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NFL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

January 18, 2013
Richmond High School



NFL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

SKYLER COLEMAN...RICHMOND SPORTS NEWS

The second best weekend for NFL football fans happens this weekend.  The NFC and AFC Championship games will take place in Atlanta and New England with the winners playing for the Super Bowl in New Orelans.  Everyone has opinions about who will win and why and that’s the nice thing about sports…we can ALL be NFL writers and predict what will happen and why.   Most of the time I am wrong on my predictions but since it won’t cost me anything, here it goes.

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS–NFC WEST (12-4-1) AT ATLANTA FALCONS–NFC SOUTH (14-3)

I picked Atlanta to win the Super Bowl last season only to be highly disappointed…again!    The Falcons might be heading into their prime now that they have qualified for the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.   My concern is if Matt Ryan can get this team into the Super Bowl.  Ryan has impressive numbers: Ryan has 56 regular-season wins as starter, most by QB in 1st 5 NFL seasons. He recorded his 1st career playoff win last week & tied franchise postseason record with 3 TD passes. Ryan also passed for team-record 4,719 yards & 32 TDs. His 68.6 comp. pct. was also a club record. Ryan had career-high 99.1 passer rating, 2nd highest mark in franchise history. In career at home (incl. playoffs), is 34-6 (.850). He posted 100+ rating in 33 games & Falcons are 32-1 (.970). Ryan has 100+ rating in 20 home games & Atlanta is 20-0. Atlanta’s offense averaged 281.8 net pass yards per game, highest in team history. The Falcons offense averaged 369.1 net yards per game, 2nd best mark in franchise history (376.6 in 2011)…Now we will find out of all of these impressive numbers will be enough.

Ryan has two very good receivers to throw to this Sunday.  RODDY WHITE (1,351) & Julio Jones (1,198) are 1st Falcons teammates with 1,000+ rec. yards in same season since 1998. White had team-record 6th consecutive 1,000-yard season. Since 2007 (incl. playoffs), has 590 receptions, most in NFC. He set club single-game postseason record with 11 catches in 1/3/09 WC and had 47-yard TD last week. In last 2 vs. SF, White has 15 catches for 314 yards (157 per game) & 2 TDs. Jones had 6 catches & sealed game with INT last week.  And don’t forget Pro Bowl TE Tony Gonzalez who was named to 13th Pro Bowl, most ever for TE. He led team with 93 catches. Gonzalez 5 seasons with 90+ receptions, most by TE in NFL history and holds NFL record with 14 consecutive seasons with 60+ catches.   RB RB MICHAEL TURNER is also hitting his stride.  Turner rushed for 10 TDs, his team-record 5th consecutive 10 TD season. He has 10+ rush TDs in all 5 seasons with Atl. Since joining Atl. in 2008, has 62 rush TDs, 2nd most in NFL (incl. playoffs). And has rushing TD in 6 of past 8. Turner rushed for 98 yards last week.

Atlanta’s defense will need to be very good Sunday against San Francisco.  The Falcons will count on DE JOHN ABRAHAM (Led team with 10 sacks.)  LBs STEPHEN NICHOLAS & SEAN WEATHERSPOON tied for team lead with 95 tackles. CB ASANTE SAMUEL led team with 19 passes defended & was 2nd on club with 5 INTs. history. S THOMAS DE COUD was 2nd among S with 6 INTs. DeCoud & WILLIAM MOORE (4) were only S teammates with 4+ INTs each.

 

As for San Francisco, how many teams change QB’s midway through the season and still make it to the NFC Championship game?  Not many!  But Colin Kaepernick has pulled the trick.  It wasn’t that San Francisco was playing bad under Alex Smith, coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to make a change.  KAEPERNICK is 6-2 (.750) as starter (incl. playoffs). In those 8 starts, he has 98.7 passer rating with 12 TDs vs. 4 INTs & 419 rush yards with 4 TDs. In his 1st career playoff start, Kaepernick passed for 263 yards with 2 TDs & rushed for 181 yards with 2 TDs. His 181 rush yards are most ever by QB in any NFL game.

The 49ers like the Falcons are loaded on offense.  RB Frank Gore rushed for 1,214 yards, his team-record 6th 1,000-yard season. Gore is the franchise leader with 8,839 career rush yards & 51 career rush TDs and he rushed for 119 yards & TD last week…WR MICHAEL CRABTREE had career-high 85 catches, 1,105 yards & 9 TDs. Crabtree had 9 catches for 119 yards & 2 TDs in Divisional game. In past 4 (incl. playoffs), he has 28 catches for 463 yards (115.8 per game) & 6 TDs. TE VERNON DAVIS has 11 catches for 336 yards (112 per game) & 4 TDs in 3 career playoff games. In playoffs, averages 30.5 yards per catch. Since 2009 (incl. playoffs), he leads NFC TEs with 35 TDs.

On defense, the 49ers will count on LB Aldon Smith.  His 33.5 sacks are most by any player in 1st 2 seasons. Smith led NFC with team-record 19.5 sacks and he has 15 sacks in past 11 (incl. playoffs). Smith also has sacks in 2 of 3 career playoff games. LB Novorro Bowman led the Niners with 144 tackles. He has 30 tackles in past 3 playoff games. LB Patrick Willis ranked 2nd on team with 120 tackles. He aims for 3rd playoff game in row with sack. DT Justin Smith has sack in 2 of past 3 playoff games. CB TARELL BROWN had INT in Divisional game.

Prediction:  I am taking Atlanta to win this match-up because I like the Falcons receivers against the San Francisco DB’s.  Atlanta will have too many offensive weapons for the 49ers.

Final Score: Atlanta 27  San Francisco  21

 

 

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP 

BALTIMORE RAVENS–AFC NORTH (12-6) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS–AFC EAST (13-4)

 

Is it any surprise New England is back in the AFC Championship?  Somehow they always re-tool and make another run at a Super Bowl.  The only thing standing in their way is a hot Baltimore Ravens team.  New England got by Baltimore last season in the AFC Championship 23-20 so the Ravens are looking for a little revenge.

A Baltimore radio station said QB Joe Flacco would be playing his final game when the Ravens lost to Denver.   Flacco gets the last laugh.  In past 2 postseason games, FLACCO has 5 TDs vs. 0 INTs & 120 passer rating. Flacco registered 5th career playoff road win last week, tied with ELI MANNING for most in NFL history. He tied NFL single-game postseason record for most touchdown passes of 30+ yards (70, 59, 32) last week. Flacco passed for most yards (331) in franchise history in single-postseason game last week. He is 1st QB in Super Bowl era to win postseason game in each of his 1st 5 seasons. In past 3 vs. NE (incl. postseason), Flacco has completed 77 of 110 passes (70 pct.) for 973 yards with 7 TDs vs. 2 INTs & 110.9 passer rating.  He has 7-4 postseason record, including 2 AFC Championship appearances. Flacco had career-best 3,817 passing yards in ’12, 2nd-most in season by Raven. Baltimore is 31-3 (.912) when Flacco has 100+ passer rating. 

Flacco will have plenty of offensive support.  RB RAY RICE (131) posted 2nd career 100-yard rush game in postseason last week (159 vs. NE on 1/10/10). Rice is averaging 123 scrimmage yards per game in ’12 postseason. He (1,621) reached 1,600 scrimmage yards for 4th season in row and led AFC RBs with 61 catches in 2012. Rookie RB BERNARD PIERCE is averaging 6.5 yards per carry in postseason (18 att., 117 yards)…WR TORREY SMITH has 5 receptions for 129 yards (25.8 avg.) with 2 TDs in 2012 postseason. In 2 career games vs. Patriots (incl. playoffs), Smith has 9 catches for 209 yards (23.2 avg.) with 3 TDs. Smith averages 24.4 yards per catch in 4 career postseason games (9 receptions, 220 yards). Smith had career-best in receiving yards (855) & TDs (8) in ’12.  WR ANQUAN BOLDIN is averaging 108 receiving yards per game in 2 playoff games in ’12. 10 of Boldin’s 11 receptions in ’12 postseason have been for 1st downs. Boldin (145) registered most receiving yards in postseason game in franchise history in Wild Card vs. Colts.  Boldin has 41 receptions for 642 yards (15.7 avg.) with 4 TDs in the post-season. KR-WR JACOBY JONES had 2nd-longest postseason TD reception in franchise annals last week.  The Ravens ranked 1st in NFL with 30.7 KR avg. in ’12. Tied league-high with 3 kick-return TDs (2 KO, 1 PR) this season…Incl. postseason, TE DENNIS PITTA has 2 TDs in past 2 vs. NE.

On defense the Ravens may be older but they are still very good.  It all starts with Ray Lewis.  LEWIS has played in 19 career postseason games (12-7, .632). Lewis is making his final run for another Super Bowl title as he will retire after this season.  S ED REED has 8 career postseason INTs, tied for 4th-most in NFL history. S BERNARD POLLARD (Indiana Native) had team-high 98 tackles in ’12…CB COREY GRAHAM became 4th Raven to register 2 INTs in playoff game last week…LB TERRELL SUGGS has 12 career postseason sacks, tied for 3rd-most since sacks became official statistic. Has 3 sacks in past 4 vs. NE (incl. postseason).

 

New England is as good as any team in the post season at home.  The Patriots are 14-3 (.824) at home in postseason and they have 7-2 all-time record (4-0 at home) in Conference Championship Games. Head coach BILL BELICHICK & QB TOM BRADY (17) have most postseason wins by QB-head coach duo.  Belichick (18) has surpassed  JOE GIBBS (17) for 3rd-most playoff wins all-time last week, trailing only TOM LANDRY (20) & DON SHULA (19).  Tom Brady’s 17 postseason wins are most playoffs wins by QB in NFL history. He (5,629) has 4th-most passing yards in NFL playoff history. Brady (41) joined Montana (45) & BRETT FAVRE (44) as only QBs to reach 40 postseason TD passes all-time. Brady (524) has most career postseason completions all-time. Has 17-6 (.739) playoff record, best postseason record as starting QB in NFL history (min. 15 starts). Brady has 5 postseason games with 300+ passing yards, trailing only PEYTON MANNING (8),  JOE MONTANA (6) & KURT WARNER (6).

As for the New England running attack: RB STEVAN RIDLEY rushed for 82 yards on 15 att. (5.5 avg.) with TD last week. Ridley (1,263) is 5th player in franchise history to reach 1,200 rush yards in season. Last week RB SHANE VEREEN totaled 124 scrimmage yards last week (83 receiving, 41 rushing).

Brady has plenty of weapons to throw to.  WR WES WELKER (61) has most career postseason receptions in club history. Welker (131) posted 2nd 100-yard career receiving game in postseason last week. WR BRANDON LLOYD (108) & Welker (142) each posted 100+ receiving yards in last meeting against Ravens (9/23/12). Lloyd posted TD reception in 1st career playoff game last week. WR DEION BRANCH (836) has most career postseason receiving yards in Patriots history…TE AARON HERNANDEZ had 6 catches for 85 yards last week…

On defense: LB JEROD MAYO led club with 147 tackles in ’12. LB BRANDON SPIKES has sack, INT, FF & FR in 5 career postseason games…DT VINCE WILFORK had sack in AFC Championship Game vs. Bal. last season…DE ROB NINKOVICH posted 1st career INT in playoffs last week.

Prediction:  So many times in sports the hottest team wins not always the best team.  Baltimore is hot and made a believer of me after going to Denver and beating the Broncos.

Baltimore  24   New England  23


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