Nick Pooler’s Playoff Prediction

-Nick Pooler

As an Oakland Raiders fan, it is a lot easier to see all aspects of every team in this years playoffs due to the Raiders not getting in. Some teams that stick out to me are the Patriots, Steelers and Chiefs in the AFC, and the Saints, Falcons and Panthers in the NFC. Each of those teams has their very own reason as to why they are on my radar. The Patriots and Steelers are easily the top two teams in the AFC. Tom Brady leads to New England into yet another Super Bowl type year. He has done this without the likes of Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett, 8 games without Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and injuries suffered all year between every running back. Brady has for sure put up an MVP year. Another big part of New Englands success is their defense. The defense started out slow but has turned it around. The New England Patriots are my pick to go to the Super Bowl representing the AFC. The Steelers will put up a strong game against the Pats, but what fears me the most is the injury to Ryan Shazier and Antonio Brown. Shazier is out for year and Brown even if he comes back will not be as healthy which will slow this team down. The Chiefs have gotten hot again. Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt have both picked up the slack and they are looking like the Chiefs every body remembers now. They are a top 3 team in the AFC but not good enough to get past Steelers or Pats. The reason that I did not mention the Jaguars, Bills or Titans are mostly for all the same reasons. These teams have not been here before and have received inconsistent play all year. Tyrod Taylor and Marcus Mariota have been unpredictable all year and Blake Bortles surprisingly had a great year to get the Jaguars to where they are without his top two receivers of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Even though the Jags do have the best defense in the league, I do not think they can stop quarterbacks like Brady and Roethlisberger two straight games. My final predictions for the AFC; Chiefs over Titans 31-17, Jaguars over Bills 24-20. This would set up Chiefs @ Patriots where I would say Patriots 38-27, and then Steelers over Jaguars 21-17. The AFC Championship will be a great one but I have New England coming out on top 28-24 to advance to the Super Bowl for back-to-back years.

Now the NFC. The NFC has produced the best teams this year, but the big question for me is can the Rams, Vikings and Eagles all cash in on their great seasons? The Eagles have been stellar, and went from Super Bowl favorite to a non-factor after the loss of their leader Carson Wentz. Even though I am thinking the Eagles lose in their first game, still an amazing season and expect great things out of them for the next few years. The Vikings have been unreal. The defense has been lockdown lead by Xavier Rhodes. But the big question is, can Case Keenum be a Super Bowl winning quarterback? When I ask myself that question I have to say no. The Rams are also a team to think about. Plenty of potential right there but to me, I do not have enough proof that Jared Goff is ready for the big spotlight. He has been great and I could be wrong but for now, I think Rams fans may have to wait another year. The NFC South produced the best conference in football this year which led to three teams getting in. The Saints, who are my favorite this year led by the great backfield of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram goes right along with the future hall-of-famer Drew Brees. The defense stepped up big this year with the rookie corner Marshon Lattimore leading the way. The Panthers look like the team that they were when they made it to the Super Bowl a few years ago. Cam Newton is back to himself and the defense has finally stepped up since losing Josh Norman. Lastly, the Falcons. The defending NFC champs barely got in during the last week and rightfully so. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are back and Deion Jones is leading the defense back into the playoffs. The common thing between all three NFC South teams that the other three don’t have; experience in playoffs. My final prediction for the NFC playoff is  Falcons over Rams 31-28. Saints over Panthers as they beat them for the third time this year, 38-31. This sets up the Falcons against the Eagles and the Vikings against the Saints. I have the Falcons beating the Eagles 28-17, and the Saints beating the Vikings 24-21. This leaves two NFC South teams in the NFC Championship where I have the Saints moving on and beating the Falcons 31-14 in a blowout win.

Advancing to the Super Bowl where we have two iconic quarterbacks going head-to-head. Drew Brees versus Tom Brady. In week two of the NFL season, the Saints got embarrassed at home to the Pats 36-20. In this game, Brady through for nearly 450 yards as Gronk caught a majority of them. James White also caught 8 passes out of the backfield. The key for the Saints is that their secondary has matured and gotten better and will be able to defend Brady a lot better. A key factor about their previous game was Alvin Kamara was rarely used as Adrian Peterson was still receiving snaps in New Orleans. Kamara had just 1 carry for 3 yards and 3 catches for 51 yards. In a hard fought game in Minnesota, my final Super Bowl prediction is Saints over the Patriots 38-34.