After two stunning playoff weekends, we have reached the semi-finals. We have already seen the Patriots, Saints and Ravens exit, which were three of the top five teams in terms of Super Bowl odds, thrilling comebacks and epic finishes. Now we are the Championship Round with two very different matchups. On the AFC side there is the number two-seeded Chiefs hosting the Cinderella-type story six-seeded Titans, while the NFC will be decided by the two squads who had been coming off a bye week. These are also two rematches from the regular season. While the Titans pulled off the upset and enter as a touchdown underdog once again, the Packers were blown out in San Francisco mid-season and are now looking for revenge in the Bay.
We have reached the second stage of the playoffs, leaving us with the NFL’s version of the Elite Eight. We have already seen both the reigning Super Bowl champs and a 13-3 Saints squad leave the tournament due to upsets at home and if it wasn’t for an epic collapse by the Bills in Houston, we would have seen all four division champs kicked out already. However, now the four teams coming off a bye will be well rested to take on those aspiring contenders. The bookmakers have three of those home teams favored by at least a touchdown, with the Seahawks being the only ones to keep it really close, but as we have seen plenty of times, the playoffs have different rules and there always seems to be one surprise outcome in this round. I looked at each matchup and who has the advantage at every offensive and defensive position. In the column underneath I also mentioned if anything stood out to me with special teams and/or coaching.
The holidays can be quite stressful and you don’t always get to put in as much work as you would like, so I couldn’t put out a fully detailed article this week the way I usually do. However, I wanted to take the time to at least give a little preview for the first round of the NFL playoffs.
Therefore I took a look at what I think are the biggest matchup advantages for each Wildcard game. This doesn’t automatically that the team who has the upper hand in that particular matchup will win the whole game, but it could easily end up being the decisive factor, depending on how things turn on. Here they are:
Usually at this time of the year when the Pro Bowl rosters are revealed, I write an article about the changes I would make, but since this is one of the years where I mostly agree with the results, I decided to just broaden this topic and talk about the most underrated players at every single position. To determine that I obviously look at this year’s Pro Bowl rosters, but also consider public perception and coverage they receive among fans. Because they will make the trip to Orlando, I still took off guys like Grady Jarrett, Matt Judon and Budda Baker, who I didn’t expect to make the cut. So I always present my top candidate for a player who deserves more recognition and then offer three alternative names, who I think don’t get their due. I excluded rookies here, because people might not have really gotten around to watch them yet. So this is my list:
Obviously there are no actual division title games in an isolated fashion the way we have them in college, but instead things just fell into place for these rivals to potentially play for the divisional crown in their head-to-head matchup over these last two weeks of the regular season. At this point all of those teams have played their rivals already once, so it will be interesting to look back at those prior meetings, but we also want to take a look at how everybody has fared throughout the rest of the year and how they will match up schematically as well as personnel-wise. There are three of those games in week 16 and another two in week 17, with one matchup for each week that will also need some other things to happen in the additional week to be decisive in that matter.
As crazy as it may sound, there are only four weeks left in the regular season and as we are heading into the final stretch of what has been a very exciting year, it is time to rank these teams one through 32 once again,. This order is based on what I see when I watch the games or put on the film afterwards, in terms of pure talent on the roster, schematic advantages, situational success and overall team chemistry. So obviously teams who have already faced a tough schedule will be given more credit, but these aren’t college football rankings, where we bring up strength of record or what not, yet instead I am trying to tell you who I think are the best teams in the league. A lot of these have already played each other and I consider that as well, but just because one team beat the other eight weeks ago, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be ranked above – we are trying to assess the situation at this very moment.
After focusing on the NFL for most of the season, while doing my work on college football and watching all the games in the background, I decided to take a look at the next two weeks and how they will impact the race for the national championship. Now heading into rivalry week and the ensuing conference championship games, I wanted to go through different game results and how they could affect the playoff picture, plus a prediction of what I think will ultimately happen. We have seen the committee show a lot of inconsistency and rank teams specifically to push those ones they are putting higher than the AP or Coaches Poll. So nothing is impossible at this point, but here is what I would think depending on how the following games turn out:
We are at a point of the NFL season where the playoff picture is really starting to form. Nine of the twelve teams that are currently in line for a spot in the postseason have won seven or more games, with both Wildcard teams in the NFC sitting at eight wins already. In the AFC there are far less true contenders one through six it seems like, but there are two elite squads at the very top.
With only six weeks left in the regular season, I decided to take a look at every team’s schedule (well, outside of the Bengals, Redskins and Dolphins), and predicted their final records. According to that, I put together my top six seeds from each conference, to see where they will end up as we close the year. While most of the teams mentioned are already en route to making the playoffs, I have quite a bit changing about the seeding.
Now officially past the midway point of the season and my awards handed point for the first half already, I wanted to look at some areas that aren’t talked about enough. Everybody likes to hand out their top five teams, individual players at a certain position or whatever. What I wanted to do is put out my five best on topics that aren’t heavily discussed, such as the best quarterback situations, offensive and defensive play-callers and most disappointing teams in the NFL right now. Not all of these can be described purely by numbers or what the eye-test tells you, but instead you have to check the background and analyze the tape, as well as considering who has been on the schedule for all these different squads.
Not surprisingly, the only undefeated team in the league in San Francisco is most frequently represented with a spot in five of the six positive team categories and three number one nominations. The Patriots are second with two of those top spots and another nomination, while the Saints reached the top three in three different categories.