Predicting the 2018-19 NFL Playoffs

Football is back. I repeat: football is back. The wait is over, we made it! The best 5 months of the year are finally here. Regardless of what your favorite team is or which players you’re rooting for or against, I’m sure everyone is glad that we can now sit down and watch some official NFL action. Instead of doing picks every week like I did last year, my NFL articles throughout the season will cover a wider variety of teams and topics. It should be fun for me as a writer and, more importantly, you as my audience!

Back in July, I did my best to predict the records of all 32 NFL teams this season. I’m going to use that article as a guide (with a few minor tweaks) for today’s idea: predicting the 2018-19 NFL Playoffs! It’s extremely early to do so and an infinite amount of things can change between now and January, but this article is based off what we know right now. With that said, here are my seeds by conference:

AFC:
  1. New England Patriots (12-4)
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
  3. Houston Texans (11-5)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)
  6. Los Angeles Chargers (10-6)
NFC:
  1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
  3. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
  4. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
  5. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
  6. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

I was rather optimistic with my predictions this year. In the AFC, both wild card teams will hold a record of 10-6. Last season, both of the teams in those same slots finished 9-7. The stacked NFC featuring all six playoff teams with a record of at least 11-5 may seem crazy, but it’s not as far-fetched as you think. Just a year ago, the final wild card spot went to a 10-6 Falcons team. It’s possible. There are ways that playoff-caliber teams can find one more game in their 16-contest slate and win it. Now that we know what the seeds are, let’s go round-by-round and predict the future.

AFC Wild Card 1: Kansas City Chiefs (4) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (5)

The first playoff game of the 2019 calendar year won’t disappoint. Second-year (first as a starter) QB Patrick Mahomes will play his first playoff game at home as the Chiefs have their work cutout for them against the lockdown defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars. While KC’s defense doesn’t have nearly as much firepower as that of Jacksonville, Mahomes’ home-field advantage and plethora of weapons on the offensive side of the ball should be enough to barely hold off the Jags. The Jaguars will put their fair share of points up on the board, but not enough to out-duel the Chiefs. Sorry Blake Bortles, maybe next year.

AFC Wild Card 2: Houston Texans (3) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (6)

This should be a good one. Houston, fresh off a season in which the team finally managed to stay healthy and sophomore QB Deshaun Watson looked like his old self in his comeback season, plays host to the surging LA Chargers. Philip Rivers’ offense has never looked as dynamic and explosive, as the unit finished among the top in the league in the 2018 regular season. A battle of two premiere defenses and speedy offenses, it’s hard to decide who takes home the W. Because Watson showed so much maturity poise throughout his second year, he looks ready to win his first playoff game. Texans escape with the victory at home.

NFC Wild Card 1: Los Angeles Rams (4) vs. Minnesota Vikings (5)

One of the more stacked teams in recent memory, expectations are high for the Rams after a historic offseason and nearly as impressive regular season. Jared Goff is completely settled in and played like a Pro Bowl talent all season. Todd Gurley remained one of the best running backs in the entire league and the defense was just as good as advertised. On the other hand, Kirk Cousins looked much more comfortable in Minnesota than he did last year with the Redskins. Dalvin Cook has made a name for himself as one of the best young RBs in the game and that Viking defense is still one of the best. With their first-round embarrassment at the hands of the Falcons from a year ago still in the back of their heads and a slight edge in terms of talent, the Rams will make a statement at home against the Vikings.

NFC Wild Card 2: New Orleans Saints (3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (6)

A matchup of division rivals is a great way to end the first round of the playoffs. Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints picked up where they left off in 2017, being a model of efficiency on offense and showing the defensive success from that season was no fluke. Atlanta has kept on trucking as well, with QB Matt Ryan improving his play after an unspectacular 2017 season. Although Atlanta will be hungry to defeat the Saints on the road, Brees’ experience and his defense’s moxie, the Saints will win in the Superdome.

AFC Divisional 1: New England Patriots (1) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (4)

Kansas City is riding high into Foxborough after sending the Jaguars home a week prior to this highly-anticipated matchup. Tom Brady, as usual, has used his week off to rest and prepare for another postseason run. Like the year before, it’ll be a deep one. New England’s defense isn’t spectacular, but it’ll get the job done for this week. The bright lights of Gillette Stadium will be a bit too much for young Patrick Mahomes and although he’ll put up a valiant effort, it won’t be enough for his Chiefs to upset the Patriots in their house. Pats move on.

AFC Divisional 2: Pittsburgh Steelers (2) vs. Houston Texans (3)

First upset of the bracket thus far. Ben Roethlisberger is a much better performer at home than he is on the road, but he’ll be in for quite the test when Houston’s dominant defense comes to Pittsburgh. Deshaun Watson and his electric offense featuring star WR DeAndre Hopkins will find the end zone a few times in this one. The Steelers will go home without having the opportunity to face Tom Brady for the second-straight year and Houston continues their cinderella season for at least one more game.

NFC Divisional 1: Green Bay Packers (1) vs. Los Angeles Rams (4)

Likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and his resurgent Green Bay Packers had one hell of a regular season. It’s amazing what a somewhat respectable defense can do for a generational quarterback, but that’s beside the point. The Rams had a spectacular season in their own right and have the clear edge in talent, just like they did the week before. In the NFL, though, the edge in talent doesn’t always mean translate to the final score. In a game that could go either way, Rodgers is far more likely to pull off a heroic act than Jared Goff. While that’s no slight whatsoever on Goff, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Green Bay somehow pulls it off and defeats the juggernaut Rams, cutting their postseason short of what was previously expected.

NFC Divisional 2: Philadelphia Eagles (2) vs. New Orleans Saints (3)

The defending Super Bowl champs, that began the 2018 season with Nick Foles under center, are now locked and loaded with Carson Wentz playing MVP-caliber football for the second-straight season. With little evidence of a Super Bowl hangover present, coaches, fans and analysts alike have been waiting on one all year. It sets in during this matchup. Drew Brees and his Saints do just enough to get past the Eagles on the road, catapulting them to the conference championship game. Wentz and the Eagles go home a few weeks earlier in 2019 than they did the year before.

AFC Championship: New England Patriots (1) vs. Houston Texans (3)

Behind an impressive defense and explosive offense, the young Houston Texans have found their way into Gillette to face the Patriots and Tom Brady. What has been a truly remarkable season for the boys from H-Town will sadly come to and end on this night. Brady has been in this situation far too many times before to be upset by a young team on his own turf. The Texans will play hard on both ends and it’ll be close, but just not enough to get the job done. Houston is sent home with their heads held high after what was a great year, but New England heads to the Super Bowl yet again.

NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers (1) vs. New Orleans Saints (3)

After recently celebrating his 40th birthday, Drew Brees is rewarded with a trip to Lambeau in Green Bay, Wisconsin to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Aaron can almost taste his second trip to the Super Bowl, but Brees is desperate for his third ring. In what might be his last shot to get there, Brees leaves it all out on the frozen tundra of Lambeau, but ends up with the short end of the stick. Rodgers lights up New Orleans’ defense and advances to the final game of NFL football until the preseason kicks off in August, 2019.

Super Bowl: New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers

Finally what we’ve all been waiting for: Brady vs. Rodgers on the grandest stage of them all. We’ve come close to seeing it in the past, but it’s now a reality. Seeking his third ring in the past five years, Tom Brady knows the clock is ticking on his career, despite him stating he wants to play four more seasons beyond this one. Rodgers is extremely desperate to prove his doubters wrong and win his second career Super Bowl. In a matchup that’s been gifted to us by the Football Gods, Brady and Rodgers will duel each other until the very end. In this fairy tale, though, Brady won’t get his happy ending (at least for 2018-19). The other #12 wins his second ring, and the world debates who the ‘GOAT’ is until the 2019 season rolls around.

I hope you enjoyed the past few minutes in fantasy land. Hopefully some of these dreams do come true come playoff time. For now, let’s watch some football!


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