NFL Playoff Predictions

NFL Playoff Predictions

After an exciting final week of the NFL season, the playoff bracket is set. Here are the final standings in each conference:

AFC Standings:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West Champions, 12-4)
  2. New England Patriots (AFC East Champions, 11-5)
  3. Houston Texans (AFC South Champions, 11-5)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (AFC North Champions, 10-6)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (AFC Wild Card #1, 12-4)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (AFC Wild Card #2, 10-6)

NFC Standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (NFC South Champions, 13-3)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (NFC West Champions, 13-3)
  3. Chicago Bears (NFC North Champions, 12-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (NFC East Champions, 10-6)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (NFC Wild Card #1, 10-6)
  6. Philadelphia Eagles (NFC Wild Card #2, 9-7)

And here are our predictions for how the playoffs will unfold:

 

David:

AFC Wild Card Round:

Texans over Colts, 31-27

I think these teams are evenly matched, but there are a couple of factors that make me pick the Texans. The Texans also have a far superior turnover margin, and they will be playing at home. Deshaun Watson leads the Texans to victory over the Colts with a fourth quarter touchdown drive.

Ravens over Chargers, 17-13

The Ravens defeated the Chargers in Los Angeles in week 16, holding the Chargers to just 10 points. I expect this game to be closer, but the Ravens will stifle the potent offense of the Chargers once again.

AFC Divisional Round:

Chiefs over Ravens, 26-20

This game features the elite offense of the Chiefs against the elite defense of the Ravens. The Chiefs won’t be able to build an insurmountable lead against the Ravens’ defense and put the game away early, but Lamar Jackson isn’t a good enough passer to beat Patrick Mahomes.

Patriots over Texans, 24-21

Tom Brady and the Patriots aren’t as good as they used to be, but they still have their great home field advantage. The Patriots haven’t lost a game in Foxborough this year, and I expect that to continue. The Texans are a pretty good team, and the Patriots will have to work to beat them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tom Brady and Bill Belichick engineer another comeback win.

AFC Championship Round:

Chiefs over Patriots, 38-37

Both of these teams have high-powered offenses, so expect a shootout much like what we saw when they met earlier this season. This time, the Chiefs are playing at home, and Mahomes will put his team up big early in the game. Brady will bring the Patriots closer, but it won’t be enough to return to the Super Bowl.

NFC Wild Card Round:

Bears over Eagles, 16-6

Nick Foles and the Eagles are gearing up for another Super Bowl run, and they will head to Chicago first. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, I think Foles runs out of magic in this game. The Bears’ top-ranked defense will hold the Eagles to a pair of field goals and Mitch Trubisky does just enough to win the game.

Seahawks over Cowboys, 25-20

All of us Seahawks fans have enjoyed mocking analysts’ predictions for the Seahawks from before the season. With that being said, the decline on defense is real, and the Seahawks are merely average on that end of the field. But with dink-and-Dak Prescott as the quarterback for the Cowboys, they won’t be lighting up the Seahawks.

NFC Divisional Round:

Saints over Seahawks, 34-24

I think the Seahawks can put up a decent fight, but the Saints are well-rested and are playing at home. The Saints also have a strong run defense that will stop the primary angle of attack for the Seahawks. Drew Brees leads the Saints to the NFC championship game.

Bears over Rams, 23-17

The Rams’ offense was incredible this year, but as we have seen before, the Bears have a good enough defense to shut them down. While the Bears don’t have a great offense, they will be able to score points on the porous defense of the Rams.

NFC Championship Round:

Bears over Saints, 24-20

It’s hard to pick against Drew Brees and Sean Payton, especially in New Orleans. I think the Bears can pull off the upset though, but I’m not expecting Trubisky to outperform Brees. The Bears’ defense will create points and keep the score relatively low.

Super Bowl:

Chiefs over Bears, 21-16

Unstoppable force meets immovable object as the best offense faces the best defense in a fascinating matchup of teams. The Bears’ defense was outstanding all season, but they never faced a team as explosive as the Chiefs. The same can be said for the Chiefs and their opponents’ defenses, although the Ravens were close. The Bears slow the game down through their defense and their run game, and the Chiefs struggle to find a rhythm on offense early on. But the Chiefs’ defense makes some big plays and keeps them in the game. Mahomes takes over in the second half and throws a bomb to Tyreek Hill to put the Chiefs on top in the fourth. Andy Reid wins his first Super Bowl as a head coach, and Mahomes earns Super Bowl MVP honors after taking home the regular season MVP.

 

Jeff:

AFC Wild Card Round:

Texans over Colts, 30-14

I’ll have to say I’m a bit nervous for this one. The Colts came down to NRG Stadium in Week 14 and won a close one and the two teams did split their season series, with the road team winning each game by 3 points, so I might be a bit ambitious with this prediction. That being said, I think Deshaun’s ready for primetime and hopefully the Texans learn to cover TY Hilton unlike last time they played. Alas, the Colts are hot right now, having won 9 out of their last 10 games and Luck bringing them back from the abyss. This should be a good game, one in which I will be extremely nervous for.

Ravens over Chargers, 20-19

The two teams played in Week 16 with important postseason implications for both teams and while the Ravens pulled out a fairly sizable victory, the Chargers are also somehow very decent on the road, having gone 7-1. (It probably doesn’t help their home stadium is a glorified home stadium.) The Ravens, like the Colts, have also turned their season around somewhat thanks to the play of Lamar Jackson, who have added an added twist to his play through his ability to run the ball. That being said, the Chargers under Philip Rivers and Joey Bosa will surely be motivated to win after constant postseason underachieving so this should be as fun of a matchup as the one in Week 16 was.

AFC Divisional Round:

Texans over Patriots, 35-33

I really might be ambitious with this game considering the last two times the Texans have played the Patriots in Foxborough, they got beaten by double digits, neither game being especially close (although I still have no clue how the 2016 game managed to be within 4 points at halftime with freakin’ Brock Osweiler). That being said, Watson is not Osweiler thankfully and surely will play big in primetime again, especially against the Texans’ nemesis the Patriots. The Patriots while they have been sturdy at home aren’t the Patriots of old, with their defense leaving much to be desired. Also, the last 2 times they played the Texans managed to not completely embarrass themselves, pushing to within a touchdown each time.

Ravens over Chiefs, 25-20

I’m probably going with the hot hand here especially with the somewhat shaky play of the Chiefs recently. (That being said 2-2 over the last 4 games is very relative when it comes to shaky play.) The Ravens did lose a close one to the Chiefs in Arrowhead previously this season and I feel with enough preparation, especially after beating the Chargers and having a lead late in the previous Chiefs-Ravens game, they should be able to pull the upset.

AFC Championship Round:

Texans over Ravens, 20-15

As much as the Ravens have done well at home, they have not been as sturdy on the road, going a pedestrian 4-4. In addition, home crowds have been the savior of the Texans in the past, as shown by their previously 4-1 record including this postseason up to this point. The Texans’ defense should be able to pick apart a young Jackson and their secondary which has not been up to par in recent weeks. The Texans also surely must be feeling motivation to reach their first Super Bowl in franchise history, especially with the previous history of the Oilers looming in the background.

NFC Wild Card Round:

Seahawks over Cowboys, 10-9

The Seahawks have bounced back nicely after a somewhat disappointing 2017 season, especially with the loss of the Legion of Boom and the Earl Thomas debacle. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have done pretty well themselves after going 3-5 to finish 10-6. That being said, the Cowboys haven’t exactly been known for doing well in the postseason, having won just 2 postseason games in the 21st century. The Seahawks meanwhile have done better on the road than in recent years, so I feel confident that Seattle can pull off the road win.

Bears over Eagles, 25-19

I really should not be choosing against Nick Foles but the Bears have had a resurgence this year that I feel with home-field advantage will be just enough to overcome the defending Super Bowl champions. In addition, the Eagles’ receiving corps have not been as sharp as last year and Mitch Trubisky having the year everyone thought he’d have when the Bears drafted him in 2017 and the addition of Khalil Mack have made the Bears one of the teams to watch in the NFC.

NFC Divisional Round:

Saints over Seahawks, 19-10

The Superdome is just too hard of a place for the Seahawks to overcome, and Drew Brees and co. have done very well at home this season. In addition, Alvin Kamara should help penetrate a secondary that, while pretty good this season, will not be good in my opinion to stop the Saints’ potent offense.

Bears over Rams, 15-12

The Rams have been slipping over the last couple of weeks (although similar to the Chiefs’ situation a record around .500 isn’t exactly slipping if not for the Rams’ previously stellar record), to the point where they were seriously challenged by the Bears for the No. 2 seed. Speaking of which, the Bears beat the Rams previously this season and while this time around it’ll be in LA Coliseum, the Rams don’t exactly have as much a home-field advantage as the Saints or the Patriots for example. Plus the injury to Todd Gurley should loom large as it takes away potentially another route for Jared Goff and co. to attack the Bears’ quite strong secondary.

NFC Championship Round:

Saints over Bears, 25-21

Both teams have strong quarterbacks and strong running games that should make for an enticing NFC Championship Game. That being said, the Superdome takes no prisoners, and I feel just like in 2009 when the Saints made their first Super Bowl, the Superdome should provide enough home-field advantage to help the Saints make their second Super Bowl.

Super Bowl:

Saints over Texans, 36-31

At this point, the Texans will have had enough momentum, having gone through the Ravens, Colts, Patriots, 2 hot teams and their nemesis, to seriously challenge the Saints. That being said, the O-line for the Texans still leaves lots to be desired and Watson will have to be on top of his game if he is to defeat the Saints. Both teams will be surely motivated by the chance to win the first Super Bowl for the Texans and the second for the Saints. (It probably doesn’t hurt the Texans that the Super Bowl being played in Atlanta means basically home-field advantage for the Texans thanks to the Falcons fans hating the Saints.) The Saints’ offense should overcome the Texans’ defense just enough to help them be crowned Super Bowl 53 Champions. The Texans certainly won’t back down from the challenge though, especially Watson, making for what’s sure to be an exciting Super Bowl.

 

Ton:

AFC Wildcard Round:

Colts over Texans, 30-27

I might be crazy, and Jeff will hate me a lot for doing this, but the Colts will fly out of Houston with a win for the second time this season. I’m looking at the matchups here. You can’t really give the edge to anyone when it comes to comparing Luck away from home and Watson at home. The pass rush on both sides is similar, although the Texans probably have the edge here. In total defense, the Colts have the edge. The key stat that I’m looking at, though, is the offensive line. Andrew Luck has been sacked 17 times this year compared to a whopping 62 sacks for Watson.

Chargers over Ravens, 24-20

This is a very tough choice. The Ravens have probably the best defense in the NFL, Lamar Jackson is hitting form, and the Ravens actually BEAT the Chargers in Week 16, but eventually I have to turn to the Charger’s spectacular away record (7-1), and the ability of Rivers to be clutch in late game situations on the road.

AFC Divisional Round:

Chiefs over Colts, 35-14

Patrick Mahomes and the Chief’s offensive crew will be too much for the Colt’s young defensive squad, and despite the Chief’s defensive struggles they will score their way into victory again. Oh and yes, they will finally win a playoff game at the Arrowhead.

Patriots over Chargers, 30-20

The Patriots by securing a first round bye now have an easy route to the AFC championship because they are absolutely dominant at home. They are undefeated, and apart from a Chiefs-Patriots matchup early in the regular season they have pretty much won convincingly in every home game.

AFC Championship Round:

Patriots over Chiefs, 38-35

Ugh, I know. Both of these teams don’t deserve to be playing for the AFC spot in the Super Bowl, but because of the way the bracket turned out this matchup is pretty likely. The Chiefs defense can’t make a key stop to save their life, and although the incompetence of opposing offenses has bailed them out in the past, the Patriots are experienced and clinical in these types of games and will appear in their third straight Super Bowl.

NFC Wildcard Round:

Seahawks over Cowboys, 31-27

I’m buzzing for this game. This game will be down to the wire, and I definitely trust Russell Wilson more than Dak Prescott to make *the* play in the fourth quarter. I also have to admit that I can’t really go against my team here, so you can read more about this game in my preview on Hawks Haven later this week.

Bears over Eagles, 20-9

The Eagles barely crawled into the playoffs, and don’t give me your “but they shutout the Redskins away from home” argument became guess what, the dismal Giants put up FORTY FOUR against the Skins. The QB situation is kinda iffy as well with Foles now injured, and the Bears super-defensive squad will be too much for the Eagles to handle.

NFC Divisional Round:

Saints over Seahawks, 34-27

The ceiling for the Seahawks is the conference championship, but their expected result is going to be losing in the divisional round. The Saints have too many weapons on offense, and their defense has really stepped it up in the latter half of this season. The Seahawks will keep it close like always, but the Saints, with 2 weeks of rest for most of their starters, will prevail.

Bears over Rams, 21-17

This will be a great game, with the best offense in the NFC in total yards facing the 2nd best defense in the NFC in total yards allowed. I’m taking the Bears in this one because of the Ram’s struggles on defense, and the overwhelmingly dominant defense of the Bears. Also, I would say that the Bears are the only team in the NFL who can put this high-flying Rams offense back down to ground level.

NFC Championship Round:

Saints over Bears, 37-20

The Saints are fortunate that they never have to play on the road because their offense has been somewhat poor away from home lately. But at home, the Saints have been utterly dominant on both sides of the ball, and will take this game, returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since winning it in 2010.

Super Bowl:

Saints over Patriots, 43-40

The Patriots have one thing on their sides in this game, and it’s not specifically their offense, defense, or special teams, because well, the Saints are better than them at all three. The one thing the Patriots have is their experience playing in games like this, and if it wasn’t for that the Saints are the overwhelming favorite here. I’m picking the Saints to win because lately, Brady does not look like the same, intimidating, offensive force in years past, but then again that’s something I have said for the past few years and that hasn’t really worked out well for me. Expect the Saints to win in a close, high scoring game, kind of like last year’s Super Bowl.

 

Derek:

AFC Wild Card Round:

Colts over Texans, 33-27 (OT)

After starting the year 1-5, this Colts team has played fantastic football down the stretch, especially (who would’ve thought?) defensively. They’ve won 9 of their last 10, and they make it 10 from 11 in an OT thriller at NRG Stadium.

Ravens over Chargers, 24-17

This run-heavy Ravens offense under Lamar Jackson consistently scores only 20-27 points a game, however, the Ravens offense also consistently dominates time of possession. By successfully keeping Phillip Rivers and Co. off the field, the Ravens win this one comfortably despite a late Chargers surge.

AFC Divisional Round:

Patriots over Ravens, 30-24

I’m too lazy to pull up Bill Belichick’s record against rookie QBs, but it’s not good… for the rookie QBs. Add to that all the playoff experience these Patriots have, and the Ravens’ relative inexperience, especially the backfield tandem of Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards, don’t stand a chance. Patriots grab the lead early and never let it go.

Chiefs over Colts, 35-28

As much as I love what Frank Reich has been able to do with his Colts in Year 1, the Chiefs offense is just too talented. It’s the Chiefs’ game to lose, and Andy Reid finally exorcises his January demons with his sophomore star at the helm.

AFC Championship Round:

Patriots over Chiefs, 44-37

A few weeks ago, with Kareem Hunt still in the fold, this game would have been a toss-up. But with the Patriots now able to focus on shutting down just two KC weapons, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, they hold the advantage. Patriots win comfortably despite some late Mahomes to Damien Williams heroics.

NFC Wild Card Round:

Seahawks over Cowboys, 24-20

Sure, when the Seahawks beat the Cowboys in Week 3, it was at CenturyLink field, but it was also former Seahawks DC Kris Richard’s first game against his former ballclub. This time around, Richard’s knowledge of his former team won’t play as big of a role, and the Seahawks end up escaping Texas with a win thanks to some late Russell Wilson magic.

Eagles over Bears, 26-20 (OT)

I know the Eagles barely snuck into the playoffs, but they’ve quietly been a hot football team since getting demolished by the Saints. They have the leadership, talent, and experience to make another deep playoff run, and it starts with a big performance in the Soldier Field snow from last year’s Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, with a perfect game-winning TD pass in OT to midseason trade acquisition Golden Tate.

NFC Divisional Round:

Eagles over Saints, 34-20

The Eagles had a very extended Super Bowl hangover, but now they’re back. Barring injury, they’ll be on an emotional high coming off a win in Chicago, compared to a Saints team whose starters have been doing what for the last two weeks? Collecting rust? Eagles flip the script from their first matchup against the Saints and demolish them.

Rams over Seahawks, 34-27

The Seahawks are just not a great team away from home, and despite overcoming that in a win against the mediocre Cowboys in the Wild Card Round, you can’t like the Seahawks’ chances, especially when Sean McVay has two weeks to plan for this game. Rams jump out to a comfortable lead and never relinquish it.

NFC Championship Round:

Eagles over Rams, 30-27

This Eagles team deserved to be Super Bowl champs last year, and if a few more 4th-down plays, referee calls, or field goals (ahem… Graham Gano….) had gone their way this year, they would have easily held off the Cowboys for the NFC East title. And if that had happened, we would be talking about the Eagles as Super Bowl favorites, not Super Bowl underdogs. In this game, the Eagles deservedly reestablish their place atop the NFC and secure a rematch against Tom Brady and Co.

Super Bowl:

Eagles over Patriots, 27-21

In this rematch of Super Bowl LII, the Eagles still have Nick Foles as their starting QB, and the Patriots still don’t have Malcolm Butler in the secondary. And… the Eagles still win. The Eagles overcome the complacency and misfortune that plagued the first ten weeks of their season, and recover the dominant form that led them to the Super Bowl last year. Nick Foles rushes for a second-quarter TD on another key Doug Pederson trick play. In the end, the Eagles’ offseason addition of Michael Bennett proves huge, as he comes up with a big strip sack of Tom Brady that big man Fletcher Cox rumbles into the end zone with for the game-winning score. And on the Patriots’ final drive, former Patriot Chris Long comes up with the 4th down sack to seal the game. Oh, and lest we forget, with Eagles kicker Jake Elliott injured, former Patriot Kamu-Grugier Hill, a high-school kicker, comes in and boots a couple extra points.

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