The NFL playoff field is set with the first round of games to get underway on Saturday.
As expected, the Patriots are heavy favorites in the AFC while the Vikings (yes, the Case Keenum-led Vikings!) top the NFC. I don’t typically like rolling with favorites when I make predictions, but the Patriots and Bill Belichick usually are exceptions to that philosophy.
That being said, let’s see how my predictions shape up for this year’s playoff picture…
AFC Wild Card
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Final score: Chiefs 30, Titans 17
The Titans have no business being in the playoffs. Marcus Mariota has been putrid for the majority of the season, and I don’t expect that to change Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Giving the Titans 17 points might be generous in this one. Chiefs advance without breaking a sweat.
Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Final score: Jaguars 24, Bills 13
If LeSean McCoy was 100-percent healthy, I’d have to think a bit more about this one. Unfortunately, he isn’t, so I’m siding with the Jaguars and their elite defense that’ll give Tyrod Taylor hell all game long.
Buffalo making the playoffs was a cool story, but it’ll be short-lived.
NFC Wild Card
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
Final score: Saints 28, Panthers 20
The Saints beat the Panthers in both of their regular season matchups. Why should I believe Saturday’s Wild Card game will be any different?
Carolina won’t have an answer for the dynamic duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, and New Orleans will move on.
Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams
Final score: Rams 33, Falcons 23
The Rams have been the superior team on both sides of the ball all season long. Both teams should put up a fair amount of points, but the Falcons are just way too inconsistent offensively to keep up L.A.
Before last season, Matt Ryan was the king of one-and-dones, and I expect he’ll regain that title this year.
Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots
Final score: Patriots 37, Chiefs 30
A rematch of what was a nightmare season opener for New England. Oddly enough, I don’t think many Patriots fans are too worried about the Chiefs coming in to town and repeating their efforts.
Kansas City isn’t the same threat it was in Week 1. I think the Chiefs have what it takes to make it interesting, but I cannot picture the Patriots losing this matchup again at home, especially with Andy Reid and his incompetent clock managing on the other sideline.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Final score: Jaguars 26, Steelers 23
This is an extremely intriguing matchup. Jacksonville crushed Pittsburgh back in early October, 30-9. Of course, lots of things change over the course of the season, but one thing hasn’t changed: The Jaguars defense is a problem.
It all comes down to whether Blake Bortles can keep the offense above water. Bortles threw for 95 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception in the regular-season win, and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to get away with that in this one. Still, I’m taking the Jags.
New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles
Final score: Saints 30, Eagles 20
The Eagles don’t have Carson Wentz. They aren’t going anywhere with Nick Foles.
I know Foles isn’t the worst backup option, but I just think the Wentz injury took the air out of a team that was cruising their way into the playoffs, and probably even the Super Bowl. I don’t think Philadelphia will get crushed in this game, I just don’t believe they have much of a shot at pulling off a victory against a high-powered Saints offense.
Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings
Final score: Vikings 20, Rams 13
Perhaps the only force that can stop the Rams’ offense is the Vikings’ stifling defense. L.A. was only able to put up seven points in their regular season loss at Minnesota. Keenum and the Vikings probably won’t put up a ton of points in this matchup either, but they won’t need to.
AFC Conference Championship
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots
Final score: Patriots 30, Jaguars 24
From a Patriots fan perspective, the only team in the AFC that genuinely scares me is the Jaguars. Any team that can pressure Tom Brady poses a threat, and no team more of a threat to do that than Jacksonville.
However, it’ll come down to Brady vs Bortles, and I can’t for the life of me take Bortles regardless of how good the Jags are defensively. It’s going to be a challenge — a big one — but New England squeaks out a tough, resilient win at home.
NFC Conference Championship
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings
Final score: Saints 21, Vikings 18
Minnesota’s defense vs New Orleans’ offense.
I’m kind of contradicting myself with this pick after picking Minnesota’s tough D vs L.A.’s high-scoring offense. What it comes down to is I simply cannot picture Case friggin Keenum leading the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Something’s gotta give, and it’s not like the Saints defense is chopped liver. The Vikings defense slips up just enough to give Drew Brees and the Saints a chance at another title.
Super Bowl LII
New Orleans Saints vs New England Patriots
Final score: Patriots 38, Saints 34
Call me a homer if you have to. The fact is Tom Brady taught me last year to never bet against him ever again.
If this indeed ends up being the Super Bowl matchup, obviously it’ll be an epic shootout. New England’s flaws defensively will be on full display, and Dont’a Hightower’s presence will be sorely missed vs Ingram and Kamara. But when all is set and done, the Brady factor gives the Pats the edge.
What’s your Super Bowl prediction? Tweet us @TheLedgeSports