NFL Postseason Predictions
The 2020 NFL postseason is notably intriguing, given that no particular team looks like the clear-cut favorite in its conference. Which of the top teams in the NFC (the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and New Orleans Saints) will come out on top? Can one of the young, elite quarterbacks of the AFC- Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson - dethrone the New England Patriots? Now that the playoff picture is set, it's time to make some predictions and discern whether the NFL has truly departed from the dominance of veteran QBs who beat opponents with their savvy. Here's my playoff bracket, and oddly enough, it lines up with the same two teams I predicted to be in the Super Bowl at the start of the season.
Buffalo Bills (5) at Houston Texans (4) - It seems like the Houston Texans play the first game of the playoffs every year at home, and to Texans fans' disappointment, they never advance past the Divisional Round. Deshaun Watson is a winner, but in my opinion, the Houston Texans are not winners. They have not been able to play consistent football this year, and the Bills have a clever coach in Sean McDermott; Buffalo never takes a day off. Quarterback Josh Allen will make the necessary plays to win this game, and the Bills' defense will come through in the end. Bills 24, Texans 16
Tennessee Titans (6) at New England Patriots (3) - It's surprising to see the New England Patriots in a Wild Card Game, especially given the way the regular season ended. Ryan Fitzpatrick's heroics in Foxborough helped the Dolphins pull off an unlikely upset, robbing the Patriots of a first-round bye. However, this is the postseason, and I'm here to talk about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick going up against a surprisingly strong Titans team led by Ryan Tannehill, who leads the league in passer rating, and Derrick Henry, who leads the league in rushing yards. Tennessee will keep it close, but in the end, Brady and Bill will make the necessary adjustments and strategic plays to win the game. I'm predicting an offensive struggle. Patriots 20, Titans 13
Seattle Seahawks (5) at Philadelphia Eagles (4) - This is a fun game to pick. The Seahawks may be the better team, but as of late, they've looked shaky with bad losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals, both seemingly inferior division opponents. Last Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle was a couple of nanometers away from getting to play a home playoff game, but the Seahawks did not get the job done. On the other hand, Carson Wentz and the Eagles have put together a string of impressive wins, given the immense injuries that have hit both sides of the ball in Philadelphia. With each of the two teams featuring depleted rosters, I'm going to ignore the Eagles' momentum and give the upper hand to the team with the better coach-quarterback combo, the Seattle Seahawks. Seahawks 27, Eagles 24
Minnesota Vikings (6) at New Orleans Saints (3) - Poor Minnesota Vikings. They had a chance to take the NFC North on Monday Night Football at home against the Green Bay Packers, and their offense put up only ten points. Now they travel to New Orleans and are up against a red-hot Saints team led by Drew Brees and Michael Thomas. Though running back Dalvin Cook will return for the Vikings, the Saints' defense is stout, and Kirk Cousins won't keep pace with Brees and the rest of that dangerous offense, which includes the physical presence of Jared Cook and a healthy Alvin Kamara. Saints 34, Vikings 24
Drew Brees. Photo Credit: Brook Ward (via Flickr),
New England Patriots (3) at Kansas City Chiefs (2) - Every year, analysts count New England out and are proven wrong when the Patriots miraculously come out of the AFC with a team that is lacking in talent but plays to its strengths. This will not be one of those years. Tom Brady has evidently regressed to a game-manager, and the mere thought of the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl while playing in the same conference as Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes is disturbing to fans of the sport. Without home-field advantage, the Patriots' offense won't keep up with Andy Reid's schemes, Tyreek Hill's speed, Travis Kelce's physicality, and ultimately, Patrick Mahomes's magic. Chiefs 31, Patriots 24
Buffalo Bills (5) at Baltimore Ravens (1) - When these two teams met in the regular season, the Buffalo Bills gave the Baltimore Ravens all they could handle, and the Ravens edged out a 24-17 victory thanks to Lamar Jackson. Regardless of how solid the Bills' defense proves to be, the key to this game is Buffalo's offense. Josh Allen and Mike Singletary are well equipped to give the Ravens another tough game, but I can't see the Bills putting up enough points, especially when Lamar Jackson has Mark Ingram to complete the running game and Mark Andrews as a big-play weapon down the field. Ravens 28, Bills 20
New Orleans Saints (3) at Green Bay Packers (2) - What a game at Lambeau Field. The key matchup will be the Saints' offensive line going up against the Smith brothers - Preston Smith and Za'darius Smith of the Packers' defense. If New Orleans is able to run the football effectively in the cold with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, then Aaron Rodgers, who has played well but not near his peak levels, will be unable to keep up. I think the Saints win a nail-biter, thanks to the coaching superiority of Sean Payton over Matt Lafleur. Saints 23, Packers 21
Seattle Seahawks (5) at San Francisco 49ers (1) - Two familiar division rivals going at it for the third time this year. If you saw either of the previous games between these two teams, you already know what's in store for this potential matchup. We will likely see more of Russell Wilson's late game heroics, more of Jimmy Garoppolo's clutch throws to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, and another outcome determined on the last play of the game. I'll go with the home team, which has the better offense and the better defense. 49ers 38, Seahawks 35
AFC - Kansas City Chiefs (2) at Baltimore Ravens (1) - Both teams have changed significantly since their Week 3 matchup. The Chiefs, given that their defense plays like it has in recent weeks, might just be able to hold the Ravens under 40 points. I have to believe that this Baltimore offense has some ceiling in regards to its run game, though time will tell whether I'm right. On the other hand, this is Andy Reid's chance to get over the hump and into the Super Bowl. He ought to take advantage of it with the weapons at his disposal. Chiefs 40, Ravens 37
Lamar Jackson. Photo Credit: Delano Scott [Public domain], https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lamar_jackson_ravens_camp_2018_(cropped).jpg
NFC - New Orleans Saints (3) at San Francisco 49ers (1) - The way these two teams match up on paper, it seems like Week 14 was an anomaly. I couldn't tell whether it was bad defense or great offense that caused the final score to be 48-46. However, in the postseason, everything resets, and the Saints' experience will enable them to adjust a tad bit more than the 49ers can, given that the key pickup of Janoris Jenkins allows the Saints' defense to eliminate not just Deebo Samuel as a speed threat (with Marshon Lattimore covering him), but also Emmanuel Sanders as a deep threat. It's a gut feeling, but very fitting that the Saints should return to the Super Bowl one decade after their previous appearance. Saints 28, 49ers 22 (OT)
New Orleans Saints vs Kansas City Chiefs - Brees. Mahomes. Payton. Reid. Offensive schemes. Shootout. This Super Bowl will have it all. Thus, it seems logical that a single defensive play, a pivotal turnover, will be needed to win the game. The very slightest of edges goes to the Saints' defensive line- Cameron Jordan or DeMario Davis will strip sack Mahomes on the final play of the game to give Drew Brees his second Super Bowl, capping off his magnificent career. Saints 28, Chiefs 27
No matter how you pick and choose the final Super Bowl matchups, the result will be beautiful; a matchup of "old" and "old" (Brees vs Brady, Rodgers vs Brady), "new" and "new" (Jimmy G vs Action Jackson, Russell Wilson vs Patrick Mahomes), or a mix. My prediction is indeed a mix, and I would love to see a battle between two brilliant offensive minds in Sean Payton and Andy Reid. Imagine Drew Brees going for a second Super Bowl against Patrick Mahomes, who has possibly the greatest arm we've ever seen. It would be a sight to behold, especially given that both the Saints' and Chiefs' defenses have improved significantly over the course of the season.
Nonetheless, even if you think this is your team's year, or you're simply rooting against the Patriots because your team didn't make the playoffs, it's time to buckle up and take nothing for granted, because the 2020 NFL postseason is going to be one heck of a ride.
Class of 2023