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The NFL Playoffs are here folks. 12 teams have secured their spot in the ultimate chase for the Lombardi Trophy. Teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Falcons, Chiefs, Panthers, and the Vikings have been in the postseason recently (within 2 years) and they have a sense of what it will take to achieve that ultimate goal of a Super Bowl Championship. And then we have football teams like the Rams, Jaguars, Titans, Bills, Saints, and the Eagles are all relatively welcomed onto the postseason stage and have not been in it in a few seasons or more depending on your drought. But in the end, what will it take more of this postseason? Talent or Experience? I believe that both will combine and have their own effects but that it ultimately comes down to one of them as the deciding factor when it all comes down to the Super Bowl. With that said, here are my full 2018 NFL Playoff Predictions, Previews, and Analysis!
AFC Wildcard Round:
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
(Sat. 1/6/2018, 4:20 p.m. EST, ESPN, KC -7.0)
Analysis and Prediction: Neither of these football teams scream Super Bowl contender at me or mostly any other NFL analyst. And this playoff matchup could get pretty ugly between two teams who quite frankly are very inconsistent. I trust the Kansas City Chiefs more though. Alex Smith still seems like a solid quarterback who can win football games for his team when he has help around him. Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce all need to show up in this game in order for Smith to feel comfortable in the pocket. I also believe that the Chiefs defense will have to play well against Marcus Mariota and the Titans run oriented offense. As for the Titans, they are going to need Marcus Mariota to sling the football around well and Derrick Henry will have to continue to strongly fill the void that DeMarco Murray’s injury has opened up. Expect the Titans to start off extremely hot on offense and the Chiefs to start slowly. As the game goes along I believe that Alex Smith will start to become more comfortable and start airing it all over the weaker Titans defense. But my game pick comes down to one X-factor player, who is Titans rookie wide receiver Corey Davis. I believe that the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft will finally have his breakout game, catching two touchdowns from Marcus Mariota in the second half and propelling the Tennessee Titans to a quiet upset win in the Wildcard Round over the Kansas City Chiefs. Tennessee Titans 35, Kansas City Chiefs 30.
Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars
(Sun. 1/7/2018, 1:05 p.m. EST, CBS, JAX -7.0)
Analysis and Prediction: The AFC has been a disappointing conference this season and I hate to degrade this Bills team but they are a great example of why I believe this. The Bills have had a solid season but it’s certainly not playoff worthy at 9-7. The AFC has been much better in the past and they wouldn’t have been in if this were any other year. But there’s nothing we can do now. We are going to watch the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Buffalo Bills in a Sunday wildcard round game with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo calling the game on CBS. Yeah, I never thought I’d be saying that one last summer. Enough of the nonsense though. The Jaguars house the top defense in football led by star defensive backs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. This defense wreaks havoc on offenses and they look like the most complete defense heading into the postseason. The Jags also have a top rushing attack led by star rookie halfback Leonard Fournette. And then there’s Blake Bortles who has quietly had his best season of his career but still has a tendency to throw an interception or two more than he should. The Bills are led by Tyrod Taylor and star running back LeSean McCoy. Note: McCoy’s status for Sunday’s game is still unknown. If McCoy is out, spend your Sunday afternoon elsewhere. Even if McCoy is in, I’d highly recommend finding something to do during the 1:00 to 4:00 hours of the afternoon. That’s enough said. I’m going with the Jaguars (defense) to advance to the divisional round in Pittsburgh with a 20-10 victory over the Bills. Jacksonville Jaguars 20, Buffalo Bills 10.
NFC Wildcard Round:
Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams
(Sat. 1/6/2018, 8:15 p.m. EST, NBC, LAR -4.5)
Analysis and Prediction: Opposite of how I started my analysis of the Chiefs-Titans game, I’m going to start by saying that I really do like where both of these football teams are at heading into the playoffs. The Falcons have been here before and they will ride their wave of experience that was garnered from their Super Bowl Run last season that fell short. This Rams team however is new to the playoff stage and has not been in a playoff game as a unit before. However, this Rams football team might be more talented than the Falcons. Sean McVay and Dan Quinn are both very smart and talented coaches. I could see both leading their respective teams to Super Bowl runs. But only one will advance out of the Wildcard Round. Rams running back Todd Gurley II is an MVP favorite alongside Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Gurley has been absolutely phenomenal this season and looks to run right through a strong Falcons run defense. Deion Jones, Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, and the other Falcons will be all in for stopping that train. Rams quarterback Jared Goff will be forced to throw the football a lot in this game and he’s been marvelous when asked to do so this season. Goff is still a second year player and will show some flaws in this game. But I expect receiver Robert Woods to have another outstanding game as Goff’s favorite target. On the Falcons Offense, Matt Ryan is still last year’s MVP winner and at times he still can be phenomenal like he was last season. But at times, Ryan can get reckless with the football, most notably when he targets star wideout Julio Jones in merely 6 on 1 coverage deep. I think that the Rams will be strong enough to hold Julio Jones down for the majority of the game but then the 6’3 star will break out late. The Falcons x-factor is running back Devonta Freeman whom some would say was a disappointment this season. But Freeman has picked it up as of late and plays a huge role in the Falcons rushing attack and passing game. Expect the Falcons to show their experience early on in this game and get off to a good start before Goff gets going. I believe that this game will be a naturally high scoring contest and that Jared Goff will outplay Matt Ryan down the stretch. I’ve got the Rams advancing to the divisional round with a 31-24 victory over the Falcons. Los Angeles Rams 31, Atlanta Falcons 24.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
(Sun. 1/7/2018, 4:40 p.m. EST, FOX, NO -5.5)
Analysis and Prediction: Here is another playoff game that proves exactly why the NFC is much better than the AFC. The Carolina Panthers have finished the regular season at 11-5 and are the fifth overall seed in the NFC bracket. That would be good enough to be division champions of 2 of 4 divisions in the AFC while the Panthers would be hosting an AFC Wildcard game as the third seed. But that’s beyond the point. The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers are NFC south rivals and this matchup figures to rely on the hands of the quarterbacks. Cam Newton will have to show up and be able to hit his receivers with accurate passes while pulling out his normal scrambling tricks for first downs and long gains. Drew Brees will have to be the calm, composed veteran that we all know him to be. He’s going to have to be able to throw the football well to help open up the Saints dynamic run game led by star running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Both of these defenses have improved a lot from last season and they cannot stop playing well now. I expect this to be a high scoring football game between two really well matched teams. The difference maker in my opinion is Saints second year star wide receiver Michael Thomas, who I expect to dominate the Carolina Panthers secondary. I’m going to pick the Saints to advance to the divisional round with a 34-31 victory over the Panthers. New Orleans Saints 34, Carolina Panthers 31.
AFC Divisional Round:
Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots
(Sat. 1/13/2018, 8:15 p.m., CBS, LINE TBD)
Analysis and Prediction: The AFC’s divisional round will kick off with the New England Patriots hosting the Tennessee Titans in my opinion. I predicted that the Titans would defeat the Chiefs in the Wildcard Round and they did just that. The Patriots are led by arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady and at home in Gillette Stadium, I don’t see the Titans upending them. The Patriots will figure out a way to game-plan against Titans workhorse running back Derrick Henry and their young, mobile quarterback in Marcus Mariota. Bill Belichick will have the Patriots defense ready to play and they’re too good for a Titans offense that’s had its fair share of ups and downs this season. Tom Brady will dominate and Dion Lewis will have another workhorse back type game. Expect Marcus Mariota to struggle in this game with Henry and Delanie Walker locked up. He won’t carry his Titans to a victory or anything close to it. New England Patriots 34, Tennessee Titans 16.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers
(Sun. 1/14/2018, 1:05 p.m. EST, CBS, LINE TBD)
Analysis and Prediction: The next game of the AFC divisional round will be the Jacksonville Jaguars heading to Heinz Field to face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jaguars dominated the Steelers earlier this season and Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. Now I believe that this Jaguars defense is good but not quite good enough to duplicate that type of performance. The Jaguars are immature and inexperienced. If not for the Bills being so lackluster last week, this team likely would’ve been sitting at home on the couch instead of playing the Steelers. This game will get out of hand for the Jaguars as the Steelers will have too many weapons for Jacksonville to try to match up with. Le’Veon Bell will run all over the Jaguars defense and this will allow the dynamic receiving duo of Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster to get free for big plays. Ben Roethlisberger is a veteran quarterback with multiple Super Bowl championships and he will not have to attempt 55 passes against Jacksonville this time around. For the Jaguars offensive hopes, quarterback Blake Bortles just isn’t good enough to lead his offense to multiple touchdowns in this type of playoff environment. I’m going with the Pittsburgh Steelers to end off a miraculous turnaround season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 16.
NFC Divisional Round:
New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles
(Sat. 1/13/2018, 4:35 p.m. EST, NBC, LINE TBD)
Analysis and Prediction: The predicted matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles is one that will be a very exciting way to kick off divisional round weekend. Drew Brees will lead his Saints into Lincoln Financial Field for one of the Eagles biggest games in years. Sadly, the Eagles lost their star quarterback Carson Wentz to an ACL tear multiple weeks ago and that forced head coach Doug Pederson’s hand into handing the keys off to experienced backup quarterback Nick Foles. Foles had a great season in Philadelphia in 2013 and ultimately got injured in the team’s playoff game. While he’s solid, I feel that Drew Brees has too much experience and will help the Saints do too much to the Eagles while their defense overwhelms Foles. I’m going with the Saints to force Philadelphia to stay thirsty for another major sports championship. New Orleans Saints 27, Philadelphia Eagles 13.
Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings
(Sun. 1/14/2018, 4:30 p.m. EST, FOX, LINE TBD)
Analysis and Prediction: And here we are with the final game of divisional round weekend. The young Los Angeles Rams will travel to U.S. Bank Stadium to take on a Minnesota Vikings squad that has been very hot as of late. Case Keenum has shocked the entire country while leading the Vikings to a 13-3 record. The Vikings defense has been superb all season and figures to limit the Rams Offense to a traditionally low volume performance. But as an NFL guy, I know that Case Keenum is the same guy that threw 9 touchdowns to 11 interceptions last season as a Ram. He’s been a great turnaround story but I still don’t feel good enough to trust him to win a playoff game when it comes down to it. I trust the Rams more and I’m picking them to upset the second seeded Vikings and advance to the NFC championship game. Los Angeles Rams 24, Minnesota Vikings 20.
AFC Conference Championship Game:
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots
(Sun. 1/21/2018, 3:05 p.m. EST, CBS)
Analysis and Prediction: So here we are at the conference championship games of the 2018 NFL Playoffs. For the AFC, I’m predicting the second seeded Pittsburgh Steelers to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round and then have to travel to Foxborough to take on the top seeded New England Patriots who I believe will defeat the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round. This game occurred in Week 15 and it was an instant classic. The Steelers nearly sent it to overtime if not for a controversial call and a bad play call by Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger to fake spike. It turned into an ending that was heard around the world and I know most football fans would be ecstatic to get at least four more quarters of football between these two top teams. I believe that the Patriots home field advantage will be the difference this time around and that New England will at least contain Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown for most of the game. Expect Tom Brady to drive the Patriots down the field and win them the game and a chance at his sixth super bowl championship. I’m going with the Patriots to edge out the Steelers in another instant classic of a football game. New England Patriots 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 23.
NFC Conference Championship Game:
New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams
(Sun. 1/21/2018, 6:40 p.m. EST, FOX)
Analysis and Prediction: The NFC Conference Championship Game will be another instant classic in my opinion. I’m predicting that the third seeded Los Angeles Rams will be hosting the fourth seeded New Orleans Saints in this game. Both teams are fresh off of big upset victories in the divisional round and are ready to go at it here. While this game could be a true battle of the defenses, I believe that both offenses will come to play and light up the scoreboard. Rams star running back Todd Gurley II will go back and forth with the Saints duo of dynamic backs in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Jared Goff and Drew Brees will take turns trading shots down the field. But in the end, this game was such a coin toss for me. I love what I’ve seen from both of these teams all season and I just don’t know who I want to win this game. I’m going with the New Orleans Saints though. Drew Brees experience will be a huge factor in the 4th quarter of this one as the Saints defeat the Rams to become the NFC champions and set up a matchup with the New England Patriots in the all but glorious Super Bowl 52. New Orleans Saints 38, Los Angeles Rams 34.
Super Bowl LII:
New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints
- (Sunday, February 4th, 2018)
- (Kickoff Time estimated at 6:30 p.m. EST)
- (U.S. Bank Stadium) (Minneapolis, MN)
- (LINE TBD)
Analysis and Prediction: It all comes down to this. The so important Super Bowl LII Prediction. My predictions have led me to believe that the NFC champion New Orleans Saints will be facing off against the AFC champion New England Patriots in a game for the ages. Drew Brees and Tom Brady will battle it out in 2018 for another Super Bowl Championship. The Saints are a promising football team but I’ve learned not to bet against big game Tom Brady in the playoffs. I expect this to be another great football game but Tom Brady will prevail in the end, winning his sixth Super Bowl championship and adding on to a distinct legacy. New England Patriots 31, New Orleans Saints 28.
Finally, I’ve finished my Playoff Predictions. If you made it this far, I’d like to thank you for reading and wish you to a great 2018. I appreciate my viewers and wish the best for all. I hope you enjoyed reading my Playoff Predictions! Don’t forget to hit me up on Twitter @TBeckmannPSF and give me your thoughts on my predictions and even give me your predictions. Thanks! Peace out!