Here at ESPNFlorida.com we are fully aware that the NFL playoffs do not begin today, as there are seven weeks left in the regular season. That said, what if they did begin today?
Great seasons by great teams can easily get derailed in the postseason as injuries come into play as well as the all-important matchups. For example, what if Michael Vick hadn’t missed Riley Cooper in last season’s wildcard game against Green Bay? Philly would’ve traveled to Chicago, then probably would’ve lost, Seattle would’ve gone to Atlanta and lost, and we would’ve likely seen the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. One play could affect not only two teams fates, but each team in the playoffs.
With that said, lets see how the playoffs would shake out with the current seeds if they were to start right now.
Top two seeds earning byes: (1) Houston Texans, (2) Baltimore Ravens (by way of a head-to-head tiebreak with Pittsburgh).
Wildcard series matchups: (6) Cincinnati Bengals vs. (3) New England Patriots, (5) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (4) Oakland Raiders.
Winners: New England, Pittsburgh
The Bengals aren’t good enough to win a playoff game anywhere, especially in New England. Brady and company win their first playoff game in four years. Meanwhile, the Steelers win a tight game in the black hole over Oakland, as Carson Palmer implodes with four interceptions.
Divisional series matchups: (5) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (1) Houston Texans, (3) New England Patriots vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens.
Winners: Pittsburgh, Baltimore
The Texans could absolutely beat Pittsburgh at home…if Matt Leinart wasn’t their quarterback. Sorry Texans, it was a nice season. Baltimore has a strategic advantage over New England as they’re stronger at the line of scrimmage and consistently put pressure on Tom Brady.
AFC Championship Game: (5) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore finally gets to play the Steelers in the playoffs at M & T Bank Stadium, something they’ve been waiting to do for years. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to beat a solid NFL team three times in one season and the Ravens will not pull it off. Steelers make a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Top seeds earning byes: (1) Green Bay Packers, (2) San Francisco 49ers
Wildcard round matchups: (6) Chicago Bears vs. (3) New Orleans Saints, (5) Detroit Lions vs. (4) New York Giants.
Winners: New Orleans, New York
The Saints have the best home field advantage in the NFL and Drew Brees and company will find a way to beat Chicago, just as they did in Week Two. Meanwhile, the Lions took a big step forward this year even making it to the playoffs, but the ultimately succumb to the New York pass rush which terrorizes Matt Stafford.
Divisional series matchups: (4) New York Giants vs. (1) Green Bay Packers, (3) New Orleans Saints vs. (2) San Francisco 49ers.
Winners: New York, New Orleans
The unbeatable, undefeated Packers couldn’t top the Giants as Tom Coughlin and New York figured out a way to do the seemingly impossible- stop Aaron Rodgers. The Giants learned plenty from their Week 13 loss to Green Bay and the pass rush is too much for one of the only weak spots on the Packers, their offensive line. Meanwhile, the Saints marched right through San Francisco as Alex Smith was not able to drive his team down the field for a score when the game was on the line.
NFC Championship Game: (4) New York Giants vs. (3) New Orleans Saints
The Giants are riding the hot hand of Eli Manning but nobody beats the Saints at the Superdome. New Orleans rolls in what isn’t a very close game, 35-17.
Super Bowl XLVI- Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are two different teams at home and away. The home version is virtually unbeatable and the road version is simply pretty good. Pittsburgh got to the Super Bowl by winning three road games from the wildcard position (sound familiar?). Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, this game is being played in a dome and that’s where the Saints are best. In another great Super Bowl for the ages: New Orleans 35, Pittsburgh 32.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie