It’s time to talk NFL playoffs. The Super Bowl is less than a month away, and by February 5, only 2 of the 12 playoff teams will remain standing. Here’s an overview of what to look for as the wildcard round unfolds this weekend.
AFC Playoff Picture
To the surprise of no one, The New England Patriots come in as the No. 1 seed and the odds-on favorite to advance to the Super Bowl. By season’s end, the hubbub surrounding DeflateGate got its final comeuppance as Tom Brady’s four-game suspension did nothing to damage the Patriots’ title hopes.
In a bit of a surprise, the Kansas City Chiefs capitalized on the Oakland Raiders‘ miserable luck and nabbed the the No 2 seed. This means a first round bye and a week of much-needed rest. The big question for the Chiefs is if QB Alex Smith can stay hot and do what he’s never done before — lead a team deep into the playoffs.
A host of intriguing subplots highlight the rest of the field, with the bad luck Raiders and the Dolphins back in the mix after long droughts. The Steelers are the team to watch from this second tier, especially with the quarterback questions swirling around the Raiders and Texans.
NFC Playoff Picture
How ’bout them Cowboys? The No. 1 seed enters the playoffs with home field advantage and the most dynamic offense in the game. The offensive line is phenomenal once again, and with Dez Bryant, Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliott at the skill positions, the NFC title is the Cowboys’ to lose. There are questions about the defense and the ability of the rookies to hold up under playoff pressure, but this could be the year America’s Team lives up to their billing.
But the Cowboys did not have the top offense in the NFL. That honor went to the No. 2 seed Atlanta Falcons. QB Matt Ryan has clearly grown into Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and with Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman accompanying him, the Falcons have the best shot at spoiling the Cowboys’ impressive run. But they’ll need Ryan to continue asserting himself if he is to end his streak of playoff flame outs.
The rest of the NFC field looks strong as well, with the Seahawks playing the role of the dark horse. The Packers have been erratic, but last time we checked, they still had Aaron Rodgers under center. The Giants and Eli Manning have been playoff underdogs a couple times before, and we know how those seasons turned out. And the Lions might be the No. 6 seed, but if Matthew Stafford can somehow lead them to an upset over the Seahawks in the wild card game, they’ve got a puncher’s chance in Round 2 and beyond.
image via NFL