Written By Jason Voorhees
The NFL regular season ended on Sunday as the true test is set to begin.
In keeping with the theme of 2020, the NFL season has seen its share of ups and downs. 32 teams began the year with playoff aspirations dancing around in their heads. Unfortunately, 18 of those teams are are now staring in the rearview as they set up t-times at their local golf course.
With that being said, the most exciting time of the year has begun!
14 teams, 14 rosters, 1 goal. Who will be the last team standing? Which team will be the next to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The stakes are high. The tale is set but the story is yet unfinished. As the NFL playoffs kick off this weekend...here is a preview as well as some bold predictions...get your popcorn ready!
WILD CARD ROUND
Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills
The first game of the NFL playoffs has Indy traveling to Buffalo for an exciting road matchup.
On paper, this game would appear to be a mismatch. However; no team should be taking the Colts lightly. The Bills feature the league's second ranked offense in both scoring and total yards. In contrast, Indy ranks ninth in points scored and tenth in total yards.
The Colts have the edge defensively where they were eleventh in points allowed and eighth in total yards. Buffalo was surprisingly average on that side of the ball ranking sixteenth in points allowed and fourteenth in yards.
Buffalo comes into the playoffs riding high on the heels of a stellar third season by quarterback Josh Allen. There is no secret that this team's success hinges on how Allen performs in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Indy will try and pound the ball on the ground as they try and control the clock.
While Josh Allen may be the league's most improved player, the real key to Buffalo's resurgence has been Stefon Diggs. Since week 14, Diggs has performed as the top wide receiver in the NFL. The Colts will make a game of it by trying to keep the Bill's offense on the sidelines, but in the end it will not be enough.
PREDICTION: Bills-31 Colts-27
Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans
This is the matchup I am most looking forward to in wild card weekend!
This is a heavyweight battle between two of the toughest teams in the league. The Ravens are strong on both sides of the ball and feature one of the league's most exciting players in Lamar Jackson. In the other corner sits the NFL's most slept on team in Tennessee. The disrespect is real.
The Ravens rank seventh in points scored and nineteenth in total yards. The Ravens feature the league's top rushing offense and have scored 24 TD's on the ground. Meanwhile, the Titans are third in yards and fourth in points. Tennessee is no slouch on the ground either ranking second in rushing.
The Ravens make their money on defense where they ranked 2nd in points allowed and 7th in total yards. The Titans were a little less stellar on that side of the ball. Tennessee is 24th in points and 28th in yards allowed.
A rematch of last year's divisional round matchup pits two teams that are familiar with each other. Tennessee is paced by two of the most underrated players in the league in Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill.
This one will be much closer than last year's disappointment; however, the results will be more of the same.
PREDICTION: Titans-38 Ravens-33
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
It's finally over! The Brown's playoff drought has ended folks.
In a cruel twist of fate, Cleveland has been hit with a COVID breakout and what a gut punch that is. With that being said, this game should still be a knock out drag out hard hitting contest between two bitter rivals.
The Browns are 14th in points scored and 16th in total yards. In contrast, the Steelers are 12th in points and 24th in total yards. The Browns feature the league's third ranked rushing offense with the best running back tandem in the game. Meanwhile, the Steelers who usually ball out finished dead last on the ground.
While the Steelers sputtered offensively, they truly raked on defense. Pittsburgh finished third in both points allowed and total yards. They were even better causing turnovers finishing second behind the Dolphins. Cleveland was much more mediocre defensively ranking 21st in points and 16th in total yards allowed.
This year saw Baker Mayfield take a huge step forward. Baker's rise along with that in your face ground and pound approach allowed Cleveland to batter opponents on a weekly basis. In contrast, the Steelers came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. After taking an undefeated season into week 12, Pittsburgh clearly struggled down the stretch.
This will be one of those games that features multiple lead changes and the team that gets the ball last will ultimately win out. My gut says take the Steelers but my heart says to go with the Browns.
PREDICTION: Steelers-21 Browns-28
LA Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
The NFC West is always a crapshoot and this year was nothing different.
Coming into the final week, three teams from the division had a shot at the playoffs. With Arizona getting knocked out, these two bitter rivals drew the opening week matchup. This one features one of the league's most dynamic offenses going up against the best defensive team in the NFL.
The Rams come into the playoffs as one of the biggest question marks. This is due most in part to their inconsistent offense. LA finished 2020 ranked 22nd in points scored and 11th in total yards. In contrast, the Seahawks ranked 8th in points and 17th in total yards.
This weeks mismatch definitely comes on defense. While the Rams ranked 1st in both total defense and points allowed; the Seahawks finished 18th in points and 11th in total yards.
Although Russell Wilson cooled off down the stretch, he's still an MVP caliber player that can carry his team on any given Sunday.
The key to the game for the Rams will be to spy Russell Wilson while putting endless pressure on the star QB. The game will ultimately come down to turnovers and which team can create points off those turnovers. Will Russ cook? Not if Aaron Donald has something to say about it.
PREDICTION: Seahawks-27 Rams-28
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team
There is no greater NFL story this season than Alex Smith. Even if the Washington Football team backed their way into a win in the league's lousiest division.
This may be the biggest mismatch on paper. Tom Brady and the Buc's high flying offense is looking to get off to a hot start in the first week. Meanwhile, Washington is fueled by a talented defense that is lead by first round pick Chase Young.
The Buc's offense; which is lead by GOAT Brady, ranked 3rd in points and 7th in yards. Tampa's offense is littered with weapons including the three headed wide receiver monster core of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. Washington on the other hand struggled offensively where they ranked 25th in both metrics.
Washington's defense was the apple of their eye as they finished 4th in points and 2nd in total yards allowed behind the Rams. The Bucs were 8th in points and 6th in yards.
This game has the potential to be blowout central. Under normal circumstances you could say Washington has a home field advantage. However; this COVID has turned that option into a non existent factor. With that being said; the Football team's only hope is to home wreck Brady.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers-45 Football Team-24
Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints
The monsters of the midway converge on Bourbon Street. Could this be Drew Brees's last dance?
New Orleans came into the season as one of the early favorites to make the super bowl. Although the team was hit with the injury bug, they ultimately weathered the storm enroute to another division championship. The Bears on the other hand kicked and clawed their way into the playoffs.
The Saints once again come into the playoffs with a high flying offense. During the season they ranked 5th in points scored while finishing 12th in total yards. Meanwhile, the Bears found themselves in the lower third offensively. Chicago ranked 23rd in points and 26th in total yards.
Both teams showed promise on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints were 5th in points allowed and 4th in total yards. The Bears were 14th in points and 11th in total yards.
The Saints are banking on Drew Brees to lead them to the promise land once again. However; the team will be missing their best wide receiver (Michael Thomas) and most likely their best running back (Alvin Kamara). On the other hand, the Bears come into the game as one of the league's hottest teams.
Will David Montgomery continue his surge? Can Drew Brees work more of his magic. Logic tells me that the Saints will roll deep. However; this game could be fixing for an upset.
PREDICTION: Bears-24 Saints-21
PREDICTION: Browns-24 Chiefs-38
PREDICTION: Titans-40 Bills-34
PREDICTION: Bears-17 Packers-27
PREDICTION: Rams-24 Buccaneers-29
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
PREDICTION: Titans-38 Chiefs-42
PREDICTION: Buccaneers-20 Packers-33
PREDICTION: Chiefs-34 Packers-37
5. Davante Adams (Packers)
4. Derrick Henry (Titans)
3. Josh Allen (Bills)
2. Pat Mahomes (Chiefs)
1. Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
Honorable Mentions- Alvin Kamara (Saints), Ryan Tannehill (Titans),
Deshaun Watson (Texans)
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
5. Chase Claypool (Steelers)
4. Jonathon Taylor (Colts)
3. James Robinson (Jaguars)
2. Justin Jefferson (Vikings)
1. Justin Herbert (Chargers)
Honorable Mentions- J.K. Dobbins (Ravens), Joe Burrow (Bengals), Tee Higgins (Bengals)
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
5. Julian Blackmon (Colts)
4. L'Jarius Sneed (Chiefs)
3. Antoine Winfield Jr. (Buccaneers)
2. Chase Young (Football Team)
1. Jeremy Chinn (Panthers)
Honorable Mentions- Patrick Queen (Ravens), Kamren Curl (Football Team),
Jaylon Johnson (Bears)
5- Jalen Ramsey (Rams)
4- Minkah Fitzpatrick *Steelers)
3- Aaron Donald (Rams)
2- TJ Watt (Steelers)
1- Xavien Howard (Dolphins)
Honorable Mentions- Cameron Heyward (Steelers), Myles Garrett (Browns),
Trey Hendrickson (Saints)
COACH OF THE YEAR
5. Andy Reid (Chiefs)
4. Matt Lafleur (Packers)
3. Kevin Stefanski (Browns)
2. Sean McDermott (Bills)
1. Brian Flores (Dolphins)
Honorable Mentions- Mike Vrabel (Titans), Frank Reich (Colts),
Jon Gruden (Las Vegas)
About Jason Voorhees
Jason resides in Norristown, PA and writes about all things sports and heavy metal music.