NFL Playoff Predictions

NFL+Playoff+Predictions

Luke Novak and Adrien Tirouvanziam

The NFL’s hundredth season has already been a historic year. After a slow start, the Baltimore Ravens went on a 12-game win streak, taking away the New England Patriots’ undefeated record and winning close battles against the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. During a three game stretch, the top-ranked Ravens outscored their opponents 135-26, and the likely MVP Lamar Jackson broke the single-season rushing record for a quarterback, with 1206 yards. Meanwhile, the NFC is packed with top teams, and while top wide receiver Michael Thomas and the New Orleans Saints are out, every remaining team has a valid path to the Super Bowl. 

 

Adrien’s Bracket:

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

In my defense, the Titans upsetting the Ravens is a bold prediction, but if Tennessee plays like they did on Jan. 4 against the Patriots, they can beat anyone. My guess is that the Titans will start off with a strong drive by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has transformed this team into a contender after sitting during the first half of the season. Since the Ravens blitz the most out of any team in the league, power back Derrick Henry, who rushed for 1540 yards in the regular season, will find holes in the defense and lead the Titans to victory. 

The other AFC matchup will be a close call. The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense started off slow this season, but ended it with six straight wins and a lucky Patriots loss to give them a first-round bye. The Texans, on the other hand, are the most underrated team remaining. Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s final drive against Buffalo showed why the Texans, who have made mistakes all season long, can still be contenders. This matchup will be close, but the Texans will come up just short of a possible game-winning drive.

For the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings have just come off of a major upset in overtime. The problem with this is that they only have six days of rest, meaning that an already banged-up Dalvin Cook will have trouble finding space with his runs. The San Francisco 49ers will establish the run game early, and tight end George Kittle will do the rest of the work on offense for an easy victory at home.

The Seahawks-Packers game has been a rivalry ever since elite quarterback Russell Wilson joined the league in 2012. However, the three starting running backs for the Seahawks were injured during the final games of the regular season, so they had to bring back a retired player to start at that position. Despite this player being the famed Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, he just isn’t as fast as he was three years ago, and the Seahawks will be down early, and have to rely too much on Russell Wilson to bring back the victory. Opposing star quarterback Aaron Rodgers will lead the Packers to victory with two touchdowns.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND:

The Titans are the Chiefs’ Achilles heel. Even with star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have lost four straight matchups against the Titans. However, the Titans will have come from two straight upset wins against two favorites to win the Super Bowl. Derrick Henry, as strong of a runner as he is, won’t be able to run the ball 30 times for a third straight game, and the Titans will have to rely on Ryan Tannehill to get them touchdowns. A Chiefs secondary who allowed only five touchdowns and has accumulated ten interceptions since Week 12 will get two more interceptions this game, while returner Mecole Hardman will get a punt returned for touchdown, bringing the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.

Earlier this season, the 49ers annihilated the Packers 37-8 at home. This rematch will be different, but the top defense in the NFC in the 49ers will shut down the Packers to six first-half points, with cornerback Richard Sherman and linebacker Fred Warner leading the way. The Packers will come back late but veteran kicker Robbie Gould will make a close field goal as time expires.

 

SUPERBOWL LIV:

This game will kick off like any other Super Bowl, a coaching battle just as much as a battle between the players. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been in the playoffs many times, but always lost to the Patriots due to Bill Belichick’s superior coaching. On the other hand, the likely coach of the year for the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan, has turned a 4-12 team into the top seed in the NFC. Defensive matchups will be key in deciding who wins this game. Cornerback Richard Sherman will match up against the fastest player in the league, Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce will likely be playing against rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw. The 49ers similarly have a speed receiver in Deebo Samuel, but the Chiefs defense had its weaknesses this season, so they will have to decide whether to cover Samuel or top receiver Emmanuel Sanders. George Kittle is just a powerhouse who can not be stopped. This future hall-of-famer has been a monster in catching, blocking, and running with the ball all season long, and the Chiefs have no linebacker that can stop him. Expect this close game to be much more interesting than last year’s Super Bowl, with George Kittle taking the Superbowl MVP trophy.

 

Luke’s Bracket:

DIVISIONAL ROUNDS:

My most questionable prediction by far is the upset in Green Bay. I have the Seahawks winning in a close battle against the Packers, but there’s a good reason for this. The Seahawks have a solid defense. Even without their former star defensive players Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, they have still been able to rank top 5 in 5 of the 6 defensive stats. However, this is going against the explosive Green Bay offense, which includes Aaron Jones and Davante Adams. Their offensive ability will be matched by Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and DK Metcalf, who have proven to be unstoppable when on their game. On top of this, the legend Marshawn Lynch will be running against an inconsistent Green Bay run defense which should put the game in Seattle’s favor.

My next prediction is pretty simple, it’s the 49ers beating the Vikings in what I think will be a pretty one-sided game. The only way I can see the Vikings winning is if they can somehow match the 49ers offense or completely stop it. While the Vikings still have the number 2 ranked defense in the NFC, they still won’t be able to compete against the 49ers’ number 1 ranked defense. 

My next divisional round prediction is the Ravens beating the Titans. This one is also pretty obvious. If Lamar Jackson plays like his regular season self, Baltimore shouldn’t have a problem. The only way I can see the Titans coming out with a win is if Derrick Henry carries the team and finds holes in the blitz-heavy Baltimore defense. A Tennessee victory would also require a solid performance by Ryan Tannehill.

Finally, the last divisional round prediction is Deshaun Watson’s Houston Texans vs Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs. I think this is going to end up being a pretty good game, as both teams don’t have good defenses, leading it to be a close game that will be determined by key defensive stops by Kansas City.

 

AFC AND NFC CHAMPIONSHIPS:

 Up first is Ravens vs. Chiefs. This definitely has the potential to be a really good game if Kansas City’s stellar offense can match the Ravens’. If not, then it will be a blow out for the Ravens, because they have a much more effective defense.

After that comes the 49ers and the Seahawks, the division rivals. Both teams have great offenses with weapons on both sides and both teams’ defenses are fairly solid. The game should be fairly close due to how equal these teams have been this season. However, I am going to have to take the 49ers on this one, just because of the inconsistency of Seattle’s defense.

 

SUPERBOWL LIV:

The Ravens and the 49ers, number 1 offense vs number 1 defense in the NFC.  A lot of people thought the Saints would be taking over the NFC, but not so much anymore since they were surprisingly eliminated. It will be week 12 all over again and the Ravens are going to win it all in this one. Honestly, anything could happen in this game. It could be as high scoring as the Eagles vs Patriots Super Bowl, or it could be stalemate like last year’s Rams vs Patriots dud. However, I doubt it will fall flat because of the sheer explosiveness of Lamar Jackson’s offense. The game will probably be a close one as both teams are really good on both sides of the field, but the Baltimore Ravens will definitely come out on top as Super Bowl Champions.