NFL PLAYOFFS ROUND 1

Greg Cote: Updated Super Bowl pick: Broncos-Seahawks

 

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

I thought it might be true but wasn’t positive. Or maybe I had blocked the truth from my mind the way one does an unsettling childhood memory like that time I saw Gramps kissing Santa Claus. So I looked it up. I wished I hadn’t. Because it was true.

On these very pages, this past Sept. 6, my pick to win the Super Bowl was the Houston Texans.

As it turned out, Houston would go 2-14 and instead win the overall No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

My Super Bowl prediction could only have been worse if I had foreseen the Vince Lombardi Trophy being hoisted by the Toronto Maple Leafs or North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

On the bright side, I had the Seattle Seahawks at least making the Super Bowl, so I still have a shot there. This amounts to the most desperate use yet of the phrase “one out of two ain’t bad.”

Moving on (quickly), we welcome NFL Wild Card Weekend by ranking 12 playoff qualifiers top to bottom on overall likelihood they’ll be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, although it will probably be snowing so hard in New Jersey that night that the entire postgame ceremony will be obscured in a life-threatening blizzard:

1. Broncos: Peyton Manning and that record-setting offense cannot be stopped. I pretty much mean that literally.

2. Seahawks: Russell Wilson is 15-1 at home, which is about the odds of any team beating him in Seattle before Peyton does in the Super Bowl.

3. Patriots: Pats last won it all in 2004, and, after all they’ve overcome, I give them an outside shot to be playing for it all again.

4. Packers: Aaron Rodgers is back and the team is playoff savvy. I think they’ll upset the Niners, so how can I rank them lower?

5. Niners: Could be proved way wrong, but I just think San Fran might be slightly less the team it was a year ago.

6. Saints: Drew Brees and a much better defense gives this team a chance, but tailing off on the road is a big issue for a wild-card team.

7. Bengals: Cincy has a major-league defense but is Andy Dalton the man you trust to win in the playoffs?

8. Panthers: Defense is stout, but postseason inexperience and Cam Newton inconsistency come into play.

9. Eagles: Explosive as Chip Kelly’s offense is, I’m not sure if Philly’s defense is built for a deep playoff run.

10. Colts: I just don’t see Indy as more than the fourth- or fifth-best team in its own conference.

11. Chargers: The season Philip Rivers is having gives San Diego a chance in most games, but the team is too erratic overall.

12. Chiefs: Remember when they were 9-0? Umm, they’re 2-5 since, and that once-feared defense hasn’t been anything special for a couple of months.

Come to think of it, can we just fast-forward to that inevitable Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl?

OK, now we rank the 12 playoff teams not by title shot but by Independent Rooting Interest (IRI), which I made up last year. Who should you be rooting for if you aren’t a fan of any team in particular? Answer: Whichever team’s fans are most starving for a Super Bowl.

I added each franchise’s number of seasons since its last SB win and last appearance (or pre-Super Bowl championship). The combined number is our IRI index. The higher the number, the greater the historic underdog. This year’s field:

Chiefs (88): Last win and appearance, 1969.

Bengals (71): Never won in 46 franchise years; last appearance 1988.

Chargers (69): Last AFL title, 1963; last appearance, 1994.

Eagles (62): Last NFL title, 1960; last appearance, 2004.

Seahawks (46): Never won in 38 franchise years; last appearance 2005.

Broncos (30): Last win and appearance, 1998.

Panthers (29): Never won in 19 franchise years; last appearance, 2003.

49ers (20): Last won, 1994; last appearance, 2012.

Patriots (11): Last won, 2004; last appearance, 2011.

Colts (11): Last won, 2006; last appearance, 2009.

Saints (8): Last win and appearance, 2009.

Packers (6): Last win and appearance, 2010.

By the way, the Dolphins would have had an IRI of 69 years (last SB win, 1973; last appearance, 1984), trailing only the Chiefs and Bengals on the misery index.

ANNUAL AWARDS

Our King Sport 2013 season awards, briefly:

MVP – Peyton Manning, Broncos QB: No yeah-buts or arguments for anyone else, please. Won’t hear it. If the vote isn’t unanimous, I’m suing somebody.

Offensive Player of the Year – Manning: He broke the all-time season passing records for yards (5,477) and TDs (55). Any questions?

Defensive POY – Robert Mathis, Colts LB: Led the NFL with 19 ½ sacks and won two player-of-the-month awards. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman and Panthers LB Luke Kuechly also have a strong case.

Offensive rookie – Keenan Allen, Chargers WR: Had 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight TDs, with only five drops. Was a fountain of youth for Philip Rivers. Packers RB Eddie Lacy also a top candidate.

Defensive rookie – Kiko Alonso, Bills LB: Finished third in NFL in tackles andwas so strong in ocverage that he never came off field. Also a shoutout to Jets DT Sheldon Richardson.

Coach of the year – Andy Reid, Chiefs: He took over a 2-14 team. They’re in the playoffs. Should be a comfortable winner over Carolina’s Ron Rivera.

Dolphins MVP – Ryan Tannehill, QB: The last two games didn’t help; Tannehill’s late fizzle coincided with Miami blowing a playoff bid. But his 3,913 yards and 24 TD passes showed marked improvement over his rookie year.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

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Charlotte Bobcats' Al Jefferson, left, drives past Miami Heat's Shane Battier, right, to dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

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