's not going to happen. I wear 49er tinted glasses, drink their kool-aid, and am like the 3 monkeys sitting in a row that hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil. The 49ers will win the Super Bowl!!! Unless they don't in which case I need to buy some more Scotch.