AFC Seedings:
  1. New England 13-3
  2. San Diego 12-4
  3. Indianapolis 12-4
  4. Baltimore 11-5
  5. Denver 12-4
  6. NY Jets 11-5
NFC Seedings:
  1. Philadelphia 11-5
  2. Seattle 10-6
  3. New Orleans 10-6
  4. Chicago 9-7
  5. Dallas 10-6
  6. Carolina 10-6

NFC Wild Card
Carolina Panthers (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (10-6)
As a reference, I have these two teams splitting in the regular season, each winning on the road. Will that trend continue? Maybe. It's a tough game to call, but I have to give an edge to New Orleans. The obvious thing to say is that the Saints will have a raucous crowd behind them. While that's true, I feel their greatest advantage is at the quarterback position.

Jake Delhomme has a great career playoff record, but he looked really shaky in 2006, repeatedly making uncharacteristic errors. Drew Brees, meanwhile, is 1-2 in the postseason. However, look at the numbers he has compiled in those three contests: 916 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Those two losses were a result of Nate Kaeding's missed field goals and his defense's 39-point letdown to Chicago. If Delhomme makes enough mistakes, Carolina won't be able to catch up to the Saints on the scoreboard.
New Orleans Saints 29, Carolina Panthers 26.

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) at Chicago Bears (9-7)
Looks like the Bears won the weak NFC North by default. They have great personnel, but I think Rex Grossman is horrible and the defensive tackle situation is going to be a problem. Furthermore, Chicago may have a liability on the offensive line, as right tackle Fred Miller turned 34 in April.

If Miller regresses a bit this season, the Bears will be in trouble at this juncture. Dallas obtained Anthony Spencer via the draft and will be getting back Greg Ellis from injury. Along with DeMarcus Ware, they'll wreak havoc upon Grossman, forcing the erratic quarterback to throw tons of picks. I could also see Marion Barber having a big game. You can't lose three of your top four defensive tackles and expect to excel against the run.
Dallas Cowboys 20, Chicago Bears 10.

AFC Wild Card

New York Jets (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
Poor Eric Mangini. He reaches the playoffs twice with the Jets and has to play New England and Indianapolis. He has a good team, but it's going to take someone special to knock off the defending champs. This one stays close.
Indianapolis Colts 27, New York Jets 24.

Denver Broncos (12-4) at Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
Notice that every single AFC playoff team has an equal or better record than each squad in the AFC. Conference domination at its finest.

If this game actually takes place, I expect every prognosticator and talking head to predict that Jay Cutler will be eaten alive by Baltimore's defense. I actually think the opposite will happen. Steve McNair played terribly against a sub-par Colts stop unit last year. How in the world is he going to handle Denver's defense, which has improved tremendously this offseason? The Broncos beat the Ravens in 2006, so I think we may see a repeat performance.
Denver Broncos 19, Baltimore Ravens 11.

NFC Divisional Round

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
I can't even imagine how absolutely insane the city of Philadelphia will be for this game. Remember the "Terrell O.D." battle of 2006? Multiply that by 10,000. Not only will Owens be back in the town in which he is scorned, the season will be on the line for both squads. A loss to T.O. would essentially be a deathblow to a city that has suffered some of the most devastating defeats in the history of professional sports.

Luckily, the Eagles have a huge edge on the sidelines. Wade Phillips is a good regular-season coach, but he has never won a playoff game in his career. Furthermore, Dallas' defense will not be able to explot a weakness at quarterback because there is none. Donovan McNabb is obviously far superior to Rex Grossman. No crushing defeat for Philadelphia - at least not yet.
Philadelphia Eagles 23, Dallas Cowboys 17.

New Orleans Saints (10-6) at Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
Despite the fact that they're the No. 3 seed in the NFC, I believe the Saints are the best team in the conference. The 10-win campaign is a byproduct of their extremely difficult schedule. Seattle, conversely, was able to secure a first-round bye thanks to a relatively easy slate. I think this is a mismatch.

The squad that knocks New Orleans out of the playoffs will be one that can consistently run the ball against them and rattle Drew Brees enough to force some turnovers. While the Seahawks are capable of the latter, I don't have much confidence in Shaun Alexander. Alexander witnessed his yards-per-carry average drop from 5.1 in 2005 to 3.6 last year. At age 30, I think he's over the hill. He won't be effective versus the Saints.
New Orleans Saints 28, Seattle Seahawks 24.

AFC Divisional Round

Denver Broncos (12-4) at New England Patriots (13-3)
If the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl and claim their fourth Lombardi trophy in this regime, this will be their toughest game. The Broncos always play New England well. I have no idea how he does it, but Mike Shanahan has Bill Belichick's number.

There are, however, two strong edges on New England's side. First, this game is at home. When the Broncos defeated the Patriots in the playoffs two years ago, it was at Mile High II. Second, Denver will be starting a quarterback playing in his first postseason contest. It'll be close, but I'll take the guy with the three rings.
New England Patriots 27, Denver Broncos 23.

Indianapolis Colts (12-4) at San Diego Padres (12-4)
I previously mentioned that it's going to take someone special to knock off the Colts. Here it is. I don't think the Chargers will win the Super Bowl - especially with Norv Turner holding the clipboard - but they're a team that simply has Indianapolis' number.

We've seen San Diego defeat the Colts twice at Indianapolis recently. Peyton Manning gets confused by the Chargers' blitz packages, and his offensive line simply cannot block Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. Joseph Addai will not be a factor on the ground with Jamal Williams, Igor Olshansky and Luis Castillo stuffing the interior. The champs go down, ruining another Brady vs. Manning showdown.
San Diego Chargers 33, Indianapolis Colts 24.

NFC Championship Game

New Orleans Saints (10-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
Here we go again... I have the Saints beating the Eagles this regular season - by a score of 27-24, of course - so this is the fourth matchup between these two teams in a span of two years. Will Philadelphia reach the Super Bowl for the third time in franchise history, or will New Orleans take advantage of the Eagles' emotional victory over Dallas and deliver another blow that will send the City of Brotherly Love into a state of perpetual depression?

If you're a Philly fan, you already know that answer. I think the Saints pull the upset despite playing in the frigid environment of the Linc. Sean Payton simply has Andy Reid's number. Think about it: Payton swept Reid in 2006. As offensive coordinator of the Cowboys, he swept Big Red in 2005. When he was the offensive coordinator of the Giants, McNabb and company always lost. Like Jon Gruden, Payton's a guy who gives Reid and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson severe problems. I have a feeling history repeats itself on a cold day in Philadelphia.
New Orleans Saints 27, Philadelphia 24.

AFC Championship Game

San Diego Chargers (12-4) at New England Patriots (13-3)
Hmmm... Let's think about this for a second. Bill Belichick versus Norv Turner. Who do you think is going to win? Not sure? OK, how about three-time champion Tom Brady versus Philip Rivers, who has one career playoff start prior to the 2007 season? Still thinking about the winner of this contest? How about the fact that a warm-weather team will be asked to win at Foxboro, where the Patriots are nearly invincible? If you're still deciding and you're not a Chargers fan, please commit yourself to a mental hospital immediately.
New England Patriots 31, San Diego Chargers 17.

Super Bowl XLII

New Orleans (10-6) vs. New England Patriots (13-3)
Vegas made the Patriots the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Nearly every football publication is predicting New England to claim another Lombardi trophy. If you've been following my NFL picks, you know that I hate going with chalk and following the herd in terms of public perception. However, this is one case where I'll have to deviate from my tactics.

The last time the Patriots went this crazy during an offseason was just prior to the 2003 campaign. After starting 2-2, New England went undefeated the rest of the year, straight to a Super Bowl victory over Carolina. I have a feeling the same thing will happen in 2007. If the Patriots make it by San Diego, Denver, Indianapolis and the rest of the AFC, they won't lose to whomever comes out of the NFC. It could take a game-winning field goal to get the job done, but that's just how Bill Belichick and Tom Brady like to get things done.
New England Patriots 34, New Orleans Saints 32.

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