2017 NFL Wild Card and Full Playoff Predictions

The Titans, Rams, Bills, and Jaguars are playing this weekend. Are we sure it’s the playoffs, or is it January 2000? I can’t help but feel that something strange is going to happen this postseason, but here we go.

Titans at Chiefs

I already did my big preview on this one at FO, so check that out. I just think the Chiefs are on a good run going into the playoffs and they should be able to get this win without too much trouble. Too much offense for the Titans to overcome on the road. Good offenses all put up 25+ on the Titans this year. This could be the start to an incredible playoff run by the Chiefs a la the 2011 Giants/2012 Ravens.

Final: Chiefs 27, Titans 17

Falcons at Rams

I think this game has the widest range of outcomes this weekend. The Falcons should have won the Super Bowl last year, and are lucky to be in the tournament this year. Don’t forget the dropped game-winning touchdown by the Bears in Week 1, the Golden Tate GW TD coming up inches short in Detroit, the way Seattle and Tampa Bay missed game-tying field goals at the end, or Drew Brees’ unthinkable pick in the red zone in a 3-point game. The Falcons can be 4-12 just as easily as 13-3 right now. It’s just been that kind of year.

Meanwhile, the Rams bring inexperience and unpredictability to the tournament. They rested starters last week, and this is all new for Sean McVay, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Buffalo’s wide receivers, and Aaron Donald. The Rams had the highest weekly DVOA variance this season while the Falcons had the lowest. The Rams really stomped some teams, including Seattle in Seattle, and they play great special teams and give Goff incredible field position. They also struggled to get the offense going against some better defenses like the Vikings and Seahawks (first time when they were healthy).

The matchup seems to favor the Rams in that the Falcons were 25th in QBR against play-action passes, and Goff uses play-action more than anyone. He also loves throwing to Gurley, who is on a tear, and no defense gives up more catches to running backs than the Falcons. However, Goff still worries me. He had the third-highest rate of off-target passes this year according to ESPN Stats & Info. So you’re talking about a quarterback who relies heavily on YAC and play-action in a QB-friendly system. When it comes to making big throws in big moments, the Falcons have a big edge there with Matt Ryan, who’s had a stellar run in the postseason going back to 2012 even. Sure, this season wasn’t what we thought he could do, but he really did have an epic amount of tipped interceptions and some egregious touchdown drops. He’s clearly not leading an offense as great as 2016’s, but this is still a talented bunch who can score on this defense and won’t be afraid of the big stage. It also doesn’t sound like a strong home-field advantage is going to be there for the Rams yet, but win this game and that will change too in the future.

Atlanta’s only allowed more than 26 points once this season (31 to Seattle), so I think the game can remain close. This is the smallest spread this week at 6 points, and I really think Atlanta might be the underdog to back on that front.

Final: Falcons 26, Rams 23

Bills at Jaguars

Not only are the Bills and Jaguars in the playoffs, but one of these teams is guaranteed to advance to the next round. It’s too bad LeSean McCoy isn’t 100 percent, because he’s sorely needed in this matchup. Buffalo is a low-volume passing offense to begin with, but you don’t want to throw much against the top pass defense in football when you are so limited in receiving weapons. Not only could McCoy be a threat on the ground, but he can catch a lot of passes too. He led the Bills with 59 catches, 10 more than any other teammate. I’m sure McCoy is going to suit up to give it a go, but I can’t see him being too effective after his ankle injury. Tyrod Taylor gets pressured enough as is, but throwing him against the wolves of Sacksonville? It can’t be a pretty day for this offense.

So I think the only way for Jacksonville to blow this at home is for Blake Bortles to turn the ball over multiple times (or once for a touchdown). We have called Buffalo an opportunistic defense all season long with takeaways. Tre’Davious White is not just a guy who Gronkowski delivered a cheapshot to, but the rookie was involved in a lot of takeaways this year. The Bills were actually a subpar defense (26th in yards per drive, 23rd in points), but eighth in takeaways per drive, which really helped this team win nine games to sneak into the playoffs.

Look, the Jaguars held eight teams to 0-10 points this year. That’s impressive stuff. I think they’ll hide Bortles enough this week, lean on the running game and defense, and the Jaguars will go to Pittsburgh next week for a rematch.

Final: Jaguars 24, Bills 13

Panthers at Saints

Again, I think the AFC games are pretty one-sided this week, but the NFC ones could easily go either way. The Saints got the best of Carolina in both games this year, and neither was really that close. You always hear how it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year, but it’s not so hard if you’re already 2-0. In fact, it’s the expected result as it’s happened 65% of the time in this scenario. Part of what helps there is that usually the 2-0 team gets the third game at home in the playoffs. If this game wasn’t in the Superdome, then I could see trusting Carolina a lot more. But that’s not the case since the Panthers bombed in Atlanta last week when winning the division was possible.

Neither of these teams are charging ahead into the playoffs on a good note. Both lost in Week 17. The Panthers also nearly lost to Tampa Bay in Week 16. This is a real Jekyll and Hyde team, and it starts with the erratic Cam Newton. I think he’s had some downright incredible games this year (NE, DET, MIA, GB), but then you remember the 4 losses to CHI/NO/ATL/PHI where he threw 2 TD, 11 INT. Cam actually had a career-high in rushing yards (754), but I don’t think you can really trust him to deliver in this matchup. He’s also failed to pass for 200 yards in his last three games against this defense, and he’s only topped 260 passing yards three times in 14 career matchups with the Saints. Remember, there were a lot of terrible defensive seasons from the Saints in that span. Things have certainly improved this year, but like I said before, the Saints have looked like a .500 ball club ever since that dominant 7-game winning streak where none of the games were too close.

Mix in the familiarity these teams have with each other, and I think you could see Carolina find a way to pull this one out if Newton brings his A game. He needs to get Greg Olsen involved heavily again, who hasn’t been much of a factor in an injury-plagued season.

All I know is I’m just glad to see Drew Brees in another playoff game. It’s been a while, and he’s been one of the most prolific postseason passers ever (see below). I think he’ll get the job done at home.

Final: Saints 27, Panthers 21

(That means my spread picks are KC, ATL, JAX, CAR)


2017 NFL Full Playoff Predictions

This is where I pick the whole tournament. I came pretty close last year, only missing on KC beating Pittsburgh in the divisional round, and Atlanta beating New England in the Super Bowl (d’oh). You don’t know how badly I want to pick the Chiefs to get some revenge this year by knocking off the Patriots and Steelers, two teams who eliminated them the last two years.

Wild Card:

  • Titans at Chiefs
  • Falcons at Rams
  • Bills at Jaguars
  • Panthers at Saints


  • Falcons at Eagles
  • Chiefs at Patriots
  • Jaguars at Steelers
  • Saints at Vikings

Conference Championship:

  • Steelers at Patriots
  • Falcons at Vikings

Super Bowl LII:

Patriots vs. VIKINGS

Super Bowl MVP: The home crowd in Minnesota

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 13: 11-5 (Spread: 10-6)
  • Week 14: 6-10 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 15: 14-2 (Spread: 7-6-3)
  • Week 16: 12-4 (Spread: 7-8-1)
  • Week 17: 10-6 (Spread: 8-8)
  • Season: 162-94 (Spread: 60-59-5)

2014 NFL Divisional Round Predictions: Bunch of Homers

Did you notice a trend on Wild Card weekend? Defenses stepped up again. The four winning teams allowed 10, 16, 17 and 20 points. That includes a couple of safeties from the Saturday games, and it’s not like Ryan Lindley did much to earn those two Arizona touchdowns on short fields. Only Dallas gave up 20 thanks to a slow start, but came through with the late fumble to clinch the win.

It’s not so much about running this time of year, but strong quarterback play and team defense are what drive so many playoff victories.

This week it’s all about elite home teams trying to avoid upsets on the greatest week of the NFL year. This year’s group is especially dominant at home with a combined 30-2 record. Dallas won in Seattle and the Bills beat New England in a meaningless game with plenty of reserves getting playing time. It’s going to be hard to get a road upset this week, but every season since 2005 has had at least one in the Divisional round.

Ravens at Patriots

Since 2001, the Patriots are 9-0 in the playoffs against a new opponent and 9-8 in a rematch from the regular season. Baltimore plays New England so often that it’s not really a “new” opponent, but so be it. I actually think there’s been too much hype about the Ravens’ past success in Foxboro, which includes two playoff wins (2009 and 2012) and that of course should be three without one of the most disastrous endings ever (2011 AFC Championship). But these teams have changed a lot since 2012. Then again, I’m willing to bet these teams changed a lot from 2009 to 2012, and Baltimore still kicked NE’s ass in that second half on its way to the Super Bowl. Still, for a guy like Baltimore cornerback Rashaan Melvin, those past games mean nothing this week.

The Ravens are uniquely built to deal with the Patriots better than any team in the AFC this year. A big part of that is coaching, because John Harbaugh, Dean Pees and company are the only staff in the AFC playoffs you could trust to head into Foxboro and get the job done. Bill Belichick has a massive advantage over the other coaches, especially if you give him a bye week to prepare. Pittsburgh’s elimination has probably helped create a better AFC playoffs.

The defense that steps up is going to win this game. We have trashed Tom Brady’s deep ball so much this week I almost expect him to hit one in this game, though it will probably be on a blown coverage or something of that nature. Still, that’s a possibility with this secondary and the way NE schemes so well to get receivers open. Brandon LaFell checked his verticality at the door when he joined the Patriots this year and we know Julian Edelman isn’t that kind of receiver. In the past Baltimore has done a good job of limiting that slot WR’s production in this offense. He might catch nine passes, but only for 70 yards. Baltimore is actually quite good at defending the short passes this year (ranked 3rd), but those deep throws are where this defense is most vulnerable (ranked 31st). That’s why the front seven, which is led by so many great veterans, must dominate this game with Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata applying pressure on Brady. This isn’t a very consistent OL or running game like the Patriots have had in past years. Look at how the Jets held NE to 17 points recently. They got after Brady despite a poor secondary. The Ravens can do the same through their front seven and general coaching familiarity with the NE offense.

A difference maker this year should be Rob Gronkowski, who is finally healthy for the playoffs. How do you ever match up with that guy? He can take this game over, and he may have to because this isn’t that dominant of an offense unless he’s playing at a high level. Everyone wants to ignore the first month of the season for the Patriots when Gronk was recovering. Okay, let’s do that. That means the worst four games of the season for this offense have been the last four. In the last eight games of the season Brady’s YPA is just 6.81 (below league average). When you try to do everything methodically on offense, those little mistakes like penalties, drops and sacks can easily kill drives.  The Ravens are also the No. 1 defense in the red zone, so they’ll have to hold up there and limit Brady to field goals. Again, uniquely constructed to give the offense a chance in this one.

The Ravens will also be hoping there’s some rust from the NE offense, which had a bye week and rested guys in Week 17. The last time this offense looked really sharp was in the second half against Miami. That was on December 14.

Joe Flacco has to live up to his playoff hype and play a great game against a stingy defense that has allowed 12 points after halftime in its last six games. Yeah, that’s just ridiculous and has only been done three times since 1960 (1976 Steelers and 1989 Redskins) to end a season. Flacco has — gulp — been the most consistent playoff quarterback in the AFC since 2011, but he’s relied largely on avoiding interceptions despite his general inaccuracy and willingness to launch bombs. I think he’s going to find quickly that won’t work well against this secondary with Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Devin McCourty. Flacco has to be more precise or there will be tips and picks. He also has to be very nimble and able to escape pressure and still make plays like he did in Pittsburgh. Gary Kubiak’s offense is known for play action and bootleg action, and used to have plenty of success against Belichick defenses when Kubiak was with Mike Shanahan in Denver. Hell, Jake Plummer went 3-0 against the Pats in 2005-06. Flacco has to hit big plays and limit mistakes, which is far easier said than done in the toughest building to win in the NFL.

The Patriots have allowed one fourth-quarter comeback at home since 2001 (Eli Manning in 2011). ONE.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe is questionable for the game. That worries me, because the rookie James Hurst is a major liability. I also don’t like guard Marshal Yanda at right tackle, because that means he’s farther away from Vince Wilfork in the middle. This might not be another good day for Justin Forsett, who needs to help out. At least the Ravens are unique in their passing game that there’s no obvious No. 1 WR for Revis to try taking away. Flacco will throw to whoever, but both Smiths have to show up big. I also think Owen Daniels deserves some look in this game. The Patriots rank 30th against tight ends.

Should be a good one, but I think New England is a superior team playing at home. The only good team’s Baltimore really been able to beat was Pittsburgh (twice), and that team was very flawed. I felt good about the Ravens in 2011-12 to pull of those upsets. I don’t have that feeling this week, because I think the NE defense is going to rise to the occasion this time.

Panthers at Seahawks

Let’s see. Seattle has allowed 39 points in its last six games, first team to do that since the legendary 1976 Steelers. Yes, that team failed to win the Super Bowl, but go look up their defensive run to see why I called them legendary.

The Panthers have put up 28 points in three games at home the last three years against Seattle (0-3). So where are the points coming from this week? Even if the Carolina defense gets Russell Wilson contained, hit, sacked and turned over at least once, where are the points coming from? Cam Newton isn’t even healthy right now and he played poorly at home when he was healthy against this defense.

Warning: Cam Newton has led Carolina to 19 points on 27 drives against Seattle in his career.

The Seahawks are pursuing a dynasty. Losing this game at home to such an inferior opponent would really destroy that mystique. It would also destroy the dream matchup in the NFC of seeing Seattle against Green Bay/Dallas, not to mention a potential dream Super Bowl of Seattle against any AFC team (okay, maybe except Baltimore). Carolina winning would be like some cretin walking into an extravagant party and taking a giant shit in the middle of the ballroom floor. You just shit all over the playoffs, Ron Rivera. Are you happy now?

Seattle’s offensive shortcomings are the only reason to worry this will be another close game, and the Seahawks definitely don’t want another one of those against Carolina. Some day the ball is going to bounce the other way.

2012 (L 16-12): Newton short-hopped a go-ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.

2013 (L 12-7): After a Wilson bomb put Seattle back on top, DeAngelo Williams fumbled in the red zone and the Seahawks ran out the clock with a long drive.

2014 (L 13-9): Wilson led a great GWD late for the win while Newton ended by bouncing a screen pass off the ground on 4th-and-25.

Don’t let the game get to that point again, but I think we’re in for a lot of punts and a generally uninteresting game.

Then again, the Seahawks are usually better at home and the game is in prime time instead of a 10:00 A.M. start. There are studies that suggest Pacific teams are at their peak in these prime-time games.

Sure enough, Pete Carroll is 15-1 in prime time with Seattle, only losing to another Pacific team (49ers) in 2012 in a low-scoring game back when Wilson still had his training wheels on.

Cowboys at Packers

Alright, a 8-0 road team against a 8-0 home team. About time. This is the best shot of the week for a road upset, because Dallas has the balanced offense to control this game and the clock. Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers have been the best quarterbacks this season playing behind two of the most improved offensive lines. Each team has a great No. 1 wide receiver too, but I think this is a game for Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray to take center stage given the weather and the fact that both quarterbacks have some injury concerns. Neither run defense is very good, though the Cowboys also have the worst pass defense (ranked 22nd in DVOA) of the remaining eight teams. That sounds like advantage Green Bay and Rodgers, but will he still be Rodgers with the calf injury? Dallas would be silly not to attack early and test that mobility. Rodgers can still execute from the pocket at a very high level, but it’s not the same offense if he’s stuck in that box and trying to release everything quickly.

It’s always crucial to survive the early part of the game against the Packers, especially at Lambeau. We know how quickly the avalanche of points can come. We also know if you punch this team in the mouth and make them play a 60-minute game, then you have a great shot of pulling out the late win, something Romo and Dallas have done often over the years. Last December the Cowboys blew a 23-point lead at home to Green Bay, but that was with Matt Flynn at quarterback. At least we know if something happens to Rodgers again with the calf, the Packers have one of the more competent backups.

The Packers have trailed for 9 minutes and 15 seconds in the second half at home this year (all in Week 2 vs. Jets).

I don’t fear Dallas getting avalanched in this one, because this is a much better team than most of the ones GB has faced this season. We also saw the Jets perform well in this building, as did the Falcons in the second half after a horrible start.  I don’t think either one of these defenses is good enough to ignite a championship run, but the one that gets the turnovers and big stops on Sunday will earn this win. Rodgers hasn’t thrown a pick at home since 2012, so you really have to rely on a tipped ball or fumble. Dallas has 31 takeaways this season despite a no-name defense. 

So often this year the Cowboys have gone against expectations. I’m not calling them a “team of destiny” or anything like that, but this is a team with a lot of guys playing their best football ever and the results speak for themselves.

Colts at Broncos

Anything I had to analyze about this game is in my massive preview at Football Outsiders, so please go read it there.

I’ll just say this: any Indianapolis fan that’s painting Peyton Manning as a bad playoff quarterback needs to get a clue. He’s only one of the best playoff quarterbacks in NFL history. The Colts failed him as a team far too often and you are going to experience the same damn thing this weekend when Andrew Luck tries to take his one-man show on the road against a superior team*.

*Of course I should not be held responsible for a Jack Del Rio-influenced letdown, but good luck to the Colts trying to find a running game and defense this week. Rome wasn’t built in a day.


I just couldn’t take all the home teams again.

  • Patriots over Ravens, 23-16
  • Seahawks over Panthers, 20-10
  • Cowboys over Packers, 30-26
  • Broncos over Colts, 28-21

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Week 10: 10-3
  • Week 11: 8-6
  • Week 12: 12-3
  • Week 13: 9-7
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 14-2
  • Week 16: 10-6
  • Week 17: 11-5
  • Wild Card: 3-1
  • Total: 175-84-1

NFL Conference Championship Predictions and Writing Recap

Only three games left in the NFL season, excluding the Pro Bowl. Actually the Pro Bowl would probably count as -0.5 games, because that’s how bad it has become. A drawback to writing for multiple sites is that you have to avoid repeating information when writing a preview for the few games left, but my early week broke up the monotony with a much-needed trip down memory lane.

Part of what makes this the best time of the (NFL) year, also makes it the worst when people overreact to playoff results.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Divisional: Last-Minute Shockers by Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens – Cold, Hard Football Facts

One of the more epic playoff games ever, Baltimore at Denver, deserved an epic-sized recap. See what the refs screwed up, how Chris Kuper disappointed in his return, Joe Flacco’s big-play postseason, the worst defensive mistake in NFL history, and whether or not the Broncos played it too conservatively late. Also, the Falcons and Seahawks play one of the most exciting fourth quarters in playoff history, and Matt Ryan finally gets a chance for a game-winning drive in the playoffs. He only had 0:25 to do so. Finally a look at more dominant wins by the 49ers and Patriots.

Peyton Manning’s 9-11 Playoff Record Is a Call for Help – Cold, Hard Football Facts

If you think Peyton Manning’s playoff career should be defined by 11 losses and eight one-and-done seasons, then you have some cold, hard facts to read up on. A game-by-game recap of Manning’s eight early playoff exits, looking at the real reason his teams lost that day, and the unique circumstances that have produced such a record. Stats, tables, GIF images, the whole nine yards this week.

One example: Two yards away from beating the Chargers, and your rookie TE forgets the snap count and gets beat for a sack.


Joe Flacco Eyeing an Elite Contract, But Is He an Elite NFL QB? – Bleacher Report

Can you believe Joe Flacco is going to start as many AFC Championship games (3) in five seasons as Peyton Manning and Dan Marino each started in their career? But that says more about the Ravens than Flacco, and even though he said he was the best quarterback back in April, he’s still not an elite player. A look at what kind of long-term contract Baltimore should offer Flacco.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Conference Championship Games – Bleacher Report

An information-filled preview for each game on Championship Sunday. Find out how the Falcons not only own the fourth quarter under Matt Ryan, but are also the top scoring differential team in the first quarter since 2008. With Ravens/Patriots, a look at Baltimore’s fatigue, the bad news for rematches in this round, the great runs by No. 4 seeds since 1990, and New England’s absurd home-field advantage.


Ravens Want to Win, But Patriots Need to Win – NBC Sports

Previewing the AFC Championship again, this time focusing on how the Patriots need a Super Bowl win to validate historic success since 2007.  Despite a 76-20 regular-season record since 2007, these teams have come up empty in the playoffs despite being the favorite each time. There is still plenty to play for with the Ravens as well, making their third AFC Championship since 2008, and looking for the Hollywood ending for Ray Lewis before he retires.


NFL Conference Championship Predictions

For all the people who went 1-3 or worse last week, going 2-2 doesn’t sound so bad, though the AFC, my favorite conference, had my two wrong picks.

  • 49ers over Falcons, 23-17
  • Patriots over Ravens, 27-23

Please, no game-deciding special teams plays this year. Last year was brutal enough.

Peyton Manning’s Eight One-And-Done NFL Playoffs: Learn What You Are Criticizing

Peyton Manning lost another playoff game. Starting as a common quarterback narrative, the story has breathed too many years without more Super Bowl success to dispel, because we all know the “NFL For Dummies” handbook says to judge a quarterback based on championships won in the ultimate team sport.

So when Manning loses a playoff game, the popular thing to do is bash his reputation as a postseason quarterback, bash his losing playoff record (9-11), and call him a choker. The latest loss was probably the most painful one yet, and it gives Manning 11 playoff losses (tied with Brett Favre for record) and eight one-and-done postseason’s (another record).

But when someone throws that last fact out, they clearly do not realize what they are criticizing. If you want to bash the Colts and No. 1 seed 2012 Broncos for losing these games, five of them at home (by a combined 14 points), as a team, then feel free. They probably should have won at least 5-6 of them.

Though if you are bashing Manning based on his performances, then you need your head examined. Which other QB in NFL history could possibly produce these numbers and go 0-8 in the process without getting royally screwed over by his teammates and various other factors in a way no player ever has?

This is what you are knocking when you throw out the eight one-and-done seasons and 0-8 record:

  • 176/302 (58.3 percent) – This includes over 30 dropped passes in what equates to half a regular season
  • 2,075 passing yards (6.87 YPA)
  • 10 TD passes, one TD run
  • 6 INT – Three deflected off his own receiver’s hands, two thrown vs. 2002 Jets when Colts trailed 34-0/41-0 in 4th quarter
  • 82.0 passer rating – This would rank 23rd all time in postseason history (min. 150 attempts).
  • Six games with rating of 82.0 or better (five over 88.3, which is roughly career rating).
  • Seven losses by a combined 26 points; one other loss by 41 points.
  • Led in final 5:00 of fourth quarter five times.
  • Led in final 0:40 of fourth quarter four times.
  • Three overtime losses.
  • Two games where Manning’s last possession resulted in a missed field goal by Mike Vanderjagt (2000 MIA, 2005 PIT).
  • 2002 at Jets: Manning set Vanderjagt up for 41-yard FG, trailing 7-0. The next time he took the field, it was 17-0 Jets.
  • A memorable play where Nick Harper could have returned Jerome Bettis’ fumble for game-winning TD, but was tackled by Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Billy Volek came off the bench for Philip Rivers to lead Chargers on fourth-quarter comeback win (2007).
  • The worst average starting field position for any road team in the playoffs in the last 30 years (2008 San Diego).

These are not normal occurrences, and somehow the same quarterback keeps experiencing them, and becomes the easy target every year.

Saturday was the ultimate bow on top. Rahim Moore had a shot at a game-ending interception, and instead offers up what will go down as the worst ball misjudgment in NFL playoff history, resulting in Baltimore’s 70-yard game-tying TD. That is “Game Over” for any other quarterback. This was supposed to be “Manning’s best defense ever,” yet they suffered the biggest lapse and letdown in his career.

The game incredibly continued into overtime, and on Manning’s second possession, he went Favre and threw a bad interception. Immediately this cues the “Manning with another crushing playoff INT” talk, yet look at the list. This is the first time he’s ever thrown an interception in a close game like this that was actually his fault.

Just like how the Tracy Porter play in Super Bowl XLIV was the first time Manning ever turned the ball over in the fourth quarter/overtime in a one-score game in the playoffs. Yet the narrative is he always does these things. How does that happen when the facts show otherwise? These plays are first’s, not repeats.

What Manning usually does in the playoffs is give his team a chance to win the game in a way no other quarterback has. When they don’t, he takes the blunt of the criticism regardless of his play.

This stuff isn’t that hard to analyze. They only play 11 playoff games a year. Blame the quarterback when he deserves it. Don’t just blame Manning because of his status, and that you expect a touchdown every single drive from him. He’s not perfect. No one is in the playoffs.

In a 20-game sample, things are not going to even out, and they certainly have not evened out for Manning just yet, and he is really running out of chances. If the playoffs are supposed to be so important, so micro-analyzed, why are we seeing more garbage analysis than ever before? Just saying “9-11” does not prove a thing.

You know why quarterbacks who win a lot of playoff games do so? It’s not because they statistically out-produce Manning, because few do in the postseason. It’s because their teammates don’t muff onside-kick recoveries like Hank Baskett in the Super Bowl, miss clutch field goals like Mike Vanderjagt, forget a snap count on 3rd-and-1 with a chance to clinch the game, or allow a back-breaking 70-yard touchdown bomb.

Winning playoff teams limit their mistakes and finish games in the playoffs. There is no magical playoff quarterback formula about it. Manning was just over 30 seconds away from clinching his 50th game-winning drive, moving onto next week’s AFC Championship, and then disaster struck. A disaster other quarterbacks simply don’t have to deal with, because games never end that way.

Stop writing your stories before the game even starts, and pay attention to what actually happens. Be a defensive writer; one who reacts to what they see. Otherwise, you end up with garbage that truly defines the word “offensive.”

NFL Wild Card Predictions, MVP Voting and Writing Recap

Playoffs. I have already been feeling some postseason pressure to get things done, but it was a successful week and am looking forward to more significant research to put out there before we head into the offseason. This intro would sound much better read by Don Cheadle.

Last year I recapped every 4QC/GWD in playoff history for each round (can be found under Captain Comeback 2011 archives). The Wild Card round is home to the all-time NFL comeback, Houston’s 32-point collapse in Buffalo 20 years ago this week. It also has the only two playoff games ever ending on a defensive score in overtime, and both games involved the Packers. Finally, the only two playoff games to have two lead changes in the final minute are also on Wild Card weekend.

The best game last season ended up being the Steelers in Denver, with the longest game-winning TD pass in NFL playoff history from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas. I have a feeling Sunday’s games could live up to that one again.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 17: 2012 NFL Regular Season Review – Cold, Hard Football Facts

It’s the year-end review of the regular season, with a ranking of all 32 offenses in the clutch. Go figure the Colts and Broncos were among the best, while San Diego was the only team in the league without a single comeback or GWD in 2012.

The Biggest Flaw for Each NFL Playoff Team – Bleacher Report

It may be a  slideshow, but you are getting 12 articles in one here. A look at each playoff team’s fatal flaw, whether it be something tangible or a perception they must overcome. Framing each team the proper way before the postseason starts.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 17 vs. Houston Texans – Colts Authority

Houston blitzed Andrew Luck on 75.9 percent of his drop backs this week, but the battered offensive line actually held up enough for one of the most efficient offensive performances of the year for the Colts. Luck threw perhaps his pass of the season with a 70-yard touchdown strike to T.Y. Hilton in the fourth quarter on a 3rd and 23 to ice the game and the Colts’ 11th win.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Wild Card Predictions – Bleacher Report

The four-game preview format of TMG works best here, looking at each Wild Card matchup. Also included is a review of some postseason studies I did in the last year on home-field advantage, quality wins in the regular season, and marquee blowouts in 2012.

Best Rookie QB Class Ever Makes Postseason Debut – NBC Sports

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson will be the 12th-14th rookie quarterbacks to start a playoff game. A look at their record-breaking success, and whether or not one of them can make more history by reaching the Super Bowl.

Voting History: Why Peyton Manning Should Run Away with NFL MVP Award – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Not only was this the argument for Peyton Manning clearly being the MVP over Adrian Peterson in 2012, but you also get a chance to view all the MVP voting results (AP award) for 1986-2011. A great resource given this information is nowhere to be found elsewhere in one place. Find out who the only TE to receive a MVP vote is, or the only cornerback.

 NFL Wild Card Predictions

I’m not a fan of picking the final score, but here’s a shot at it.

  • Texans over Bengals, 19-16
  • Packers over Vikings, 24-13
  • Colts over Ravens, 20-17
  • Seahawks over Redskins, 24-20

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Week 12: 10-6
  • Week 13: 8-8
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Week 16: 12-4
  • Week 17: 11-5
  • Season: 168-87-1 (.658)

NFL Week 17 Predictions, Playoff Teams and Writing Recap

Part of me wishes the NFL regular season was not ending today, while some part of me is ready to move on to the playoffs.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 16: Steelers’ Meltdown Complete – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Pittsburgh came up a drive short to beat the Bengals, who are headed to the playoffs for the second straight season after Ben Roethlisberger threw another late-game interception. At home, Roethlisberger was a perfect 40-0 when the Steelers allowed 17 points or less in his career. Elsewhere the Cowboys had another great comeback to force overtime, but the Saints came away with the win. Andrew Luck joined the list of 11 seasons in which a quarterback led 7 game-winning drives.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2012 Season in Review: Where Did It All Go Wrong? – Bleacher Report

An in-depth review of where it all went wrong for the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers, starting with the offseason plan that failed, the lack of an offensive identity, and the identity fraud of a defense that can no longer get takeaways.


Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 16 at Kansas City Chiefs – Colts Authority

Andrew Luck led his 7th game-winning drive, the Colts overcame a record 352 rushing yards from the Chiefs in a win, and clinched a playoff spot at 10-5. Luck went 0/10 at one point in the second half, but as always, here is the play-by-play account of what really happened. Luck’s game-winning touchdown pass was his 4th this season, which is another rookie record.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 17 Predictions – Bleacher Report

This week we have the biggest game in Matt Schaub’s career, not the biggest game in Tony Romo’s, why Christian Ponder needs to be more of the MVP on Sunday if Minnesota wants to make the playoffs, and why a 2,000-yard season for Calvin Johnson would not be as impressive as it sounds.

It’s Do-Or-Die For Some in Week 17 – NBC Sports

A handy guide to what to watch for in Week 17, including playoff scenarios and NFL records on the line.

NFL’s New Overtime System Requires New Strategies for Coaches and Teams – Cold, Hard Football Facts

There have been 22 overtime games this season; the third most ever in one NFL season. With the new rules, combined with the kickoff rules increasing touchbacks, new strategies must be formed. Only 3/22 teams have taken the opening-drive kickoff for a touchdown, and it was always an 80-yard drive. A look at what might be the optimal strategy in the new OT, and it’s not the kind of gutsy decision-making you might have expected.

2012 NFL Week 17 Predictions

I always hate picking Week 17 games because of some teams treating it like preseason.

Winners in bold:

  • Buccaneers at Falcons
  • Jets at Bills
  • Ravens at Bengals
  • Bears at Lions
  • Texans at Colts
  • Panthers at Saints
  • Eagles at Giants
  • Browns at Steelers
  • Jaguars at Titans
  • Chiefs at Broncos
  • Packers at Vikings
  • Dolphins at Patriots
  • Raiders at Chargers
  • Rams at Seahawks
  • Cardinals at 49ers
  • Cowboys at Redskins

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Week 12: 10-6
  • Week 13: 8-8
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Week 16: 12-4
  • Season: 157-82-1 (.656)

With my final picks, here is the playoff field I’m predicting:


  • 1. Houston
  • 2. Denver
  • 3. New England
  • 4. Baltimore
  • 5. Indianapolis
  • 6. Cincinnati


  • 1. Atlanta
  • 2. Green Bay
  • 3. San Francisco
  • 4. Dallas
  • 5. Seattle
  • 6. Chicago