Wednesday, January 15, 2020

2019-20 NFL playoff predictions (Part 3 - Championship)


Welcome to part 3 of my 2019-20 NFL playoff predictions! Two for four on the Divisional games, correctly predicting the victories by the 49ers and the Chiefs but not the Titans and (damn it) the Packers.

And then, there were only four. Each wants to play in the Super Bowl, but only two shall make the journey to Hard Rock Stadium. Here are the four potential match-ups for Super Bowl LIV in Miami:

Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Green Bay Packers
Tennessee Titans vs. San Francisco 49ers
Tennessee Titans vs. Green Bay Packers

But which match-up will it be?

Let’s find out.  

AFC

#2 Kansas City Chiefs vs. #6 Tennessee Titans
The Chiefs are heavily favored to win to the AFC Championship over the Titans. Also recall that the Patriots were heavily favored to win the Wild Card match over the Titans, and that the Ravens were heavily favored to win the Divisional match over the Titans.

Forget the odds. The Titans have stared down insurmountable odds all these playoffs and have defied them every time. Tom Brady wanted to repeat as Super Bowl champion. Instead, he threw a game-ending pick six and lost in the first round at home to the sixth-seed Titans. Likewise, Lamar Jackson wanted to extinguish all opposition en route to his Super Bowl coronation. Instead, Jackson ended another season with a one-and-done playoff performance, this time to the Titans.

The Chiefs are clearly a formidable squad, as proven during their rout of the Houston Texans in the Divisional game. It takes incredible talent like Patrick Mahomes to rally from a 21-0 deficit to win 51-31. The Chiefs do not want a repeat of last season, when they lost the AFC Championship at home. At full strength, the Chiefs are an unstoppable force. But the Titans are the immovable object.

This will truly be a battle to the end, but the Titans will score another shocking upset and become only the third sixth-seed team ever to reach the Super Bowl.

Prediction: Titans win, 28-24.

Result: TBD

Comments after the game: TBD

***

NFC

#1 San Francisco 49ers vs. #2 Green Bay Packers
It’s a duel of the top two seeds for the NFC Championship. These two teams met in Week 12 during the regular season with lopsided results – the 49ers won 37-8.

The 49ers are healthy and firing on all cylinders; the 49ers’ balanced attack has worked wonders all season, regularly posting twenty-plus, thirty-plus, forty-plus, and even fifty-plus points on the board en route to victory. All the 49ers’ losses have been close affairs, though their last defeat to the Falcons was the ugliest. Still, the 49ers at full strength are a dominant force and easily the favorites to win the NFC Championship.

The Packers, meanwhile, haven’t lost since that crushing loss to the 49ers but the Packers have been winning either close affairs in ugly fashion or winning big over non-playoff teams. The Packers need an answer to the lethal weapon of Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle or another blowout is in the works.

Against a full-strength 49ers squad, the Packers haven’t much hope. Expect another rout.

Prediction: 49ers win, 35-14.

Result: TBD

Comments after the game: TBD

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

2019-20 NFL playoff predictions (Part 2 - Divisional)

Welcome to part 2 of my 2019-20 NFL playoff predictions! Two for four on my Wild Card predictions - who would have thought that two legends of the game, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, would bow out of the playoffs in the first round?

Let's see what the Divisional games will deliver.

AFC

#1 Baltimore Ravens vs. #6 Tennessee Titans
There's a buzzsaw in the AFC, and it's called the Baltimore Ravens. After a sluggish start to the season, the Ravens have obliterated all opposition, posting twenty-plus, thirty-plus, forty-plus, even fifty-plus points on the board. The Ravens by far have the deadliest offense on the league with 531 points scored, and they are easily the top Super Bowl contender in the playoffs.

That said, even the most impressive records guarantee nothing. Just ask the New England Patriots or the Carolina Panthers.

The Tennessee Titans are fresh off stunning the reigning Super Bowl champions, and they are eager to unleash another shocking upset. Do the Titans have what it takes? If the Ravens can't stop the Titans' weapon of mass destruction called Derrick Henry, another upset could be in the works.

An upset is unlikely, but don't count the Titans out.

Prediction: Ravens win, 35-28.

Result: Titans win, 28-12.

Comments after the game:


Unbelievable.

Unbelievable.

First the Patriots fall, and now the Ravens - both to a sixth-seeded Titans squad! But lest we forget, this Titans squad's weapon of mass destruction was unleashed without mercy tonight. Chemical weapons, biological weapons, and even nuclear weapons are nothing compared to Derrick Henry. Henry even threw a touchdown on a trick play! The Titans are now the most red-hot team in the AFC; the Texans and the Chiefs are watching the aftermath of this game with unease. Home field advantage means nothing when your opponent is the Tennessee Titans.

The Ravens, meanwhile, capped off an incredible season with an abysmal rout. Lamar Jackson could only wield so much magic before it all burned out. The Ravens turned the ball over on downs four times, threw two interceptions, and fumbled and lost the ball once. And that doesn't even include all the dropped passes by the Ravens. A Super Bowl contender no more.

The Titans advance to the AFC Championship!

***

#2 Kansas City Chiefs vs. #4 Houston Texans
The Kansas City Chiefs avoided the Wild Card round thanks to the Miami Dolphins, so Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the squad are well rested for a Divisional home battle, but perhaps not against the opponent they expected. The Chiefs wanted revenge for last year's AFC championship loss against the Patriots, but the Titans denied the Chiefs their revenge. Instead, the Chiefs will have to settle for DeShaun Watson and the Houston Texans. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was four years ago, when the Chiefs embarrassed the Texans 30-0 in the Wild Card round.

The Chiefs enter the playoffs on a six-game winning streak that dates back to Week 11. The Chiefs have the momentum heading into this contest, but the Texans have momentum as well, roaring back from a 16-0 deficit against the Buffalo Bills to win 22-19 in OT.

One other problem: the Arrowhead Curse. True, the Chiefs won at home last season in the Divisional round, but then promptly lost the AFC Championship at home.

Still, the Arrowhead Curse shouldn't be a problem this time.

Prediction: Chiefs win, 34-24.

Result: Chiefs win, 51-31.

Comments after the game:


I expected a Chiefs victory.

I did not expect a victory achieved like that.

The Chiefs were an extraordinary train wreck in the first quarter, surrendering twenty-one points off huge mistakes. For that first quarter, it seemed the Texans would replicate the Titans' magic and oust another top AFC team.

Nope.

The Chiefs exploded into a cannonball on fire in the second quarter and never looked back, scoring fifty-one points after that disastrous first fifteen minutes of play. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense never lost a beat, demolishing the Texans' defense with extreme prejudice.

The Texans, meanwhile, forgot that you need to play sixty minutes, not just fifteen. Another year, another playoff journey ends in disaster for the Texans.

The AFC path to the Super Bowl will go through Kansas City - again!

NFC

#1 San Francisco 49ers vs. #6 Minnesota Vikings
The San Francisco 49ers may be the number one seed, but they're not taking this upcoming game lightly. The Minnesota Vikings completed the unthinkable: they defeated the New Orleans Saints, a 13-3 Super Bowl contender, on the Saints' home field. All bets are off now.

The 49ers enjoyed a hugely successful season after spending much of the 2010s in the basement of the NFC West. They are clearly the NFC's top Super Bowl contender - could a rematch with the Ravens be in the works?

But that is a future problem. The current problem for the 49ers is the Minnesota Vikings; the Vikings already defeated one 13-3 team, so what's to stop them from taking down another?

The 49ers need an excellent performance if they want to stay off the list of playoff upsets. That said, Jimmy Garoppolo has proven himself in the regular season, and now it's time to prove himself in the playoffs.

Prediction: 49ers win, 28-21.

Result: 49ers win, 27-10.

Comments after the game:

We turn now to live footage of the Minnesota Vikings:


All that hype surrounding the Vikings' Wild Card victory over the Saints extinguished in under a week.

The Vikings were demolished today. O-line shredded, running game about as effective as running into a brick wall, and non-stop three and outs. The Vikings seemed to start the game strong but then fell silent by the second half.

The 49ers had an excellent performance today; there was a moment of concern after an ugly interception thrown by Jimmy Garoppolo, but the 49ers never broke down.

The NFC path to the Super Bowl will go through San Francisco!

***

#2 Green Bay Packers vs. #5 Seattle Seahawks
If an upset happens in the Divisional round, this is probably where it will happen. The Seahawks have many key injuries and they beat an even more injured Philadelphia Eagles squad in the Wild Card. That said, the Seahawks have Wilson, Metcalf, Lockett, and Lynch (BEAST MODE). The Seahawks need a perfect effort by the offense; the defense is already on shaky ground and being held together with duct tape.

The Packers enter the playoffs on a five-game winning streak, but aside from a win over the Vikings, none of those teams made the playoffs. Sounds like a similar story to the Eagles: enter the playoffs on a winning streak with a large asterisk next to it.

The Seahawks should emerge victorious if all goes as planned.

Prediction: Seahawks win, 24-20.

Result: Packers win, 28-23.

Comments after the game:



Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019-20 NFL playoff predictions (Part 1 - Wild Card)


Happy New Year! As we begin 2020 and a new decade, it’s time to make the first of many NFL playoff predictions. This post will focus on the Wild Card games; future posts will predict the outcomes of the Divisional and Championship games, and eventually the Super Bowl.

Let’s go.

AFC

#6 Tennessee Titans vs. #3 New England Patriots
What’s the deal with the Patriots this year? After opening the season by winning eight in a row, the Patriots are 4-4 since the beginning of November. They have lost to all the other AFC Division winners, but most embarrassingly to the Miami Dolphins in the season finale – the loss meant that the Patriots would not enjoy a first-round bye for the first time in a decade. The Patriots have struggled ever since losing to the Ravens in Week 9.

Still, the Patriots remain a formidable foe. The Titans have a strange obsession with going 9-7, doing so for the fourth straight year. The Titans enjoyed a four-game winning streak from Week 10 through Week 14, and the Titans have posted twenty-plus, thirty-plus, and twice forty-plus points on the board across all their victories. The Titans' defeats often but did not always occur when they scored less than twenty points.

Bottom line: the Titans need a lot of points to stave off any magic Tom Brady might wield. Will it be enough to upset the Super Bowl champs?

No.

Expect Tom Brady to fire on all cylinders and dash the Titans’ hopes, just as he did two years ago.

Prediction: Patriots win, 35-18.

Result: Titans win, 20-13.

Comments after the game:


THE PATRIOTS ARE NO MORE.

In recent years, the playoffs belonged to the Patriots. They always found a way to win. The last-second magic of Tom Brady always delivered victory, most notably against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. In what turned out to be a close battle, the Titans and Patriots fought valiantly in Foxborough, each determined to strike the other down. Finally the time came, and Tom Brady prepared to work his trademark magic.

By throwing an interception. A pick six.

And so ends a dynasty, a whimper of an ending to a Patriots season that began with eight straight wins. After that fateful loss against the Baltimore Ravens in the regular season, the Patriots have lost control. Worse, the Patriots ran into a tank tonight, one named Derrick Henry. The Patriots had no answer, thus ending their season a month earlier than hoped.

The Titans dethrone the Super Bowl champions but now face the most feared opponent of them all: the Baltimore Ravens.

***

#5 Buffalo Bills vs. #4 Houston Texans
Twenty years ago – 1999 – was the last time the Buffalo Bills had ten or more wins during the regular season. Twenty years later, the Bills have reached the ten-win mark again and have returned to the playoffs for the second time in three years. The Bills enjoyed a relatively stable season but ended it on a sour note after dropping three of their last four games. More concerning is that of those ten wins, only one came from a team that made the playoffs – the Tennessee Titans.

The Texans, meanwhile, noticed a pattern emerge this season: lose a game, win two, lose a game, win two, rinse and repeat. The Texans have posted impressive wins this season, winning over the Patriots and the Chiefs. The regular season, however, ended on a foul note for the Texans with a brutal home loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Texans and Bills both have recent playoff experience, but it hasn’t ended well for either team. The Bills lost an insomnia-curing game against the Jaguars two years ago, while the Texans’ playoff journeys in recent years have always ended in disaster.

The Texans should be able to live to fight another day.

Prediction: Texans win, 24-21.

Result: Texans win, 22-19 (OT).

Comments after the game:

Let's see how the Buffalo Bills are doing. Last I heard they were up 16-0 and -

 

Oh.

The Bills were in complete control most of the game, and then the second half happened. The Bills spontaneously combusted, surrendering 19 points in the second half. A last-second Bills field goal forced overtime, a prolonged overtime that seemed to be going nowhere until DeShaun Watson survived a huge sack and made a mind-blowing play that ultimately set up the game-winning field goal. 

The Texans stave off another playoff implosion and advance to face the Kansas City Chiefs, while the Bills' playoff victory drought continues.

NFC

#6 Minnesota Vikings vs. #3 New Orleans Saints
The Vikings have a few small problems: they dropped three of their last five to end the regular season, they’re stuck at the sixth seed, and their Wild Card opponent is a New Orleans Saints squad still seeing red after last season’s debacle in the NFC Championship game. Not to mention the Saints still remember that last second debacle in the NFC Divisional game against the Vikings two years ago.

Good luck with that, Minnesota.

Prediction: Saints win, 31-14.

Result: Vikings win, 26-20 (OT).

Comments after the game:

Three years in a row now the Saints have crumbled in playoff games, and two of those losses were inflicted by the Vikings. No excuses this year - the Saints fell behind, clawed back, then failed to get a defensive stop in overtime. The Vikings advance to face an even greater test: the San Francisco 49ers.

First Brady, now Brees. The end of dynasties?

***

#5 Seattle Seahawks vs. #4 Philadelphia Eagles
A Seahawks squad that can’t seem to play a full sixty minutes versus an Eagles squad with so many injuries they’ll name a hospital after this team.

The Seahawks’ greatest issue is their defense, o-line, and consistency; Russell Wilson and the offense are clearly capable, but they can’t do everything themselves. The Seahawks need consistent efforts for the full sixty minutes, otherwise it’s a one-and-done affair.

The Eagles enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak, but the Eagles were shaky and inconsistent before that string of wins. If the Eagles can salvage what remains of their injury-plagued squad, victory is still attainable. This will be a close battle, one from which Seattle will emerge victorious – barely.

Prediction: Seahawks win, 27-24.

Result: Seahawks win, 17-9.

Comments after the game:

Solid victory by the Seahawks - their first playoff victory in three years! The Seahawks held the Eagles to a trio of field goals while Russell Wilson and the offense worked their magic. The Eagles put up a valiant effort, but there's only so much a team can endure before they no longer need a hospital but a morgue.

The Seahawks advance to face the Green Bay Packers!