NFL Playoff Predictions
Updated: Jan 15
Credit: Sporting News
AFC Wild Card Round
Miami Dolphins (7) @ Buffalo Bills (2)
Credit: Chicago Tribune
Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is unlikely to play in this game, meaning Miami has all but no hope to win at Buffalo. Josh Allen and the Bills are playing for something bigger than football -- their beloved teammate Damar Hamlin -- and I don’t see them going home in the first round. Mike McDaniel will likely turn to Skylar Thompson for the second consecutive week, despite Miami’s measly 9 points (all of which were field goals) on offense last week against the Jets.
Bills – 35
Dolphins - 6
Baltimore Ravens (6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3)
In a re-match of Week 18, the Ravens hope to re-write the script after losing (27-16) in a game where they sat several starters including Mark Andrews, J.K. Dobbins, and back-up (now starting) quarterback Tyler Huntley. Like the Dolphins, Baltimore has a quarterback issue of its own as Lamar Jackson awaits a new contract extension – the primary reason the former MVP has been out for what seems like forever.
If Lamar does not play in this game, Cincinnati will rout the Ravens, but even if the modern-day Michael Vick returns for the first time in months, it will be daunting for him to outduel Joe Burrow and the Bengals in the jungle that is Paycor Stadium.
Bengals – 30
Ravens – 10
Bengals – 27
Ravens – 20
Los Angeles Chargers (5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (4)
With a new head coach in town and a sophomore quarterback at the helm, Jacksonville looks set for the future, but I think they are still a year away. Herbert and the bolts are far too talented on both sides of the ball and have been severely underrated this season, despite putting together a quiet (10-7) record. The Jags are coming off an impressive win against their division rival Tennessee Titans, but I think they will be overmatched on both sides of the ball.
This game could truly go either way, and I am shocked the Jaguars are not favored, especially considering the home team typically “gets 3 points” when it comes to the Vegas betting odds. As long as Brandon Staley can save himself from his own ego and resist any boneheaded calls, like going for unnecessary 4th downs, the Chargers will win a close one in Duuuuuuval County.
Chargers – 24
Jaguars – 20
AFC Divisional Round
Los Angeles Chargers (5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1)
Fitting for a “Divisional” round, the Chiefs will host the Chargers in an AFC West matchup to go to the AFC Championship game. While Mahomes and the Chiefs have their eyes set on a fourth consecutive AFC Championship appearance, Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, and the Chargers look to play spoiler.
Unfortunately for Chargers fans, their young quarterback hasn’t matched-up very well against the soon-to-be 2x MVP. Los Angeles lost both divisional matchups this year against Kansas City by scores of (24-27) and (30-27), and it hasn’t been much better in years past. Mahomes’ career record against his division, the AFC West, is 26-3 – two of those losses, however, came at the hands of the Chargers in 2018 and 2021.
While Herbert and the bolts have a high-flying offense, I don’t see their defense stopping Mahomes. A defense that had high hopes coming into the season has severely underperformed, despite adding Khalil Mack to go along with Joey Bosa on the defensive line and re-signing Derwin James, arguably the best safety in football, to lockdown the secondary.
Chargers – 27
Chiefs – 30
Cincinnati Bengals (3) @ Buffalo Bills (2)
A re-match of Week 17 – a game that was abruptly postponed and then terminated after Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field – the Bills and the Bengals look to dual it out again for a date with the Chiefs.
Buffalo, the home team for this game, will certainly have an advantage when it comes to the climate. I expect a Lambeau Field – like playoff environment in terms of both temperatures and crowd impact, but the road Bengals will not be fazed.
Joe Burrow is next-up in the AFC, and I believe both he and his number one receiver, JaMaar Chase, are better at their positions than Josh Allen and his number one, Stefon Diggs, are at theirs. Furthermore, Burrow seems calm, cool, and collected when in the pocket while Allen has seemed anxious and jittery at times. Allen has been turnover-prone this year, especially in the red zone where he has thrown costly interceptions that will get his Bills sent home this postseason. Ironically, Allen’s first postseason interception was in the red zone and for all intents and purposes ended the game against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship. To put it simply, the Bengals are the more consistent and discipline team.
Bengals – 31
Bills – 30
Cincinnati Bengals (3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1)
Credit: USA Today
In a clash between who I believe are the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, this re-match of last year’s AFC Championship game will go down to the wire once again, but it will be Harrison Butker, not Evan McPherson, who does the honors of sending his team to the Super Bowl with one kick.
For clarity, this game would be played at a neutral site if Buffalo were to be beat Cincinnati in the Divisional Round, but since I have the Bengals beating the Bills, the AFC Championship will be played at deafening Arrowhead Stadium.
Mahomes has been on a mission this year, and I do not think he intends to stop for anyone. Despite losing his all-pro wideout, Tyreek Hill, to the Miami Dolphins this offseason, Mahomes has looked as good, if not better than he did in his MVP season. He stands head and shoulders above all candidates in that race this year, and it would shock me if he didn’t win the award for the first time since 2018.
The AFC playoffs go through Arrowhead, and the Chiefs will not lose twice in consecutive home Championship games if Mahomes, Kelce, and Andy Reid have any intent of forging a dynasty for years to come.
Bengals – 27
Chiefs – 28
NFC Wild Card Round
Seattle Seahawks (7) @ San Francisco 49ers (2)
On paper, this game looks like a walk in the park for Kyle Shanahan and San Francisco, but with a rookie quarterback in an NFC West divisional match-up, it will be closer than most people think.
Seattle is a well-coached team -- they run the ball efficiently and play defense – so Brock Purdy will have to make some plays, as I doubt Pete Carroll will allow him to dump the ball to his security blanket, Christian McCaffery, when the play breaks down like he has in the past.
While Purdy’s playoff performance is unpredictable, the 49ers defense, led by defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans who deserves a head coaching opportunity, will do their part in holding Geno Smith, D.K. Metcalf, and rookie sensation Kenneth Walker III to a quiet day on the offensive side of the ball.
While I am not sold on the 49ers’ offense, I think they will do just enough, as they have in weeks past, to come away with a fairly convincing victory in this game.
Seahawks – 17
49ers – 27
New York Giants (6) @ Minnesota Vikings (3)
Credit: Fox 9
I have gone back-and-forth with my prediction for this game and, quite frankly, I am still not fully confident in my pick. Up until today, I had convinced myself I would pick the Giants to go up to Minneapolis and take vengeance on the Vikings for what happened in Week 16, when Greg Joseph kicked a 61-yard walk-off field goal to win the game 24-27.
The Giants have been playing respectable football all year long, and first-year head coach Brian Daboll has exceeded all expectations, despite taking over a franchise that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2016. Furthermore, it is very difficult for me to pick any team whose quarterback is Kirk Cousins, especially when that team has lost games by scores of 40-3 and 17-41.
Unfortunately, Giants’ center Nick Gates had to open his mouth this week when he made this comment about their Week 16 match-up in Minneapolis:
"Surprised. Actually, I thought it would be a lot louder… I thought especially when our offense is out there, they would be a lot louder out there. But you know, they're Midwest people. They're too nice.”
Gates did include himself as a “nice” person from the Midwest when he said, “I went to Nebraska. I include myself in that one,” but that does not exclude the fact that he made the comment that he made. Gates’s comment will be on the Vikings’ bulletin board all week long, and I don’t like the Giants odds going into Minnesota -- an indoor stadium where the fans will now be louder than ever thanks to Gates – so I have completely flipped my pick on its head from what it would have been just 24 hours ago.
Giants – 20
Vikings – 27
Dallas Cowboys (5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
After an eyesore of a performance in Week 18, the Cowboys will take their show on the road. Oddly enough, the visiting Cowboys come in at 12-5 while the home team Buccaneers are just 8-9. In a down year for Brady and the Bucs, the only path to the postseason was to win the measly NFC South.
While this game will be a re-match from opening night -- the first Thursday Night Football game of the year – these two teams look vastly different from how they did in Week 1. A game that ended 19-3 in favor of the Bucs, Week 1 was perhaps a preview of everything to come, only if the score was flipped.
Dallas has one of the best dual-back combinations with a bell cow back in Ezekiel Elliott and a playmaking, lighting back in Tony Pollard, who made his first Pro Bowl this year. Wideout CeeDee Lamb has burst on the scene as the new #1 in Dallas, and it will be interesting to see how Todd Bowles and Tampa Bay’s defense play him as Dak’s go-to target.
Ultimately, Dallas has an excellent defense and a much better team overall. It will come to down to quarterback play – can Dak refrain from making costly turnovers, keeping his team in the game and Tom Brady on the sideline? I believe so, and I think Dallas will win convincingly in South Florida.
Cowboys – 31
Buccaneers – 20
NFC Divisional Round
Dallas Cowboys (5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1)
Credit: Sports Illustrated
This will be a must-watch game. With the division series tied 1-1 this season, it is only fitting a trip to the NFC Championship is on the line for the winner of Game 3.
While Dallas played on the road in Philadelphia earlier this season, Dak Prescott was injured and did not play in the 17-26 loss. Comparatively, in Philadelphia’s Week 16 loss to the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Gardner Minshew started for the Eagles in a 34-40 loss. It’s only right that we get a Prescott vs. Hurts match-up to decide the season series.
Former Cowboys’ head coach Tom Landry once said that if you want to win it all, you must streak into the playoffs. With Dallas headed in the wrong direction after an embarrassment in Week 18 and Philadelphia trending upward with Jalen Hurts’s successful return in Week 18, all signs point to an Eagles victory at home in South Philly.
Cowboys – 23
Eagles – 27
Minnesota Vikings (3) @ San Francisco 49ers (2)
Minnesota, one of the most fluctuant teams in the NFL, led by the most precarious quarterback left in these playoffs, will have one last low-light in their visit to the Bay. Kirk Cousins is not built for the playoffs, nor does he match-up well against the 49ers’ defense, so I expect a blow-out in favor of the home team.
To make matters worse, the Vikings’ defense has been sub-par all year long, opening the door for a ground-game massacre led by the two-headed snake that is Christian McCaffery and Elijah Mitchell. Brock Purdy will not be asked to do much in this game, so as long as he stays out of the way from his two running backs, the 49ers should cruise to the NFC Championship.
Vikings – 10
49ers – 31
San Francisco 49ers (2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1)
A match-up between an MVP candidate and a rookie quarterback, this game in South Philly will come down to defense. I do not doubt both teams will put points on the board, so the deciding factor in this game will be which defense can pressure the opposing quarterback and force a timely turnover. I believe that will be the Eagles’ defense – from Javon Hargrave and Hasson Reddick on the defensive line to Pro-Bowl and All-Pro cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry IV locking down the back end.
Furthermore, while San Francisco’s vaunted defense has been atop the league all season, Nick Bosa and company will have to deal with a Philadelphia offensive line that is the best in football. In addition to their exquisite Christmas album off the field, ‘A Philly Special Christmas,’ the Eagles’ o-line has been putting-up big numbers on the field as well. Jason Kelce (C) and Lane Johnson (T) made 1st team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl, Landon Dickerson (G) made the Pro Bowl, and Jordan Mailata (T) and Isaac Seumalo (G) made the Pro Bowl as alternates. Additionally, Jalen Hurts, Pro Bowl quarterback and MVP candidate, has been very good with limiting his turnovers this season. The Eagles went 13-1 in games in which Hurts started, and their one loss to the Commanders was anything but his fault.
On the other side, Brock Purdy has ridden the coattails of his running game all year long – a recipe for disaster when behind in the playoffs. Like Hurts, Purdy has been good about keeping the ball out of harm’s way, but only time will tell until he reverts back to his old self – a turnover-prone quarterback at Iowa State University. Purdy threw 33 interceptions in his four years at Iowa State, and those who turn the football over in college almost always turn it over in the NFL. Right now, its all “Purdy good” in San Francisco, but if the 49ers draw the Eagles in the NFC Championship, there’s going to be a whole lot of “Purdy unhappy” 49ers fans in late January.
49ers – 24
Eagles – 27
Super Bowl LVII
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles
A battle between the MVP and the MVP runner-up, Mahomes and the Chiefs will take-on Hurts and the Eagles in sunny Glendale, Arizona for the Lombardi Trophy.
What will likely be an offensive barrage, I expect Philadelphia to exploit Steve Spagnuolo’s defense much more than I think Mahomes can Jonathan Gannon’s. Kansas City lost All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu this offseason, and their defense has suffered the consequences. The Chiefs are vulnerable in the back end, and they will have a long afternoon dealing with AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert.
Finally, Mahomes will produce MVP-like numbers, but it will not be enough. There is something called the “MVP curse” for Super Bowl quarterbacks, and it’s very real. Looking at the past couple of Super Bowls, Tom Brady won the MVP in 2017 and lost to Nick Foles’ Eagles in the Super Bowl, Matt Ryan won the MVP in 2016 and blew a 28-3 lead to Brady’s Patriots in the Super Bowl, and Cam Newton won the MVP in 2015 just to get sacked 7 times by the Broncos and fumble twice at the hands of Von Miller as the Broncos won the Super Bowl in a demolition job of Cam’s Panthers. Need I say more?
Chiefs – 30
Eagles – 33