We are officially one day away from the start of the NFL season; the Packers and Bears will face off in the season opener tomorrow night! It’s officially time for me to make my final team predictions. Who will win the Super Bowl? Who will play in the Conference Championship games? Let’s discuss!
Note: Due to Andrew Luck’s retirement, the following changes have occured
- Colts record goes from 11-5 to 6-10
- Jaguars record goes from 3-13 to 4-12
- Texans record goes from 10-6 to 11-5
- Titans record goes from 7-9 to 8-8
- Falcons record goes from 10-6 to 11-5
- Saints record goes from 6-10 to 7-9
- Panthers record goes from 7-9 to 8-8
Here is my predicted playoff seedings:
#1: New England Patriots (13-3)
#2: Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
#3: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
#4: Houston Texans (11-5)
#5: Los Angeles Chargers (13-3)
#6: Cleveland Browns (11-5)
#1: Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
#2: Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
#3: Green Bay Packers (11-5)
#4: Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
#5: Chicago Bears (11-5)
#6: San Francisco 49ers (11-5)
AFC: (5) Chargers at (4) Texans
Following the retirement of Andrew Luck and the acquisition of Laremy Tunsil, the Texans are the clear front-runner to win a weak AFC South. However, their Super Bowl hopes will likely be crushed early; their offensive line stands little chance against the Chargers’ pass rush in this world.
Prediction: Chargers 20 Texans 10
AFC: (6) Browns at (3) Steelers
This would be a dream matchup; the veteran Steelers and the young, loud Browns facing off in a divisional rivalry game. In the playoffs, experience tends to trump drama, and since Pittsburgh is also a much better team than Cleveland in the trenches, they’ll be able to hold them off.
Prediction: Browns 20 Steelers 34
NFC: (5) Bears at (4) Falcons
The Bears, a run-heavy team with a superb offense against the Falcons, a flashy, pass-happy team, would make for a very intriguing matchup. In the end, I’m not sure Atlanta’s young offensive line is strong enough to handle Chicago’s superb pass rush in this matchup, nor will their defense be able to disrupt Mitch Trubisky enough. It would be a close, low-scoring, but this is a game that would favor the Bears.
Prediction: Bears 17 Falcons 14
NFC: (6) 49ers at (3) Packers
This is definitely the most lopsided of these potential matchups. The 49ers have an exciting offense led by head coach Kyle Shanahan, and a nice pass rush, but their secondary is very weak. That fallacy would be exposed repeatedly by a passing offense led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers; this game would be a three-score blowout.
Prediction: 49ers 17 Packers 38
AFC: (5) Chargers at (1) Patriots
We saw this matchup in the divisional round last year, and it wasn’t pretty. The Chargers defense is a “new era” defense that plays nickel-heavy packages with a lot of defensive backs on the field, and that clearly won’t work against an old-school Patriots offense that runs the ball with authority. Add in the fact that Phillip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady, and this wouldn’t be a close game at all.
Prediction: Chargers 7 Patriots 31
AFC: (3) Steelers at (2) Chiefs
The Steelers’ feel-good story of success without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will be fun to watch all season long, but it’s bound to end in the divisional round. There’s a likely chance that they’d have to travel to play the Chiefs off a bye week, which is a definite mismatch. Pittsburgh’s secondary isn’t very athletic, and certainly won’t be able to keep up with all the weapons Kansas City’s offense has the offer. Furthermore, Andy Reid is always strong off a bye week, while Pittsburgh will be coming off a big win versus Cleveland. This is the last step to the inevitable Patriots-Chiefs AFC Championship matchup.
Prediction: Steelers 33 Chiefs 38
NFC: (5) Bears at (1) Rams
This is a matchup that we should’ve seen last season, but former Bears kicker Cody Parkey’s double-doink miss in the wildcard game against the Eagles prevented that from happening. Now, in this scenario, we’ll get that matchup, and it’ll be super exciting. Arguably the two most dominant pass rushers in Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack face off in this scenario, but the difference will come with the quarterbacks. Say what you want about Jared Goff and his new $134 million contract, but coming off of a bye week and at home, he’s a much better quarterback to rely on than Trubisky, who limits Chicago’s ceiling. This will come down to the wire, but that’ll only favor the Rams more.
Prediction: Bears 17 Rams 23
NFC: (3) Packers at (2) Eagles
Aaron Rodgers versus Carson Wentz, two historic franchise, two of the most well-rounded rosters; a Packers-Eagles playoff game is something NFL fans should be rooting for. Still, it’s impossible to not see that Philadelphia has a clear advantage in this scenario. They’ll be fresh off a bye week, at home in the cold weather, and are simply a more well-rounded team. Carson Wentz will be motivated to match the Super Bowl title that Nick Foles brought to Philadelphia, and that starts with a demolishment of the Packers in this world.
Prediction: Packers 21 Eagles 41
Conference Championship Games
AFC: (2) Chiefs at (1) Patriots
If the Patriots were able to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game last season, they should handle them in New England in this scenario, right? Not so fast. The Chiefs put up a tremendous fight in that game last year, and with the improvement they made, they are now positioned to beat the Patriots in the playoffs. The shift to a 4-3 defense should allow the team to better defend New England’s heavy rushing attack; Frank Clark is a much better run defender than Dee Ford was. Plus, the absence of Rob Gronkowski will be notable, and Kansas City did overhaul their safety room by adding both Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill. Add in the speed and weapons the Chiefs have on offense, and I think they would be poised to pull off a road upset in this world.
Prediction: Chiefs 30 Patriots 27
NFC: (2) Eagles at (1) Rams
Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox are the two most dominant interior rushers in football, but it’s the underrated Cox that would dominate in an Eagles-Rams matchup. While the Eagles’ interior offensive handle should be able to contain Donald enough, the Rams don’t have that same luxury with Cox. Plus, Philadelphia has the better and more efficient offense, the elite front seven to slow down Los Angeles’ run game, and just have the better overall roster. They’d win by multiple scores in this game.
Prediction: Eagles 27 Rams 10
(2) Eagles vs (2) Chiefs
It’s the Andy Reid bowl! Finally getting another chance at the Super Bowl, Andy Reid would have a chance to win the title, while also getting revenge on his former team, who are coached by his former protege, Doug Pederson. This is a very even matchup between two of the most stacked rosters in the NFL, but the Chiefs have the same advantage they have against other teams; no one can match their speed. Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman would have a field day in the vertical passing game with Philadelphia’s aggressive, weak secondary; Mahomes would throw for at least four touchdowns in this game. The defense is supposed to win championships, but we’re in a new era now; Mahomes and Kansas City’s elite offense make them one of, if not, the Super Bowl favorite, and are my pick to win it all.