Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

January 2, 2014

AARON SNYDER: All chips are in the pot

ASHLAND — In years past, I’ve played it safe, predicting NFL playoff games week by week.

This season, I’m pushing all the chips in right now. No bluffs here.

In one sense, it’s still my second chance. If you remember, I, along with a few other esteemed staffers, picked division winners and playoff victors prior to season’s kickoff.

Of the 12 teams that I envisioned emerging as playoff teams, only six actually made it.

For the purpose of quickly tossing embarrassment aside, my preseason Super Bowl prediction was Broncos over Giants. Well, Peyton Manning and the Broncos didn’t disappoint. Younger brother Eli and company? They dropped the ball long before Tuesday night’s ball-drop at Times Square.

So, as we make our New Year’s resolutions and refresh our outlook on life, allow me a redo.

Now, how about running down the docket ...

NFC Predictions

Wild-card

-Packers 28, 49ers 21: While I trust San Francisco’s defense more than Green Bay’s, there’s a freshly minted magic in the air — literally — with the Packers. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wideout Randall Cobb put the Pack over the edge.

-Saints 34, Eagles 27: Granted, the Saints typically struggle on the road in outdoor venues, especially in bad weather. However, it’s the playoffs, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees will make clutch plays while Eagles QB Nick Foles may fold a bit under the pressure, trying too much to stray away from mistakes.

Divisional

-Seahawks 23, Saints 17: Almost impossible to top in front of their loud-and-proud crowd at CenturyLink Field, Seattle hangs on in a rematch of the game that brought “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch to life in 2011.

-Packers 30, Panthers 20: The script gets even more Hollywood-esque, and isn’t that what the NFL loves anyway? Rodgers and Cobb both returned just in the nick of time and led the Packers to an amazing comeback victory at Chicago to get into the playoffs. That’s all the momentum they need.

Championship

-Packers 27, Seahawks 20: As a journalist, I’m a sucker for a great story, so why stop now? The Packers ride the magic carpet into the Super Bowl.

AFC Predictions

Wild-card

-Chiefs 31, Colts 21: The Chiefs have a solid defense, an outstanding running game with Jamaal Charles and a trustworthy quarterback in Alex Smith. Indianapolis easily handled Kansas City, 23-7, on Dec. 22. The Chiefs, I predict, return the favor in emphatic fashion.

-Bengals 28, Chargers 17: Cincinnati’s defense, under the direction of coordinator Mike Zimmer, has remained stellar despite the absences of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and top cornerback Leon Hall. In a rematch of the 1982 “Freezer Bowl,” the Bengals chill the Chargers.

Divisional

-Broncos 37, Chiefs 28: The third time isn’t a charm for Kansas City, which has already lost to Denver twice. The Broncos are just better, despite a susceptible defense. The talent on the other side of the ball is overwhelming.

-Patriots 21, Bengals 14: Cincinnati is capable of going into Foxborough and winning this game, but this uncharted territory may be too much of a mental hurdle for the still-young Bengals to clear. The Pats win a gutwrenching battle.

Championship

-Broncos 42, Patriots 24: The Brady-Manning matchup also provides for much anticipation, so get ready for a lot of chatter heading into the showdown. Manning leads the charge in an unexpected (except by me, of course) blowout in Denver.

Super Bowl Pick

-Broncos 34, Packers 27: Who ever said defense wins championships? This is the new NFL, where defense will win a bunch of ball games, but prolific offenses are supplanting dominant defenses in supremacy. Manning gets his second Super Bowl ring, another bonus to an already Hall-of-Fame career as the point-happy Broncos ride into the sunset.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

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