History repeats itself. Nowhere does this truism resonate more than the National Football League. Not since the 2004-2005 New England Patriots captured back-to-back championships has the previous Super Bowl winner prevailed in the season’s biggest game. In fact the last decade has proven that it is more likely that the defending champ not win a single playoff game than prevail in a postseason tilt in the year after they won the Super Bowl. Sadly for those in the Emerald City, such is the fate that awaits the Seattle Seahawks this season.
Normally the turnover of NFL playoff teams is roughly 50 percent—i.e. half the teams who make the playoffs the previous season fail to do so the next year. In 2014 I am much more bullish on repeat berths with four of six teams returning in the NFC (the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears snatching spots from the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers ) and Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens looking to reclaim their legacy of postseason brilliance by taking the spot held last year by the Kansas City Chiefs.
As for how the postseason will shake out, after losing the tiebreaker for the second coveted bye, the defending champs will defeat the six-seeded Chicago Bears, the Eagles top the Falcons in overtime, the Colts eke by the Bengals and the Ravens down the Chargers.
In the divisional round, I think Denver handles the Ravens and the Patriots fend off a furious Colts’ comeback to win by a single point. In the NFC it’s the Packers over the Eagles and the Seahawks falling in a barnburner in the bayou to the Saints.
The last time the Saints and Packers met in Green Bay was the kickoff to the Packers’ title defense in 2011, with Green Bay prevailing on a goal-line stand to win the first of what would be 13 consecutive regular season games (and 19 straight dating back to their Week 16 home win over the New York Giants). This year instead of a beautiful September night it will be cold (ice cold!) but the victor will remain the same.
In the AFC it will be a familiar storyline: Peyton Manning v. Tom Brady. Flipping the script from last season, the Patriots will prevail, setting up a rematch in Arizona of Super Bowl XXXI.
After the Packers suffered a crushing defeat to the 49ers last January, I wrote that Green Bay was not nearly as far away from reclaiming their dominance as consecutive playoff defeats would make it seem. The 2014 season will prove me wise. Final result of the last game of the season:
Green Bay Packers 34
New England Patriots 27
As for my individual awards, these men will be fêted the night before Super Bowl XLIX:
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, LB, Houston Texans
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans
Comeback Player of the Year: Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Coach of the Year: Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
And what prognostication piece would be complete without my bold (and uncannily accurate) team-by-team predictions for the upcoming campaign?
Editor’s Note: During the season, tune in here every Wednesday for This Week in Fantasy Football and follow my personal exploits on Twitter (@nicholasjonwood).