The NFL’s second season is upon us. 20 teams are booking their tee times for this weekend, but another 12 still remain. Is this the year of upsets? Or are we going Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk?!
Some teams started out hotter than fish grease, I’m looking at you Rams and Chiefs, and rode that early success to some first round byes. Others like the Colts and Eagles made some second half pushes to snag the last playoff spots. It wasn’t all Luck though, the Colts were 9-1 in their last 10 games after starting out 1-5. The return of the Mack helped the Colts running game that was aided by the impact of rookie Quenton Nelson.
In Philly, they made some moves at the trade deadline. The trade with Detroit for Tate proved that all that glitters isn’t Golden. They’ll need to be hitting on all cylinders with the passing game to make it past Chicago on wild card weekend. With a running game that leaves a lot to be desired the Eagles will be relying on Big, ahem, “game” Nick Foles to carry them wentz again.
The AFC seedings are as follows:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots
- Houston Texans
- Baltimore Ravens
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Indianapolis Colts
There’s fresh blood at the quarterback position this year with Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Andrew Luck, Jared Goff, Mitch (I refuse to call him Mitchell) Trubisky, and Dak Prescott all looking to start writing the meaningful chapters of their books. Meanwhile Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady already have their tickets punched to Canton and will be looking to put the exclamation points on some incredible careers. With all the young pups in, and veterans like Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan on the outside looking in, are we moving into a new era of the NFL?
The NFC seedings are as follows, and like in the AFC, this is anyone’s ball game.
- New Orleans Saints
- Los Angles Rams
- Chicago Bears
- Dallas Cowgirls
- Seattle Seahawks
- Philadelphia Eagles
The Seahawks rebuilt their defense on the fly. The Rams have the personnel on the defensive side to cause some real problems, but have seemingly not lived up to their potential in that area. The Saints, after years of trying to address the defense through the draft are finally seeing the fruits of their labor.The much celebrated Bears’ D-unit has earned any accolades coming their way. And in Texas when they say they’re proud of their big D, they’re not talking about ducks.
The bottom line is that the NFC playoffs really is anyone’s game. Based upon this season the Eagles are by far the weakest link, but after their run last year, and how they’ve played with Foles under center are you really ready to write them off? Well, yes, yes I am. Lets get into how the wild card weekend will unfold and how that will effect the divisional round games.
Remember, in the NFL the brackets are adjustable. That means that after each round’s games the bracket re-sets so that the higher seed plays the lowest remaining seed. Its entirely viable that a 2, 3, or 4 seed team could end up hosting the conference championship games.
Saturday, January 5th, will feature a game each from the AFC and NFC.
Indianapolis Colts at the Houston Texans: Game three of the season between these two divisional foes. The Texans have been the better team top to bottom throughout the season, but Indy has been hot as of late. Bottom line, at home I think the Texans have enough Wattage to knock the Colts out. Winner: Texans
Seattle Seahawks at the Dallas Cowgirls: Its kind of funny, the Cowgirls really are using the formula that lifted Pete Carroll’s Seahawks to prominence. A tough running game, outstanding defense, and developing quarterback who is more leader and athlete than pure passer (though Wilson has really improved in that department) on a rookie contract. The real question then is, if the Cowgirls are using that formula, did they improve upon it? I don’t think they did. As improved as the Dallas D is, I’ll take the battle tested Russell Wilson when it matters. Winner: Seahawks
Two more wild card round games will be on tap for Sunday January 6th.
Los Angeles Chargers at the Baltimore Ravens: This is what should be the marquee game of the weekend. The 4 and 5 seeds of the AFC are both playing like they ought to be the 1 and 2 seeds. Its a whole different game when that calendar flips to January though. How healthy is Melvin Gordon? How will Lamar Jackson handle the bright lights of the playoffs? Phillip Rivers and the Chargers are used to make a late season push, but its usually after playing like dog poop to start the season and they need the push to contend for a playoff spot. After not having had to expend that energy they usually do just to make the playoffs in December, will they be better prepared to make noise now that they’re here? It’ll be tough after crossing the country, to play on the frozen Atlantic shore, but I think Rivers does it. Winner: Chargers
Philadelphia Eagles at the Chicago Bears: A team full of playoff experience vs the new kids on the block. How do I think the Bears will do? Lets just say they’ll be oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, Hang’in Tough. At home, behind a solid running game, and prolific defense I think the Bears continue their run. Winner: Bears
With the Texans, Chargers, Seahawks and Bears winning on Wild Card weekend it sets up a slate of games in the divisional round that looks like thus:
Los Angeles Chargers at the Kansas City Chiefs
Houston Texans at the New England Patriots
Seattle Seahawks at the New Orleans Saints
Chicago Bears at the Los Angles Rams
Los Angeles Chargers at the Kansas City Chiefs is a another divisional re-match. Likely the two top teams this season in the AFC, going into Arrowhead is always tough. The “advantage” that the Chargers have over other opponents that go into Arrowhead, is that they’ve done it every year. Its not an unfamiliar environment. We already know that Andy Reid tends to wilt when the spotlight is brightest, but how will Patrick Mahomes be? Primetime games have not been kind to the Chiefs this season. On the flip side, how will the Chargers fair after having had to travel back n forth across the country? The feeling here is that Los Angeles charges in and steals a W in Kansas City. Winner: Chargers
Houston Texans at the New England Patriots is a rematch of week 1 of the season. Since then the Texans have added and lost Demaryius Thomas. The Patriots have added and lost Josh Gordon. Deshaun Watson has gotten some of the mojo back that he didn’t have in week 1, but probably not enough. Ideally the prime match up would be watching Stephon Gilmore shadow DeAndre Hopkins all day. But the Patriots will probably put #2 cornerback and undrafted rookie J.C. Jackson on Hopkins with safety help over the top most the game, leaving Gilmore on the other side to dare Lamar Miller to take over the game. At the end of the day the end result is a common one, the Patriots playing in the AFC championship game following a first round bye. Winner: Patriots
Seattle Seahawks at the New Orleans Saints: The question here is how often will the Saints be marching in, to the end zone? Two highly skilled “undersized” quarterbacks will be on the lips of all the talking heads coming into the week, but this game will likely come down to who can establish their ground game. Chris Carson or Alvin Kamera. Well really its Chris Carson vs. Alvin Kamera AND Mark Ingram isn’t it? At home, the nod is going to go to the Saints here. Winner: Saints
Chicago Bears at the Los Angles Rams: The Bears absolutely shut the Rams offense down at Soldier Field earlier in the year. Really the first team to do it. The Rams have not looked the same since. You can blame it on the Bears giving the league the blueprint. You can blame it on the loss of Cooper Kupp. You can say that Todd Gurley has been beat up, regardless the darlings of the early season, the Rams have not looked the same. Do I REALLY trust either Mitch Trubisky or Jared Goff? Not really. I do trust Todd Gurley though, and after having sat, AND having a bye week the former Georgia Bulldog should have some bite to go with his bark. Here is my gutt feeling though. Defense travels, as will Chicago fans to SoCal, I think the Bears pull off the upset in Los Angles. I considered picking the Rams, but at the end of the day I’m going with Khalil Mack, no matter what. Winner: Bears
That all brings us to the Conference Championship games the weekend of January 19th/20th.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. New England Patriots
Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints
The Los Angeles Chargers at the New England Patriots write up should come with the disclaimer that I am a Patriots fan. My brain keeps saying Chargers. My heart keeps saying Patriots. My stomach says, hey shmuck, order a pizza. I like the Chargers with Gordon back, a healthy and fresh Joey Bosa, and a fired up Phillip Rivers. But I also like the Patriots in the playoffs. Brady has come down a notch this year, but when he was already 2 notches ahead of everyone else, its not AS big a deal. When I look at it like this though. In a vacuum, if I told you a team from SoCal had to play in the Northeast in January, you’d assume that was advantage for the Northeast team. And if I told you that a team had to play its 4th road game in 4 weeks. Going from L.A. to Denver, back to L.A, then across the country to Baltimore, then back to L.A., then half way across the country to Kansas City, then back to L.A. before flying across the country again to Boston, you’d say the team that has been sitting at home for the past month AND had a bye week would have the advantage. It all adds up to Brady’s 9th Superbowl appearance. Winner: Patriots
Chicago Bears at the New Orleans Saints will really be a test for the young Bears. Can the high octane defense of the Bears put the clamps on a motivated Drew Brees, at home, who can taste a championship? Yes, yes I think they can. Just not as much as the Saints will shut down the young Mitch Trubisky. This could legitimately end up being a 20-10 type game with the Saints moving on from the Superdome into the Superbowl. Winner: Saints
That brings us to the big game, the whole tamale, the whole kit n kabootle, the grand salami, the Superbowl.
Sunday February 3rd, at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium the New Orleans Saints vs. the New England Patriots. That’s right, with all the young blood, at the end of the day the old dogs will go out Dylan Thomas style; “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they. Do not go gentle into that good night”
A neutral field, after 2 weeks of rest. Two veteran QBs. Brady has obviously done this pretty often, but Brees is no stranger to the big game himself. Two Bill Parcells disciples. I think the Patriots can SLOW (not stop) the Saints passing game a bit, but honestly have no chance of stopping the ground game. The Patriots on the other hand will face some difficulties against the Saints’ defense. All the Patriots Superbowl appearances have been close, dramatically so in most cases. At the end of this one though, I expect New Orleans’ Mardi Gras party to start a month early with the Saints prevailing.
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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