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FORECASTING THE FIELD

Nov. 07, 2011
Nov. 07, 2011

Table of Contents
Nov. 7, 2011

LEADING OFF
EDITOR'S LETTER
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
SPECIAL REPORT
NFL MIDSEASON REPORT
WORLD SERIES
BOXING
  • As he prepares to face another fierce—and familiar—foe, the world's best fighter is still getting better. But marvel at him while you can, for the Manny who would be king has his eye on realms far beyond the ring

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
PRO HOCKEY
FOOTBALL HISTORY
Departments

FORECASTING THE FIELD

Some new teams look to sneak into the playoffs, but come February the faces will be awfully familiar

AFC

This is an article from the Nov. 7, 2011 issue

1 | STEELERS

Showing their age at times on D, but talent and savvy will carry them to another division title. Mike Wallace gives Ben Roethlisberger a devastating deep threat.

2 | PATRIOTS

It will be up to Bill Belichick (below left) to solve his secondary issues. He will. Tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski (and Tom Brady) will be the difference in the postseason.

3 | TEXANS

A healthy Arian Foster and a feisty defense under Wade Phillips will push Houston into its first playoffs. (Assist to the injured Peyton Manning.)

4 | CHARGERS

Philip Rivers is struggling, but San Diego is still positioned to edge out the Raiders and the Chiefs. Antonio Gates's health is crucial to the Chargers' chances.

5 | RAVENS

Under Joe Flacco, the offense looks seamless at times, sloppy at others. But the playmakers on the other side of the ball make up for it—this could be the Ravens' best D since 2000.

6 | BILLS

Division battles with the Jets will determine the final wild-card spot. Buffalo has a special glint, with fourth-quarter comebacks against Oakland and New England adding confidence to a team of upstarts.

WILD-CARD ROUND

Bills defeat Texans; Ravens defeat Chargers

DIVISIONAL ROUND

Steelers defeat Bills; Patriots defeat Ravens

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Patriots defeat Steelers

NFC

1 | PACKERS

Aaron Rodgers is playing at a level not seen since Tom Brady in 2007—and like the '07 Patriots, Mike McCarthy (below right) and Green Bay are flirting with perfection.

2 | 49ERS

That $5 million a year for Jim Harbaugh looks like a bargain. He's given QB Alex Smith direction and resurrected a proud franchise, which should host its first playoff game in nine years.

3 | SAINTS

The already prolific attack has gotten more diversified, but the D has been inconsistent and isn't causing turnovers at the rate of New Orleans' Super Bowl team.

4 | EAGLES

The turmoil behind them, the Eagles should overtake the Giants (who have a brutal remaining slate). No margin for error, but Philly finally is playing up to expectations.

5 | FALCONS

Matt Ryan's 79.5 passer rating is the lowest of his four-year career, but better protection for him and better decision-making by him will make for a better second half.

6 | LIONS

Calvin Johnson is a nightmare matchup, and Ndamukong Suh sets a belligerent tone for the defensive front. But Detroit needs Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best to stay healthy for any shot at a deep run.

WILD-CARD ROUND

Saints defeat Lions; Eagles defeat Falcons

DIVISIONAL ROUND

Packers defeat Eagles; Saints defeat 49ers

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Packers defeat Saints

| SUPERBOWL XLVI |

Feb. 5, 2012

LUCAS OIL STADIUM INDIANAPOLIS

PATRIOTS 31

PACKERS 27

PHOTOBOB ROSATO (BELICHICK)PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (MCCARTHY)