In my 2015 NFL Predictions I picked the Denver Broncos to beat the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl L. And while that pick is still alive, unlike last season when I picked the Saints to top the Patriots, neither team looks poised to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 7. So here are my 2016 NFL Playoff Predictions:
(All rankings come from Football Outsiders DVOA Metrics, which can be found here: www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/)
Wild Card Round
No. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers over No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals. Never has there been a year where more people are picking the six seeds to face off in the Super Bowl. With the 2nd best offense in the NFL per Football Outsiders’ DVOA, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will put up points and without Andy Dalton, the Bengals just won’t be able to keep up.
No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs over No. 4 Houston Texans. The Texans squeaked into the playoffs with Brandon Weeden at QB, and even with Brian Hoyer back under center, they won’t be able to compete with the Chiefs. Kansas City is not only on a 10-game winning streak, but also should get Tamba Hali and Justin Houston back for the playoffs.
No. 6 Seattle Seahawks over No. 3 Minnesota Vikings. It took awhile, but the Seahawks have finally hit their stride, ranking in the Top 5 in both offense and defense DVOA. Russell Wilson has this team rolling and against a middle-of-the-pack Vikings team, ranked No. 13 in DVOA weighted defense and No. 15 in DVOA weighted offense, the Seahawks shouldn’t have too much trouble advancing to the next round.
No. 4 Washington over No. 5 Green Bay Packers. I probably shouldn’t bet against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the playoffs, but then again, they just haven’t looked that good this season. In what should be a high-scoring affair, both teams are in the bottom half of the league in DVOA weighted defense, Washington pulls out the win at home.
No. 1 Denver Broncos over No. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers. In a matchup of one of the best offenses versus the best defense, the Broncos win round two, after losing to the Steelers in Week 15, 34-27. With Peyton Manning, and not Brock Osweiler at the helm, the Broncos should be able to limit their mistakes on offense against a mediocre pass defense, and pull it out at home.
No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs over No. 2 New England Patriots. Call me crazy, but the Patriots just haven’t look themselves for much of the season. Yes, much of it was due to injuries, but the Chiefs are on an absolute roll, and rank higher than the Patriots, in terms of DVOA, both offensively and defensively. Betting against Belichick and Brady in the playoffs is a bad idea, but Kansas City matches up well and wins a close one in Foxboro.
No. 1 Carolina Panthers over No. 6 Seattle Seahawks. Last season, the Seahawks got the better of the Panthers in the divisional round, but with the tables turned and the game in Charlotte, the Panthers get the win here. Cam Newton and the Panthers offense are much improved from last season, and even without Charles Tillman, their Top 5 defense can slow Wilson and Lynch down enough to move on in the playoffs.
No. 2 Arizona Cardinals over No. 4 Washington. After upsetting their Packers in the Wild Card round, Washington proves to be no match for the Cardinals. Carson Palmer and David Johnson lead one of the best offenses in the NFL (No. 4 per DVOA) while Patrick Peterson leads a top-notch defense that will stop Cousins in his tracks.
No. 1 Denver Broncos over No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs. After upsetting the Patriots in Foxboro, the Chiefs run ends in Mile High Stadium. The Broncos defense is just too good, and will force Alex Smith into mistakes and not allow the Chiefs offense to get anything going. In what may be Peyton Manning’s last hurrah, the Broncos move onto the Super Bowl.
No. 2 Arizona Cardinals over No. 1 Carolina Panthers. The loss of Charles Tillman finally comes back to bite the Panthers as a balanced offensive attack from the Cardinals beats Cam Newton, who can’t do it all himself two straight weeks against two of the top defenses in the NFL. Bruce Arians has the Cardinals rolling, as they take the NFC crown.
Super Bowl L
Arizona Cardinals over Denver Broncos. Two veteran QBs go at it in a Super Bowl for the ages, but the Broncos lackluster offensive line finally comes back to bite Manning and the Broncos. Under constant pressure from Calais Campbell and Dwight Freeney, Manning makes one too many mistakes and misses out on that coveted second ring.
- Super Bowl MVP: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
- Offensive MVP: Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
- Defensive MVP: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
- Offensive Rookie of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
- Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marcus Peters, CB, Chiefs
- Coach of the Year: Jay Gruden, Washington
- Comeback Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings