TOP OF THE CLASS
First spot in the AFC for the New England Patriots as expected, but not without problems and struggles especially in their own end zone as their defense allowed 128 points in the first 4 games of the season before finding a better setup and improving a lot. This did not result in any real damage during the regular season, as they had the number two offense in the league with 458 points scored. New England, as always, is a tough opponent if you are looking to win the super bowl! The Patriots have a bye for the first round.
Spot number two was gained by the Pittsburgh Steelers and this also reflects what we expected. Their regular season was a solid one and they could have won it if not for the crazy game against the Patriots. Pittsburgh ended the regular season with very good numbers: 4th overall defense and 3rd overall offense, they have a bye at the first round too.
First spot in the NFC belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles: there were expectations for a good season for them, but their run has been exceptional! Unfortunately, they have been as unlucky with the injury of their starting quarterback Carson Wentz, with a playoff spot almost gained at that moment already; Wentz will be out for the remainder of the season. His backup Foles, proved to be good but this injury will have a big impact on the Eagles’ chances in the playoffs and, according to us, very few chances to win the super bowl now. The Eagles ended the regular season with the 5th defense and 4th offense overall, they got the bye at the first round.
Second position for the Minnesota Vikings, another huge surprise, especially for their 3rd quarterback performances (Case Keenum). The Vikings have a very solid defense (252 points allowed) and their offense is well balanced in plays both when it comes to run the ball or pass it. They have all it takes to go the distance and win it all. They ended the regular season with the best defense and the 10th best offense. Bye at the first round.
WILD CARD SITUATION
Third place in the AFC for the Jacksonville Jaguars: we did not expect this, but their regular season was amazing. Their quarterback Blake Bortles has provided very good performances and their running game has been very effective with Fournette (running back), that is one of their keys together with a strong defense which is the second best in the whole league. The Jaguars come into the playoffs with the 6th best offense in the NFL and they play the wild card first round against the sixth seed Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bills, thanks to Cincinnati’s epic win in Baltimore, have eliminated the Ravens and have been gifted this wild card chance at the very last game. Their regular season has been filled with ups and downs, pretty solid team at home while very weak on the road. The Bills’ specific numbers rank their offense 18th and their defense 15th in the league.
Making it to the playoffs will not be easy, given the tough game away in Florida; Jacksonville is a clear favorite.
At the fourth place in the AFC we find the Kansas City Chiefs, that started the regular season with five straight wins before a very poor period in the central part of the season. They managed to adjust their record with a nice ending part, record that says 10 wins and 6 losses. Their main offense plays rely on Kareem Hunt’s runs, the second best running back of the entire league. Their offense is very good, ranked 6th in the league, while their defense is surely their weakness, number 16th in the league.
The Chiefs’ wild card first matchup is with seed number 5 in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans, that played well at the beginning and in the central part of the season, but in a deep crisis in the end, which did not stop them from making it to the wild card and they now have a playoff chance. Their ending record was 9-7, similar to what we expected, while expectations on their quarterback Mariota where higher. Their offense is ranked 19th in the league, while their defense is 16th.
Kansas City is a huge favorite in this game, the Titans will need a very strong performance in order to win.
Third place in the NFC for the Los Angeles Rams and this was a big surprise, very difficult to predict. An amazing season from their quarterback Jared Goff and the league’s best running back, Gurley II. Their offense has been well combined and versatile, ranked 1th, while their defense is the 12th in the league. They will need to improve here for the post season if they want to be competitive till the end.
The Rams will play the Atlanta Falcons, which ended 6th in the NFC after losing last year’s crazy super bowl. The Falcons played a good regular season, with some ups and downs: a slow start to then improve till last week’s qualifying win against the Carolina Panthers. Their offense is led by Matt Ryan and ranked 15th in the league (wide receiver Julio Jones as the main target), while their defense is 8th.
The Los Angeles Rams have proved to be a level above during this regular season and they deserve to be favorite in this wild card game.
Fourth in the NFC were the New Orleans Saints, that managed to keep up with last season’s nice ending run: their offense has been solid both passing (Drew Brees, quarterback and Michale Thomas, wr) and running with both Ingram and the surprising both very strong rookie Kamara (runningbacks). The Saints’ offense in 4th the NFL while their defense is 10th.
New Orleans’ opponent will be Carolina. The Panthers had a good season, not really easy to predict as their previous season was awful. They will need their quarterback’s (Cam Newton) top performances in the post season to make it even further. They have to work on their offense, ranked 12th in the league, with their defense ranked 10th.
This is probably the most balanced matchup, the Saints defeated the Panthers two times in the regular season, but New Orleans’ form is probably not as good as it was. This gives Carolina fair chances, with the Saints a slight favorite here.