Aaron Rodgers will make it rain
The Packers are far from a lock to advance in the playoffs – their defense lags well behind the other side of the ball – but if you’ve watched Green Bay play at all this season, you are preparing for the Aaron Rodgers firework display that has been showcased time and time again, despite the calf issues. And there’s more than just this postseason at stake for Rodgers.
Going back a few seasons, the postseason hasn’t been kind to Rodgers since his Super Bowl triumph. Storming to a 15-1 record in the season immediately following the win, Rodgers’ Packers became the first team to amass that many wins without winning a playoff game. 2012-13 and 2013-14 were no friendlier; Colin Kaepernick ran wild on Green Bay in the former year and overcame icy conditions at Lambeau in the latter.
Those 49ers won’t stand in Rodgers’ way this time. He’s been on a totally different level this year, dropping balls into Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson that look more like a well-oiled machine than the actions of a human being. Even if he goes down again, the likely MVP is going to go out in a blaze of glory.
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Denver will avenge their Super Bowl defeat
This may be more of a sentimental pick than one grounded in reality, but the script is there for Peyton Manning to execute. With his career winding down, another Super Bowl title is within the grasp of his Broncos. He isn’t playing at the historic levels reached last season, but he may not have to – Denver’s D is the second-best rush defense in the league and the third-best unit in total defense.
For the man that has accomplished so much, only another championship will do. After coming painfully close last season and receiving a bevy of reinforcements on the other side of the ball, it’s time for Manning to cash in on a late-career crack at the ultimate honor. The talent, the gumption, and the fire are there – Denver is aimed at the Lombardi.
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The NFL’s postseason tournament is among the most beloved spectacles in sport. That’s not especially surprising given football’s status as America’s athletic overlord, but the reasons for loving pro football’s postseason go beyond generic love for the game. Aesthetics hit their peak during the winter months; the crunch of pads colliding and heroics of behemoths are amplified by our fascination with how they can withstand the elements. Even as they fly around the gridiron, the sight of their breath in cold air reminds us all they’re humans just like us.
The teams change year after year, but the sights and sounds remain similar. Unlike in America’s indoor sports or baseball’s postseason, NFL players have to brave the elements like many Average Joes if they wish to reach the pinnacle of their sport. It’d be a stretch to suggest that they’re “just like us,” but it makes football players feel just a bit more sympathetic, their postseason a tad more interesting.
In case you haven’t been drawn in by the spectacle of winter football, we have a primer for you to get ready for the 2014-15 Playoffs. Years of devoted fandom and watching how things play out have informed us on the future of the sport, even if I’m no fortuneteller. Studying trends and observing the game will teach you a thing or two about postseason football, and soon you’ll be able to tell your friends that you saw things coming in advance.
What can we count on, other than cold weather and hard hits? Here are 6 Things Guaranteed to Happen in the NFL Playoffs.
Follow Kyle on Twitter at @kyleneubeck
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