NFL 2021 Season Predictions
The 2021 NFL season officially kicked off this past Thursday when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. With the rest of the league starting their preseason games this upcoming weekend, let’s take a look at some regular season and playoff predictions as we sit here about a month out from Week 1.
*Teams in bold are predicted division winners
Baltimore Ravens: 11–6
It’s no secret that the Ravens have been lacking in the receiver department over the last couple seasons. Outside of tight end Mark Andrews, the team has struggled to surround superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson with adequate help on the outside. This offseason, they made sure to address that need by drafting receivers Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace, as well as snagging former Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency. On top of this, second-year back J.K. Dobbins has been given the keys to the backfield and appears ready to explode behind this talented offensive line. The defense lost a couple pieces to free agency, and the pass rush remains an issue, but this team appears primed to win one of the tougher divisions in football.
Cincinnati Bengals: 5–12
Joe Burrow enters year two of his NFL career as the quarterback of the Bengals after suffering a torn ACL and MCL in Week 11 last season. I want to be higher on the Bengals this year because I do expect Burrow to take a leap and like the other pieces on offense. However, the offensive line and defense in general have too many question marks to expect this team to rack up a lot of wins. Like last year, this team will show some flashes that excite the fanbase, however we may need to wait until the following season to see much progress in the win column.
Cleveland Browns: 10–7
You could certainly make a case that the Browns had one of the best off-seasons in the league this year. A defense that underwhelmed last season picked up key pieces to strengthen the secondary in corner Troy Hill and safety John Johnson III, as well as adding linebacker Anthony Walker and edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. The offense possesses a dynamic duo at running back in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and also gets their star receiver back in Odell Beckham Jr. after suffering a season-ending injury mid-year in 2020. This team is as talented as any in the league, however I’m still not completely sold on quarterback Baker Mayfield to lead an elite football team. The Browns will surely be a good football team this year, however I’m not ready to tout them as division winners just yet.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 8–9
The Steelers are a tough team to gauge for this upcoming season. Sure, the defense still has T.J. Watt and will likely be one of the best units in football. Also, the team addressed the running back position in the draft by taking Alabama standout Najee Harris. That being said, we can’t ignore how bad Ben Roethlisberger and this offensive line looked down the stretch of last season. The two-time Super Bowl champion looked every bit of his age at the end of last year and the offensive line simply couldn’t hold up to some of the better pass rushes in the league. Mike Tomlin is a phenomenal coach and has never had a losing season, however it will likely take a very good season from his quarterback in order for his team to be back in the playoffs this year.
Houston Texans: 3–14
No one really knows what’s going on down in Houston at the moment. Star quarterback Deshaun Watson has been dealing with legal issues throughout the offseason after asking for a trade back in February. This prompted the team to take quarterback Davis Mills in the third round of this year’s draft, a talented but raw prospect out of Stanford, as well as bringing in veteran signal-caller Tyrod Taylor. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback Week 1 for the Texans. This team stinks. The offensive line is a mess, the position players are lacking, and the front office did little to improve on a defense that ranked 30th in the league last year. This team will likely have it’s eyes set on the 2022 draft come October, if not sooner.
Indianapolis Colts: 10–7
The recent foot injury to Indy’s new quarterback Carson Wentz certainly hurts the team’s chances for 2021. However, All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson going down with the same injury in camp this year hurts even more. Both players in theory could be back around the start of the season, however that is an optimistic outlook. It could be tough sledding for the Colts to figure things out in the first few weeks without the aforementioned players, as young quarterback Jacob Eason will likely be tasked with manning the offense for at least a couple of weeks. However, this team is extremely talented on paper and is coming off of a 11–5 season in which now-retired Philip Rivers led them to a playoff berth. Expect this team to find it’s groove mid-season once the schedule softens a little bit and compete for a playoff spot once again.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 5–12
It’s a new era in Jacksonville. The team hired one of the best coaches at the college level in Urban Meyer and took Clemson standout Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the draft this year to become the new face of the franchise. On paper, this team certainly has some talent. The running back room is deep with rookie-star James Robinson and Clemson rookie Travis Etienne, and there is talent at receiver in DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Marvin Jones, Jr.. Additionally, edge rusher Josh Allen is a rising star in the league after impressing his first two seasons. However, this is too young of a team and there are too many moving parts going on to expect a great product in year 1 of the Urban Meyer regime. The Jaguars may surprise a few people this year in fielding an exciting and hungry team that will compete at times, but there’s still a long way to go down in Jacksonville.
Tennessee Titans: 10–7
The Titans have been the talk of many offseason discussions this year after pulling off a trade to bring in superstar wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones is one of the best receivers of this generation and will surely make his presence felt in this potent Tennessee offense, however I think we need to crank it down a little bit when talking about this team as title contenders. The offense was elite last year with Derrick Henry going nuclear for 2000 rushing yards and still lost in the first round of the playoffs. A year later, Henry is only getting older and the defense hardly made enough moves in the offseason to improve a putrid unit that killed them at times last year. This team likely has the pieces to win the division, however I don’t see them doing much more than that.
Denver Broncos: 9–8
The Broncos were a team that spent a good bit of this offseason with odds in the top 10 to win this year’s Super Bowl. While a large part of those lofty expectations were due to the potential of Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers coming to Denver via trade, the team is also expected to field one of the more talented teams in 2021. The defense gets edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb back from injury, as well as emerging receiver Courtland Sutton from an ACL injury. 2020 1st round pick Jerry Jeudy is also expected to take another step as a receiver in this offense. However, we can’t ignore the uncertainty at the quarterback position. To put it lightly, Drew Lock wasn’t good last year, and journeyman Teddy Bridgewater also failed to impress much in Carolina. That being said, if one of these guys is able to separate from the other during camp and play at a decent level this year, the Broncos could be a tough out and could surprise some people out in the AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs: 13–4
Most teams would be quite happy with the season the Kansas City Chiefs had last season. After all, they went 14–2 in the regular season and made it to the Super Bowl before losing to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs. However, the Chiefs aren’t too interested in just making it to the Super Bowl. Kansas City is in it to win it right now and this offseason, and they addressed their needs like a team that’s focused on doing just that. The team added Pro Bowl tackle in Orlando Brown via trade and also signed guard Joe Thuney to bolster their offensive line, the only clear weakness for the team at the end of last season. Though I technically have the Chiefs winning one less game than last season, even with one extra game on the schedule, I expect this team to look better than last year’s at times and dominate this division and the rest of the AFC.
Las Vegas Raiders: 7–10
I genuinely have no idea what the Las Vegas Raiders are doing right now. They have a better-than-average quarterback in Derek Carr, and a couple solid weapons in Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller, however this team just seems to always be taking one step forward and two steps back. The team shockingly traded Gabe Jackson to the Seattle Seahawks for draft capital, while also once again not having a great draft. They selected OL Alex Leatherwood in the first round in what many called a reach. Who knows, maybe some of these recent disappointments in the draft end up being good players and can contribute to a winning football team out in Sin City. But as of now, expect the Raiders to be more of the same team as last year, if not worse.
Los Angeles Chargers: 9–8
It is year one for new head coach Brandon Staley and year two for franchise quarterback Justin Herbert in LA. Herbert was everything the Chargers could have hoped for last season in breaking rookie passing records and making unbelievable plays with both his arm and legs. I expect him to look even better this year. Also, the offense got better around Herbert with the addition of offensive lineman Corey Linsley and hopefully a full season of running back Austin Ekeler. Additionally, the defense is once again healthy with Derwin James rejoining defensive end Joey Bosa as the leaders of the unit. This division is tough, and a playoff berth may be too much to ask, but the Chargers should be one of the better football teams in 2021.
Buffalo Bills: 12–5
The Bills enjoyed their best season in a long time last year when they won 13 games. Josh Allen erupted in his third year, throwing for 37 touchdowns and leading the league’s 2nd-ranked offense. The defense is looking to improve on an average season last year, as second-year defensive end AJ Epenesa and rookie Carlos Basham Jr. are expected to be a big part of the pass rushing unit. Buffalo figures to be a more complete team this season and should be in line for another AFC East title.
Miami Dolphins: 8–9
The Miami Dolphins were one of the biggest surprises of the NFL last year, reeling off 10 wins and nearly making the playoffs despite mostly subpar quarterback play from rookie Tua Tagovailoa and journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is now in Washington, so Tua will now be given the keys to the offense and should improve on last season. This should point to the Dolphins being just as good this year, if not better, than last season. However, this team was a little flukey last year in my opinion. The defense, which was paraded by many and finished up 6th in scoring, was actually the 20th-ranked unit by yards and got absolutely eviscerated a couple times late in the season. On top of this, the backfield doesn’t really have a proven ball-carrier to take the pressure off of Tua, despite decent contributions from Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed last year. The Dolphins are certainly a team on the rise and could have their franchise quarterback in Tua, but I expect this team to take a slight step back before truly becoming a playoff team.
New England Patriots: 11–6
The New England Patriots did not enjoy a great season last year in year one without former quarterback Tom Brady. Many starters on defense opted out before the season started due to COVID concerns and QB Cam Newton dealt with some COVID issues of his own, coming down with the virus in the middle of the season and struggling to get in a rhythm after his return. This season, Newton gets a full offseason with the team and the defense returns many of its starters from a unit that was first in the league in 2019. 1st round draft choice Mac Jones likely won’t start for the team early on in the season, but is expected to be ready should his name be called at some point. New England has a pretty favorable schedule that has them hosting many of the tougher teams on their schedules. This, combined with the return of some key players and hopefully more continuity altogether on the team, should allow the Patriots to return back to the playoffs.
New York Jets: 4–13
The New York Jets decided to completely retool their football team this offseason, getting rid of HC Adam Gase and starting QB Sam Darnold and replacing them with Robert Saleh as the new play-caller and Zach Wilson as the franchise quarterback. Saleh is a player’s coach who should bring a defensive mindset to a young team with many talented players on that side of the ball. Wilson, on the other hand, possesses elite arm talent and will be given every chance in his rookie season to show that he was the right pick at number two in this year’s draft. That being said, this likely won’t be a good team this season. The offensive line has potential but is currently still a mess, the offense lacks proven players, and the defense is still too young and simply not good in some areas. Jets fans should be excited for their new head coach and quarterback, but it’s gonna take time.
Chicago Bears: 6–11
Most Bears fans likely can’t wait to see new franchise quarterback Justin Fields get out on the field. Fields was electric at Ohio State and showed the ability to make a huge impact as a dual-threat quarterback. However, the team has said that veteran Andy Dalton will be their guy Week 1, so that’s what we’re going with for now. With Dalton at the helm, this Bears’ offense doesn’t inspire much hope. The defense also has seemingly taken a few steps back over the last couple of seasons after seeing guys leave elsewhere in free agency and failing to adequately replace them. Combine that with a tough schedule, and the Bears likely won’t be competing for a division title in 2021.
Detroit Lions: 5–12
The Dan Campbell era in Detroit will begin this season as he takes over the team as the new head coach. Matthew Stafford is gone and Jared Goff will come in to try and lead a young offense. Campbell is your classic “football guy” and will likely bring a new energy to this team that hasn’t been there in previous seasons with former coaches. The team drafted tackle Penei Sewell out of Oregon this year to bolster what was already one of the better units in the league. I expect this offense to be better than many expect this season, however there are too many holes on the defensive side to expect a lot of success in year one of the new regime.
Green Bay Packers: 11–6
All is well and back to normal up in Titletown. Or at least, so it seems. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers ended his very publicized rift with the team a couple weeks ago when he finally reported to training camp amid trade rumors. He will be the starting quarterback Week 1 for the team and should lead one of the top offenses in football once again this season. The team re-signed star runningback Aaron Jones and still have elite receiver Davante Adams on the outside. However, the team did lose All-Pro center Corey Linsley to free agency this year, which is kind of a big deal. They did address one of their weaknesses on defense last year by taking corner Eric Stokes in the first round of the draft. This team should once again be one of the best in the league this season and should be expected to win the NFC North title and contend for a Super Bowl once again in what could be Rodger’s last ride in Green Bay.
Minnesota Vikings: 9–8
The Vikings had a disappointing season last year. The offense, led by rock-solid quarterback Kirk Cousins and superstar runningback Dalvin Cook, was one of the best units in the league last year. Rookie sensation Justin Jefferson also emerged as one of the best receivers in the league already. However, the defense was a massive disappointment last season. The pass rush failed to generate any type of consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the unit as a whole simply failed to make plays when it mattered most in many games. This team is a solid one on paper, however, and should be able to perform as such this season as they try to get back into the playoffs.
Atlanta Falcons: 4–13
Some people seem to think that the Falcons got better this offseason and could be a dark-horse contender for a playoff spot. I am not one of those people. In fact, I think the Falcons got worse. The offense added Florida tight end Kyle Pitts in the draft, but also lost Julio Jones and Todd Gurley to trade and free agency, respectively. Mike Davis is slated to be the started running back, which shouldn’t inspire much hope for anyone expecting a better ground game than last season. Additionally, the defense, which ranked in the bottom five in yards per game last season, did hardly anything to address any of their issues. They do have a new head coach in former Titans OC Arthur Smith, so maybe he can steer the ship in the right direction for Atlanta. My guess is that this is one of the worst teams in the NFC next year.
Carolina Panthers: 10–7
The Panthers were a scrappy bunch last year, staying competitive throughout the season despite winning only 5 games. The team only had Christian McCaffrey for 3 games last year after the star running back missed time with ankle and shoulder injuries. Additionally, Teddy Bridgewater was 0–8 on game-winning drives last year as the team’s quarterback. Carolina decided to move on from Bridgewater this offseason in dealing him to Denver and bringing in Sam Darnold from New York. Darnold has largely disappointed so far in his NFL career but should benefit from a much better supporting cast and coaching staff in Carolina. On the defensive side, the Panthers were middle of the pack in both scoring and yards but have some really talented young pieces in Brian Burns, Derrick Brown and Jeremy Chinn. They also added corner Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina with the 8th pick in the draft. I expect this team to surprise a lot of people this year with a favorable schedule and could find themselves squarely in the playoff picture come December.
New Orleans Saints: 9–8
The Saints will no longer have Drew Brees running the offense this year, as the future Hall of Famer announced his retirement from football earlier this offseason. The team now has Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill as their options at the game’s most important position, with early signs pointing to Winston being the starter Week 1. The team still has a good offensive line and an excellent do-it-all running back in Alvin Kamara. However, the receiving corps will be without star wideout Michael Thomas for at least part of the season, as Thomas opted for surgery that will cause him to miss a few weeks. The defense should once again be very good, though they did lose edge rusher Trey Hendrickson to free agency. The Saints have too much talent and are too well-coached to be a bad team, regardless of who’s at quarterback. However, it will likely be a struggle to get to the playoffs unless Hill or Winston is better than expected.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11–6
Tom Brady and the Bucs will look to repeat as Super Bowl champions this season after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs last year to take home the hardware. The team is off to a good start in doing that, bringing back every starter from last year’s team on both sides of the ball. However, I don’t expect Tampa Bay to completely run away with the division this year. They needed a relatively soft stretch of opponents last year to really get going before the playoffs and will have a target on their back this year that they didn’t have last season. Also, we can’t really expect Tom Brady to be great again this year, can we? Sarcastic question aside, I do think the Bucs will take their fair share of body blows this season while still winning the division.
Dallas Cowboys: 10–7
America’s Team gets back their franchise quarterback back from injury in Dak Prescott, who signed a new deal this offseason that pays him over $40 million a year. The team also gets back a couple key contributors on the offensive line, which should help Ezekiel Elliot rebound from an off-season by his standards. The defense also should be expected to better under the supervision of new DC Dan Quinn, as they drafted a playmaker in linebacker Micah Parsons who should be all over the field in his rookie season. This team is the most talented in the division and has the best quarterback. They should win the division as long as there are no injuries or unexpected duds from their star players.
New York Giants: 9–8
It’s a crucial season for third-year Daniel Jones, who has shown flashes so far in his young career but will need to do more to earn the trust of the Giants’ front office and get this team to the playoffs. The team did all they could this offseason to provide Jones with the pieces to succeed, signing receiver Kenny Golladay from Detroit and drafting gadget receiver Kadarius Toney out of Florida in the first round. Along with the return of runningback Saquon Barkley, this offense should be much improved from last season. The NY defense was actually a very good unit last season and made some additions with free agent corner Adoree Jackson and edge rusher Azeez Olujari out of Georgia. The roster has the makings of a playoff team, and I expect the Giants to compete for a division title and playoff spot in 2021.
Philadelphia Eagles: 7–10
The Eagles officially moved on from Carson Wentz this offseason when they dealt him to the Colts for draft capital. That means the team is Jalen Hurts’ for now, who was tasked to play in the second half of last year and played quite well at times. That being said, Hurts will need to be better in the pocket as a passer if this team wants to win games. He struggled to find receivers at times last year and looked overwhelmed in some spots. The defense is also not very good, looking very leaky at times last year and not doing much in the offseason to address areas of need. If Jalen Hurts is exceptional this year and the defense manages to play solid, Philly should compete for a division title. That seems to be a little too generous of an outlook in my opinion, however, and the Eagles will likely finish in the bottom half of the division.
Washington Football Team: 7–10
Washington is another team that has been getting quite a bit of buzz this offseason. The defense was elite last year under the leadership of HC Ron Rivera, and the Football Team managed to win a division title and stayed competitive in their playoff game against eventual champion Tampa Bay. However, I’m not sold on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick coming in and taking the team to the next level. The Harvard man has struggled at every stop he’s been at in the league when given the starting job out of the gate, and has also never made the playoffs. Though I don’t necessarily expect Washington to be worse than last year, I don’t expect them to be much better than either, which they will need to be in order to catch Dallas in the division standings.
Arizona Cardinals: 8–9
Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals were an exciting team to watch last year, as the second-year QB proved to be extremely dynamic in leading the team to a 6–3 start. Then the wheels came off. Murray dealt with nagging injuries towards the end of last season and the offense stalled as a result. The defense, though a solid unit, wasn’t good enough to win them games when the offense wasn’t humming. Murray should be fully healthy at the start of the season and the team did get solid veteran additions on both sides of the ball in J.J. Watt and A.J. Green. However, I still think this team is the worst in the division, which isn’t necessarily an insult. The Cardinals are probably still a year or two out from returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Los Angeles Rams: 12–5
The Rams made a quarterback swap this offseason when they sent Jared Goff and a first-round pick over to Detroit in exchange for gunslinger Matt Stafford. Stafford has a rocket arm and is believed to be the guy who is capable of fully unlocking Sean McVay’s offense. The team did lose running back Cam Akers to a torn achilles in camp, however Darrell Henderson is more than capable of shouldering the load in the backfield and they may end up making a move for another back. Not much needs to be said of the Rams’ defense, which was by far the best unit in the league last year and should be once again with stars Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. I expect the Rams to win the NFC West this year and be serious championship contenders.
San Francisco 49ers: 10–7
San Francisco had a disappointing season last year, being without QB Jimmy Garoppolo for a handful of games and also not having many contributors on the defensive end. The team decided they weren’t comfortable with Jimmy G’s injury history and proceeded to move up in the draft to take North Dakota State QB Trey Lance at number three overall. Lance is not expected to start the season as the QB1, however this team should be a good one in 2021 regardless of who’s calling the shots. The defense should be an elite unit once again this year with Nick Bosa back and the offense has enough weapons to likely get the team to double-digit wins.
Seattle Seahawks: 11–6
Russell Wilson is still in Seattle after a tension-filled offseason saw the franchise QB’s name thrown around in trade talks. The offense added help for Wilson in guard Gabe Jackson and new tight end Gerald Everett from the division rival Rams. The defense will likely need to be better this season in order to make a deeper run in the playoffs, as they were largely disappointing at times last season despite playing much better at the end of the year. Russell Wilson will keep the offense humming and this team should be back in the playoffs, but it’s the play of the defense that will determine if this Seahawks squad is a true title contender.
Wild-Card Round Predictions
(2) Green Bay Packers 31 over (7) Carolina Panthers 23
The Panthers will travel to Lambeau Field in the wild-card round after a surprise playoff berth to play Aaron Rodgers and a Packers squad with their eyes on the Super Bowl. The Panthers actually played in Lambeau last December and kept it close despite them not playing for much other than pride at that point of the year. They will have something to play for this time around, but Aaron Rodgers and that offense will be too much for the young Panthers squad.
(6) San Francisco 49ers 24 over (3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
The 49ers will travel to Tampa after Trey Lance leads the team back to the playoffs after missing out last season. I expect the Buccaneers and Tom Brady to be more fatigued come playoff time this year, as the team won’t have the luxury of a light schedule before the playoffs like last year. I think the San Francisco D eventually wears down on Brady in this one and the 49ers walk out of there with an upset victory.
(4) Dallas Cowboys 28 over (5) Seattle Seahawks 27
This game will be a rematch of the 2018 divisional round game in which Dak Prescott and the Cowboys took down Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in a close game. I think Dallas will once again be ready to go in round two, as I expect this Cowboys’ offense to be clicking come playoff time and the defense to also settle in with DC Dan Quinn. Wilson will do what he can in this one with some late-game heroics, but the Seahawks will once again be leaving the playoffs in the first round.
(2) Buffalo Bills 31 over (7) Indianapolis Colts 20
The Bills will once again host the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs, as they defeated the Colts last year behind the play of Josh Allen and the defense. I expect a similar result this year. The Bills are simply a better team than the Colts and its a tall order asking the Colts to go into Orchard Park and win a playoff game in a hostile environment. Bills should advance relatively easily in this one.
(3) Baltimore Ravens 24 over (6) Cleveland Browns 21
The Ravens and Browns both return to the playoffs this season out of the AFC North and square off against each other in the opening round. Lamar Jackson will be making his 4th playoff appearance as the starting quarterback for Baltimore, while Baker Mayfield makes his second appearance with the Browns. While the Browns did make some good additions and arguably are now more talented than the Ravens, I have a hard time seeing them win a road playoff game in Baltimore. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ rushing attack will prove to be too much late in this one and Baltimore will end up returning to the divisional round for the second straight year.
(5) New England Patriots 27 over (4) Tennessee Titans 23
This matchup has the makings of a revenge game for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. New England lost their last playoff game (also Tom Brady’s last game on the team) to the Titans in Foxborough after being outplayed and out-coached by Derrick Henry and Mike Vrabel. If there’s one guy you don’t want motivated to avenge a playoff loss against you, its Bill Belichick. I expect the team to pull out all the stops necessary to slow down Derrick Henry and Tennessee’s prolific offense and get enough from the offense and Cam Newton to move on.
Divisional Round Predictions
(1) Los Angeles Rams 24 over (6) San Francisco 49ers 17
This matchup just screams grind-it-out, ugly, smashmouth football game. Two division rivals with excellent defenses will square off in the divisional round to determine who will be playing in the conference championship. Trey Lance will likely play his toughest game as a pro going against this Rams’ defense on the road in the playoffs. With two new quarterbacks for these squads, it’s hard to determine who will be better prepared for this game. My guess is Matt Stafford and the defense make enough plays to get Stafford his first playoff win and the Rams into the conference championship.
(2) Green Bay Packers 34 over (4) Dallas Cowboys 30
Green Bay and Dallas square off in this matchup, as Dak Prescott looks to advance to the NFC Championship for the first time in his career, while Aaron Rodgers looks to get back there for the third consecutive year to settle unfinished business. This should be a very exciting game, as both offenses should be in full swing at this point and score a lot of points. At the end of the day though, I have to side with the home team and better quarterback in the Packers and Aaron Rodgers this year. Rodgers will make the necessary plays at the end of the game to ensure his team’s Super Bowl hopes stay alive.
(1) Kansas City Chiefs 28 over (6) New England Patriots 20
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will face off in this matchup against the only AFC team that Mahomes has lost to in the playoffs in his career. This time around, the Chiefs will come in as the clear better team and one that has their sights set on getting back to the Super Bowl. The Patriots are always a tough out in the playoffs, and QB Cam Newton has plenty of experience playing in big games. I just don’t see the Chiefs losing in their playoff debut this season though. Expect the game to be close in the beginning but Mahomes and the Chiefs to pull away late.
(3) Baltimore Ravens 30 over (2) Buffalo Bills 27
This is another rematch for the Bills from last year’s playoffs, as they will host the Ravens once again after defeating them last season. The turning point in last year’s game was a pick-six by Lamar Jackson near the goal-line that took the life out of the Baltimore squad. I expect Jackson and the Ravens to be up for the challenge this time around. Their defense should be playing at a higher level than Buffalo’s at this point in the season and the offense should be more two-dimensional this year, allowing the team to move the ball when necessary late. Ravens escape Buffalo with a win in a nail-biter.
Conference Championship Predictions
NFC Championship: (2) Green Bay Packers 23 over (1) Los Angeles Rams 20
The Packers will travel to the Rams for the conference championship in what will be another playoff rematch from last year. This time around, however, they will be facing a more formidable quarterback in familiar face, Matt Stafford. The Rams defense will be the biggest test for the Packers yet in the playoffs and they will likely need a phenomenal performance from Aaron Rodgers in order to leave LA with a win. However, if there’s a guy who’s capable of a great performance against one of the NFL’s best defenses, its a motivated Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay gets over the hump for the first time since the 2010 season and returns to the Super Bowl for one last shot at a championship with Rodgers.
AFC Championship: (1) Kansas City Chiefs 34 over (3) Baltimore Ravens 27
The Kansas City Chiefs have been the kryptonite for Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens over the last couple seasons. Despite nearly winning 80% of his games as a starter, Jackson has yet to defeat Mahomes in a football game. This should be a good game, as both teams should be riding high off of the performances of their quarterbacks coming in. Baltimore has the edge on defense while Kansas City has the edge on offense. Both have great coaches that are experienced in the playoffs and have won championships. However, this really isn’t a super tough choice. The Kansas City Chiefs and the better quarterback in Patrick Mahomes should win this game and return to their third straight Super Bowl.
Super Bowl LVI: (2) Green Bay Packers 38 over (1) Kansas City Chiefs 35
This is the matchup that most fans should want to see. The two best quarterbacks in the game squaring off against each other in the biggest spectacle in sports. Both quarterbacks will be looking to win their second ring, as the young superstar Mahomes looks to continue building his legacy while veteran Rodgers looks to cement his. There should be plenty of offense in this one, and both quarterbacks have shown the ability to make plays at the end of games to give their team the edge. This game is extremely tough to pick and may as well be decided by a coin-flip. Ultimately, I’m going to go with what I think is going to happen and what I want to happen. The Packers will defeat the Chiefs with a last-minute touchdown drive orchestrated by Rodgers that gives him his second ring and allows for a fairytale ending for his career in Green Bay.