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by Russ Bliss 1-5-11


It's that time of year again where the NFL Playoffs get under way. Many use our fantasy football analyzer software during the course of the regular season to help them make the right decisions for their weekly lineup decisions, but our system also provides NFL game predictions each week. With so many fantasy enthusiasts playing in playoff fantasy football leagues now, our fantasy football Draft Analyzer has run the simulations and made predictions for the outcomes of each game all the way thru the Super Bowl.

Last season, the Analyzer predicted the unlikely run of the Green Bay Packers winning each week in the NFC and making it to the Super Bowl. While it nailed the Packers, it had the eventual AFC representative Pittsburgh Steelers losing in the AFC Championship Game to the New England Patriots, setting up a Packers vs. Patriots Super Bowl. In that game, the algorithm took the Patriots over the Packers. We know that didn't happen, but if go back and read the 2010 season playoff predictions, it certainly sounded like a very plausible scenario.

So what does our Analyzer algorithm see in this season's playoffs? The following is a breakdown of each week with score predictions by our Power Lineup Analyzer.


WILD CARD WEEKEND

Cincinnati at Houston

This is a rematch of a week 14 contest between these two teams. A game where the Texans beat the Bengals in Cincinnati 20-19. The Texans are finally in the NFL playoffs, but limp in at quarterback with rookie T.J. Yates as the starter despite a shoulder injury. But they still boast a terrific rushing attack led by Arian Foster and supported by Ben Tate. They also finally get WR Andre Johnson back healthy. The Bengals bring in the surprising rookie tandem of QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. Both teams have solid defenses, and that will keep the scoring down. Foster is projected for over 100 rushing yards and a TD. The Texans overall are projected for nearly 175 rushing yards. T.J. Yates will throw for 1-2 TD's, while Andy Dalton gets only 1 TD and the Bengals are projected to settle for 3 FG's instead of TD's when on the Texans side of the field. That leads to a Houston victory by a score of 21-16.

Detroit at New Orleans

Two teams with explosive offenses and suspect defenses clash in a rematch of a week 13 matchup on by the Saints. Lions QB Matt Stafford has been nothing short of spectacular this season, but Saints QB Drew Brees has been beyond spectacular. Brees has 7 consecutive games with over 300 passing yards and has thrown 25 TD's in that span compared to only 3 interceptions. In Stafford's last 5 games he's thrown for over 1,900 yards, 15 TD's, and only 3 interceptions. This game should be a high scoring affair and While Stafford is projected to have over 400 passing yards and throw 2-3 TD's; Brees is also projected for over 400 yards and a whopping 6 TD's. Plain and simple, just like in week 17 when the Lions lost the track meet against Green Bay, the Analyzer sees the Lions losing this one as well, with New Orleans pulling away to a 49-24 victory.

Atlanta at New York Giants

A matchup of 2 teams that have both had their ups and downs offensively and defensively at various times this season. Both teams boast QB's who can be red hot or stone cold. And in this game the Analyzer sees both QB's being on their game. Eli Manning is projected for nearly 350 passing yards and 2-3 TD's while Ahmad Bradshaw stands a good chance of getting 60 yards and a rushing TD. But that's not going to be enough as Matt Ryan shreds the Giants for nearly 350 passing yards himself but throws 3-4 TD's (1-2 each for Roddy White and Julio Jones) and Michael Turner gains 70 yards and maybe a TD. The result? Atlanta wins a close, but very entertaining offensive battle 34-27.

Pittsburgh at Denver

What happens when recently struggling Tim Tebow hosts a playoff game against the league's top rated defense in both yards and points allowed? A quick ending to the Tebow-mania we've been subjected to the last several weeks is what the Analyzer is projecting. A swarming Steelers defense is expected to dominate and will keep the Broncos to single digit scoring. Meanwhile, the Steelers offense will be efficient. Even though Rashard Mendenhall is out for the playoffs with a knee injury, his replacement, Isaac Redman is expected to have about 75 yards and a TD. Ben Roethlisberger will be methodical and have a passing TD as the Steelers beat the Broncos 17-7.


DIVISIONAL ROUND

So the Lineup Analyzer is predicting the second round matchups to be:

New Orleans at San Francisco
Pittsburgh at New England
Houston at Baltimore
Atlanta at Green Bay

In this round, here are the Lineup Analyzer predictions:

New Orleans at San Francisco

The Saints take their blitzkrieg offense to the bay where the surprising 49ers and their solid defense awaits. But while the 49ers run defense has been tops in the league all season, their pass defense has been susceptible and it's thru the air that Saints do their damage. Conversely the 49ers have a very balanced offensive attack and their ball control style makes it difficult for opponents to get a lot of possessions. Alex Smith will manage the game and throw for 1 TD while Frank Gore will rush for another. And while the 49ers defense will hold Drew Brees to "only" 300 passing yards and 2-3 TD's, the 49ers will come up short as the Saints win 24-20.

Pittsburgh at New England

The Patriots wanted home field advantage just for games like this. Back in week 8 they lost in Pittsburgh 25-17. The Patriots are riding an 8 game winning streak and will have the hands full against a Steelers defense that was the only one this season that held Tom Brady to under 200 passing yards in any game. Brady will have a better day this time around throwing for nearly 300 yards with 2 TD's (at least 1 to Rob Gronkowski). But running the football will be tough for the Patriots with none of their RB's projected for more than 35 yards. For Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger will have a big day with over 300 passing yards and 2 TD's himself (likeliest 1 each to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown). Shaun Suisham wins the battle of the kickers over Stephen Gostkowski though and the Steelers upset the Patriots 23-20 in a classic game between these two AFC titans.

Houston at Baltimore

In a game featuring two of the best RB's in the NFL, both teams will look to pound the football against the other. Both teams boast top 4 defenses against both the run and the pass and since neither team has a dominant passing attack, expect yardage to be at a premium. Both teams will play ball control and both Arian Foster and Ray Rice are going to find the end zone. Neither QB will reach 200 passing yards but Joe Flacco will throw a TD pass and Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff will get one more opportunity than the Texans Neil Rackers as the Ravens defeat the Texans 20-17.

Atlanta at Green Bay

Last year it was Green Bay as the wild card team going to top seeded Atlanta in this round of the playoffs. This time around the tables are reversed. After losing that game last year the Falcons decided they needed more offensive firepower and added it with rookie stud WR Julio Jones. Matt Ryan has been finding his rookie while being on fire of late and will continue to be so this week throwing for nearly 350 yards and 2-3 TD's (at least 1 to Jones). But Aaron Rodgers is no slouch himself and will have over 300 yards and throw 4 TD's. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are sure bets for at least 2 of them. In the end, the Falcons are likely to need another year before they advance further than this in the playoffs as they fall 31-24 to Packers.


CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

The way things have played out we have two division rivals playing for the AFC title, while in the NFC we get a rematch of the game that opened the 2011 season so many weeks ago.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Baltimore swept the season series this year. First they crushed Pittsburgh in the opener in Baltimore 35-7, then several weeks later Joe Flacco led them to a last second TD to beat the Steelers 23-20 in Pittsburgh. The psychological advantage has to be with the Ravens. But can you name the last time the Steelers lost to a team 3 times in one season? Neither can I. These two teams know each other well and both have outstanding defenses. The Ravens are the only team the Steelers allowed more than 20 points to this season and Joe Flacco has been less than stellar of late. Expecting a shootout is unrealistic with these two teams and the Lineup Analyzer sees a tough defensive battle in the elements. But when all is said and done, it says the Steelers will extract a measure of revenge. While Baltimore beat Pittsburgh twice in the regular season, it's who wins in the playoffs that matters most. And that will be Pittsburgh, 13-10.

New Orleans at Green Bay

The complete antithesis of the AFC title game will be the NFC title game. Whereas the defenses will be on display in the AFC, the offenses will dominate in the NFC. The first time around Aaron Rodgers had 312 yards and 3 TD's while Drew Brees had 419 yards and 3 TD's. The difference in the Packers victory was 2 rushing TD's and a kickoff return for a TD. This game is going to be similar but the outcome a little different. The Saints run defense played much better down the stretch of the regular season and no QB has been hotter than Drew Brees, not even Rodgers. While Rodgers is projected for 413 passing yards and 3 TD's, Brees is projected for 456 yards and 4 TD's. These numbers on both sides seem inconceivable in the frigid conditions of Green Bay in late January, but we can't predict the weather that far out and assuming there isn't a blizzard, the Saints will knock off the Packers by a score of 37-31.


SUPER BOWL 46

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New Orleans Saints

And so we come to the final game of the season. A matchup between the league's top ranked defense against the league's top ranked offense. In the last 6 games of the regular season the Saints scored over 40 points in 4 of them. In 5 of their last 6 games, the Steelers have held their opponents to 9 points or fewer. Ben Roethlisberger will throw for over 300 yards and have 1-2 TD's, and while Drew Brees will find it much more difficult having a big game against the Steelers top ranked pass defense as opposed to many lesser defenses he's torn through in the NFC, not even the Steelers will be able to keep Brees out of the end zone entirely. Brees will finish with close to 300 yards passing, throw 2-3 TD's, and likely be the Super Bowl 46 MVP as he leads the Saints to a 21-14 victory over the Steelers.


That's how the our fantasy football software analyzer sees the playoffs this season. Will it be right? Only time will tell.