As we know, about half the teams that made the playoffs in the previous season don’t make it back to the tournament the following year.
Sometimes a key player gets hurt like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who went down in Week 7 crushing Green Bay’s postseason aspirations. Other times, you get a team like the Los Angeles Rams who were terrible last year but a new coaching staff and players gaining more experience, have turned them into NFC West champions.
This season we have eight brand new teams in the playoffs which means parity looms larger every year in the NFL. The only four squads to return to the postseason this year are the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons. At least the defending conference champs from the AFC and NFC held their ground to make another run at a ring. Quarterback Tom Brady has a great shot at grabbing his sixth Super Bowl trophy as his Patriots are once again the top seed with home field advantage throughout the AFC bracket.
The No.1 seed in the NFC is the Philadelphia Eagles. Philly was one of my pre-season favorites to make some noise this year and win the East. Up until Week 15, that prophecy was looking pretty good! However, the Eagles haven’t played like the best team in the conference ever since MVP candidate and the franchises’ single-season touchdown record holder tore his ACL a few weeks ago. It’s obvious the Eagles are not the same high-powered offense without Carson Wentz. These past few weeks are evidence of that notion.
The NFC is stacked with competitors. You can’t count out the defending NFC champs nor their division rivals in Carolina and New Orleans. I can’t wait to see if young Jared Goff and rookie head coach Sean McVay have what it takes to bring their regular season success to the next level. Oddly enough, the only team that would surprise me to go all the way are the top-seeded Eagles despite having home-field advantage and a bunch of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Nick Foles simply cannot do what Wentz can and has done all year. This season was looking like the big birds manifest destiny heading to Minnesota for a shot at their first Super Bowl championship. Unfortunately, without Wentz that just won’t happen. That’s how great he is!
As I mentioned earlier, Rodgers is another example along with the outstanding rookie DeShaun Watson who were taking snaps for two of the highest scoring offenses in the league. Once they went down, so did their season. I’ve explained before that taking away a team’s best offensive player, especially quarterback, will have an effect on the entire team. It’s tough to stay mentally focused when you feel like your offense can’t put points on the board. Even a running back like Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended for six games in Dallas, or even David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals, whose season ended before it started and the NYG Odell Beckham Jr. who basically missed the entire year, all negatively affected their teammates play on the field. All you have to do is look at their records! It’s not a coincidence. It’s a correlation!
Quarterbacks have kinda been the storyline heading into these playoffs. The Minnesota Vikings may get a chance at hosting the Super Bowl in Minnesota at U.S. Bank Stadium. It would be the first time a Super Bowl team would actually play the game on their home turf! And if you would have told me before the season started that Case Keenum would lead the Vikings to a first-round bye I would have bet you a ton of cash and lost big time! Keenum stepped in for the often injured Sam Bradford and the recovering Teddy Bridgewater and has essentially resurrected his career in the process. The Vikings didn’t miss a beat!
In fact, the beat got louder and stronger as Keenum played excellent football under center and gave his team hope. That’s all the Vikings needed…..hope! The team began to realize that Case could succeed so the organization bought in and look what happened. Credit must also be given to my coach of the year Mike Zimmer and his staff for keeping the locker room calm, cool and collected. Not to mention fantastic on-field coaching where you saw these players fighting through the whistle on every play.
You’ll see in the link above that I had seven out of the 12 teams to make the playoffs. Had the Baltimore Ravens not blown this past Sunday’s game against the Bengals then it would have been eight teams predicted correctly. Thanks a lot, Andy Dalton! But Wow! If you’re a Ravens fan or even worse a player or a part of that organization, you have to feel sick to your stomach. Losing a must-win game on your home field against a sub-par football team is simply unacceptable. With that being said, the Ravens don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.
For that matter, Marvin Lewis doesn’t deserve another contract extension with the Bengals because they knocked Baltimore out of the postseason. But that’s exactly what happened! I’m not saying the Bengals head coach saved his job with one meaningless win during the last game of the season, but it appears that way. Lewis will remain the head coach in Cincinnati signing another two-year deal to the dismay of many football fans including myself. I have nothing against Marvin Lewis as a person or a coach. I think the guy is great. But enough is enough already! Decisions like this show why the Bengals franchise have never won the title and were considered a joke of a team during the 1990’s. Yes, kids, there was life before the year 2000! Needless to say, I’m surprised that Cincinnati decided to stick with Lewis for at least one more year.
Perhaps the biggest surprise team in the postseason is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Maybe even more improbable than the Buffalo Bills, who just dropped their playoff drought of nearly two decades. They’ll actually play each other Wild Card Weekend in Jacksonville in a game that will surely come down to defense and the health factor of LeSean McCoy. If he can’t play, the Bills are in major trouble as he’s the catalyst for the entire offense.
I’ll be breaking down the match-ups throughout the week, but for now, it’s prediction time! The Sports Prophet is looking to continue the hot streak from the regular season and roll on through the playoffs hotter than ever! Hope I’ve helped you guys! If not, hey I’m a prophet but my vision sometimes blurs in my old age! We’re going Wild Card round all the way to the Super Bowl and MVP. Sorry to spoil the surprise on the outcomes of these games but I must live up to my name.
Wild Card Round
Chiefs 26 – Titans 19 Jaguars 23 – Bills 20
Rams 33 – Falcons 16 Saints 27 – Panthers 20
Patriots 31 – Chiefs 21 Steelers 21 – Jaguars 18
Saints 23 – Eagles 21 Vikings 28 – Rams 25
AFC: Steelers 29 – Patriots 28 NFC: Vikings 28 – Saints 24
Super Bowl LII
Steelers 26 – Vikings 19
MVP – Le’Veon Bell