Forecasting this year’s path to Super Bowl 50
THE SANTA CLARA
January 7, 2016
1. Not One Higher Seed Will Win in the First Round
In a year that saw two 9-7 teams win their divisions (and thus earn the higher seed in the opening round), this prediction is not as bold as it may seem on paper. Both the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans tumbled their way into the playoffs because of their inner division teams’ disappointing seasons (namely the Cowboys and Colts). Luck in today’s NFL only goes so far as your quarterback’s ability to win games, and unfortunately Kirk Cousins and Brian Hoyer just don’t stand toe to toe with Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith.
The Steelers, on the other hand, have been a championship contender since Week 1 but have been hindered by injuries all season long. Their opposing quarterback on Saturday, Andy Dalton, is currently listed as doubtful with his broken right thumb and even if he does play, the Cincinnati offense won’t be enough. Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 25.87 points per game in the postseason over his career compared to Dalton’s 10.75. Meanwhile in Minnesota, the third seeded Vikings host the red-hot Seahawks. Seattle just came off a 36-6 beatdown over the NFC West Champion Arizona Cardinals and have outscored their opponents 195-85 since week 12. Still not convinced? The Seahawks beat the Vikings in Minnesota 38-7 only a month ago.
2. Peyton Manning Will Play His Final Final NFL Postseason
The decline of Peyton Manning’s body this year has been saddening to say the least, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this before. Watching Manning at this stage in his career is just like seeing Brett Favre during his last two seasons in Minnesota; a legendary quarterback who is truly one hit away from a career ending injury. I’m not saying Manning is sure to get hurt this postseason, just that his passing ability will get significantly weaker with every hit he takes. The weight of the Broncos postseason success lies heaviest on their offensive line. Manning had been out since week 10 because of lingering rib and foot injuries before his second half appearance in week 17, which produced a glimmer of hope that the savvy veteran could return for one more Super Bowl run. Nevertheless, his play throughout the season has not been encouraging; Manning’s 67.9 Quarterback Rating is the lowest of his career. Even if Peyton (39) becomes the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl in NFL history (John Elway holds the record at 38), it’s safe to assume he will decide to end his career on a high note.
3. This Year’s AFC Championship Game Will Have Regulation Air Pressure and a New Champion
After all the fuss about “Deflategate” that occurred in last years AFC Championship game, the NFL will surely be on high alert when the New England Patriots play. Regardless, the Patriots probably won’t need to adjust ball pressure to make it to their fifth consecutive AFC Championship game as Tom Brady continues to post ridiculous numbers for his age. But Belichick’s squad has looked a little more vulnerable down the stretch than normal, losing three of their last five games to non-playoff teams. While wide receiver Julian Edelman and linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be returning from injury for New England’s playoff run, it won’t be enough. Both the Broncos and Steelers look up to the challenge to top the Pats this season (if the Steelers win on Saturday, they will face the Broncos for a trip to the AFC Championship game). The Broncos beat the Patriots earlier this season and Ben Roethlisberger has been on fire lately, throwing for over 340 yards in five of his last seven games.
4. Cam Newton Will Make a February Trip to Disney World
That’s right, the Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl 50. Newton, the MVP favorite, leads the highest scoring offense in the league and has proven to be unstoppable for any defense this season. But as we all know “defense wins championships” and that’s where Carolina has the edge. The Panthers are fourth in the NFL against the run. Meanwhile, their secondary, led by Josh Norman, is ranked eleventh in the NFL against the pass but their numbers are inflated because of their opponents playing from behind in most games. Carolina’s 15-1 record is no fluke, don’t be surprised to see Cam Newton “dabbing” with Mickey Mouse.
Contact Nick Redfield at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.