Welcome to the playoffs!
The NFL season was a lot of fun, but now the playing field is down to 12 teams, and this is where it gets really good. We’ll see the defending Super Bowl champions and a 2018 NFC runner up, as well as three teams who made the postseason in 2017 but missed them last season. QBs young and old, defenses elite and porous, and a lot of compelling storylines.
Can the Patriots win again? Can Drew Brees and the Saints climb to their second Super Bowl? Can the Titans upset the Patriots? How will Carson Wentz fare in his first postseason start?
It should be good stuff, and Fredy and Nick make some predictions!
Saturday, January 4
(5) Buffalo Bills vs. (4) Houston Texans, 4:35 PM
I’m deadlocked on this one. The Bills defense is elite but they lost to the Patriots, who struggled mightily up until that point in the second half of the season. But it’s all about match ups. Their defense might be just enough to stop a struggling Watson. His last three games he’s had three TDs, five INTs, and two fumbles. No bueno. The Bills will figure out a way to tear through this disappointing defense.
This could got either way, but I think the Bills have the defense to contain the Texans, and Houston hasn’t had a great game since beating the Patriots. They were able to beat Tennessee in Week 15, but as Fredy said, Watson has not been on top of his game. J.J. Watt being back could be a game-changer for Houston’s run defense, but I still feel more confident in Buffalo.
(6) Tennessee Titans vs. (3) New England Patriots, 8:15 PM
I’ve got the Titans stealing this one from the Patriots. As much as I bleed Patriots colors, I can’t get over how bad the defense looked against the Dolphins. Not just the defense, but offense, and coaching too.
Not to mention, Vrabel knows Tom and Bill pretty well. He’s coached up his Titans team all the way to the playoffs when it seemed improbable just a month ago. And he’s even turned Ryan Tannehill into a legit threat… oh my god I almost had a heart attack writing that.
With the Patriots struggling against the run this year, and the Titans having the leagues leading rusher (Derrick Henry), I can see them struggling the entire game to get the defense off the field.
Nick: New England
This one is tough for me. It might be my fandom getting in the way, and trust me, as someone who has been speaking highly of the Titans for two months, I know what they can do… but I’m going with the Patriots. Believe it or not, the Patriots offense has made progress towards the end of the season. No, they are not dominant, but they are developing a run game, and I don’t believe you can expect Brady to put them in a bad spot with turnovers like he did last week. I’m worried about the seconday with the injuries of Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty, but trust the unit as a whole, plus they have a tremendous special teams unit.
The Titans have a great running game with Derrick Henry, and Ryan Tannehill has been on fire, but are just 1-2 when he attempts more than 30 passes in a game. If the Patriots can figure out a way to limit Derrick Henry and make Tannehill beat them, maybe there is a path to victory, but it would involve a turnaround with the running defense of the Patriots.
I still trust Brady and Belichick at home in this moment, even though Vrabel is a great coach, and former member of the team. Even if the Pats lose, this won’t be their last game together.
Sunday, January 5
(6) Minnesota Vikings vs. (3) New Orleans Saints, 1:05 PM
Fredy: New Orleans
This game would have been great with Keenum still around but Kirk Cousins is a dud and they aren’t the same as they were two years ago. Plus, Michael Thomas and Kamara will be enough to carry Brees through in the dome.
Nick: New Orleans
I can’t see the Saints losing this game, mainly because it’s in the Superdome. The Vikings always leave you wanting more, and I think they’re a talented team (and will have major pieces for this match), I just don’t trust Cousins in this moment.
(5) Seattle Seahawks vs. (4) Philadelphia Eagles, 4:40 PM
Seattle almost beat the 49ers again this past Sunday but again, crapped their pants at the goal line because screw giving it to Marshawn Lynch (who already had a TD earlier in the game). Philly is a nice story but half their offense and defense are on IR and won’t return til next season. Nonetheless, great coaching job by Doug Pederson. I think Seattle’s offense will be a little too much for the Eagles while the Eagles offense won’t be nearly effective enough to keep up.
There’s something weird about the perceived crappy division winner in this spot, and I think Philly could pull the upset. Seattle has seen it’s running game take a hit, and Russell Wilson has lost his MVP charm during the second half of the season. Philly played them close in November, and if Seattle plays that close to the fire (as they have all season), I’m worried they can’t pull of another close win. Screw the injuries, go Eagles.