Revised 2020 NFL Playoff Picture By John Brecko
I know the title says “revised”, but only one playoff spot changed in week 17. Other than that, the seeds are in the same order as they were in week 16.
The team that got into the playoffs that was on the outside looking in was the Indianapolis Colts. They were the eight seed in week 16 and defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars to become the seventh seed.
In the AFC, five different teams were 10-5 going into the season’s final week. Four won to make the playoffs. The only team that did not pick up a win was the team who had the toughest opponent to face in the Miami Dolphins. They played against the Buffalo Bills and despite being the number 5 seed going into yesterday’s game, they came up short and will be watching football from home instead of playing for the rest of January.
The fourth seed Tennessee Titans prevailed against the Houston Texans despite a herculean effort from Deshaun Watson, who completed more than 70% of his passes in this game and had a passer rating of over 100 for the fourth straight game.
The fifth seed Baltimore Ravens demolished the Cincinatti Bengals 38-3 into their season finale while the sixth seed Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-22 to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2002, meaning three of the four AFC North teams mentioned in this paragraph (Ravens, Browns, and Steelers as the third seed) will be in the playoffs.
The number one seed Kansas City Chiefs obtained the lone playoff bye for the AFC in week 16 this season. The team behind them at the number two seed is the Bills, who will play the Colts to kick off the playoff portion of the 2020 NFL season.
Phillip Rivers has played well overall this season with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions along with a 65% completion percentage and a 95.7 passer rating. However, he is not Josh Allen, who has looked like an entirely different player in his third season, especially with the addition of Stephon Diggs (getting him from the Minnesota Vikings as clearly more than worth it).
The Colts do have some quality wins this year, including an overtime victory against the Green Bay Packers and I believe they will make this into a competitive game, but I believe the Bills will overtake them and move on to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
The Browns will play the Steelers one more time. The difference was that Baker Mayfield had to play against Mason Rudolph and not Ben Roethlisberger. I believe Baker Mayfield would have won the game anyway since the Steelers starters needed the rest because of where their games feel due to covid, but the game is now in the past and that is no longer important.
What people are asking now is can Baker Mayfield get it done against a Steelers team that will be well rested when it is time to play and the season is on the line?
Even if this game was close yesterday, I believe he can.
I believe Baker Mayfield is going to be put to the test and he is going to rise to the occasion. He has a coach that has brought stability to this team in Kevin Stefanski and has morphed the offense into something that can make Baker Mayfield an effective quarterback.
However, that is not the most important reason why the Browns have grown. The most important reason is Baker Mayfield’s growth as a leader. He stepped up even after his team lost to the New York Jets in week 16 and I believe he will rise to the occasion once again, because leaders help their team rise up and make sure to find a way to elevate themselves physically and mentally when it matters most. This will probably be the most exciting game of the Wild Card round in 2020 and I believe Baker Mayfield will be the last quarterback standing when the smoke clears in this matchup.
The Titans also take on the Ravens in a rematch from last year’s Divisional Round. I do not believe as many people will be shocked if the Titans win once again this time around.
However, lightning will not strike twice for the Titans. Lamar Jackson has now lost two playoff games and got better in the playoffs between his first and second game. I believe Lamar Jackson and the Ravens will do enough to win this football game, even if Derrick Henry runs all over this team for 60 minutes.
In the NFC, the Packers have clinched the number one seed and have a playoff bye for this week.
The New Orleans Saints will play the Chicago Bears. I think this will be a better game than most people expect it to be. The Bears will make this a game despite expectations, but the Saints will win this game. Having Drew Brees at quarterback with one of the best defenses in the league will be too much for the Bears (who have struggled after playing their first six games) to overcome.
I will switch up the order for the NFC and talk about the number four seed playing the number five seed first. The reason is why is because if there is any playoff game you can skip this year, this will be it. The Washington Redskins will be one and done in the playoffs after playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady has outscored his last two opponents 91-34 over the last two weeks and Antonio Brown is starting to look like the receiver he always was before going to team after team because of off the field issues. With all of the other weapons they have, this should be the game in this round of the playoffs that is a blowout.
The last game to bring up is the one that will steal the show as far as the NFC Wild Card round is concerned. That game is the number three seed Seattle Seahawks against the number six seeded Los Angeles Rams. This is will be the Seahawk offense vs the Ram defense. It will be Russell Wilson vs Aaron Donald (who I do not think has looked as good this year as he normally does and he is 2nd in sacks in the entire league with 13.5). Can Russell Wilson elude Aaron Donald for 60 minutes or will Aaron Donald put too much pressure on Russell Wilson in this particular game?
Aaron Donald did sack Russell Wilson the last time these two teams met and I believe the Rams defense will come through this time and make the upset happen to advance in the playoffs.
I do have other predictions, along with what the conference championship games and the Super Bowl will look like, but someone will have to let me know if they want to hear about that from me. Either way, 2020 is looking like it will have an exciting playoff portion of its season, which is something to celebrate in a year where many have had for look for reasons to be positive. It is time for 2021 to be kickstarted and football is a great way to make that happen!