The regular season is over and we are in the midst of the playoffs. A recap of initial predictions in bold plus a look forward to this weekends playoff games.
Baltimore Ravens – led by what would be termed a steady as she goes quarterback in Joe Flacco they have not missed Ray Rice in their offense – in mediocre form the division is wide open so up for grabs – chances of playoffs 50% Picked up the last AFC Wildcard slot and easily accounted for the Steelers in their wildcard game.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Offensively lame and thrashed by traditional conference whipping boys the Cleveland Browns the Steelers faithful are growing very restless – unless a run of epic proportions in the last half of the season playoffs only a dream – yes Offensive Coordinator, Todd Haley is still there which says it all. Won the AFC North however lost at home to the Ravens in their playoff game.
Cincinnati Bengals – the AFC runaway leaders have ground to a halt in the past two weeks – a rare tie and loss to the Colts have many questioning how good they are. A traditional playoff choke side odds on happening again high if they win the division. Made playoffs and yes they choked against the Colts.
Cleveland Browns – Johnny Footballs games on field – 2- Pass attempts 2- Completions 0 – Divisional place mid-season – 4th out of 4 – chances of playoffs 50 % – perhaps the AFC Divisions prize for most improved team with a 3-3 record versus (last season they won a total of 4 games). The Johnny Manziel curse/effect – yes both still dysfunctional
Indianapolis Colts – the best quarterback in the NFL plays for the Colts – Andrew Luck will take a team to the Superbowl and win it all – calling that now – whether it be the Colts or another team time will tell. Odds on for the division title. Luck carried the team through to the AFC South title.
Houston Texans – they have the best defensive player in the NFL in JJ Watt – they have the worst offense – rebuilding under Bill O’Brien is the catch cry. JJ Watt is the best player in the NFL and has the most impact – can play both defence and offence (3 Touchdown receptions for the season).
Jacksonville Jaguars – No one is sure if they are improving or inept – first win for the season in week 7 suggests the latter however Quarterback Blake Bortles may be the home boy saviour – anther top 10 draft pick awaits in 2015. Finished the season with only 3 wins – offensive coach fired for overs stretching their quarterback.
Tennessee Titans – as predicted Quarterback Jake Locker goes down injured and is replaced by his back up in week 4. Tank the season and draft a quarterback the best option. Have no. 2 pick in the 2015 draft whereby they will take Jameis Winston.
Denver Broncos – stormed the AFC West title however their second to last game against the Bengals showed them that they are still vulnerable. If they don’t win it all Manning will possibly retire
San Diego Chargers – only had to win their last game against the Chiefs to make the playoffs. When your quarterback is sacked 4 times in a game chances of winning diminish
Kansas City Chiefs – only team in the NFL not to have a wide receiver score a touchdown. Limited offensively their defence one of the best. One win short of a playoff appearance
Oakland Raiders – By sacking their coach after game 4 reveals how the Raiders progressed this season
New England Patriots – Surprisingly inconsistent but still the team to beat in this erratic division. Highlight so far is Belechick’s next press conference after the shellacking at the Chiefs – “we are focussing on Cincinnati” repeat 20 times to every question. Form team in second half of season and AFC No.1 seed.
Buffalo Bills – injury ravaged and quarterback controversies. Kyle Orton will not lead you to the playoffs. Memo to new owners – draft well in 2015. Coach resigned – a solid 9-7 season led by their defence.
New York Jets – at this stage the best 1-6 team in the NFL – Rex Ryan’s farewell season with them means they will ruin the chances of other teams playoff hopes. Ryan fired day after final game.
Miami Dolphins – For some reason sporting franchises in Miami and success do not go together – the MLB Marlins in the same boat. Move the Fins to Los Angeles. Maybe some promise ahead after a 8-8 record.
Minnesota Vikings – distracted by Adrian Peterson’s abuse case and Quarterback injuries a tough season for rookie head coach Mike Zimmer. Showed promise for next season – whether Peterson will be there is another story.
Detroit Lions – in with a good shot at the post season the Lions are looking good with Matt Stafford winning the close ones. Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh’s usual on field assaults are non-existent so far. Suh disgraced himself in final regular season game and had his ban overturned however lost controversially to the Cowboys in their playoff game.
Green Bay Packers – “RELAX” says Quarterback Aaron Rodgers – yes they are on track for division title. Another team in form although they are totally reliant on Aaron Rodgers.
Biggest let down yet again – Chicago Bears quarterback “same old” Jay Cutler – as predicted – described this week as on an elite quarterbacks salary but not as a player by defensive legend Brian Urlacher. Cutler on the trade block and head coach Marc Trestman fired on black Monday.
Washington Redskins – if it’s not the name of the team in the headlines it’s the quarterback – week 8’s starter is called Colt – like really that does not stir up any further Cowboy and Indians controversy? Quarterback RG3 regained his starting spot for the final two games because of injuries – still dysfunctional.
Least offensive scorers in the NFL this season – Eli Manning and the New York Giants – as predicted – still one of the worst. A work in progress for offence.
Most offensive team in the NFL – Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles – Kelly turning into one of the better coaches in the league. Blown away in 3 of their last 4 games of season.
Dallas Cowboys – the talk of the town as they like to be – and for the right reasons – one loss coming into week 8 – Owner, GM and closet head coach Jerry Jones is smiling mid-season – and within his rights to be. Only team to have a perfect away record in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons – Hard Knocks Reality TV series curse – yes cursed. Coach Smith fired on Black Monday.
New Orleans Saints – the Rob Ryan defensive coordinator curse – when are NFL teams going to learn? Ryan has kept his job for next season – the Saints only won 3 home games this season.
Carolina Panthers – still struggling under the weight of a no. 1 pick in Quarterback Cam Newton. Won the NFC South with a losing record however they are still in the hunt.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – picked as the surprise package on the NFC division – yes surprising how bad they are. Have no.1 pick in the draft in 2015 and will take Oregon’s Mario Mariota as their next Quarterback.
Seattle Seahawks – struggling on and off the field recently trading one of their star receivers due to dressing room disruptions which seem to be filtering onto the field – two losses in a row heading into week 8. Ended up no.1 seed in the NFC – potential back to back champions.
Arizona Cardinals – surprise team in the division and favourites to take it. Fell away in last quarter of season due to Quarterback injuries. Knocked out in first playoff game.
St Louis Rams – luckless with Quarterbacks however Coach Jeff Fisher puts out a competitive team. Potential dark horse for next season.
San Francisco 49ers – season getting derailed by a coaching controversy – Jim Harbaugh unlikely to be there next season regardless of outcome. Harbaugh left by “mutual consent” – no playoff this season.
Teams in contention still to be playing on the first Sunday in February
AFC – New England, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts
NFC – Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks
Playoff match ups – All live on ESPN Sunday and Monday
Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks
Whilst not many pundits are giving the Panthers a chance here, the winner of Superbowl’s in the recent past have been about momentum, and that’s something Carolina have had going into the playoffs – easily accounting for divisional opponents at the back end of the season they have given Seattle problems in the past. Seattle have been unstoppable in the last half of the season and their running game has been relentless. This could go way closer than expected.
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Although the Patriots have home field advantage the Ravens have had playoff wins in the past there. A potential dark horse to go all the way, the Ravens only got in based on other results on the last day of the regular season. The Patriots have not won it all since 2004 and after an early blip this season they were a model of consistency in the last half. This will be a close one.
Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers
The Cowboys have a perfect away record and will hold no fears heading into Green Bays frozen tundra. The Packers have one of the best in Aaron Rodgers and this could be a shootout – there should be no surprise if the Cowboys take this out – they find a way to win in the late stages of games.
Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning’s heir apparent at the Colts, Andrew Luck, heads to Denver to face whom he replaced. Luck has carried the Colts most of the season however it will be tough to get a win here against a motivated Broncos team whose defence has generally been solid all season.
AFC Playoff prediction – Denver @ New England
NFC Playoff prediction – Dallas @ Seattle
Don’t forget to following Hamish on Twitter.