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2018 NFL Playoff Predictions, Reviewed

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2018 NFL Playoff Predictions, Reviewed

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Another unpredictable year of football, filled with exhilarating plays and rage-inducing bad calls, is winding to a close. In preparation for the Super Bowl, I’m writing this Talisman exclusive piece reviewing my predictions. Looking back at them, let’s just say I haven’t reached Tony Romo-levels of analysis yet. But without further ado, here are my predictions in review. 

 

Divisional Round 

AFC 

Original: #6 Indianapolis Colts vs. #1 Kansas City Chiefs (Sat 1/12, 4:35 P.M. on NBC): No one can deny the rebound this Colts team has had, going 10-6 after starting the season 1-5. I’d even be willing to wager Andrew Luck is at least comparable to likely season MVP Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But despite Indianapolis’s heart and the Chiefs’ noticeable flaws, especially on the defensive side of the ball, I find it very unlikely that the #6 seed beats the #1 seed at home, especially when that #1 seed is the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs. It’s true that the Chiefs have one of the worst defenses in football and a perennial choker in head coach Andy Reid, and those weaknesses cannot be understated. They’re some of the reasons why I believe, spoiler alert, that the Chiefs will not make the Super Bowl. But there’s just so much talent on this team that I believe they win their first game handily. Chiefs 35-28 Colts 

ReviewChiefs 31-13 Colts. This pick was actually rather on the money. The only thing I didn’t see coming was just how outmatched Indianapolis was. They just were not good enough to beat Kansas City in Arrowhead, whether it was snowy or sunny. I got this one right, so I won’t explain it any further. Now to the picks I completely whiffed on. 

 

Original: #5 Los Angeles Chargers vs. #2 New England Patriots (Sun 1/13, 1:05 P.M. on CBS): Philip Rivers and the Chargers have historically struggled in Foxborough but the consensus around NFL analysts is that the Patriots’ dynasty is on its last legs. Tom Brady has looked human at times with 11 interceptions over the season, still not too many, but as many as he’s had in five years. The team has been lacking in offensive weapons, with the most dangerous one, WR Josh Gordon, deciding to walk away from football, citing his mental health. This matchup is horrible for the Patriots; their offense was top-five with Gordon, but the team has yet to play a better-than-mediocre defense since his announcement on December 20. In fact, the last time New England played a defense that allowed significantly fewer points per game than the league average, they lost quite unattractively to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Los Angeles’s defense is tied for seventh in the league by ppg with 20.35 ppg allowed. It’ll be a hard-fought game, but I think the Chargers emerge victoriously and continue to the AFC Championship Game. Chargers 24-20 Patriots 

ReviewChargers 28-41 Patriots. Why, oh why, did I have so much faith in the Chargers? Especially when they were playing their boogeymen, the Patriots, in New England! Perhaps this was more of a wishful thinking pick; though the Patriots hadn’t passed the eye test up to this point, their defense in ppg allowed was a top-7 or top-8 unit, and though it’s a tired cliché, defense does win championships. Still, it seemed a good game on paper, but narratives triumphed that Sunday. Dammit. 

 

NFC 

Original: #4 Dallas Cowboys vs. #2 Los Angeles Rams (Sat 1/12, 8:15 P.M. on Fox): The Rams have struggled this season against good defenses and the Boys’ squad is tied with the aforementioned Chargers with 20.35 ppg allowed. Plus, Dallas looked very convincing against a usually tone-setting Seattle run game on Saturday. And the Rams’ third-year QB Jared Goff tends to crumble when under heavy pressure. All signs point to a Cowboys upset. But then you have to factor in that, during the regular season, the Cowboys were a sub-par 3-5 away from Dallas (compared with a spectacular 7-1 at home). And I believe too much in Rams head coach Sean McVay to go down in his first playoff game. Los Angeles is on upset alert, but the oddsmakers favor them by 7, and the spreads are rarely that off. It won’t be a blowout, but the Rams should pull through. Cowboys 24-30 Rams 

ReviewCowboys 22-30 Rams. The final score makes it seem like the game was closer than it was; Los Angeles dominated all facets of the game and won rather comfortably. So comfortably, in fact, that the aforementioned 7-point spread wasn’t generous enough to the Rams. This pick was correct, but maybe I even gave the Cowboys a little too much credit. 

 

Original: #6 Philadelphia Eagles vs. #1 New Orleans Saints (Sun 1/13, 4:40 P.M. on Fox): The Eagles have nothing to lose and everything to play for; they could be the best chance to stop the Saints before they make the crusade to the football holy land. That said, I don’t think they do it. Philadelphia is too inconsistent, even losing to the Buccaneers early in the season. The Saints are also a more complete team than any opponent the Seahawks have faced, with the third-best offense in the league and a defense that’s at least par. The Saints crushed the Eagles 48-7 in November and they’ll win handily again. New Orleans moves to the NFC Championship Game, hoping to book a Super Bowl ticket in Atlanta. Eagles 17-30 Saints 

ReviewEagles 14-20 Saints. Though the outcome I predicted was correct, this time I may not have given the underdog enough credit. The Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter against New Orleans but couldn’t maintain the firepower. Philly’s backup quarterback, the magician Nick Foles, was driving down the field when a pass went through the hands of receiver Alshon Jeffrey and was intercepted by Saints’ hungry cornerback Marshon Lattimore, sealing the game. The magic ran out for Philadelphia and the better team won. 

 

Conference Championships 

AFC 

Original: #5 Los Angeles Chargers vs. #1 Kansas City Chiefs (Sun 1/20, 6:40 P.M. on CBS): The Chargers and Chiefs have split this season, with the Chiefs winning 38-28 in Kansas City during Week 1 and the Chargers winning 29-28 in Los Angeles in Week 15. I say the Chargers win the rubber match, not so much out of their own strengths but out of the Chiefs’ weaknesses. Kansas City has no defense whatsoever. The Chiefs allow 26.31 points per game, almost a full 3 ppg more than the league average. To put that into perspective, the Arizona Cardinals, the worst team in the league, allowed 26.56 ppg, only 0.25 ppg more than the Chiefs. For a Super Bowl contender, that’s hideous. At the head of the Chiefs is coach Andy Reid who is known for his often-outstanding regular season records but poor finishing in the playoffs. In Reid’s first five years since joining the team in 2013, the team made the playoffs five times but only had a 1-4 record in the postseason. I’m doubtful he can buck this trend in 2018. Finally, the Chiefs are led by an essentially rookie quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is incredibly talented, but I worry if his inexperience could potentially harm his team. Compare that with the veteran Philip Rivers, who also has a defense by his side that the Chiefs lack. The game will be close, but the Chargers are more complete than the Chiefs and return to the Super Bowl after being away for twenty-five years. Chargers 28-27 Chiefs 

ReviewPatriots 37-31 Chiefs (OT). Okay, so I couldn’t have possibly predicted this matchup correctly because I said the Chargers would beat the Patriots and they didn’t. Fine. But I was 100% correct when I said that the Chiefs would not make it to the Super Bowl. Their defense was just too holey (letting up three 3rd and 10s? To the same play? In overtime?) to stop Tom Brady and Andy Reid and his coordinators are not clutch enough to shed their choker reputations. It is with great displeasure that I accept the fact that I was correct in thinking the Patriots would beat the Chiefs. Yay. 

NFC 

Original: #2 Los Angeles Rams vs. #1 New Orleans Saints (Sun 1/20, 3:05 P.M. on Fox): These two teams met earlier in the season in New Orleans with the Saints winning the matchup and I see no reason for them not to do it again. The Saints have a solid defense and home-field advantage matching up against the Rams’ Jared Goff. Goff is good but, as mentioned earlier, struggles tremendously when under pressure, and the Saints’ defense, while not a top tier unit, is no slouch. The Rams’ perennial All-Pro running back Todd Gurley also may not be 100% after a recent injury and Goff’s favorite weapon, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, is still out after suffering a torn ACL in Week 11. The Saints win comfortably enough in New Orleans to be reasonable favorites in Super Bowl LIII. Rams 28-35 Saints 

ReviewRams 26-23 Saints (OT). Well, at least it looked like I was right in the 1st quarter. But it seems I didn’t give the Rams, particularly Jared Goff, enough credit. After falling behind 13-0 in the 1st and struggling with malfunctioning headsets and deafening crowd noise, Goff led the team back into a position where they could win the game. At the end of the 4th quarter, was that Pass Interference by Rams’ CB Nickell Robey-Coleman? Of course, it was, and it should have been called. But I can’t think that the Saints were screwed because they had so many opportunities to put the game away in the first half and then even had the ball first in overtime, not to mention the missed face mask on Goff that would’ve set up the Rams on New Orleans’ 1-yard line. So, it seems overestimated the Saints and underestimated the Rams (and the refs’ ability to make good calls).

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2018 NFL Playoff Predictions, Reviewed