Now that we have the NFL season halfway over and the trade deadline has come and gone with no major moves, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. We have the usual suspects around the top and a few surprises in the hunt. Looking forward, here are some predictions on how the season will finish out. First, let’s start with the NFC.
1. Seattle Seahawks (6-1) – MVP candidate Russell Wilson has been playing lights out so far and with the duel threat of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at wide receiver, I don’t see anyone overtaking them at the top spot. They do still have two games against the LA Rams left, Arizona at home, and at Buffalo. I see them finishing 13-3 and the NFC’s representative in the Super Bowl.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) – Brady and Gronk are starting to find their groove again with TD connections in the last three games. The defense has been outstanding as well and now they’ve added a wild card in Antonio Brown. Key remaining games include the Saints, Rams, and Chiefs, all at home. They lose a heartbreaker in the NFC Championship and miss having a home game for the Super Bowl.
3. Green Bay Packers (5-2) – Dealing with injuries and COVID-19, Aaron Rodgers and the gang still manage to win the NFC North and grab the three seed. They still have a pair of games against the Bears, at the Colts, and at home against Tennessee. They handle Arizona wild card weekend but lose in the Divisional Round to the Bucs.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) – We could have a seven-win team host a playoff game this year. Not really much to say about any team in this division. All but three of their remaining games are against teams with winning records. New Orleans comes in and destroys them in the wild card.
1st Wild Card – New Orleans Saints (5-2) – With Michael Thomas being out most of the year so far, Alvin Kamari has stepped it up and the Saints are keeping it together. The have the Bucs and 49ers in back to back weeks coming up and the Chiefs in week 15. Drew Brees loses a shootout with Russell Wilson in the Divisional Round.
2nd Wild Card – Arizona Cardinals (5-2) – Kyler Murray is starting to become an elite quarterback in the league and the Cardinals are no longer in the cellar of their tough division. They still have two against the Rams, they host Buffalo, and travel to Seattle. They easily secure a wild card spot only to lose in the first round.
3rd Wild Card – Chicago Bears – (5-3) That’s right folks, each conference gets an extra wild card spot this year, in case you forgot. The Bears sneak in due to a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way. They travel to Nashville this weekend and still have a pair with the Packers but other than that, the three-win Lions are the best team they play the rest of the way. They’ll bow out in the opening round due to lack of stellar QB play, as per usual.
The Rams have a tough schedule the rest of the way with every opponent .500 or better but two, and I don’t see them overtaking Chicago for that final spot and the 49ers are just too banged up to make a late run. Now, on the AFC.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) – These guys are cruising on both sides of the ball. Big Ben is playing well again and found a new weapon in Chase Claypool. With a fairly easy schedule remaining except traveling to Buffalo and hosting Baltimore and Indy, their win total could hit 14 or 15. Unfortunately, I see the Chiefs coming into the Steel City and having just too many weapons for that defense to handle for their second straight Super Bowl trip.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) – Three words, they got better. The defending champs now have a stellar running game to go with their passing arsenal, and their defense improved. Bad news for the rest of the league. They still have to travel to Vegas, Tampa, and New Orleans but I’ll leave you with three more words, back-to-back.
3. Buffalo Bills (6-2) – AFC East champions, hosting, and winning a playoff game. Tough schedule left including hosting Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Miami with a trip to Arizona mixed in but they still manage a three seed but a trip to Arrowhead does them in.
4. Tennessee Titans (5-2) – Derrick Henry and the Titans stiff-arm their way to another AFC South title. The next five weeks will definitely put them to the test with the likes of Chicago, Indy twice, Baltimore, and Cleveland with Green Bay looming in week 16. Baltimore comes in and knocks them out early in the playoffs.
1st Wild Card – Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – As the Steelers run away with the AFC North, the Ravens easily secure the first wild card spot. They still have to travel to Indy, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland respectively while the Titans come to Baltimore in a few weeks. That will be a preview of a first-round matchup in January with the Ravens being victorious.
2nd Wild Card – Las Vegas Raiders (4-3) – The inaugural season in Vegas will give the fans something to cheer about with a playoff berth. They still have to host the Chiefs, Colts, and Dolphins but their remaining schedule is definitely favorable. They make the playoffs only to travel to Buffalo and get sent back to the desert.
3rd Wild Card – Miami Dolphins (4-3) – Now with Tua taking the full time snaps, he settles in and leads them into the final wild-card spot. This weekend will be his first true test when they travel to Arizona to face Kyler Murray. Then three of the last four weeks of the season they will face the Chiefs, Raiders, and finishing up in Buffalo. Arrowhead won’t be welcoming in January and they’ll be sent back to South Beach by Mahomes and company.
Cleveland may have the easiest schedule remaining (opponents record) but they are the Browns and we’ve seen that play out before and the same goes with Philip Rivers and the Colts who will barely miss the playoffs, again.
They have a brutal schedule to finish out the year. Let’s just hope this 16-team playoff jargon doesn’t materialize and we can keep it simple. But who doesn’t love extra playoff football? The Kansas City Chiefs got better from last year and that’s what it comes down to. As long as everyone stays healthy, it’ll be hard to knock them off the mountain.