9 NFL Playoff Predictions
Just as the snow stops being magic and becomes a consistent menace from a cruel sky, just as the Salvation Army guy asking for charity at the mall door becomes the angry dude in a Volvo giving the finger in the mall parking lot, just as great food becomes stubborn waist-line, just as it would seem all glow of the holidays and all hope were lost… get out the buffalo wings, burrow deep into the sweat pants, chill the Coors — it’s the NFL playoffs. The only gift that keeps on giving after all returns are done and gift cards are spent recklessly the next month will provide NFL fans with the usual though always exciting intrigue and grit that can only be the playoffs of America’s true past time. Legends will be made and shattered, hopes will be dashed and affirmed, and all America will indent the edge of their easy chairs and run up the tab at the local bar in anticipation. What follows is a guide to what’s sure to come, to try and soften the shock of the NFL post season and avoid that almost undoubted coronary…
It's been a growing critique, particularly this season, that the NFL is becoming a softer, gentler place that cushions the Quarterback into insane statistics and cultivates a pretty passing game that racks up points, taking the tough out of it -- a kind of Wiffle ball Football dynamic. That will not be true in the playoffs, predominately. Forces like Adrian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice and Frank Gore, not to mention mobile QB's like Russel Wilson and Robert Griffith III, will turn the field into pulverized meat making the old dogs of the game proud, leaving helmets and in Lynch's case, Skittles (his good luck charm) everywhere.
9. Rushing Will Be Insane
The one exception to the running back blowout will ironically be the NFL's most unlikely story of the year, Adrian Peterson who came back from injury and came 9 yards shy of breaking the all time rushing yards in a season record in the last game of the year. That game, against the Green Bay Packers, was for all Peterson and the Minnesota Viking's marbles, including their shot at the playoffs and AP's record. Having completed one mission and failed at the other the Vikings will enter the Wild Card week, once again, against a better all around and more experienced Green Bay team with all the fight on their side. Peterson will be limited, "meh" Quarterback Christian Ponder will be exposed, and like an Anne Hathaway with shorn hair, the Vikings will have dreamed a dream of days gone by.
8. The Adrian Peterson Express Will Stop Running
The Baltimore Ravens, once creatures to be feared, have come into the playoffs with all the killer instinct of Big Bird. As if to EKG the team back to life longtime backbone, heart, and alpha when it comes to attack Ray Lewis announced his retirement on Wednesday, starting immediately after the playoffs. But when the Ravens are bounced in the first or second round, either by arguably the NFL's hottest team, the Denver Bronco's, or it's most passionate - the Indianapolis Colts, playing luekemia recovering coach Chuck Pagano, Ray's own passions will get the best of him and he will have flown too close to the sun once more to come all the way back to earth. Injury prone and aging Ray will come back for one last season, this time the specter of his leaving and the pressure of it being over the whole schedule.
7. Ray Lewis Won't Retire
It's easy to know why, her body's too bootylicious. The vivacious and voluptuous R+B queen, who's known for giving her all to a dance, taking to a good costume, belting a tune like it's a misbehaved child and even falling at a concert once or twice will experience some level of impassioned mishap from which she will gracefully recover, but that will leave the media and American homes in a scorched earth frenzy, causing many to forget that men even played a game that day, further cementing Beyonce's place in a diva lineage with a moment akin to but to rival Janet Jackson's nipple-gate.
6. Beyonce Will Experience a Wardrobe Malfunction During the Superbowl Halftime Show
Many of the League's titans of the gridiron are operating on reputation mostly these days. Offense might be fancy, but defense separates the men from the boys. It's also said to be the key to winning it all. But with the Steelers out, the Niners less scary, the Ravens hobbled, and the Texan's D becoming something of a myth, offense will ultimately rule the day. This year's playoffs lack a front seven quite as clearly ready to go and menacing as last year's Giants that got hungry at the exact right time. This year when the going it's tough, the tough will start running and throwing things -- mainly the football, to win.
5. Defense Will Almost Win Championships
To go along with Beyonce's inevitable oopsy, and the weakened defenses taking the field, the mighty will fall. The NFC's top seed, the Atlanta Falcons, haven't been taken seriously all year and aren't likely to be now. The once unlikely Seattle Seahawks are incinerating opponents and the Falcons look to be hiding under a desk for cover. They lack the grit to make it this time of year and entered the playoffs sputtering, slowing down until a loss in their last week. Likewise the season long AFC big man on campus, the Houston Texans, lost their ridiculous looking letterman jackets to the Patriots and Colts, who beat them up for it and didn't even leave the once toughs a bye week. The Ravens have long since shown their only straw filled scarecrows, losing 4 of their last 5 and likewise the Denver Bronco's, thought to be the hottest game in town, are riding a wave of less than quality wins, and one very intriguing loss to the Patriots, to their No. 1 seed in the AFC.
4. The Emperors Will Wear No Clothes
This is the most guaranteed prediction of them all, practically a "the grass will be green tomorrow." The three best squads in the NFC are all, "who saw this coming?"-ly anchored by rookie QB's, and at least one of them was one of the best QB's in the game this season. Joining a playoff picture that also includes the AFC's Andrew Luck the NFC will serve up Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49'ers starter with maybe the best shot of getting to the big one, but with the least share of responsibility for it. The Seattle Seahawks have the most momentum of anyone going into the playoffs and are playing a merciless kind of game, exquisitely managed with moments of real excitement by the wise beyond his years Russel Wilson, and the Washington Redskin's RGIII is the greatest show on turf today and perhaps the most entertaining man in football. The only question is how far Robert Griffin III can carry his team in the postseason after starting his first professional game this year by going 7-7 with a touchdown. As football fate would have it he'll be trying his hand against Wilson and the Seahawks during Wild Card weekend, in what might be the best game of the entire playoffs.
3. A Rookie QB Will Represent the NFC in the Super Bowl
Maybe the single greatest pleasure of watching football since the beginning of the millennium has been the epic duels between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Though Manning's now a QB of a different color, that is Bronco orange, these two have had sights on each other from day one, and Peyton's kid brother Eli has kept the rings from Brady's last two Superbowls off his fingers. These two all time greats will meet again in the AFC Championship game in a no love lost shoot out that'd make Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid nervous. Brady once had Manning's number, going 9-4 overall, but in Peyton's most recent years with the Colts he showed signs, including a few Super Bowl games himself, of surpassing the Golden Boy. This is Batman vs. Bane, solid Terminator vs. liquid Terminator, The Bush Presidencies vs. Saddam Hussein, Kirstie Alley vs. Weight Loss -- with all having their own opinions on who's the good guy. Boxing's lost a step and the MMA can go back to it's cage, this is the greatest fight in sports today. And it's back.
2. The Greatest Rivalry of the Past 15 Years Will Be Renewed
Eventually the house will always win. And in the NFL the New England Patriots are the house. A dynasty stretching over a decade the Pats, with Belichick and Brady at the head, have been to 5 Super Bowls and won 3, losing their last two leaving unfinished business. This year that business will be closed, for which the rest of the NFL will be glad, and the duo will get their last ring. They'll keep going of course, at least for a few more years, but this is The Last Crusade before the muddled adventures after Crystal Skulls. Bill Belichick will tie Steeler legend Chick Noll for the most Super Sunday wins by a coach all time with four and with that victory not only take the Lombardi trophy, but the name on it replacing it with his own. In 2007 The Patriots were near perfect, but too proud. In 2011 they lacked a strong defense and running game. In 2012 they are poised with a sharp as ever Brady, an offense that seems to be running in a Tecmo Bowl NES mod, a true ground attack and enough defense to unsettle the rookie QB competition. The Patriots will finish what they started, becoming the greatest Coach/QB pairing of all time. The rest is history.