Hello everyone. It’s been an entire football season since I’ve written a Time Out For Sports piece, so what better time to come back and revisit the NFL than with another playoff essay. Today, I’m going to examine the final two weeks of 2018 NFL playoffs and end with my prediction for who will be in Super Bowl LII. I do want to make Time Out For Sports a weekly mini-series until we reach Super Bowl LII. So here we go.
Previously On The Playoffs
At the start of the playoffs, this is what we saw for the playoff seedings.
- New England Patriots (13-3)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4)
- Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
- Tennessee Titans (9-7)
- Buffalo Bills (9-7)
- Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
- Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
- Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
- New Orleans Saints (11-5)
- Carolina Panthers (11-5)
- Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
NFC Wild Cards
The Atlanta Falcons faced the Los Angeles Rams in the deciding game that launched the NFC Playoffs. Matt Ryan and the offense led the team to a round one victory over the Jared Goff and the Rams, seeing the defending NFC champions eliminate a fan favorite early on. The Falcons will advance to Philadelphia this Saturday to play the seemingly unstoppable Eagles, under the leadership of Nick Foles.
The second wild card game pit two rivals against each other to reach the frozen tundra of Minnesota. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints pulled out a narrow victory over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, setting up a playoff rematch between two bitter enemies.
AFC Wild Cards
The AFC playoffs are always rather dull and weird, and this year was no exception. Marcus Mariota led the Tennessee Titans to an amazing comeback victory over Alex Smith and the favored Kansas City Chiefs. The upset Titans team is now poised to play Tom Brady and the legendary New England Patriots on Saturday.
The Buffalo Bills eeked into the playoffs thanks to a Ravens loss in week 17. The team found themselves locked out of the end zone by the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. Blake Bortles and the offense were able to put one touchdown’s distance between them and Tyrod Taylor’s Bills. A last second Bills QB injury resulted in the infamous Peterman taking the field for a late, valiant drive that ended in the game winning Jacksonville interception. The Jags will be traveling to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers next Sunday.
The Minnesota Vikings are having their best season since 2009 when Brett Favre led them to the championship game. Coincidentally, the current team will be facing the same team that ended their 2009 playoff run in Drew Brees and the Saints. Led by the surprise MVP candidate Case Keenum, the Vikes are a complete team, marked by the league’s top defense, featuring a murderer’s row including Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes, and an underrated offense consisting of a strong WR corp in Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph and a powerhouse run game with Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon. What’s even more impressive? This team is playing on second strings. Case stepped in for Sam Bradford in week 2 and never left. After 4 weeks, Murray & McKinnon got their shot after rookie sensation Dalvin Cook suffered a season ending injury. So just them being this good is a feat. However, they aren’t done. They rematch the team that stopped them from appearing in Super Bowl XLIV, something Vikings fans and players alike haven’t forgotten. The fact that the Vikings are hosting the New Orleans Saints is going to affect a lot. The Vikings are going to pull out the victory, holding Brees’ offense to just 14 points and ending with a score of 28-14.
The Eagles were looking like an unbeatable playoff team. Then they lost MVP QB Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. While Nick Foles is a solid placeholder, he’s not going to lead them to a Super Bowl. At best, he leads them to a first round bye and faceoff with the defending Atlanta Falcons. Ryan’s team will be hyped up from their previous victory and will have rings on the brain. The Falcons will upset the Eagles and land the birds the Philly, 35-24.
The Jacksonville Jaguars squaring off with the Pittsburgh Steelers is a matchup many will predict going one way. The Steelers are strong offense with a solid defense. That was until Antonio Brown’s injury. Now the Steelers are in a bad position going into this game, especially against a well-rounded shock team like the Jags. The Jags will upset, holding Ben Rothlisberger to just 14. Final score: 42-14, Jags.
The Patriots are a team everyone has their eyes on. Many assumed last year’s Super Bowl win would have signaled the retirement of Tom Brady and the end of the Pats dynasty. Brady crushed that idea with his return and 13-3 record. The Pats had a solid year, but aren’t a well-rounded team. In fact, the defense is bad. The offense is only good because of Tom Brady. The Titans may not be the most even match, but the surprise upset over the Chiefs could provide the required momentum to stop Brady from another championship. As much as I hate that team, I have to side with the Patriots. 28-14, Pats.
NFC Championship Game
The Minnesota Vikings have a home field Super Bowl on their minds and nothing will stop them from reaching that game. Having defeated them once before, the Atlanta Falcons might be the easiest game left for the Vikings to win, but it’ll still be a fun one. The unstoppable defense of the Vikings will neutralize Ryan’s offense, while the Falcons defense just won’t be able to hold Keenum’s strong offense. 24-7, Vikes.
AFC Championship Game
Here’s where Brady’s season ends. The Jaguars defense will be the MVP of this game, shutting down Brady and holding him to just 14 points. Bortles and his offense will show how weak the Pats defense is and run up the score as much as possible, finishing with a 28-14 win.
Super Bowl LII
The 52nd Super Bowl is an article for another day, mainly next week for updated analysis, but to give a quick prediction, I’m saying a Vikings/Jaguars Super Bowl is on the cards and would be the most evenly matched game of the season. The difference would come down to the offensive game. Keenum’s team will be a difficult one for the Jags to cover as efficiently, while Bortles’ team won’t be able to put up as many points against the top defense. The Vikes will bring home their first Lombardi, winning 35-21. Check back next week for updated analysis and predictions following the NFL Divisional Round Playoffs.