2019-20 NFL Playoff Predictions

Here are my complete playoff predictions, from the Wild Card Weekend to Super Bowl LIV.

(Note that AFC predictions are in red, while NFC predictions are in blue)

Wild Card Weekend

#6 Tennessee Titans at #3 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

Kyle Van Noy, Daniel Jones
(Elise Amendola/AP)

 

#5 Buffalo Bills at #4 Houston Texans

Prediction: Texans

deshaun watson playoffs 19
(Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle)

#6 Minnesota Vikings at #3 New Orleans Saints

Prediction: Vikings

stefon diggs playoffs 19.jpg
(Jack Rodgers / Pioneer Press)

#5 Seattle Seahawks at #4 Philadelphia Eagles

Prediction: Seahawks

russell wilson p19.jpg
(Alika Jenner/AFP)

Divisional Round

#4 Houston Texans at #1 Baltimore Ravens

Prediction: Ravens

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

#3 New England Patriots at #2 Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction: Patriots

jules v browns w819
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

#6 Minnesota Vikings at #1 San Francisco 49ers

Prediction: 49ers

emmanue, sanders pl19.jpg
(Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

#5 Seattle Seahawks at #2 Green Bay Packers

Prediction: Packers

aaron rodgers pl19.jpg
(Photo via ESPN)

Conference Championships

#3 New England Patriots at #1 Baltimore Ravens

Prediction: Patriots

tb vs ravens w9p19
(Photo via Getty Images)

#2 Green Bay Packers at #1 San Francisco 49ers

Prediction: 49ers

nick bosa pl19.jpeg
(Tony Avelar/AP)

Super Bowl LIV

#3 New England Patriots vs #1 San Francisco 49ers

Prediction: Patriots

tb pl19.jpg
(Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Wild-Card Matchup: Can the Pats stay alive against Tennessee?

For the first time in a decade, the Patriots will be playing on Wild Card Weekend, as they welcome the Tennessee Titans (9-7) for a Saturday night matchup in Gillette Stadium.

Even though New England is favored to win by 5 points, there are many pundits and analysts who believe that the Patriots Dynasty will come to an end tomorrow night.

Here are some things to consider entering this Wild Card matchup.

1. Can the offense deliver?

The Patriots’ offense has been inconsistent at best over the last few weeks, with a solid outing against the stout Bills defense in Week 16, before digging an early hole during a surprising loss to the Dolphins in Week 17. Tom Brady is likely itching to get out and play, due to the constant talk about his future in New England, and the surprising thought that he ranks last amongst all the quarterbacks in the playoffs. Unfortunately for #12, he is facing off against a team that features coaches who are very familiar with how he operates, as Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees were both part of the Patriots in the early 2000s. Brady will need all the help he can get if the Patriots hope to emerge victorious tomorrow.

Tennessee features a dynamic defensive line, which gave the Patriots massive problems during a dominant 34-10 Titans victory in 2018. The Patriots offensive line will need to be at the top of their game if they want to keep Brady upright. In addition, the Patriots’ receiving corps (mainly N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu) has to get separation and make plays down the field in order to help out Brady and Julian Edelman.

The Patriots will also have to focus on producing a solid rushing attack, as the forecast calls for precipitation throughout tomorrow’s game (which may make it tougher to throw the ball down the field). I believe that Josh McDaniels and his staff have to focus on getting Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead involved from the get-go, as it will help take pressure off of Brady and the passing game, and punish Tennessee if they opt to send blitz packages.

If the Patriots want to have the chance to defend their Super Bowl title, they will need to have a great outing by their offense.

tb vs titans pwc19
(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Will the defense rebound from last week’s debacle?

The most shocking aspect of last week’s loss to Miami was the fact that the seemingly stout Patriots’ defense fell apart against an offensive attack led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, with Stephon Gilmore getting absolutely bullied by DeVante Parker throughout the game. For the first time all season, the Patriots’ defense let down the offense, as they were unable to hold their late lead, which resulted in the team losing their first round bye.

New England has a quick turnaround, as they face a talented Titans’ offense that features playmakers such as Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Henry led the NFL in rushing yards, and is a downhill runner that will likely give the Patriots problems (as evidenced by their struggles against Baltimore, Cleveland, and Cincinnati). Due to the forecast, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tennessee opts to feed Henry early and often, which could wear out the Patriots’ defense and keep Tom Brady on the sideline.

One of the most surprising stories of this season was the reemergence of Ryan Tannehill as a viable starting quarterback, as he led the Titans to 7 wins after replacing Marcus Mariota as the team’s starter. Similarly to his head coach, Tannehill is familiar with playing in Gillette Stadium, due to his years in Miami, which could indicate that he won’t be as intimidated as your typical quarterback making their first career start in the postseason.

Stopping AJ Brown will need to be of the utmost importance, as the rookie receiver has flashed his big play potential all throughout this season. Stephon Gilmore and the other cornerbacks will need to bounce back with a vengeance to stifle Brown, Corey Davis and the rest of Tennessee’s receivers.

The Patriots’ strength has been their defense, and they will need to find their rhythm once again if they hope to advance to the next round.

derrick henry vs pats pwc19
(Photo via the Tennessee Titans)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee) – Questionable
  • Terrence Brooks (groin) – Questionable
  • Jamie Collins Sr. (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder) – Questionable
  • Jonathan Jones (groin) – Questionable
  • Jason McCourty (groin) – Questionable

Titans

  • Adam Humphries (ankle) – Out
  • Kalif Raymond (concussion) – Doubtful
  • Cody Hollister (ankle) – Questionable
  • Dane Cruikshank (illness) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Titans 23

Here are my picks for the rest of the Wild Card Weekend.

Last week: 10-6

Bills at Texans: Texans

Vikings at Saints: Vikings

Seahawks at Eagles: Seahawks

Duel at the ATL: Who will win Super Bowl LIII?

The Patriots have their second opportunity to seize their sixth championship this Sunday when they take on the formidable Los Angeles Rams (15-3) in Super Bowl LIII. Everything the Pats have worked for this season, from overcoming injuries and suspensions, to silencing their doubters, has led to this moment. The Pats will undoubtedly face one of their toughest tasks of the season, as the Rams are a team that can dominate on either side of the ball.

Here are some things to consider entering the Super Bowl.

1. Will the offense continue to dominate the time of possession?

One of the key strategies the Pats have employed this postseason is to control the time of possession in the game by consistently and strategically running the ball with Sony Michel, who has been remarkable this postseason. This tactic was heavily efficient against both the Chargers and the Chiefs, as it wore down their defenses, and limited the number of drives for their explosive offenses, hence enabling the Pats to dictate the pace of the game. With regards to the Rams defense, they were extremely porous against the run in the regular season with teams like the Seahawks running the ball down their throats. However, they have stiffened up in the postseason, with their most efficient performance in the Divisional Round where they held Ezekiel Elliot to under 50 rushing yards. 

Running the ball effectively with Sony Michel will be key for the Patriots if they want to have a chance of winning the game.

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Can the Pats limit Donald to give Brady a chance?

All 3 of the Patriots’ Super Bowl losses with Tom Brady have featured effective pass rush down the interior, with the Giants consistently getting after Brady with their 4-man rush, and the Eagles sealing their victory with a strip sack in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Pats, they’ll be facing the NFL’s best pass rusher in Aaron Donald, who has 20.5 sacks on the season, and can change the course of a game with his unmatched prowess as a pass-rushing defensive lineman. The Pats will also have to contend with Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. who were instrumental in the Rams making the Super Bowl. So far this postseason, the Pats have absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage and protected Tom Brady who has only been hit 1 time and still has not been sacked. The offensive line led by David Andrews and Trent Brown will need to figure out how they decide to block Donald, who will likely draw multiple blockers, which would challenge the other Ram defenders to win their one-on-one matchups on the line of scrimmage. 

Giving Tom Brady enough time in the pocket will be essential for the Patriots to emerge victorious.

  (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
3. Can Brady and his weapons dice up the Rams?  

The Patriots offense has been on a tear this postseason, scoring 41 against the Chargers and 37 against the Chiefs, in contests that could be described as offensive clinics. Apart from 2 interceptions against the Chiefs, Tom Brady has been at his best during the playoffs, as he has made the most of the clean pockets provided to him by the offensive line in order to dissect the opposing defense. Brady has been historically successful against zone defenses, as he is adept enough to find the soft spots in the defense, and deliver strikes to his receivers. As I mentioned earlier, this week could prove to be a tiny bit more difficult for Brady due to the daunting test of going up against Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and the rest of the Rams’ pass rushers, who are the best interior pass rushing defense in the league. Throughout this season, Brady has struggled against interior pass rushers, who have been able to rattle him. To counteract the threat of Donald and Suh, Brady will need to get rid of the ball in under 2 to 3 seconds.

Brady will need his playmakers, such as Julian Edelman, James White, and Rob Gronkowski to be at their absolute best on Sunday, as winning their individual matchups quickly would allow Brady to get rid of the ball quickly without being overly worried about about the threat of Donald. I think that White and Rex Burkhead will be extremely vital for the passing game, because they will likely be covered by the Rams linebackers who struggled to cover Alvin Kamara in the NFC Championship Game. Using screen plays would likely challenge the Rams to counter the Patriots’ speed at running back and receiver, with effective tackling.

If the Pats want to have a chance of succeeding, they will need to have big games from their receivers and running backs in the passing game.

(Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
 
4. Can Belichick & Flores out-scheme McVay?

Ever since Sean McVay became the head coach of the Rams in 2017, the Rams have consistently been one of the NFL’s best offense, featuring innovative play-calling that challenges defenses to be disciplined and not be fooled by the flow of the offense. Under the tutelage of McVay, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley have flourished, with the duo being amongst the NFL’s best at their respective positions.

Bill Belichick and Brian Flores will have their work cut out for them, as out-scheming Sean McVay is easier said than done. Various analysts have said that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Belichick dust off some of his own game plans from games such as Super Bowl XXV and Super Bowl XXXVI. In Super Bowl XXV, Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the Giants against the Bills, during which he crafted a game plan that utterly negated the devastating passing game of the Bills, while allowing Thurman Thomas to run rampant. In Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick and the Pats faced off against the then-St. Louis Rams, where his defense neutralized the explosiveness of the Greatest Show on Turf, with a focus on physicality, which was not something the Rams were accustomed to.

I think that Belichick will try to use a combination of both schemes, with a primary focus on the plan from Super Bowl XXXVI, because the current Rams bear a pretty significant resemblance to the 2001 Rams, with an explosive running back, and a duo of deadly receivers who can burn defenses with their speed, alongside a young but poised quarterback. With regards to the plan from Super Bowl XXV, shutting down the passing game sounds like a good idea, but having Todd Gurley running at full speed doesn’t sound very comforting.

I think that Belichick and Flores will repeat their game plan from last week against the Chiefs, with Stephon Gilmore drawing the assignment of covering Robert Woods, and J.C. Jackson and Devin McCourty doubling ex-Patriot Brandin Cooks. This would likely result in man-to-man coverage on other Rams receivers/tight ends such as Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. One of my major concerns in the passing game will be containing Todd Gurley on screens, because he has the potential to score on almost any play. Another major part of the game plan in the Chiefs game was to constantly put pressure on Patrick Mahomes, who was rattled for most of the first half. In comparison to Mahomes, Jared Goff is not as mobile, which could make it easier to bring him down. A key component to Goff’s success this season has been the high usage of play-action passes, which have enabled him to get out of the pocket and find open receivers down the field. Shutting down this part of the Rams’ offense would make life very hard for Goff.

The Rams have had one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks in recent weeks, with CJ Anderson serving as an excellent complementary piece alongside Gurley. An example of their dominance could be from their victory over Dallas where each of them rushed for over 100 yards. Gurley’s health has been under question ever since his limited involvement in the NFC Championship Game. The Patriots were effective in shutting down the Chargers’ dynamic running backs in the Divisional Round, but stopping a healthy Todd Gurley is something else altogether.

It will be interesting to see how the chess match between Belichick and McVay plays out.

(Photo via CBS Sports)


Injury Report:

  • Patriots: No players listed
  • Rams: No players listed

 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Rams 28

Here are some of my other predictions for the Super Bowl

  • X-factor on offense: James Develin
  • X-factor on defense: Trey Flowers
  • MVP: James White

 

 

The Pats march past the Chiefs in OT to advance to Super Bowl LIII!

 

TEAM

1

2

3

4

OT

T

KC 0 0 7 24 0 31

NE

7 7 3 14 6 37

What a game!!!

The Patriots secured a berth in Super Bowl LIII yesterday, as they triumphed over the Kansas City Chiefs (13-5) 37-31 in a thrilling contest that went into overtime. The Patriots dominated the Chiefs in the first half, as they grabbed a 14-point lead going into halftime, but the Chiefs roared back, led by their young phenom Patrick Mahomes, and gave the Patriots almost all they could handle.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s AFC Championship Game. 

1. TB12 and his weapons came up clutch again!

When the Chiefs took the lead just under 8 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, it appeared as if the Pats had squandered their chance to advance to the Super Bowl, as they had just turned the ball over (due to a drop by Julian Edelman), and watched their lead evaporate in just 10 seconds of game time. The Pats were able to answer the Chiefs by driving down the field, partly aided by an incredible one-handed catch by Chris Hogan, which was upheld following a challenge by Andy Reid. After the Chiefs retook the lead, Tom Brady and the offense had to drive 65 yards with just under 2 minutes left in the game. For a moment, it appeared as if the game was over, as an errant pass went off the hands of Rob Gronkowski and was caught by Charvarius Ward, who seemed to have clinched the AFC for the Chiefs. However, the Pats were aided by the left arm of defensive end Dee Ford, which was over the line of scrimmage, and gave the Pats a second chance. They didn’t waste their opportunity, as their next play was a 25 yard pass to Gronk that got them to the 4-yard line. The Pats quickly scored, but the Chiefs answered, which sent the game to overtime.

Similarly to Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, the Pats won the coin toss, and never looked back, as they methodically marched the ball down the field against the Chiefs. A common criticism of the Pats this season has been that their main targets (Gronk and Edelman) were too old and banged up to have an impact on a game. They changed the narrative last night, as the duo came up big on 3 consecutive third downs, which enabled the Patriots to win the game.

A vintage performance by Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, & Rob Gronkowski has the Patriots in prime position to win another Super Bowl.

gronk v chiefs 19ccg.jpg
(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

2. The running backs were impactful!

The  Pats employed a similar game plan to their Divisional Round victory against the LA Chargers, as they came out running the football during their opening drive that went on for over 8 minutes, and resulted with a touchdown by Sony Michel. Michel and James White were a big part of the offense during the first half, as they were utilized to run the football constantly in an effort to burn the clock and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. In the second half, Rex Burkhead was primarily used, and he definitely delivered, as he scored 2 touchdowns, including the eventual game winner. 

The Pats will need another solid performance by their running backs if they want to have a good chance of winning Super Bowl LIII.

sony v kc 19.jpg
(Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports)

3. The offensive line was simply remarkable

I don’t believe that any unit in this game had more of an impact than the offensive line for the Patriots, as their brilliance was unmatched last night. Kansas City entered this game as the NFL’s top sacking defense, with superstars on the defensive line, including Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and Chris Jones. The Chiefs’ pass-rushing duo never got close to Brady during the game, as they were utterly and completely neutralized. The Chiefs had zero sacks and only hit Brady once. 

They were also heavily efficient in the running game, as they were able to constantly produce gaping holes that enabled their running backs to run rampant through the Chiefs’ defense.

The Pats’ offensive line will need to maintain this performance for them to succeed in the Super Bowl.

offensive line v kc 19ccg.jpg
(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

4. The defense did enough to win

As I mentioned in my preview for this game, the Pats were not going to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, due to the immense talent permeating throughout their offense. However, they did succeed in slowing him down enough for the offense to grab an early lead, which allowed them to weather the second half explosion by Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Pats were able to get after Mahomes consistently, as they sacked him 4 times and hit him 10 times. Kyle Van Noy was extremely efficient in the first half, as he sacked Mahomes twice (including a strip sack that ended the half). The Pats had a great performance against Tyreek Hill (1 catch for 42 yards) and Travis Kelce (3 catches for 23 yards and 1 touchdown) who were virtually non-existent for the majority of this game. However, Sammy Watkins and  Damien Williams caused problems for the Patriots, as they were essential in sparking Kansas City’s comeback. 

I think that Bill Belichick and Brian Flores did a remarkable job in crafting the game plan, as they shut out the Chiefs for the first time at home during the Reid era. As mentioned by Tony Romo, Mahomes is a unique quarterback who is extremely hard to defend against. Hence, I don’t think that we can be too hard on the performance of Belichick’s defense.

For the second time this season, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs scored 31 in the second half against the Patriots, but New England’s first half heroics ensured that they would emerge victorious.

In order to prevent the result of last year’s Super Bowl, the Pats’ defense will need to be at the top of their game.

mahomes fumble 19ccg.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 30/46 for 348 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 29 carries for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 7 receptions for 96 yards
  • Defensive: Kyle Van Noy – 10 tackles (including 2 sacks)

Chiefs

  • Passing: Patrick Mahomes – 16/31 for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Damien Williams – 10 carries for 30 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Sammy Watkins – 4 receptions for 114 yards
  • Daniel Sorenson – 14 tackles and 1 interception

 

What’s next?: The Pats head to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII (on February 3rd at 6:30 EST on CBS), where they’ll take on the Los Angeles Rams (15-3) in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI. It’ll be interesting to see how the Pats match up against the likes of Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley, while coaching against the wunderkind Sean McVay. 

Battle at Arrowhead!: Who will advance to Super Bowl LIII?

The Patriots head to Arrowhead Stadium tomorrow to take on the Kansas City Chiefs (13-4) for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII.  The Patriots will undoubtedly face their toughest task of the season, as the Chiefs usually take it up a notch when they’re in front of their rabid fans at Arrowhead Stadium, which will test the Pats on both sides of the ball. 

Here are a few things to consider entering the AFC Championship Game.

1. Will Brady, Michel & the offense deliver?

The last time the Pats met the Chiefs, Tom Brady and Sony Michel were both remarkable, as Brady threw for more than 300 yards, and Michel ran for more than 100 yards. To have any chance of keeping up with the explosive offense fielded by Andy Reid, Brady and Michel will need to be at their absolute best. Bill Belichick and his staff will definitely be looking at the Divisional Round game played between the Chiefs and the Colts, where Kansas City’s defensive line dominated Indianapolis’ previously impervious offensive line. This resulted in Andrew Luck and Marlon Mack being stifled by a Chiefs defense that had been dreadful throughout the season. Hence, I believe that for the Patriots to have offensive success, their offensive line will need to have an assertive performance at the line of scrimmage, as this would allow Brady to have time to deliver the ball in a clean pocket. Rob Gronkowski and James Develin will also need to be at their a-game, as their blocking would enable Michel to have the space required to gash the Chiefs on the ground. Julian Edelman and the rest of the receivers will also need to be as efficient as they were in Week 6 against Kansas City, because they’ll permit the Pats to stretch the field with play action.

I believe that the key for victory will be a dominant performance on the ground, as this will allow the Pats to control the time of possession and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. Also, starting hot will be especially important, because it will be hard to play from behind against a lethal team like Kansas City.

sony michel v chiefs ccgp.jpg
(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

2. Can the defense stifle the high-powered Chiefs?

The last time the Pats faced off against Patrick Mahomes, he torched them for 352 yards and 4 passing touchdowns. Mahomes maintained his explosive performance throughout the season, as he ended up throwing 50 touchdowns, and is considered to be the 2018-19 MVP. Coach Belichick and Brian Flores will have to craft another impressive game plan this week, because the way to defeat Mahomes is to force him to make mistakes in situations when he would normally be unflappable. The reason why the Patriots emerged victorious in Week 6 is because they were able to cause two turnovers in the first half, which allowed them to jump out to an early lead. It is important to understand that the Pats will not be able to stop Mahomes, due to the potency of his abilities, so their strategy for victory will be to slow him down. The way to do this is to get after him with constant and consistent pressure, and to confuse him with their coverages.

The next thing to consider about the Chiefs’ offense is their receivers. The Pats will need to be focused on the big play ability of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, who can burn the Pats for explosive plays if given the opportunity. In my opinion, the Pats will need to double Hill with either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson, and Devin McCourty helping out over the top. Kelce would likely be covered by Patrick Chung, which is not a matchup that would be very favorable for the Pats. However, if I was Bill Belichick, I would rather be burned by Kelce than Hill. Stephon Gilmore would most probably matchup against his old teammate Sammy Watkins, who he limited to 18 yards in Week 6.

Luckily for the Patriots, they will not have to face off against their kryptonite, Kareem Hunt, who has over 400 yards of total scrimmage yards in 2 career games against them. Damien Williams has been quite efficient in replacing Hunt, as he has had over 100 rushing yards in 2 of the last 3 games he’s played in. Stopping the run will allow them to focus in on Mahomes and the passing attack.

Making enough stops and forcing turnovers will give the Patriots a good chance of advancing to Super Bowl LIII.

mahomes v pats w6
(Photo via SI)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • No players listed

Chiefs

  • Dorian O’Daniel (ankle) – Out

 

PredictionPatriots 35, Chiefs 31

 

Here is my pick for the NFC Championship Game. 

Last week: 3-1

Rams at SaintsRams

Brady vs Rivers: Is the eighth time the charm for #17?

This Sunday, the Patriots welcome the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Chargers (13-4) to Gillette Stadium for their AFC Divisional Round matchup. There’s no doubt that the Chargers will be a formidable opponent for the Pats, and in order for New England to reach their 8th straight AFC Championship Game, they’ll have to be at their best.

Here are some things to consider entering this playoff game.

1. Will history repeat itself?

As the title of this article suggests, Philip Rivers has never defeated Tom Brady, with Brady and the Pats emerging victorious during all 7 of their matchups (including 2 postseason games in 2007 and 2008). The last time these two teams faced off was last year in Week 8 when the Pats fended off the Chargers for a hard-fought 21-13 victory.

Let’s hope that history is on Brady’s side this week.

W2ST2873.JPG
(Matt West/Boston Herald)

2. Road warriors vs Dominant hosts

The Chargers have been one of the NFL’s best road teams throughout the season, as they’ve gone 8-1 away from the Dignity Health Sports Center, with their only road loss coming against their brethren, the LA Rams. Hence, the Chargers have been undefeated outside of Los Angeles, with victories at historically tough venues such as Arrowhead Stadium, Heinz Field, and CenturyLink Field. The Chargers’ dominance outside of LA can be matched by the Pats’ record at home, as they went 8-0 this season at Gillette Stadium.

It’s going to be interesting to see which team triumphs and extends their respective record.

gillete dp.jpg
(Photo via the Kraft Group)

3. How will the Pats account for Ingram and Bosa?

The Chargers had a masterful defensive performance during their Wild Card Weekend victory against the Baltimore Ravens, with Melvin Ingram leading the way in clamping down on rookie phenom Lamar Jackson. The Chargers had 7 total sacks in the game, and forced 3 total turnovers (2 fumbles and 1 interception). Los Angeles was able to throw the Ravens off course by stifling their time-consuming rushing attack. Luckily for the Pats, they are not as dependent on one particular phase of the offense, which will make it tougher for the Chargers to catch them off-guard if they are able to have success on defense. If the Pats do want to have success on offense, it will be absolutely imperative for them to account for the duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa at all times, because they will make life hard for Tom Brady if they’re able to get after him. Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and the rest of the receivers/tight ends are going to have tough individual matchups this week, as they go up against the vaunted Chargers secondary, which includes some of the NFL’s best defensive backs in Derwin James, Desmond King, and Casey Hayward. Based on last year’s matchup between these two teams, I believe that the Pats will have to channel the crux of their offense through their stable of running backs (whether it be through rushes or passes), as they can win matchups against the Chargers’ linebackers due to their speed and agility.

If the Pats want to advance, the offense will need to be a well-oiled machine on Sunday.

brady vs chargers dp.jpg
(Photo via NBC Sports Boston)

4. Will the Pats slow down Rivers and company?

The Pats defense is going to face one of its toughest tests of the season this week, as the Chargers possess one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses. Throughout the season, the Pats have struggled to stop the run, which does not bode well for Sunday, as the Chargers have a great stable of running backs in Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, and Justin Jackson. One of the highlights of last year’s meeting between these two teams was a 87-yard rushing touchdown for Gordon, where he simply outran every Patriot defender in sight. Fortifying the line of scrimmage will be important, as it will allow the Pats to rely on the strong half of their defense, which is definitely their secondary. I would expect Stephon Gilmore to have the assignment of shadowing Keenan Allen, with J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty being the ones guarding Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, respectively. The Pats will also have to account for the veteran tight end Antonio Gates, who continues to have an impact at the age of 38. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers’ other tight end, Hunter Henry is active tomorrow, because he could pose a problem for the Pats’ safeties, who have struggled to cover tight ends effectively. Getting after Rivers also has to be a priority, because giving him a comfortable pocket is not a strategy for success.

The Pats’ defense needs to be at its best tomorrow to have a good chance of winning this game.

rivers v pats dpp.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Deatrich Wise (knee) – Questionable

Chargers

  • Brandon Facyson (concussion) – Questionable
  • Derek Watt (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Kyle Wilson (concussion) – Questionable
  • Hunter Henry (knee) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 30, Chargers 28

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Divisional Round games.

Last week: 2-2

Colts at Chiefs: Chiefs

Cowboys at Rams: Cowboys

Eagles at Saints: Saints

 

 

2018-19 NFL Playoff Predictions

In lieu of my weekly Patriots game previews (due to the Pats’ first-round bye), here are my complete playoff predictions, from the Wild Card Weekend to Super Bowl LIII.

(Note that AFC predictions are in red, while NFC predictions are in blue)

*The following predictions will serve as my picks for Wild Card Weekend, but I will continue to make picks going forward based on the results of each week.

Wild Card Weekend

#6 Indianapolis Colts at #3 Houston Texans

Prediction: Colts

luck playoffs.jpg
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

#5 Los Angeles Chargers at #4 Baltimore Ravens

Prediction: Ravens

lamar jackson playoffs.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

 

#6 Philadelphia Eagles at #3 Chicago Bears

Predictions: Bears

mack playoffs.jpg
(Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

#5 Seattle Seahawks at #4 Dallas Cowboys

Prediction: Cowboys

zeke playoffs.jpg
(Ron Jenkins/AP)

 

Divisional Round

#6 Indianapolis Colts at #1 Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction: Chiefs

pat mahomes playoff p.jpg
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

#4 Baltimore Ravens at #2 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

Jules v jets s17
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

 

#3 Chicago Bears at #2 Los Angeles Rams

Prediction: Bears

bears playoff 2
(Bruce Kluckhohn/AP)

#4 Dallas Cowboys at #1 New Orleans Saints

Prediction: Saints

drew brees playoffs.jpg
(Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

 

Conference Championships

#2 New England Patriots at #1 Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction: Patriots

Rob Gronkowski, Ron Parker
(Stephen Senne/AP)

 

#3 Chicago Bears at #1 New Orleans Saints

Prediction: Bears

mitch tribusky playoffs p.jpg
(Photo via the Chicago Tribune)

 

Super Bowl LIII

#2 New England Patriots vs. #3 Chicago Bears

Prediction: Patriots

james white sb
(Photo via the Patriots)

Wild Card Weekend rooting guide for the Patriots!

Even though the Patriots may not be playing this weekend due to their first round bye, it is heavily important to follow the results of this weekend because it will determine their opponent for the divisional round, and also future opponents if the Pats are able to advance past the second round.

The outcomes of NFC playoff games would only be important for the Patriots should they advance to Super Bowl LIII, but it’s hard to deny that the team and its fans would surely prefer that certain teams emerge victorious.

Here’s your rooting guide for Wild Card Weekend.

Saturday

Colts at Texans (4:35 PM on ESPN/ABC): The Patriots should want the Texans to win, because Indianapolis is currently one of the hottest teams in the NFL, and would be difficult to defeat (even though their seeding makes it unlikely they’d actually play the Pats). Also, a Texan victory would ensure that they would come to Gillette Stadium for the divisional round, which would likely be less imposing than hosting the Ravens or Chargers which would occur if Indianapolis was victorious.

Seahawks at Cowboys (8:15 PM on FOX):  The Patriots should be rooting for Dallas, because it is always preferable to avoid rematches in the Super Bowl, as the Patriots learned while facing both the Giants and the Eagles. In addition, a Cowboy victory would eliminate one of the league’s most dangerous quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, who would surely give the Pats trouble if they were to meet down the line.

Sunday

Chargers at Ravens (1:05 PM on CBS): The Patriots should want Baltimore to win, because even though they have a ferocious and physical defense to go along with a time-consuming rushing attack, they are less likely to be able to test the Pats down the field, which Los Angeles is quite good at. Lamar Jackson has been exceptional throughout his 7 games as a starter, but I think that the lack of success for rookie quarterbacks in Gillette Stadium speaks for itself.

Eagles at Bears (4:40 PM on NBC): As I mentioned with the Seahawks, the Patriots would probably want to avoid a Super Bowl rematch, which is why they should root for Chicago to win this game. Nick Foles has demonstrated the prowess he had during last year’s Super Bowl run, which ended with him dissecting the Patriots’ defense. Chicago does feature one of the NFL’s best defenses led by Khalil Mack, which should make them a force to be dealt with in the NFC.