Houston over Cincinnati – These two teams actually met in Week 14 with the Schaub-less Texans scoring the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left at Cincinnati. Now that this game will be on Houston’s turf and rookie Andy Dalton having postseason jitters, the Texans won’t have to dig themselves out of a hole this time.
Pittsburgh over Denver – The Broncos are the worst team in the playoffs, not only by record, but in my eyes, they’re not even the best team in their division (they’d lose at home to San Diego if they played this week). Tim Tebow has come down to Earth and will close out the season with four straight losses. He’ll finish the 2011 season 7-5 as a starter, but more importantly, 0-3 against playoff teams by an average deficit in the first two contests by 26.5 points. Kyle Orton was 1-1 against playoff teams in the first five games. Steelers by 25.
New Orleans over Detroit – The Saints took care of the Lions at home in Week 13, 31-17, and the score this time around should be similar. Both QB’s–both 5,000 yard passers this season–will put up big numbers, but the record-holder will rack up the touchdowns and the W.
NY Giants over Atlanta – If the right Giants show up, they should win a close one. They may have home-field advantage, but they have an NFC playoff-worst 4-4 home record.
Baltimore over Houston – The Ravens took care of Matt Schaub and the Texans 29-14 in Week 6. It won’t get any easier with T.J. Yates at the helm.
New England over Pittsburgh – The Steelers beat the Pats 25-17 in Week 8, but so many things scream about as an aberration or a red flag. NE: Tom Brady was held to under 200 passing yards; Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker combined for 133 receiving yards and no touchdowns. None of that will happen again. Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball a season-high 50 times, although that may happen again if Isaac Redman has a game anything similar to what he had the last time out against New England. The new starter had seven carries for just 11 yards; Rashard Mendenhall went 13 for 70. The Pats, along with the Saints, roll into the playoffs as the hottest team, having scored at least 27 points in each of their last eight games – all wins. Oh, and this time it’s in Foxborough.
Green Bay over NY Giants – The Giants lose by 3 to an (almost) undefeated team in the regular season, then beat them in the playoffs. Sound familiar? The Pack will be at home for this one, unlike that Week 13 scare, but this could be closer than most people think.
New Orleans over San Francisco – It’s too bad the best defense in the NFC never faced the Packers or Saints. The best offense they faced all season was the Lions in a tough 25-19 win. The 49ers also have the lowest-scoring offense out of all the NFC playoff teams, and they won’t be able to keep up with the Saints, who will put up points.
Baltimore over New England – The Pats are the popular pick to make it to the Super Bowl, but their No. 1 seed in the AFC has been padded by an absolutely weak strength of schedule. They’ve played just three playoff teams all year and have gone 1-2, including a 25-17 loss to defensively-stout Pittsburgh, their lowest points scored all year. The Ravens sneak into Super Sunday.
Green Bay over New Orleans – The Packers won the season opener against the Saints 42-34. Expect another shootout from the previous two Super Bowl winners and the same victor in what should be the most entertaining game of the playoffs and the real Super Bowl matchup.
Super Bowl XLVI
Green Bay over Baltimore – While the Ravens deserved this trip to Indianapolis, this game is a mismatch. The best offense they faced all year was the Chargers, who blew them out 34-14. This one could get that ugly, as the Packers repeat as champions for the first time since the Patriots did it in 2005.
MVP – Aaron Rodgers – I could see Jordy Nelson stealing this away with 100+ yards and a couple of touchdowns while Rodgers holds it to under four touchdown passes or not without a couple of turnovers. But the obvious choice is Rodgers, who hoists the championship belt (aka the Super Bowl MVP award) for the second time in a row, joining Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw as the only players to do so and capping the greatest season ever for a quarterback.