Finally!!! The Playoffs are here. For 18 weeks, I’ve put forward a list of all 32 NFL teams, from one to 32. Now that the playoffs are here, instead of listing the playoff teams from one to 14, it makes more sense to project who will be facing each other in Las Vegas for Superbowl LVIII next month.
The two No. 1 seeds are the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC and the San Fransisco 49ers in the NFC. They get the two first-round byes.
AFC Playoff Predictions
Pittsburgh Steelers (7) at Buffalo Bills (2)
Five weeks ago this seemed inconceivable. The Bills were sitting at 6-6 and floundering. Five weeks later, they are sitting on a five-game winning streak and have earned their fourth consecutive AFC East division title.
The Steelers under Mike Tomlin have again finished above .500 and clawed their way to the playoffs, sitting with the No. 7 seed.
Buffalo has worked too hard to get back to this position to lose this game … they’ll win going away. Final Score: 31-13 Buffalo
Miami Dolphins (6) at Kansas City Chiefs (3)
This is a down year for the Chiefs…they are only the No. 3 seed. This is a typical Dolphins season. They started off looking like the clear favorite to win the Super Bowl, and ended the year losing at home and relinquishing first place in the AFC East. They plummet from the No. 2 seed to the No. 6 seed and will have to go on the road to face the defending Super Bowl Champions.
This feels like a spot where the Chiefs can be beaten, but I’ve always believed Ric Flair’s adage that to be the champ, you have to beat the champ. To me, Patrick Mahomes is the closest player I’ve seen to Tom Brady, and like Brady, Mahomes has a never-ending will to win.
I cannot see Kansas City losing a home playoff game during Wild Card weekend. It won’t be easy, but in the end, the Chiefs will prevail. It may take a 10 or 14-point fourth-quarter comeback to pull it out, but they will. Led by the leg of Harrison Butker, the Chiefs will win. Final Score: 26-20 Kansas City
Cleveland Browns (5) at Houston Texans (4)
There is one fact in this matchup: One of these two teams will make it into the divisional round. The Browns have put together a more than respectable team. Regardless of who their QB is, they keep winning. They would be the division leaders in half the divisions in the league, but unfortunately are in the same division as the Baltimore Ravens.
The Texans have come out of nowhere to slide into the AFC South division title. It took Jacksonville losing to a Tennessee Titans team literally playing for nothing. This is going to be one of the more exciting matchups of the week.
As much as I cannot fathom the Browns making it to the second round, I can’t envision the young, albeit exciting, Texans team winning either. The difference in this game will be the Browns’ defense. As unflappable as C.J. Stroud is for the Texans, Myles Garrett will make him flap. Final Score: 27-20 Cleveland
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (Divisional Round)
This shapes up to be an old-school dogfight. The Browns are one of the few teams to have beaten the Ravens this year … and they did it in Baltimore, defeating the Ravens 33-31 in Week 10.
The Ravens in the playoffs under Lamar Jackson, are only 1-3. After this game, they are going to be 1-4. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Browns are one of the only teams who match up well against the Ravens.
They have speed all over the field on defense, which will mitigate Lamar Jackson’s legs and force him to pass the ball to win. Their secondary of Denzel Ward, Martin Emerson, Ronnie Hickman Jr., and D’Anthony Bell is the best in the league. They will force a couple of interceptions out of Jackson and win. Final Score: 26-24 Cleveland
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills (Divisional Round)
Maybe I’m wearing my Swiftie-colored glasses, but I love the Chiefs. And I can’t get beyond the fact that the Bills were exceptionally mediocre for much of the season (not that Kansas City has been a juggernaut), but ultimately when push comes to shove, I trust Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and Travis Kelce more than Sean McDermott, Josh Allen, and Stefon Diggs.
And I can’t get beyond the amount of turnovers Allen commits and how reckless he can be at times. When the lights get brighter, Mahomes tends to perform, while Allen gets tight, which often causes the turnovers.
Turnovers will make the difference in this game. Kansas City will win that battle and win the game. Final Score: 31-28 Kansas City
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (AFC Championship Game)
I’ve been saying it all season: The Chiefs aren’t dead. It is a down year in the AFC where an argument can be made for any of the seven AFC teams (maybe not the Steelers), they should come out on top.
The biggest argument for me is that Kansas City has been in five consecutive AFC Championship games and knows how to get here. And they’ve been in three out of the last four Super Bowls, winning two of them.
The clock strikes midnight for the Cinderella Browns … but their fans are ecstatic regardless. Kansas City wins and punches their ticket to another Super Bowl, firmly placing Patrick Mahomes in rarified air. Final Score: 20-17 Kansas City
NFC Playoff Predictions
Green Bay Packers (7) at Dallas Cowboys (2)
This is a classic matchup in NFL history. The Cowboys have been a Jekyll and Hyde team all season. They are dominant at home and court jesters on the road.
The Packers may be beginning their third consecutive run, with their third QB, from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, and now to Jordan Love. They feel like the beginning of Saturday Night Live, “Not Ready For Primetime.” In the case of the Packers, they’re not ready yet … but they will be a nuisance in the NFC for the next decade under Love.
It remains to be seen if the Cowboys can get over the hump and actually get to the Super Bowl, but they will win this game going away … in a high-scoring affair. Final Score: 38-24 Dallas
Los Angeles Rams (6) at Detoit Lions (3)
Hollywood couldn’t come up with this. The Lions traded QB Matthew Stafford to the Rams in a deal that sent Jared Goff back. The immediate result was Stafford hoisting the Lombardi trophy in his first year in LA. Lions fans bought Stafford’s Rams jerseys and were rooting for the Rams to win.
Now, they find themselves rooting against him, as he takes his resurgent Rams team into Detroit. The Lions have been one of the surprise teams this year, and if it weren’t for this matchup against the Rams, everyone would be rooting for them.
But, there is a sense that Stafford will head back to Detroit and break the hearts of Lions fans everywhere. The crowd has to have some mixed emotions in this game. The Rams have been there before and have a more steady and composed HC in Sean McVay. Dan Campbell is a potential liability in this high stress game. The Rams will prevail. Final Score: 34-31 Los Angeles
Philadelphia Eagles (5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
The Eagles have been slumping, and Tampa Bay has shown resiliency to claim the NFC South title. But the bottom line is that the Eagles are the better team, and the real season begins now.
TE Dallas Goedert recently said the team felt like they’ve been waiting for the playoffs to start. It cost them the NFC East title and forced them to play on the road. They may have realized they couldn’t get to the No. 1 seed and couldn’t get the bye and decided they could win on the road.
If that’s the case, they are right. The Bucs are just glad to be in the playoffs. They reward their fans with a home game. But this is where it ends. Final Score: 23-13 Philadelphia
Los Angeles Rams at San Fransisco 49ers (Divisional Round)
The Rams just beat the 49ers … albeit in a meaningless game for the Niners. In Week 2, the Rams lost by a touchdown 30-23 at home to the San Fransisco. But the Rams in Week 2 were far from what they are after Week 18. They are one of the hottest teams in the league, winning their last seven out of eight games.
Over that stretch they defeated a very solid Browns team, and their only loss was to the Ravens, losing 37-31. This will not be a cakewalk for the 49ers. This shapes up to be a high-scoring affair, with both teams eclipsing 30 points. In the end, the Rams will pull the upset. Final Score: 33-31 Los Angeles
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (Divisional Round)
In a game where all the stars seem aligned for the Cowboys, the Eagles will go into Dallas and prevail. The best way to predict the future is to study the past. It has literally been decades since the Cowboys have been in the Super Bowl. In just every every big game that Dak Prescott plays in, he shrinks.
For me, it just comes down to which team and which QB is tougher, and the answer is the Eagles and Jalen Hurts. The Eagles did get smoked by the Cowboys 33-13 in Week 14, but the Cowboys needed a gift against the Lions to even be the No. 2 seed. Final Score: 26-24 Philadelphia
Los Angeles Rams at Philadelphia Eagles (NFC Championship Game)
If ever there was a year where a No. 5 seed would face a No. 6 seed in a championship game, this is it. There really hasn’t been a clear-cut consensus pick to win the Super Bowl, and parity has prevailed this season. Anyone can pick the chalk and take the two No. 1 seeds to get to the Super Bowl, but what fun is predicting Baltimore vs San Fransisco?
There is a little bit of dog in Kyle Shanahan, who tends to shrink in big moments, which is why I don’t think he’ll get to this game. I tend to focus on which teams are bringing some momentum into the playoffs, and the Rams are one of the hottest teams in the league. They actually have the longest winning streak heading into the playoffs, winning four in a row.
And out of the 16 NFC teams, the only team with a QB who has a Super Bowl ring is Matthew Stafford. The Eagles showed heart and toughness to get here, but the Rams have too much offense. Final Score: 24-16 Los Angeles
Super Bowl Prediction: Los Angeles Rams vs Kansas City Chiefs
If you think of recent history, this is actually a classic matchup. The Rams have been in two of the last five Superbowls, winning one. While the Chiefs have been in three of the last four Super Bowls, winning two. And these two teams are the most recent champions. The Chiefs won last season, while the Rams won two seasons ago.
It may seem like a long shot for either of these teams to be in this game this season, but when you think about it, it’s not that far of a stretch.
In Sean McVay’s first Superbowl against the Patriots, he was clearly in awe of opposing HC Bill Belichick. He won’t be this time around. The two QBs, Stafford and Mahomes, have three rings between them, as do McVay and Andy Reid.
In the end, the Rams’ offense will outperform the Chiefs’, and the Achilles heel that the Chiefs have had all season will haunt them in this game … pivotal drops will make the difference, getting the Rams over the top.