The Road To MetLife

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December football is finally here!

Which teams have the strength and depth to survive when the cold weather comes, and the injuries pop up more frequently?

Surprisingly, this year’s playoff scenario is quite clear. With the AFC lacking any depth, and the NFC dealing with a ton of underperforming teams, there are only a couple of spots up for grabs. What is really at stake here is playoff seeding.

In the AFC you have the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens set up for playoff birth. The only team that has a question regarding their playoff status is the Baltimore Ravens. the Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers and Jets are all locked into a battle for the final remaining playoff spot in the AFC. The Broncos and Patriots will be tested in their fight for the number 1 seed in the AFC. The Broncos have a 1 game lead, but the Patriots hold the head-head tiebreaker with them.

I believe that the AFC Championship game will be Broncos and Patriots. These two teams are just too good. The other teams in the AFC are very underwhelming, with only the Chiefs sparking my interest. The Chiefs have shown that they struggle against great teams. The Patriots are a team that just finds ways to get it done. With the loss of Rob Gronkowski for the remainder of the season, things will be much harder for them. This team struggled mightily until Gronkowski returned from an injury that kept him out early in the season. However, I still think they will find a way to make it to the AFC Championship game. If you asked me before the Gronkowski injury, I would have guessed that the Patriots would go to the Super Bowl. Now, I am not so sure. Peyton Manning has a history of struggling both in the playoffs, and in cold weather. Without Gronkowski, I think the Broncos will be able to outscore the Patriots. I think we will see Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in New York for the Super Bowl.

Rob Gronkowski takes a low hit which led to his ACL tear

Rob Gronkowski takes a low hit which led to his ACL tear

The NFC is a little more confusing. Right now the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, and San Francisco 49ers are slated for playoff spots. With the Cowboys playing in Monday night football tonight, a win will propel them into the number 3 seed, knocking the Philadelphia Eagles out. The Cowboys/Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Bears are all on the bubble here. The Eagles and Cowboys look like they will be facing off in week 17 in a winner wins the NFC East battle. The loser of this game most likely does not take that 6th seed. The Cardinals seem like they have a chance for the 6th seed, but with the loss of rookie defensive back, Tyrann Mathieu, for the remainder of the season, their chances seem slim. The Packers and Bears have a shot of beating out the Lions in the NFC North, but that will be difficult for either t0 make happen.

Arizona Cardinals' rookie phenom Tyrann Mathieu, who was lost to an ACL tear, for the season

Arizona Cardinals’ rookie phenom Tyrann Mathieu, who was lost to an ACL tear, for the season

If the Seahawks lock up the 1st seed in the NFC, securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, it will be immensely difficult to beat them. Their stadium is just too loud for opposing teams to come into and succeed. They have numerously topped themselves in the Guinness Book Of World Records for loudest stadium of all time. They have one of the best defenses in the league, and their offense is dynamic under the dramatic development of 2nd year quarterback, Russell Wilson. This team also has one of the most explosive players in football, Percy Harvin, who due to injury has yet to make an impact on the 2013 season. His big play ability both on special teams, and as a wide receiver gives this team an added dimension.

Who can beat the Seahawks? The Saints have already been blown out at Seattle, the Lions may be able to chuck the ball to Calvin Johnson all game and get lucky, the Panthers might get into a defensive battle with them and be a Cam Newton scramble away from victory, the Eagles fast offense can wear them out, or maybe the Cowboys finally live up to their potential. The most likely team to beat the Seahawks is division rival San Francisco 49ers. These teams know each other well. They are not intimidated by the Seahawks or their stadium. They have an elite defense, and their offense, at times, can be dynamic. This is the most likely team.

I still think we see a Seahawks and Broncos Super Bowl. I hate to pick 1-seeds, because historically these teams usually have a slip-up in the playoffs and do not make it, but this year I think these teams are just too good. As a Cowboy fan, I think it is justified to say they have the talent to be the best team in football, but I am not so sure they are ready to rid of the demons that have been following them since the 90s. Maybe they roll into the playoffs and put it all together.

At the end of the season I believe we see Russell Wilson in MetLife stadium, hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy. They are coached well, and are elite on offense, defense, and special teams. This team is the full package. Having home-field advantage until the Super Bowl just isn’t fair to everyone else. You can make the argument that they may not excel in the cold weather predicted for the Super Bowl in New York, but if they play the Broncos, I will take the Seahawks defense and running attack dramatically over the Broncos.

Seattle Seahawk sensation, Russell Wilson

Seattle Seahawk sensation, Russell Wilson

This has been an exciting season of football, and it looks to only get more exciting. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

 

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About Nick Cocchiaro