2012 NFL Playoffs: Why This Might be the Most Unpredictable Post-Season Ever
Peyton Manning is back in the saddle. Different team, same conference. Tom Brady and Joe Flacco join him as three veterans that are no stranger to the AFC’s side of the NFL Playoffs.
On the other side, in the NFC, the 49ers return for a shot at picking up where they left off in last year’s NFC title game. Aaron Rodgers is back, too, along with the Atlanta Falcons, who aim to finally win a playoff game in the Mike Smith and Matt Ryan era.
Those are your main-stays, and the paper suggests one of them will hoist the Lombardi Trophy. But I couldn’t tell you which one with any real certainty, and I’m even less certain if we can actually restrict this year’s playoff race to just those five teams.
After all, the Houston Texans, who were long thought to be the best team in the league, are still in the mix. Adrian Peterson narrowly missed out on Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record (by nine yards!), but he could continue to defy logic and lead the Vikings to a Lambeau romp over the Packers.
Then we have three rookie quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson – none of which got the clue that first-year quarterbacks are supposed to struggle.
This could be the year of true redemption for Peyton Manning, a sweeter repeat for Tom Brady, some relief for Matt Ryan, or things could just get shaken up more than we’ve ever seen.
The New York Giants won’t be repeating as Super Bowl champs. New Orleans won’t be blowing anyone out or taking part in a shootout. The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be adding a trophy to their mantle. This year’s Super Bowl winner could really be anyone.
I’m a Packers fan, so I think Green Bay gets it done. They realized in last year’s loss to the Giants that they can’t take status, record and the playoffs for granted. I think they set the tone early against the Vikings at home, and hopefully from there can keep on going.
But I can’t say for sure they’ll beat Minnesota, much less win it all. Truth be told, I can’t tell you who ends up meeting in the conference title game for either side without wavering at least a little.
My guess is Green Bay takes on the Falcons in Atlanta for the NFC’s side. That’s if they’re lucky. They have to knock off a spirited and thankful Minnesota team first, and then go on the road and beat the 49ers. All the Falcons have to do is beat the Seahawks or Redskins. And come to think of it, either one of those matchups could be incredibly difficult.
But on paper, Green Bay and Atlanta makes sense.
On the other side, New England and Denver make the most sense for the AFC title game. It’s not like we haven’t had classic playoff battles between the Patriots and Broncos, and we all know Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have their history, as well. It’s just so fitting.
That would mean two #1 seeds, one #2 seed and a #3 seed would be a win from the Super Bowl. It would mean that tradition would be broken, that no #5 or #6 seeded team would sniff the Super Bowl for the first time in a while. As a Packers fan, I’d be cool with that.
But something tells me that “unpredictable” is here, and it’s going to keep happening.
Maybe that means RG3 or Russell Wilson gets to the NFC title game or even further. Perhaps it means we’ll see an Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning battle. And maybe that would even mean Manning gets knocked out in his first playoff game as a Bronco. And if that happened, who is to say we couldn’t see a matchup between Luck and RG3 in the Super Bowl?
After all, when the season began, if someone told you that Luck, Griffin III and Wilson would be as good as they are, you’d think they’re crazy. If they said the Colts, Redskins and Seahawks would all be in the playoffs and looking like some of the scarier teams in the race, you’d have them submitted.
In a crazy year full of uncertainty and sheer craziness, it’s only natural to count on more unpredictable NFL happenings.
If it ends up being the Packers and Patriots in the Super Bowl, like I’m predicting, I think we can all admit that will be a Super Bowl worth watching. But something tells me that pretty much no matter what happens, these playoffs will be worth tuning into.
Well, unless the Bengals win it all.