The NFL playoffs begin today as Wild Card Weekend kicks off at 4:35 PM with a battle between the 4-seed Houston Texans and 5-seed Buffalo Bills. This may be one of the most unpredictable years in NFL history. I think there are 6 or 7 teams with a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl. But I gave a playoff bracket prediction my best try. Below is my bracket:
I think many of these games will come down to the wire, and could go in a different direction than I predict. For example, just because I have the Patriots losing in the Divisional Round, it doesn’t mean I’m ruling out a Pats Super Bowl run. But today, I’ve written my explanation and score prediction for each game on the bracket. Check it out below:
Wild Card Weekend
#4 Houston Texans over #5 Buffalo Bills 20-3
This is a battle between one of the most improved defenses in the league and one of the most experienced defenses in the league. With DE J.J. Watt back on the field, I don’t expect much from the Bills against a Texans defense that is still elite. The run game will face serious struggles against Watt and the front seven, and QB Josh Allen’s receivers are no match for one of the deepest DB corps in the league. Meanwhile, the Texans offense will slow down against an improved Buffalo D. But QB Deshaun Watson will connect with his best receivers (like WR DeAndre Hopkins) and put up more than enough points to lead Houston to victory in this defensive battle.
#3 New England Patriots over #6 Tennessee Titans 26-13
QB Tom Brady is lacking weapons against an underrated Titans D, so this won’t be the most exciting Patriots game we’ve seen. But I expect a motivated Patriots squad to rebound from a tough Week 17 loss and find a way to victory at home against the Titans. Against a struggling Patriots team, the Titans should put up a bit of a fight, especially with multiple ex-Patriots spread across the team’s roster and staff (including head coach Mike Vrabel). RB Derrick Henry will have a strong game against a weakening Pats front seven. But QB Ryan Tannehill and his receivers will be shut down as the Pats hold on for a comfortable victory.
#5 Seattle Seahawks over #4 Philadelphia Eagles 20-17
This will be closer than most expect, as Philly tries to pull a home upset against an overrated Seahawks squad. But with QB Carson Wentz lacking healthy receivers more than ever, the Eagles will fall short. This won’t be Seattle’s best game, but they’ll come up clutch as they have all season, with QB Russell Wilson getting the job done for Seattle and throwing TDs to his best receivers in Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf against a flawed Philly secondary.
#3 New Orleans Saints over #6 Minnesota Vikings 24-19
The Saints have been an offense-first team ever since QB Drew Brees took over. But the defense will win them this game. An improved Saints secondary that added CB Janoris Jenkins for the playoffs, will significantly limit WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The Vikings will come close in this one, but the offense will fail to score when they need to the most, and they’ll fall short to the Saints in New Orleans.
#1 Baltimore Ravens over #4 Houston Texans 26-24
Last time Baltimore played Houston, they won with ease. But with the Texans back to full health and familiar with this Ravens squad, they will make things close. Their run game will thrive and the combo of QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins should also have success, even against a strong Ravens secondary. However, I still expect QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to squeeze by for a victory. Jackson’s versatile playing style will be a bit much for the Texans D, and Jackson will lean on TEs Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst in the receiving game.
#2 Kansas City Chiefs over #3 New England Patriots 30-27
This game will be very close, and it could go either way. Things will be difficult for the Patriots on the road. But now that the Pats have played the Chiefs in a game that was heavily influenced by the refs, they’ll know what they’re facing and be hungry for revenge. This game will come down to the wire, as the Pats run game helps them keep up with QB Patrick Mahomes and his receivers. But I have the Pats falling just short as the Chiefs utilize WR Mecole Hardman with Tyreek Hill covered by CB Stephon Gilmore.
#1 San Francisco 49ers over #5 Seattle Seahawks 31-27
The first two match-ups between these divisional rivals were last minute thrillers. In this one, I expect QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his receivers to get out to an early lead against a flawed Seattle secondary. The Seahawks will make the game close later on, but I still expect Seattle to fall short. They can come up clutch against most teams, but they are no match 49ers squad that has seen them twice already.
#3 New Orleans Saints over #2 Green Bay Packers 34-28 (OT)
Though RB Aaron Jones has won Green Bay multiple games this year, this will be a battle of legendary QBs Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Jones will have a strong game, but the Packers will have to rely on their passing game to keep pace with the Saints. Even so, I have Brees and his Saints winning this pass-heavy offensive shootout in overtime. However, this is another game I could see going either way.
AFC Championship: #1 Baltimore Ravens over #2 Kansas City Chiefs 34-31 (OT)
Whether Baltimore plays the Chiefs or the Patriots, this will be a close game. You never know what the Pats will be able to pull off, and the Chiefs are one of two teams to beat the Ravens this season. However, I have Baltimore learning from their early season mistakes and just barely topping the Chiefs in overtime. Baltimore’s run game, led by QB Lamar Jackson and RB Mark Ingram, will rebound in this one and be the primary reason for a Ravens victory. Kansas City’s run game will try to keep up though, and QB Patrick Mahomes will have as good a day as a passer. The AFC Championship could end up in the hands of Baltimore, Kansas City, or even New England. But I have Jackson coming up clutch and leading the Ravens to victory at the last minute.
NFC Championship: #3 New Orleans Saints over #1 San Fransisco 49ers 21-13
This will be the game in which San Francisco is exposed as an overrated team. The Saints are just as good if not better. While the New Orleans defense significantly limits Garoppolo and his receivers, QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Michael Thomas will put up enough points to take the NFC title.
Super Bowl LIV
#1 Baltimore Ravens over #3 New Orleans Saints 35-21
The Saints defense is no match for QB Lamar Jackson & co. This will be close at first as RB Alvin Kamara dominates, but will become a one-sided game later as the Ravens continue to score points while New Orleans wears out later on. This Super Bowl could be very different if different teams make it. But a Ravens-Saints match-up will result in a comfortable Baltimore victory.
Baltimore might be the most deserving of the Super Bowl, and I think they have the best chance to win. But these playoffs will be the closest we’ve had in a long time, and they could be heavily based on what head-to-head match-ups we see. Just because the Ravens can beat the Chiefs and the Chiefs can beat the Pats, it doesn’t mean the Pats can’t beat the Ravens. Match-ups will be everything in these unpredictable NFL playoffs.