NFL Playoff Preview


Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

Divisional Round:

Dallas Cowboys 27 vs. Green Bay Packers 34

The Packers have been dealing. Winners of seven games in a row, the squad is coming off of an annihilation of their playoff rival, the New York Giants. Although the Cowboys have been one of the best teams in the league all year, the postseason is an entirely different competition. With the offense led by two rookies in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the veteran Packers team should have the edge in experience and poise. The two teams squared off earlier in the season at Lambeau Field, where the Cowboys cruised to a 30-16 victory behind Elliott’s 157 rush yards. But Clay Matthews was extremely hobbled, and the Packers had a non-existent run game at the time. With Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams breaking out late in the year, a prolific Packers offense and a healthy defense will propel them to victory.

Atlanta Falcons 28 vs Seattle Seahawks 24

Though the Seahawks are a strong team, and already have a playoff win, the Falcons have just been too strong on the offensive side of the ball for the Seahawks to handle. Quarterback Matt Ryan is an MVP candidate because he has managed to consistently stay ahead of the pack in passing yards throughout the entire season, and his near-perfect chemistry with receiver Julio Jones has allowed the pair to be one of the most dangerous duos for any defense to handle. Seattle cornerbacks might give Jones some trouble, but he will able to find his stride.

New England Patriots 35 vs. Houston Texans 6

The Patriots have already proven that they can tear through the Texans imposing defense, when they beat them in Week 3 of the season 27-0. This was also without Tom Brady, who has put up some of the best numbers of his career, with the best regular season touchdown to interception ratio in NFL history. Combine that with Brady’s exceptional postseason track record, the Patriots’ coaching staff being able to stay flexible with play-calling no matter who is on their roster, and the Patriots’ defense leading the league in least points allowed per game, and this Patriots squad will simply prove too much for the Texans to handle.

Steelers 23 vs. Chiefs 20

Although one of the winningest regular season coaches in NFL history, Andy Reid has been disappointing in the postseason, recording an 11-11 record during his time with the Eagles and the Chiefs. This trend will continue when the Steelers roll into Arrowhead for the divisional round. Alex Smith has shown his struggles in the fourth quarter, and the Chiefs defense is not what it was in weeks 10-14. With middle linebacker Derrick Johnson on IR and sack specialist Justin Houston banged up, Le’veon Bell and the Steelers ground game should be able to feast on the Chiefs’ 26th ranked run defense. The two teams met earlier this year, when Pittsburgh annihilated Kansas City 43-18 in week 4. This game won’t nearly be as one-sided, but look for Pittsburgh to grind out a victory and force a matchup with New England.

Conference Championship:

Atlanta Falcons 35 vs. Green Bay Packers 31

Matt Ryan and the Falcons have been notoriously bad in the playoffs, but this Falcons team is ready to change that. Although Aaron Rodgers has had an extremely impressive run in the past few games, the Falcons managed to beat them back in October, albeit in a one-point nail-biter. Recently, Matt Ryan’s consistency has been just as impressive as Rodgers’ hot streak, and Rodgers might not be able to keep up with Atlanta’s high-scoring offense.

New England Patriots 23 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Just like the Texans, the Steelers won’t have the resilience to overcome Bill Belichick’s disciplined Patriots squad. Though both teams are powerful offensive forces, the Patriots simply have the Steelers outgunned. In addition, Brady has been dominant at home in the playoffs, winning 15 out of 18 games at Gillette Stadium since 2001. While Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown pose a significant threat, the Patriots had one of the best defenses in the league, giving up the fewest points per game this season.

Super Bowl:

New England 29 vs. Falcons 23

After a long season of drama with the NFL and constantly shifting rosters due to contracts and injury, the Patriots have established themselves as the league’s dominant team. Despite missing the first four games of season, and being 39, Tom Brady has put up some of the best numbers of his career. This year, the Patriots are just too good for any other playoff team to handle. Look for Brady and Belichick to combine for their fifth Super Bowl victory.