2018 NFL Playoff Preview: Team Previews, Schedule & Postseason Predictions
After one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory, the NFL regular season has finally come to a close and we’re firmly entrenched in the awesomeness that is playoff football.
This year’s playoffs will continue to be a must-watch event, with a fantastic mix of up-and-coming untested playoff teams and established threats as both of last year’s Super Bowl teams have qualified for the Divisional round.
If the Wild Card round was any indicator, we should be in for some fireworks over the next month as two out of the first four playoff games featured significant upsets. The Tennessee Titans were able to vanquish the Kansas City Chiefs despite trailing by 18 points at halftime, while the Atlanta Falcons went on the road to Los Angeles and easily beat the Rams.
In honor of the postseason finally getting underway, we’ve put together a preview that includes blurbs about each team (with their odds to win the Superbowl), a schedule, and predictions for you to peruse. Let’s get into it! (Betting odds courtesy of sportsbook.ag)
This Year’s NFL Playoff Participants
The Favorites: New England Patriots (+200), Minnesota Vikings (+340)
Unsurprisingly, the New England Patriots are the odds-on favorite to win Super Bowl LII according to bookmakers. After their dramatic 25-point comeback victory in last year’s big game, Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have the Patriots raring to go after winning 13 out of their 16 regular season games. However, it’s unlikely that these playoffs will be a cakewalk for New England as their quarterback play has been less-than-stellar over the past month and they will be without two of their key players (Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower) due to season-ending injuries suffered early in the year.
Perhaps one of the most surprising teams of the 2017 NFL Season, the Minnesota Vikings are considered to be the favorite to win out of the NFC. After their starting quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a knee injury in Week 2, career journeyman Case Keenum led the Vikes to a 12-2 record, securing them the two seed in the NFC. Led by perhaps the best defense in the league, Minnesota is back in the playoffs for just the second time in five years and are looking to secure the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
NFL Playoffs: The Significant Threats
Pittsburgh Steelers (+450), New Orleans Saints (+600), Atlanta Falcons (+750), Philadelphia Eagles (+1500)
The second-tier of playoff threats include the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a trio of NFC teams in the Saints, Falcons, and Eagles.
A seemingly perennial threat in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Since posting their last losing season in 2003, the Steelers have made the playoffs ten times, advancing to the Super Bowl on three separate occasions. Pittsburgh’s talented offense, led by the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, the Steelers will have to unseat the Patriots if they want a shot at the franchise’s seventh Super Bowl.
The NFC is seemingly wide open as a trio of talented but flawed teams are looking to make some noise in 2018. The NFC South continues to be well-represented in the postseason as both the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons have qualified for the Divisional Round. The Saints find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2013 after shifting the team’s identity from a pass-happy up-tempo team to a hard-nosed running offense. Their division rival, the Atlanta Falcons, bested an immensely talented Rams team to make it to the second round and are looking for revenge after their monumental collapse in last year’s big game. The team with the worst odds out of this tier of squads is the Philadelphia Eagles, whose championship hopes seem to have been thwarted after a season-ending injury to their quarterback, Carson Wentz.
The Longshots of the NFL Playoffs
Jacksonville Jaguars (+2000), Tennessee Titans (+8000)
Our third and final tier features two AFC South teams who ended long playoff droughts this season. The Titans have qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2008 and pulled off a shocking upset after trailing for much of their Wild Card game against Kansas City. Led by one of the most electrifying young players in the league, quarterback Marcus Mariota, the future looks bright for a Titans franchise that has seemingly been in purgatory since they fired Jeff Fisher back in 2010. Tennessee is considered a tremendous longshot to win their upcoming game against the Patriots (they are currently 14 point underdogs) but the future looks bright in Nashville.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been one of the most surprising teams in the league, having made the playoffs for the first time since George W. Bush’s presidency. Despite lacking flash, the Jags have a stout defense and a fantastic running game but they have their work cut out for them as they are set to travel to Pittsburgh to take on the vaunted Steelers offense.
NFL Playoff Schedule
Saturday, January 13: 4:35 P.M. EST (6) Atlanta Falcons at (1) Philadelphia Eagles
Saturday, January 13: 8:15 P.M. EST (5) Tennessee Titans at (1) New England Patriots
Sunday, January 14: 1:05 P.M. EST (3) Jacksonville Jaguars at (2) Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, January 14: 4:40 P.M. EST (4) New Orleans Saints at (2) Minnesota Vikings
Super Bowl LII
NFL Playoff Predictions
It’s hardly going out on a limb to predict that the Patriots will be the AFC representative in Minneapolis this February but they’re simply too talented and experienced to pick against. The NFC seems to be up for grabs with three teams having decent odds to win the Super Bowl. My personal prediction is that the Saints will make it out of the NFC. Their offense is multi-dimensional and it should cause matchup problems for any team they face. My prediction for the score of the Super Bowl is: New England Patriots 27, New Orleans Saints 21.