It was the year of the rookie quarterback in the NFL. In 2012, five rookie quarterbacks were named the starters heading into the season. Of those five, three of them made the playoffs. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson all inherited non-playoff teams from a season ago and turned their respective franchises around. Of those three, two of them will be meeting during wild card weekend (Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III). It's amazing what a quarterback can do. Teams such as the Bills, Cardinals, Chiefs, or Jaguars (to name a few) wouldn't mind having one of these guys.
In addition, some things never change in the NFL. The Lions are back in the gutter after a playoff stint, the Bills are searching for a quarterback, Tony Romo choked, and the Browns are still, well, the Browns.
Just as it seemingly always does, it looks like the stage is set for another Tom Brady, Peyton Manning duel, in the AFC Championship game of course. Man, I hope we get to see that—but not as much as I'd like to see a Manning-Luck battle with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Anyway, here are my playoff predictions for 2013.
NFC Championship Game:
Packers over Falcons.
AFC Championship Game:
Patriots over Broncos.
Patriots over Packers.
I'm done wasting your time. I'll waste it a little more though with the final power rankings of the regular season.
1. Denver Broncos (13-3): Nobody is questioning the Peyton Manning signing now. The Broncos head into the playoffs riding an 11 game winning streak.
2. New England Patriots (12-4): The Patriots received two late Christmas gifts on week 17. The return of Rob Gronkowski and a first round bye.
4. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Colin Kaepernick dazzled in the regular season, and now it's time to see if he can do what Alex Smith couldn't: get the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
5. Green Bay Packers (11-5): The Packers blew their chance at a first round bye Sunday in Minnesota. Will it cost them in the playoffs?
6. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): The Seahawks are a team no teams wants to face in the playoffs. Russell Wilson has something special about him. Ask Bill Simmons.
7. Houston Texans (12-4): Few teams look more vulnerable than the Texans heading into the playoffs. They limped their way in.
9. Washington Redskins (10-6): It took awhile, but the Redskins found their quarterback of the future. Have fun with Robert Griffin III, Washington. Welcome to the playoffs.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): For the second straight season, the Bengals draw the Texans in the wild card round of the playoffs. They hope things go better than their 31-10 defeat a season ago.
11. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Andrew Luck shattered expectations in his rookie season and was the feel good story of the season. The Colts get Chuck Pagano back at a perfect time.
12. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Adrian Peterson came just nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record. Oh yeah, and the Vikings are headed to the playoffs. That sounds like an MVP to me.
13. New York Giants (9-7): It was too little, too late for the defending Super Bowl champions. What a relief.
14. Chicago Bears (10-6): Remember when the Bears were 7-1 and everyone thought this team could come out of the NFC?
16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): That one will be tough to live down for Tony Romo. It's always the same story with him. Does this story have a happy ending?
18. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Sean Payton will be back in 2013, and so will the Saints. It was too much for them to overcome an 0-4 start.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Josh Freeman bounced back from a poor 2011 season, and the Buccaneers found a running back in Doug Martin. There is a future in Tampa Bay.
20. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Ron Rivera may have saved his job after the Panthers ended the season on a four game winning streak. It took awhile, but Cam Newton arrived in 2012. Can he carry it into 2013?
21. Miami Dolphins (7-9): The Dolphins exceeded expectations this season and Ryan Tannehill showed some promise. That's a good season.
23. Tennessee Titans (6-10): If I'm the Titans, I don't give up on Jake Locker just yet. Give him another year.
24. Buffalo Bills (6-10): The Bills playoff drought continued in 2012. That's 13 years and counting. Chan Gailey needs to go.
25. New York Jets (6-10): Remember those two seasons when Mark Sanchez was a game away from going to the Super Bowl? He's not a wanted man in New York right now. I didn't even mention Tim Tebow. Oops.
26. Cleveland Browns (5-11): I'd say there is some promise with Brandon Weeden if he wasn't a 29 year old rookie.
27. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): After starting the season 4-0, the Cardinals lost 11 of their last 12 games. This team needs a quarterback. Bad.
28. Detroit Lions (4-12): All is normal in the NFL world again: The Detroit Lions are a joke. The clock is ticking, Jim Schwartz.
30. Oakland Raiders (4-12): I guess it was worth giving up a first and second round pick for a washed up, 33 year old quarterback named Carson Palmer.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): This season was about seeing growth from Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars saw none.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): The Kansas City Chiefs are now on the clock. The season could not have ended any sooner for them.