NFL Playoff Predictions
This NFL season was unique in many ways. Throughout the season, COVID-19 threatened to derail the season. Many teams suffered outbreaks causing games to be rescheduled. Nonetheless all 256 games were still able to happen. Another thing that made this season unique was the introduction of a new playoff format. After previously having a six team playoff format with two teams having a first round bye, the NFL expanded its format to seven teams with only one of them having a first round bye. This caused the final weeks of the regular season to be very crucial with a handful of teams playing for a playoff spot, better seeding, or a first round bye. Here are the fourteen teams that are left standing.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Following their Super Bowl title last February, the Chiefs have looked as good as they are last year if not better. With an offense that was healthier than last year, Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce once again put up ridiculous numbers. In addition, they also have an improved running game led by rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The defense led by Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu has also continued to make life difficult for opponents dating back to the end of last season. For the cherry on top, the Chiefs have home field advantage locked up for the playoffs, making their chance to repeat more likely.
2. Buffalo Bills: After a surprise 10-6 season that put them in the playoffs as a Wild Card, the Bills have only gotten better. The defense, which was a big reason why they got in last year, didn't have the same kind of year, but were still a good unit. It was the offense however, that was their main strength. With career years from third year quarterback Josh Allen as well as the newly acquired Stefon Diggs, the offense was one of the best in football. Under Sean McDermott, he and his coaching staff are hungry for a playoff win after losing in their previous trips.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: There was a time where the Steelers were undefeated for the first 11 games of the season. Ben Rothlesberger was enjoying a resurgent year. His receivers of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson were wrecking havoc in secondary. The defense, led by sack leader T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick was dominating opponents. However, this team is sputtering into the playoffs with a 1-4 record. If there's any time for them to recapture their magic, now is the time.
4. Tennessee Titans: They are another team entering the playoffs riding a potent offense. While the passing game led by Ryan Tannehill along with A.J. Brown has been very effective, it's their running game that has really been stellar. Derrick Henry became the eighth running back in NFL history as well as the second Titan to top the historic mark of 2,000 rushing yards. Like last year, this team is primed for a deep playoff run.
5. Baltimore Ravens: After a 14-2 season, many expected the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. But with five games left, they appeared to have no shot at even getting to the playoffs. After that, they finally started to show shades of last year winning out to get to the playoffs at 11-5. With Lamar Jackson looking like his MVP self, the offense has been very efficent. The defense with a well balanced mix of young players and veterans has had a knack for takeaways all season.
6. Cleveland Browns: After 18 painful years of missing the playoffs, it's only fitting that in 2020, the Browns were finally able to break through. With a strong running game led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt along with a defense led by Myles Garrett, they rode two stretches of four game winning streaks which was enough to earn them a playoff spot. However, there are questions surrounding the passing game with Baker Mayfield, and teams will be willing to led Mayfield beat them.
7. Indianapolis Colts: They are the first AFC team to benefit from the new playoff system. Riding a stingy defense with Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner, the Colts appeared to have a playoff spot locked in going into their game against the Steelers. But after blowing a 17 point lead, they needed luck to get in the playoffs with a Dolphins loss and a win. Both scenarios happened, allowing the Colts to return to the playoffs. With Philip Rivers likely nearing retirement, this will be a chance to send him into the sunset with a long-awaited championship.
1. Green Bay Packers: This year, Green Bay showed that last season's 13-3 record wasn't a fluke. If anything, they've looked better. Aaron Rodgers put up one of his best seasons yet throwing for an absurd 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Davante Adams had his own specular season with 118 receptions, over 1,300 yards, and 18 touchdowns. The run game and defense once again complemented their offense. With the no. 1 seed, the Packers will have their long time home Lambeau Field, as a bonus to their advantage.
2. New Orleans Saints: Just like last year, the resilience of this team was on full display. Despite a 1-2 start with age noticeably catching up to Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas missing nine games, the Saints were still able to rally with a 12-4 record. Sean Payton deserves a ton of credit for fielding an offense that finished fifth thanks to the skills of running back Alvin Kamara. The defense was also a well balanced unit finishing in the same ranking. With a healthy roster and a chip on their shoulder from previous heartbreaks, this team will be ready.
3. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have many reasons to feel confident going into the playoffs. They started off 5-0 due to the amazing play of Russell Wilson. Later on in the season, they did slump going 3-4 in their next seven games, but rallied to close out the season with four straight wins. The catalyst of this team is Russell Wilson without question. Whether it's perfectly placing a ball to D.K. Metcalf or completing a pass to Tyler Lockett scrambling out of the pocket, he has found ways to get it done and that must continue.
4. Washington Football Team: When Washington changed its name from the Redskins to the Football Team, it seemed like it was a sign of how laughable this team was going to be on the field. However, they weren't focused on all the off-field opinions. Rallying around coach Ron Rivera's defeat of cancer and Alex Smith's comeback from a brutal leg injury the Football Team finished 7-9 which was enough to make the playoffs.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady still has Buccanneers fans wondering how they got him, but here they are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. While the team did have a streaky season, they were more than good enough to make the playoffs. Brady enjoyed the luxury of having big-time weapons at his side once again and the defense make significant strides after a solid finish last year. Whether they can compete against the top teams still remains a question.
6. Los Angeles Rams: After a season in which they missed the playoffs following a Super Bowl appearance, expectations were low for the Rams entering this season. This time, they overachieved going 10-6. The offense enjoyed a resurgent year thanks to Jared Goff along with wide receivers Robert Woods and Cupper Kupp. With Aaron Donald dominating backfields and Jalen Ramsey locking up receivers the defense also enjoyed a bounce back year. The big question is how can the Rams compete against non NFC East teams in which they went 6-6 against in the regular season.
7. Chicago Bears: Out of all the playoff teams, this is probably the worst one. After a 5-1 start, they dropped six straight before reeling off 3 wins in their next four games while receiving help from the Arizona Cardinals losing their last two games. Led by pass rusher Khalil Mack, their defense is a tough unit to play against but questions remain about the offense. Despite having two solid skill players in David Montgomery and Allen Robinson.
Bills over Colts
Steelers over Browns
Titans over Ravens
Chiefs over Titans
Bills over Steelers
Chiefs over Bills
Saints over Bears
Seahawks over Rams
Buccaneers over Football Team
Saints over Seahawks
Packers over Buccaneers
Packers over Saints
Chiefs over Packers
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