Sorry, I had procrastinated during the break. Well, to say “just wanted to relax” is an understatement.
So when the Playoff teams were decided after Week 17, it made me think: who will walk home with the Super Bowl Trophy? (sorry, Booger McFarland moment).
Honestly, it is a hard answer. Heck, it’s hard to even think of which two teams will get to the Super Bowl. In the past we have pretty much banked on New England and the NFC team of the year (sixth straight year a different team will represent the NFC unless it is Seattle). A lot of teams are great, but those same teams have holes. Even the Patriots are nothing but a lock. If anything, their mountain to climb is that more of Olympus Mons than Mt. Everest at this point. So let’s rank them and why they will win and why they won’t win.
(1) BALTIMORE RAVENS (14-2): Why they will win? The Ravens very balanced all throughout. They can run the ball like no other and the defense is beyond dangerous all over. And that Lamar Jackson dude is pretty good as he kows how to finish off drives. That’s a winning recipe for a third Lombardi Trophy near the Baltimore Harbor. Why they won’t win? IF IF IF Baltimore is down late and/or down big at any point Jackson will have to be relied on his arm and that isn’t a good thing. The lone two losses Jackson looked human in and albeit early was ridiculed for being a “meh” passer. I’m not sure if the Ravens will be put in that position, but if they do, that is when I’d be really worried with Baltimore.
(2) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (13-3): Why they will win? The Saints may be the most complete team in these playoffs. I thought after last year Father Time caught up with Drew Brees. Wrong. Had it not been for the injury he would have put up well over 4,000 yards passing (again) and 30+ TD’s. Compile that with Alvin Kamara (who is healthy now) and Michael Thomas and all the gimmick plays they have using Taysom Hill, teams will have nightmares to figure out how to stop them. And the defense while not dominant like Baltimore or Buffalo, is solid but with a deadly pass rush. Why they won’t win? Of all the teams on here, the Saints are the hardest one to figure out why. Yes, people will argue going out of the comfortable elements of the dome to the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field in the Divisional round is going to be too much but this team is built to win anywhere honestly. The ONLY thing I’d worry are the unexpected plays as we have seen those plays be demons to the Saints the last few years in the postseason when the games are close.
(3) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-4): Why they will win? Kansas City has improved tenfold on defense, notably against the pass. You can thank Tyrann Mathieu for that as he has become their saving grace. Oh yeah, and they have that Mahomes guy at QB to pair up with Hill and Kelce and also their X Factor in Mecole Hardeman. Why they won’t win? The running game on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs struggled badly on that which will definitely be a problem if they have a rematch against Baltimore in the AFC Championship. Of course, like the Saints, the Chiefs have their playoff demons to contend with, just more.
(4) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (13-3): Why they will win? They can run the ball well with the guys they have. They play some strong defense especially against the pass and Jimmy Garoppolo makes passes when he absolutely needs to. Compiling it on, they have homefield throughout the NFC. Why they won’t win? Down the stretch proved some concerns notably if teams hang around with San Francisco. Pretty much their final five games came down to the last play and they went 3-2. Good had one of those losses were not to a 7-9 Falcons team at home. But the 49ers need to close games out or else they could end up like the 2016 Falcons if you get my drift.
(5) HOUSTON TEXANS (10-6): Why they will win? Watson, Hyde, Hopkins. Houston when clicking has the best tandem in the NFL. Why they won’t win? A bit of where 3 years ago game is that the Texans got in on the account of their offense would have been a laugh as their defense was the one that got them in. But the poor play on defense gives the Texans those games where they implode on very bad teams (Denver). They are that Jekyll-and-Hyde team that can go far if they can get out of the first round but can they? The defense will decide.
(6) GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3): Why they will win? Compared to years in the past the Packers have been more of a balanced team. They have one of their best rushing attacks in recent memory with Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams. Defense is solid against the pass. And the Packers *could* host two games in Lambeau where they went 7-1. Why they won’t win? Dare say it, but it is Aaron Rodgers. While the Packers have gone more to the ways of a balanced approach and “taken pressure” off Rodgers in the run game, he hasn’t looked sharp at all especially the last few weeks. It also seems like he is not having any fun out there and just unhappy with how the offense is being built differently. Of course he is saying nothing about it because, well, the Packers are winning. The other issue Green Bay has? Aside from beating Minnesota twice, Green Bay has had to win squeakers against the Redskins, Bears, and Lions down the stretch. I don’t know even with having a possible matchup against New Orleans at Lambeau if that will play into Green Bay’s favor.
(7) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4): Why they will win? The defense has been the reason why the Patriots have won another division title and won a few games with it. And do you really doubt Brady and Belichick? Why they won’t win? Hard to imagine just 3 years ago that Rodgers and Brady would now be considered more liabilities than keys to winning the game. But right now Brady is just looking “average” but unlike Rodgers, Brady’s issue may be Father Time. Does he have enough for one more Super Bowl run? Also compiling on it is the three other division champs in the AFC, the Patriots have lost to and have been pretty much outplayed on both sides. They just are not being the same dominant Patriots we have come to know.
(8) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7): Why they will win? Laugh all you want, but the Eagles are coming in hot in the playoffs. Yes, beating the NFC East teams the final four weeks doesn’t say much, but they got momentum heading in and that is a major problem. Carson Wentz has been ridiculed all year but he really hasn’t done anything wrong down the stretch. They key thing to take in is, the Eagles are actually getting healthier at the right time, especially on defense. Why they won’t win? Just what kind of offense are we going to see in the playoffs from the Eagles? At times the offense looks solid and then at times they are a giant mess. The consistency will end up biting Philadelphia if it continues.
(9) BUFFALO BILLS (10-6): Why they will win? They fight to no end and every time you think they are down, they keep fighting. That’ super scary for the powers of the AFC. They won’t stop fighting. And their defense is sick. They can run the ball very well and another scary thing is they play stronger on the road. Compiled that with Josh Allen getting more and more comfortable at quarterback an having a target of John Brown, and you has a possible sleeper in the AFC. Why they won’t win? As much improved as Allen has been, he’s not ready for that next level yet. And while it is very possible Buffalo could upset the Texans, a date in Baltimore would expose Allen’s remaining inconsistencies. And you need a consistent quarterback in the playoffs.
(10) MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-6): Why they will win? The run game. Dalvin Cook is their offensive cog. If he goes, so do the Vikings. And Kirk Cousins for all the grief he gets, has pretty much played mistake-free football. Why they won’t win? The Vikings defense isn’t the one who could dominate on that side like they used to. The defense is just missing something or they are just not scheming well against opposing offenses. And that is a problem for Minnesota. Also, despite Cousins ability to not make mistakes, he isn’t a guy that you can rely on late in the fourth quarter for that game-winning drive. That isn’t is thing and that is a problem for Minnesota moving forward.
(11) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5): Why they will win? Russell Wilson. We give love to Lamar Jackson for everything this year, but Wilson is starting to be taken for granted on everything he’s done in Seattle. Never doubt this guy at all. If not for Jackson, Wilson is probably the MVP in the NFL. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf have been a great receiving duo this year, averaging around 1000 yards each. Why they won’t win? Injuries have destroyed Seattle’s chances tremendously. Chris Carson was rolling until he got injured and the offense isn’t the same. The Seahawks brought back Marshawn Lynch but what is he capable of as his final year weren’t anything to write home about. And the defense is a far cry from the Legion of Boom days, finishing near the bottom of the NFL in a lot of key defensive categories. It will be a long road to the Super Bowl with Seattle.
(12) TENNESSEE TITANS (9-7): Why they will win? Derrick Henry. If the Titans ground game dominates and they can because Henry is a true beast of epic proportions, then Tennessee could make a fun run. Compiling on is that Ryan Tannehill has been what the Titans offense needed from a passing perspective as Marcus Mariota just lost all confidence behind center. It will also create for some doom for teams like the Patriots early on. AJ Brown is becoming a force in the passing game too. Why they won’t win? Do we really trust Ryan Tannehill to hold a Lombardi Trophy? I mean if Nick Foles can, it is possible. That said, the concern of the Titans isn’t Tannehill but the defense which can be problematic (notably against the pass, which will turn out to be a problem given the quarterback they will see in the AFC). And it just feels like the team doesn’t have enough depth as the 11 other playoff teams in front of them. But as they say…on any given Sunday…
LAST SECOND PREDICTIONS:
WILD CARD (AFC): Patriots over Titans (overtime), Texans over Bills
WILD CARD (NFC): Saints over Vikings, Eagles over Seahawks
DIVISIONAL (AFC): Ravens over Texans, Chiefs over Patriots
DIVISIONAL (NFC): 49ers over Eagles, Saints over Packers
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Ravens over Chiefs
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Saints over 49ers
SUPER BOWL XLIV: Ravens over Saints
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat