The NFL season officially started on Thursday night, with a sloppy game that was eventually won by the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles (which is still hard for this Patriots fan to type). We spent the bulk of last week breaking down the divisions (with predicted records) and this will be the post about how we think the playoffs will shake out, including our Super Bowl LIII prediction.
Here are the playoff participants from the NFC:
- Green Bay Packers (12-4) (NFC North champs)
- Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) (NFC East champs)
- Los Angeles Rams (11-5) (NFC West champs)
- New Orleans Saints (11-5) (NFC South champs)
- Minnesota Vikings (11-5) (Wildcard #1)
- San Francisco 49ers (10-6) (Wildcard #2)
Four teams from last year’s NFC Playoffs return, with Green Bay returning (thanks to the return of Aaron Rodgers) and the 49ers beating the Atlanta Falcons in a tiebreaker. Unlike last season, which saw three NFC South teams make the playoff field (Falcons, Saints, and Carolina Panthers), the NFC North and West provide the wildcards this week.
In the Wild Card round, I think the Rams will prevail over the 49ers, winning their third game against the Jimmy G-led team. In the other game, I don’t think we will see a repeat of last year’s Minnesota Miracle, partially because the Saints are the home team this time around, and the Saints should prevail at home. In the Divisional Round, I again go with the home teams, so it will be the Eagles at Lambeau Field against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. We’ll return to the winner with my Super Bowl pick below.
The AFC will have two different faces from last year as well:
- New England Patriots (14-2) (AFC East champs)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) (AFC North champs)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4) (AFC South champs)
- Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) (AFC West champs)
- Los Angeles Chargers (10-6) (Wildcard #1)
- Baltimore Ravens (9-7) (Wildcard #2)
The Chargers and Ravens replace the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills as the wildcards, with the division champs repeating from last year. In the Wild Card round, another divisional rematch goes this time to the road team, with the Chargers defeating the Chiefs at Arrowhead (Andy Reid loses yet another opening playoff game). The Jags hold off the Ravens in the other game, only to lose to the Steelers in Pittsburgh the following week. And the Patiots avoid their nemeses the Chiefs thanks to the Chargers, and dispatch the other Los Angeles team at Gillette, setting up a Patriots and Steelers championship game in Foxboro.
Will it be a Super Bowl rematch in Atlanta? I think so… but not the Super Bowl from last year. Tom Brady will lead the Pats to their third consecutive title game – and fourth in five years – and Aaron Rodgers will return to form and make it to his second, and it will be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI, which was won by the Brett Favre-led Packers.
The Patriots prevail this time, and I personally think it will be the final game for Bill Belichick as coach or Tom Brady in New England, if not both of them, and the Patriots near 20-year reign at the top of the league could be over.
Those are my thoughts, and I’d be interested to know yours. Comment with your Super Bowl pick or let us know on Twitter.
Enjoy your team’s season!
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