The NFL playoffs wrapped up its first day of action, with two Wild Card round games in the books. Sunday features two more games before we move on to the Divisional round.
The Tennessee Titans started the playoffs by digging out of a 18-point hole to come back and beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 22-21. Leading the way was running back Derrick Henry who rumbled to 156 yards on 23 carries.
Then in the next game, the No. 6 seed Atlanta Falcons traveled across the country to knock off the Los Angeles Rams with a 26-13 win.
The Falcons advance to play the Philadelphia Eagles next week, while the Titans will have to wait until Sunday to find out their next opponent.
Divisional Playoffs Saturday, Jan. 13 NFC: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:35 p.m., NBC AFC: TBD at New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m., CBS Sunday, Jan. 14 AFC: TBD at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:05 p.m., CBS NFC: TBD Panthers/Saints at Minnesota Vikings, 4:40 p.m., Fox Conference Championship Games Sunday, Jan. 21 AFC: TBD, 3:05 p.m., CBS NFC: TBD, 6:40 p.m., Fox Super Bowl LII Sunday, Feb. 4 AFC champion vs. NFC champion at Minnesota, 6:30 p.m., NBC Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 28 AFC All-Stars vs. NFC All-Stars Orlando, Fla., 3 p.m., ESPN
The NFL playoffs are about to begin, and it’s time to make your early pick for who will win the Super Bowl. I’m here to tell you why this may be a two horse race right out of the gate, with the top two contenders both in the NFC.
Before I reveal the two teams that I think have the best shot at the Super Bowl let me walk you through my line of thinking to narrow it down to two teams and specifically why I don’t think the rest of the playoff teams will win the Super Bowl.
Who isn’t going to win
The Steelers: Okay I know this is a Cincinnati blog saying Pittsburgh won’t win, what a shocker. However, the Steelers have a lot of things going against them. First off Antonio Brown likely won’t be 100 percent even during the divisional round. He is a huge part of their offense obviously, and without him they could have some issues.
The other thing going against them is their route to the Super Bowl. There is a very good chance the Jaguars take care of the Bills who may be without LeSean McCoy. This is the same Jaguars team that crushed the Steelers 30-9 earlier this season.
Even if they make it past them they will still have to probably face the Patriots in Foxboro. They had a close game against the Patriots earlier this year, but the Patriots have always seemed to have the Steelers’ number. It is hard to see that trend ending this season.
The Patriots: The Patriots are the team I see representing the AFC, and I know I should really calm down with my fire takes. Still in a group filled with inexperience the Patriots and Steelers seem to be standing heads and shoulders above everyone else.
What will ultimately do the Patriots in will be the ability from the either of the teams that make the Super Bowl to get after the passer and frustrate Tom Brady. Almost every time the Patriots have lost a Super Bowl you can trace it back to one thing, the defense got pressure in Brady’s face. I’ll talk more about that below when I reveal the two teams.
The Falcons: It will not be a repeat of last year’s Super Bowl. The Falcons barely made it into the big dance, and they will be lucky to make it past the Wild Card round. The well oiled offensive machine just hasn’t been there since Kyle Shanahan left for the 49ers. The NFC is just too tough this year for them to get past a lot of these teams. Being the fourth of fifth best team in the NFC just isn’t going to cut it.
The Rams: I want to root for the Rams, but this is a case of a team being ahead of schedule. This is a very young roster, and that is going to be tough to translate to four straight wins against some of the top talent in the NFL. Still, if Todd Gurley continues to stay as hot as he was at the end of the season, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the Rams walking away with the hardware this year.
Who will win the Super Bowl
The Saints: New Orleans seemingly came out of nowhere this season. I don’t know what it was that got this defense to suddenly play at one of its highest levels ever, but all of the sudden this team is gelling. (Marshon Lattimore sure had a lot to do with it.)
The combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara has pushed this offense to an almost unstoppable level. Not to mention, Drew Brees has been here and done this before. Only this time he doesn’t have to throw for 400 yards every game.
This defense’s ability to get to the passer and get turnovers is what puts this team over the edge. They are third in the NFL with 20 interceptions, and they have 42 sacks on the season tied for seventh most in the NFL.
The Vikings: I know a big reason for other teams not making it is inexperience and Case Keenum doesn’t have the playoff experience of a Brady or Brees, but he does have the Vikings’ dominant defense.
The Vikings have only given up 15.8 points per game during the regular season. This team has shutdown opposition like the Rams and Falcons already this season. There isn’t an offense in the league that should scare them.
What is holding back the Vikings is whether Keenum can keep this offense performing at a high level in the playoffs. He still has weapons around him at the skill positions, and the Vikings’ offensive line has done a tremendous job at opening holes for the run game and keeping Keenum protected.
The good news for the Vikings is they probably won’t need the offense to do too much, but whether the Vikings end up playing the Super Bowl on their home turf will come down to Keenum protecting the ball against the Saints opportunistic defense.