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2016 NFL Playoff Preview and Predictions
- Updated: January 12, 2016
As the stage is set for the 2016 NFL Playoffs, the field is far more wide-open than it’s been in years past. Things have changed drastically over the final weeks of the NFL Regular season. In week 15, many were thinking the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like one of the hottest hands and primed to make a deep playoff run behind that loaded offense and improving defense. However, Pittsburgh faltered in week 16 with a loss to the Ravens, and then had to rely on a Jets loss, and a win of their own against the Browns in order to claim the 6th and final seed in the AFC. A similar story can be said for the Patriots as they had the top seed in the AFC locked up until a surprising week 17 loss at Miami, giving the Broncos the top seed after their later win against the San Diego Chargers.
In the NFC things weren’t quite as eventful as the AFC, except for the Packers losing their final two regular season games to give the division to the Minnesota Vikings. The second of those two losses was at the hands of the Vikings in Lambeau with the division on the line, and the Packers were beat pretty thoroughly by what seems to be a dangerous and improving Vikings team.
Out of the teams that aren’t a 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs, the Vikings, Steelers, Seahawks, and Chiefs seem to be the teams with the greatest chance of going the distance and knocking off some of the top seeded teams. The Bengals would be up there if not for being without Andy Dalton, who had a career year. Dalton is currently week to week with a thumb injury, but even once he returns it’s hard to say how well he’ll be able to play with the thumb injury on his throwing hand. The Vikings and Seahawks have come on late to be two of the hottest teams in the league, while the Chiefs have won an impressive 10 games in a row. There’s still plenty of doubters of Alex Smith and if he can get the job done in the playoffs, but even without Jamaal Charles, this is the most talented Chiefs team Smith has had and that defense is good enough to keep them in any game.
The top seeded teams that will have a first round bye: The Patriots, Broncos, Panthers, and Cardinals, all finished strong except for the Patriots who gave up the top seed with an untimely loss to divisional foe, the Dolphins, in week 17. The Carolina Panthers were undefeated until their week 16 loss at Atlanta to a struggling Falcons team, which may work in their favor now that the pressure of an undefeated season is alleviated.
The first round of Sunday games have an interesting opening odds as the Green Bay Packers are a Pick against the Washington Redskins. Whereas the Seahawks are ranging from -4 points to 6.5 points depending on which sportsbook you wager at.
It’s as wide open of a playoff field as there’s been in recent memory. Peyton Manning is returning just in time for the playoffs for the Broncos, which could drastically change the landscape, and who knows what the consequences of the Patriots’ week 17 loss will be now that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Denver. All things considered, we expect the AFC Champion game to be between the Chiefs and Broncos, while the NFC will be decided between the top two seeds, Cardinals and Panthers. The Seahawks can potentially replace the Panthers in this scenario when they likely face the Panthers in the second round of the playoffs. When it’s all said and done, we expect the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton to be hoisting the Lombardi as the 2015-’16 NFL Super Bowl Champions.
Photo by William J. Hauser