Thursday, August 29, 2013

your 2013 national ... football league predictions

"Welcome back my friends,
To the show that never ends!
We're so glad you could attend --
Come inside, come inside!

There behind a glass?
Is a real blade of grass!
Be careful as you pass --
Move along, move along!

Come inside!  The show's about to start!
Guaranteed to blow your head apart!
Rest assured -- you'll get your money's worth!
(It's) the greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth!

You gotta see the show -- it's a dynamo!
You gotta see the show -- it's rock and roll!  Oh ..."


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Eight days!  Only eight days until our true national pastime returns!  Only eight days until all of America gets to laugh its collective ass off, at the Joe Flacco stadium-sized posters hanging outside fake mile high!!!  Only eight days until a rematch of one of the greatest playoff games I've ever had the privilege to watch, launches the start of a new NFL season.

And even better -- only eight days until you hear this beautiful, amazing, sexy as holy hell voice shout out "HIT IT!", and the loveliness that is Faith Hill struts out onto the stage, as Joan Jett and the Blackhawks music for "I Hate Myself for Loving You" starts up, and Ms. Hill tells us what we all are feeling, that we have been waiting all week day for Sunday night!  Football!  Woo!  I!  Am!  FIRED!  UP!!!!!

(Pause).

What?

(Pause).  No.  No.  No!  You're lying, Mr. Non-Existant Stevo's Site Numero Dos editor!  No!  There's no way Faith Hill got the boot!  Especially since seeing Faith Hill IN her "come (have your way with me)* me" boots, is the only reason to watch the damned theme song!  This ... my God.  This is a disaster.  This is an absolute national disaster.  Has anyone petitioned the White House yet to get Faith Hill her gig back?

Plus, what the hell becomes of the "Bowling Night in America" poem tradition now?  I've been cranking that bad boy out for five years every Wednesday during the season!  What becomes of that, if some low-budget, two-bit, fly-by-night no-talent hack replaces Ms. Hill?  I mean seriously -- at what point does the pure and utter undeserved bullsh*t I've had to put up with in that league the last fifteen months, actually end?  God bless it, even I have my breaking point!  And I think I've found it!  (stevo angrily tossing empty Coors Light can against the wall ... stevo angrily tossing empty Coors Light can against the wall ... yeah, I have nine more ready to chuck, but you get the point ...)

(Sighing ...) Alright, just hit me with it.  Who'd they get to replace her, Mr. Editor dude or dudette?  Miley Cyrus?  Linda Ronstadt?  What repulsive thing is going to butcher the Sunday Night theme this year?  (Pause).  Ooh.  Ooh!  Carrie Underwood?  Really?  Well that changes things.

Football is back folks!  And with the lovely Ms. Underwood at the mic, it's sexier than ever!!!  Woo!  Football!  WOO!!!!!

So let's do this.  It's time for the world's worst pigskin prognosticator** to once again step up under center, and give the gambling community what it so desperately craves -- what I think is going happen this season.  Just one of these years, I wish all the people I made rich, by telling them who I think will win (so that they can bet the family farm on them to lose), would at least send a $20 my way for my valuable services.

We'll start in the NFC, in that venerable division known as "The Norris" ...

(*: you all have NO idea how hard it was, to censor the obvious f-bomb, that deserved to be said there.  NO idea.  But I did promise my mommy to try to "class up the discourse", whatever the hell that means.  And since the fact I cannot avoid the denver broncos in this column means at least a few f-bombs in the AFC West portion alone, I have to cut back somewhere.)

(**: my Super Bowl pick in 2012?  San Diego versus Tampa Bay.  Neither team finished above .500, both fired their head coaches, and San Diego poop canned the GM to boot.  My Super Bowl pick in 2011?  Kansas City versus Green Bay.  I got one of them right, at least.  But Coach Hobo got fired the week the Chiefs were scheduled to face Green Bay, and both the man who hired him, and the man who replaced him, were gone thirteen months later.  My Super Bowl pick in 2010?  Dallas over Indianapolis.  The Cowboys missed the playoffs; the Colts wildcard round loss to the Jets, was the final game for peyton manning in a Colts uniform.  My Super Bowl pick in 2009?  Philadelphia over Baltimore.  Philly lost the NFC Title Game.  Baltimore lost in the divisional round.  And the first year I picked on this site, my 2008 prediction?  Jacksonville over Seattle.  Combined record of both teams that season?  9-23.  My God, I am AWFUL at predicting the National ... Football League.)

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NFC Norris:

1. The Schedule Run*.


2. The Final Standings.



3. The Initial Reaction.

Honestly?  This didn't surprise me.  I think any of the four teams in this division can make a legitimate, credible claim to the championship of said division.  I think Detroit has the least legitimate, credible claim, and Green Bay the most legitimate, credible claim, but I could see any of these four teams, winning the NFC's worst division.

4. The Three Biggest Games.

* Packers at Bears, Week 17.  Both teams entered this game at 8-7, in full control of their own destiny. 

* Packers at Lions, Week 13.  This projected defeat to Detroit, cost Green Bay the last wildcard slot.

* Cowboys at Bears, Week 14.  Wound up jumpstarting the Bears run to a division title, by winning their last four.  Very similar to what the Redskins did in 2007, opening 5-7 before piggybacking a primetime home win in Week 14 (ironically, over the Bears), to a 4-0 finish and a wildcard berth.

5. The Division MVP.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears.  I personally despise the guy -- not just for the obvious donkey connections, but good God dude, your wife is Brody Jenner's sloppy seconds, for crying out loud -- but if Cutler starts at least 13 games, the Bears are reaching the playoffs.  If he starts more than 13 games, I'll take them to win the division.  

6. The Division Coach of the Year.

Marc Trestman, Bears.  Cannot put into words how much I loved this hire.  Quite honestly, I thought it was the best hire of the offseason.  The Bears went in a direction I wanted the Chiefs to go in -- hire a bright, capable offensive mind who isn't afraid to take chances, and isn't afraid to fail.  For what it's worth, I don't think Trestman will fail.  He NEVER has before.

7. The Mixology Choice** for Each Team.

* Bears: "Back In The High Life Again", originally by Steve Winwood, much better covered by the late, great Warren Zevon.

* Packers: "Beautiful Disaster" by 311.

* Vikings: "Daydream Believer" by Davy Jones.

* Lions: "Walk Away Renee" by The Left Banke.

8. The Bottom Line ... 'Cause Stone Cold Stevo Said So!

The prediction in this division I distrust the most ... is the Vikings in third.  If they can steal one of the division roadies to open the schedule (especially at Chicago week two), flip the Bears and Vikings in the standings.

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(*: all pics in this post courtesy me, via the Snag-It 10 Tool on my laptop.  I love Snag-It.)

(*: Mixology (n) -- (1) what "Big Brother 10" contestant Memphis did for a living (adj: mixologist).  (2) the art of creating libations that people not only like, they recommend.  (3) Stevo's name for the playlist he is responsible for creating, for tailgating at Chiefs games.

For the record, I'm pretty damned good at (2).  I've never had a complaint about (3), and it is my life's goal to appear on (1)'s claim to fame reality show.)

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NFC South:

1. The Schedule Run.


2. The Final Standings.


3. The Initial Reaction.

Played out exactly as I thought it would ... although I expected a more top-heavy record for the (Shane) Falco-ns, and a more loss-heavy record for the Carolina "Sex" Panthers.

4. The Three Biggest Games.

* Saints at Falcons, Week 12.  I gave Atlanta the nod due to (a) the short week (it's the Thursday nighter), (b) home field, and (c) neither team has travel issues to overcome for the short week (Falcons play at Tampa, at worst a 25 minute flight home; Saints play at home versus the 49ers).

* Saints at Panthers, Week 16.  The upset that swung the division to the Falcons, and threw the Saints into the cluster(muck) at 9-7 for the final wildcard slot.

* Seahawks at Falcons, Week 10.  A rematch of last year's classic divisional round playoff game ... and a potential preview of this year's (projected by me) epic wildcard round playoff game between these two dynamic, rising franchises that are named after "a certain species of the avian variety".  (Pause).  What?  (Pause).  OF COURSE I used this to work in a gratuitous "The Bird Is The Word" Shecky Greene-esque one-liner!

5. The Division MVP.

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons.  This guy reminds me so much of peyton manning in many regards, it's scary.

6. The Division Coach of the Year.

Sean Payton, Saints.  For anyone who says coaching doesn't matter, I give you two 2012 franchise that prove that it does: your 2012 Chiefs ... and your 2012 Saints.

7. The Mixology Choice for Each Team.

* Falcons: "What a Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers.

* Saints: "King of Wishful Thinking" by Go West.

* Bucs: "Mixed Emotions" by the Rolling Stones.

* Panthers: "Out of Touch (Out of Time)" by Hall and Oates.

8. The Bottom Line ... 'Cause Stone Cold Stevo Said So!

Ron Rivera is gonna be one helluva defensive coordinator, at this time next year.

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NFC East:

1. The Schedule Run.


2. The Final Standings.


3. The Initial Reaction.

Seems right.  Although I could see Dallas and Washington flipping -- the Redskins comfortably one clear of the field in the wildcard chase, and the Cowboys in the cluster(duck) at 9-7 to be the last team in.

4. The Three Biggest Games.

* Cowboys at Giants, Week 12.  Kicks off a murderers row finish for the Cowboys, that effectively murdered their chances to win the NFC East.

* Packers at Giants, Week 11.  Cost Green Bay the playoffs in this simulated season.

* Giants at Bears, Week 6.  The Bears taking care of business against the G-Men, and the Packers not doing so, gave Chicago the NFC Norris.

5. The Division MVP.

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys.  Will single handedly save Jason Garrett's job.

6. The Division Coach of the Year.

Mike Shanahan, Redskins.  Look it, I despise Shanarat ... but I have the Redskins at 9-7, in the cluster(buck) for the six seed.  The Redskins have to (a) visit Lambeau, fake mile high, the Metrodome, the Georgia Dome, AND all three divisional rivals (all tough tasks), plus host the 49ers, Chiefs, Bears, and the three divisional rivals (all tough tasks).  With a QB coming off major knee surgery.  If Shanarat gets the Redskins into the conversation for getting rolled at Atlanta or Chicago to open the postseason?  It'd be his greatest coaching accomplishment to date.

7. The Mixology Choice for Each Team.

* Giants: "Remember the Name" by Fort Minor.

* Cowboys: "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" by the Eli Young Band.

* Redskins: "Futures" by Jimmy Eat World.

* Eagles: "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" by Elvin Bishop.

8. The Bottom Line ... 'Cause Stone Cold Stevo Said So!

Tom Coughlin is, in my mind, THE most underrated head coach of all time.  He made Boston College football relevant again, to the point that the ACC recruited them.  He took the Jaguars from expansion franchise, to reaching the AFC Title Game in Year Two, to hosting the AFC Title Game in Year Four.  And he's won two of the last five Lombardi's, for the franchise Mr. Lombardi got his start with.  

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NFC West:

1. The Schedule Run.


2. The Final Standings.


3. The Initial Reaction.

Surprised at how easily the 49ers won this division.  This is mainly due to two things: (1) the Seahawks schedule.  There was never a "cream puff portion" to the schedule, and the 'Hawks never won more than two games in a row, versus (2) the 49ers schedule, which starting after a week five prime time home game against Houston (that they'll be favored in), they go vs Arizona / at Tennessee / at Jacksonville / bye / vs Carolina.  I have them winning all five, and all but cementing the division by mid November.

4. The Three Biggest Games.

* Falcons at 49ers, Week 16.  The winner of this game, got the two seed and the bye; the loser had to play the opening weekend against a very, very frisky six seed (stay tuned ...)

* Rams at Seahawks, Week 17.  Wound up determining the six seed, based on tiebreakers.  Both teams had a chance, with a win, to grab the final slot in the playoffs.

* Rams at Cardinals, Week 14.  The projected upset kept St. Louis out of the cluster(suck) at 9-7 for the six seed, and a trip to Atlanta.

5. The Division MVP.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers.  Three franchises fates this season ride on the Kapernick gamble: the 49ers (who I don't care about); the Chiefs (who I flush thousands of dollars a season down the drain, in support of) ... and team tito version 1.0 (he is my main fantasy league team's starting quarterback ... and there ain't no depth to speak of, behind him on the roster).

6. The Division Coach of the Year.

Jim Harbaugh, 49ers.  Three seasons, three division titles ... three NFC Title Game appearances?

7. The Mixology Choice for Each Team.

* 49ers: "Go All The Way" by the Raspberries.

* Seahawks: "Second Place Victory" by This Day and Age.

* Rams: "Little Lion Man" by Mumford and Sons.

* Cardinals: "Look Away" by Chicago.

8. The Bottom Line ... 'Cause Stone Cold Stevo Said So!

Three years ago, 6-9 Seattle hosted 7-8 St. Louis in the season finale, to determine the "winner" of the worst division in NFL history.  Three years later, this is the division most likely to have four .500 or better teams in it.  It's amazing what poop canning coaches like Mike Singletary, Jim Mora Jr. (who, in fairness, isn't a bad coach ... he just isn't his replacement), Steve Spagnoula, and Ken Whizenhunt, and importing rock solid coaches like Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll (who isn't as "rock solid" as you'd think), Bruce Arians, and Jeff Fisher, will do for a division's stature.

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The NFC Overall (Playoff Seed Where Applicable):

16-0: none.
15-1: none.
14-2: none.
13-3: New York Giants (1).
12-4: San Francisco 49ers (2).
11-5: none.
10-6: Atlanta Falcons (3), Dallas Cowboys (5).
9-7: Chicago Bears (4), Seattle Seahawks (6), New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins.
8-8: Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams.
7-9: Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers.
6-10: Arizona "Super" Cardinals.
5-11: Detroit Lions.
4-12: Philadelphia Eagles.
3-13: none.
2-14: none.
1-15: none.
0-16: none.

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AFC North:

1. The Schedule Run.


2. The Final Standings.


3. The Initial Reaction.

This is one tough mudder of a division.

4. The Three Biggest Games.

* Bengals at Bears, Week 1.  Wound up being the game that gave Cincinnati a game cushion over Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

* Bengals vs Steelers, Week 2; Bengals at Steelers, Week 15.  Not just two humongous divisional and conference games ... when was the last time BOTH matchups between two divisional rivals, were scheduled in prime time BEFORE flex scheduling applies?  I can think of a few times since flex scheduling was implemented in 2006 that it's happened (denver / San Diego in 2006, for example; Cowboys / Giants in 2011), but that required a late flex in, to make it occur.  The Powers That Be are so sold on these two squads ... that they're locked into prime time against each other for both meetings, in April.  

And you know what?  It's the absolute right call.

* Ravens at broncos, Week 1.  Also a game the Ravens could point to, as a defeat that dropped them into Wild Card Weekend, rather than getting a bye into the Divisional Round.

5. The Division MVP.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers.  The Steelers have no business being at 11-5, and safely in the playoff field.  Other than the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is going to single-handedly get them there.

6. The Division Coach of the Year.

John Harbaugh, Ravens.  Similarly, given the roster attrition, you can argue the Ravens have no business being at 11-5, and safely in the playoff field.  Other than the fact that John Harbaugh is going to single-handedly get them there.

7. The Mixology Choice for Each Team.

* Bengals: "Dancing On The Ceiling" by Lionel Richie. 

* Ravens: "Second Time Around" by Shalamar.

* Steelers: "He Got Game" by Public Enemy.

* Browns: "Time To Pretend" by MGMT.

8. The Bottom Line ... 'Cause Stone Cold Stevo Said So!

As always: God Hates Cleveland.

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AFC South:

1. The Schedule Run.


2. The Final Standings.


3. The Initial Reaction.

Without question -- (allard baird voice) without question! -- the National ... Football League's worst division.

4. The Three Biggest Games.

* Patriots at Texans, Week 13.  Determined who got the bye to the divisional round, and who is forced to face one of the powerhouse AFC North wildcard teams.

* broncos at Texans, Week 16.  The Texans projected win here created a complete free-for-all week seventeen for the AFC West championship, that left a three way, confusing as hell to break tiebreaker that comes down to strength of victory.

* Texans at Chiefs, Week 7.  Let's just say, when running the AFC West schedules, THIS is the game, I kept attempting to find a way, to talk myself into the upset.  In the end, for this exercise in fantasy?  I couldn't do it.  

5. The Division MVP.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans.  Our first non-quarterback winner!  And probably, our only non-quarterback winner.

6. The Division Coach of the Year.

Chuck Pagano, Colts.  I know Houston is going to run away with this division, and all but clinch it by Halloween ... but come on.  I wouldn't trust Gary Kubiak to walk the dog out to do it's business, let alone run a professional football franchise.  

7. The Mixology Choice for Each Team.

* Texans: "Sooner or Later" by the Grass Roots.

* Colts: "Desperado" by the Eagles.

* Titans: "Wrong Again" by Martina McBride.

* Jaguars: "The Young and the Hopeless" by Good Charlotte.

8. The Bottom Line ... 'Cause Stone Cold Stevo Said So!

If the Texans and Bengals meet for a third postseason meeting in as many seasons ... the winner of the previous two, is not winning a third.

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AFC East:

1. The Schedule Run.


2. The Final Standings.


3. The Initial Reaction.

I was overly generous, to give the Jets three wins.  Oy.  This season might make the utter rank sewage that was 2005, look bearable, by the time it's over.

4. The Three Biggest Games.

* Patriots at Bengals, Week 5.  The projected Bengals win here, and Patriots loss, determined home field advantage, and the first round bye, in the AFC, and subjected the loser to wildcard weekend.

* Patriots at Texans, Week 13.  Same situation as the Bengals game in week five, for New England.

* broncos at Patriots, Week 12.  This prime time potential classic is sandwiched for denver with two games against the Chiefs, that could determine the division.  For New England, the projected here win gave them the three seed, instead of the four.

4a. The WORST Game of the Year, On Paper, Entering the Season.

* Jets at Falcons, Week 5.  Not only is this matchup destined to be an ass whipping of Biblical proportions ... this, ladies and gentlemen?  Dudes and dudettes?  Peoples and peepettes?  IS A PRIME TIME CONTEST!

What jackwagon at League headquarters looked at the Jets and Falcons, and thought "yup, prime time game!"  And it's NOT a Thursday nighter!  Oh no!  It's a Monday nighter!  If you know me at all, you know I oppose abortion in any case ... but if Planned Parenthood wanted to sponsor this game, and shove a shop vac up the official schedule to "make the problem disappear"?  I'd shell out the $600 to make it happen.

And what's even more unbelievable, is that in my life, I'd argue the worst year as a Jets fan, was 2005.  (Yes, 1996 was horrible -- but everyone knew (a) Rich Kotite sucked, (b) Neil O'Donnell sucked, and (c) Bill Parcells was on the way.  2005?  The Jets were coming off their third playoff berth in four years, and had lost in overtime in the divisional round to Pittsburgh.  They were expected to be good.  They went 4-12).

Care to guess what a Monday nighter in mid-October of that year, as the season had long since spiraled out of control was?  Oh yeah.  Jets at Falcons.

It's (checking the clock) 8:44am on a Thursday, and I need a stiff drink just thinking about a game, seven weeks away.

Jets!  Falcons!  Prime Time!  If Jon Gruden returns to the sidelines next year, I guarantee you, he'll mention having to work "games" such as Jets at Falcons, as a major factor in his decision.

5. The Division MVP.

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots.  Who else are you going to choose?

6. The Division Coach of the Year.

Bill Belichick, Patriots.  Who else are you going to choose?

7. The Mixology Choice for Each Team.

* Patriots: "Drunk On You" by Luke Bryan.

* Bills: "Face Down" by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

* Dolphins: "Fantasy" by Earth, Wind, and Fire.

* Jets: "I Hate Myself for Loving You" by Joan Jett and the Blackhawks.

8. The Bottom Line ... 'Cause Stone Cold Stevo Said So!

The NFL record for most points scored in a game, is 73.  That record is in serious jeopardy week two (Jets at Patriots) and week five (Jets at Falcons).  Serious, serious jeopardy.

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AFC West:

1. The Schedule Run.


2. The Final Standings.


3. The Initial Reaction.

If how I project this division will be decided, is how this division is actually decided?  How to put this delicately ... the biggest bender I've ever gone on, was after the Chiefs lost to denver in week seven, 2002.  (We blew a fourteen point lead with three minutes to play, lost in overtime on a blocked punt, and the loss cost us a playoff berth.)  I literally did nothing but drink for three straight days, other than "call in sick" to work each morning.  

If how I project this division will be decided, is how this division is actually decided?  

You won't see me for a month.

4. The Three Biggest Games.

* Chiefs at Chargers, Week 17.  I project the Chiefs to control their own destiny entering week seventeen, despite losing at Buffalo, despite losing both "winnable upset" home games against Houston and the Giants.  And sadly, I project the Chiefs will fail to control that destiny.

* broncos at raiders, Week 17.  As always, this is the one day a year I root for a terrorist attack to strike American soil, but only in the very specifically defined confines of ... whatever the hell they call the artist formerly known as the Oakland Alameda County Stadium these days.

* Chiefs at Bills, Week 9.  The projected upset at The Ralph, aka "The Chiefs House of Horrors" (we haven't won there since 1986, for those scoring at home), cost the Chiefs the division.  If they could have taken care of business?  The Colts home win week sixteen, would have clinched the division, and made the final week matter only for seeding purposes.

5. The Division MVP.

peyton manning, QB, broncos.  If manning is upright and ambulatory for twelve games or more, it's highly likely denver is reaching the postseason for a third straight season.  If he's not upright and ambulatory for at least three quarters of the season?  Then this has the potential to be my favorite donkeys team of all time, because if brock osweiler is your backup?  In the words of Ween, you're "up sh*ts creek with a turd for a paddle".

6. The Division Coach of the Year.

Mike McCoy, Chargers.  I loved this hire, if only because it means john fox has lost both his coordinators to head coaching jobs within the division.  The enemy of my enemy?  Is my friend.  Words of wisdom Mr. Obama should think very carefully about over the next couple days.

7. The Mixology Choice for Each Team.

* broncos: "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones.

* Chiefs: "This Ain't a Love Song" by Bon Jovi.

* Chargers: "California Dreaming" by the Mamas and the Papas.

* raiders: "Down With The Sickness" by Disturbed.

8. The Bottom Line ... 'Cause Stone Cold Stevo Said So!

For the first time since Thanksgiving Night, 2006, broncos at Chiefs will have meaning for both teams, will quite possibly be a "loser's in deep trouble, winner's in the drivers seat" for the division title and a playoff berth.  Or, in other words, the way God intended it to be.  Sunday, December 1, 2013, cannot get here soon enough.

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The AFC Overall (Playoff Seed Where Applicable):

16-0: none.
15-1: none.
14-2: none.
13-3: none.
12-4: Cincinnati Bengals (1), Houston Texans (2).
11-5: New England Patriots (3), Baltimore Ravens (5), Pittsburgh Steelers (6).
10-6: denver broncos (4), Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego "Super" Chargers.
9-7: none.
8-8: Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts.
7-9: none.
6-10: none.
5-11: Buffalo Bills.
4-12: none.
3-13: New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, oakland raiders.
2-14: Jacksonville Jaguars.
1-15: none.
0-16: none.

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The Postseason Played Out:

* Wild Card Round.

Steelers 24, at Patriots 13.  
at broncos 34, Ravens 31 (OT).
Seahawks 27, at Falcons 20.
at Bears 31, Cowboys 14.

* Divisional Round.

at Bengals 24, Steelers 21 (OT).
broncos 34, at Texans 27.
Seahawks 31, at Giants 20.
at 49ers 26, Bears 21.

* AFC Championship:

broncos 34, at Bengals 13.

AFC Champion: denver broncos.

* NFC Championship:

at 49ers 30, Seahawks 3.

NFC Champion: San Francisco 49ers.

* Super Bowl XLVIII:

broncos 27, 49ers 21.

Super Bowl Champion: denver broncos.

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