After one of the more bizarre football seasons we have experienced in recent memory, the 2020 campaign is behind us, and the 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs have arrived. It is time to watch 14 teams enter the postseason with the hope of taking home a Lombardi Trophy.
This is what the players live for. This is why the players put in countless hours of hard work, all to fulfill their lifelong dream of becoming a Super Bowl champion.
So what should we be expecting between now and Super Bowl 55? Will a No.5 seed go on a run? Will the two teams that earned a first-round bye make it to the Super Bowl? It’s anyone’s guess, but I’m going to do my best to predict what the future holds.
Here is the final seeding for the 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs.
No. 1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs (first-round bye and home-field advantage)
No. 2 seed: Buffalo Bills
No. 3 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 4 seed: Tennessee Titans
No. 5 seed: Baltimore Ravens
No. 6 seed: Cleveland Browns
No. 7 seed: Indianapolis Colts
No. 1 seed: Green Bay Packers (first-round bye and home-field advantage)
No. 2 seed: New Orleans Saints
No. 3 seed: Seattle Seahawks
No. 4 seed: Washington Football Team
No. 5 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 6 seed: Los Angeles Rams
No. 7 seed: Chicago Bears
The first thing that might stand out is the entirely new playoff format. There’s now a No. 7 seed to play for in each conference. There’s also only one bye in each conference instead of the two we are accustomed to. The Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs both finished the regular season with the best record in their respected conference earning them a first-round bye, as well as home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Washington Football Team won the NFC East with a 7-9 record, and Tom Brady led the Buccaneers to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Let’s take a look at my predictions for Wild Card weekend.
AFC Wild Card: Indianapolis Colts (7) at Buffalo Bills (2)
Right now, the Bills are arguably the hottest team in the NFL. After seeing the Patriots win the AFC East 17 out of the last 20 years, the Bills finally broke through. The Bills are entering the playoffs as division champions for the first time since 1995. They’ve been rolling through the final week of the season, relying on Josh Allen’s MVP like play and a strong defense.
In the last three games, the Bills put up 56 points in week 17, 38 points in week 16, 48 points in week 15. Stefon Diggs was electric during the regular season with 127 receptions and 1,535 yards. I see that trend continuing into the playoffs.
As for the Colts, I think Philip Rivers is going to keep his team in this game, but it may be too much to ask. In week 17, the one-win Jaguars were able to throw on this Colts defense. In fact, Mike Glennon threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns. While the Colts run defense has been good, they have allowed opponents to throw for over 300 yards four times in the past five games.
Prediction: Bills win 28-24
AFC Wild Card: Cleveland Browns (6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3)
The Steelers were one of the best teams during the regular season all year long. However, this is a team that since starting 11-0, finished the season off 1-4 and slid down to the third seed.
Now they’re set to host a Browns team that has not been to the playoffs since 2002 but have quietly been outstanding all year long, even with some of their top playmakers missing.
One of my questions regarding this game is which Ben Roethlisberger shows up? Are his recent struggles due to his age? Will he flip a switch in the playoffs and look like the two-time super bowl champion again? There is no denying that the Steelers have the weapons on offense. Between JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson, if this offense is clicking, they should be able to score 30 points. The problem is, the Pittsburgh defense hasn’t been as dominant.
For the Browns, well, Covid-19 is causing issues at the worst possible time. Head coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive along with two other coaches and two players. The Browns announced that special teams coach Mike Priefer will serve as the acting head coach while Stefanski is away from the team.
This game originally felt like a shootout, and I was leaning towards the Brown’s pulling off the upset, but now with Cleveland’s facilities being closed once again, and losing their head coach, suddenly this feels like a lower scoring game.
Prediction: Steelers win 20-16
AFC Wild Card: Baltimore Ravens (5) at Tennessee Titans (4)
The Titans finished the regular season with an 11-5 record. They pulled off a last-second win in Week 17 to clinch the AFC South thanks to a tie-breaker with the Colts. Now the Titans will host the Ravens at home Wild Card weekend as opposed to having to travel and play on the road.
Speaking of the Ravens, they are feeling good after closing out the season on a five-game winning streak.
Back in November when these two teams played each other, the Titans won a thriller in OT 30-24. Derrick Henry ran for 133 yards and a touchdown and Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes. I just think in a do or die playoff game in which both teams are giving it their all, I like the Titans offense to outduel the Ravens offense.
Prediction: Titans win 31-30
NFC Wild Card: Chicago Bears (7) at New Orleans Saints (2)
On paper, this should be a double digit win for the Saints. New Orleans has the superior offense and defense, so they should be able to win. The Saints finished 12-4 even without key players for parts of the season like Drew Brees and Michael Thomas.
These two teams did play each other during the regular season, in fact, it took a game-winning kick in overtime for the Saints to pull out the win. I think a big difference in this upcoming playoff game is the fact it will be played at the Superdome, where that November regular-season matchup was in Chicago.
As for the Bears, Nick Foles was the starting quarterback when these teams last played, but Mitch Trubisky will be the starting quarterback Wild Card Weekend. Trubisky is inconsistent but has been playing better as of late. Can he play well enough to outduel Brees? I don’t think so. The Bears defense might keep this game close for a while, but ultimately I expect the Saints offense to be too much, especially if Alvin Kamara and Thomas are playing.
Prediction: Saints win 27-20
NFC Wild Card: Los Angeles Rams (6) at Seattle Seahawks (3)
This game had so much potential to be an epic playoff battle of the NFC West. Things changed, however, once Jared Goff went down with a fractured and dislocated thumb. It is unknown whether or not Goff will be able to suit up and play, but if he’s unable to get on the field, John Wolford will be making his first career playoff start.
As for the Seahawks, well they are feeling good with MVP candidate Russell Wilson, along with that prolific offense. These two teams split the season series, in fact, both teams won at home. The only issue I see Wilson having is if Aaron Donald can create havoc. The Rams also have an excellent secondary. I think the Los Angeles defense will keep this game close, but eventually, the Rams pull away.
Prediction: Rams win 27-23
NFC Wild Card: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) at Washington Football Team (4)
This matchup is the battle of resiliency. For the Washington Football Team, head coach Ron Rivera was diagnosed with cancer and amazingly did not miss a single game throughout his seven weeks of treatments. Secondly, Rivera’s quarterback, Alex Smith, suffered one of the worst NFL injuries in recent memory when he suffered a spiral and compound fracture of the right tibia and fibula. The craziest thing of all? Both Rivera and Smith will be full participants in this game.
As for the Buccaneers, well they have a guy named Tom Brady, who at age 43, is still playing at a high level. Quarterbacks at Brady’s age are not supposed to throw 40 touchdown passes, and they are certainly not expected to be leading a team to the playoffs.
Antonio Gibson is a good running back but Tampa Bay is one of the better teams at stopping the run. I know Logan Thomas has turned himself into one of the better tight ends in football and Terry McLaurin just hauled in 1,118 yards, but as good as this team’s story is, I think it comes to an end.
I like the Buccaneers in this game. It’s just really hard to bet against the greatest quarterback of all time. There is also a good chance Mike Evans suits up and plays after an MRI confirmed he had no structural damage. At the end of the day, that Tampa Bay offense will be too much.
Prediction: Buccaneers win 24-16
–Kevin Tame, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @kevin_tame