A recap of the 2018 NFL postseason and predictions before Conference Championships
The 2018-2019 NFL season has seen some of the closest divisional races in recent memory, as well as some massive blowouts in the standings. The season has been unpredictable until the end as we approach the conference championships taking place on Sunday January 20, 2019. The top two seeds from each conference have reached this stage of the playoffs. In the considerably tougher NFC, we have the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams. In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots.
The NFC playoffs started off with a close wild card race between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles, with the Eagles prevailing to take the last wild card seed for their playoff game appearance against the Chicago Bears that ended with the infamous “double-doink” missed field goal by Cody Parkey and an Eagles victory. The other side of the NFC Wild Card saw the Seattle Seahawks take on the Dallas Cowboys. After Dallas took the early lead, the Seahawks made a late-game run that was eventually stuffed by a failed onside kick attempt.
The AFC wild card saw both wild card teams defeat division champions with the Indianapolis Colts taking a decisive win over the Houston Texans and the San Diego Chargers taking revenge on the Baltimore Ravens after a loss to them in Week 16 of the regular season.
The NFC divisional round saw the Eagles take on the number-one seeded Saints. Despite a strong start from the Eagles offense, the Saints came back to claim their spot in the NFC Conference Championships with a 20-14 win. The second-seeded Rams also showed a strong showing in the first half against Dallas, but unlike the Saints, the Cowboys never managed to recover and suffered a 30-22 loss to the NFC West division champs.
The AFC divisionals saw both the first and second seed claim decisive wins over their opponents. The top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs dominated the Colts 31-13, and the Patriots put up a whopping 41 points to the Chargers 28.
Now four teams are entering the Conference Championships with their eye on the 53rd Super Bowl Title.
The Rams led by Jared Goff will be playing at the Superdome in New Orleans against a strong Saints offense led by Drew Brees. The odds-on favorites going on are Brees and the Saints. Having not lost a playoff game at home since 2006, the offensive-minded team is headed into the game with confidence and a strong offensive line.
“New Orleans is gonna be at home, in a dome, great weather conditions, they’ve earned it and it’s going to help them having that home field advantage,” said Mr. William Denofa, a Freedom high school social studies teacher and avid football fan.
Despite the Saints strong offense, I personally feel the Rams will take the NFC spot in the Super Bowl. The Saints defense suffered a major loss when Sheldon Rankins, the Saint’s top defensive lineman, tore his Achilles in last week’s playoff game. And after the Saints slow start against the Eagles, they may have difficulty coming back if the Rams come out as strong as they did against the Cowboys.
In the AFC Conference Championship, the Patriots are playing the Chiefs in Kansas City. Despite the Patriots, relatively easy regular season schedule, they were the AFC favorites heading into the playoffs and they are still the favorites heading into the Conference Championship.
“The Patriots have the AFC favorite at this point. Tom Brady doesn’t throw to the caliber of a NFL legend, but Belichick has learned how to develop his offensive strategy to accommodate for this,” said Mr. Denofa.
Tom Brady has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl victories and it is very possible he could do it again consider the Patriots consistent offensive performance throughout the season and postseason, but there one detriment is their inability to perform on the road with a 3-5 record away.
The Chiefs were a surprising powerhouse this season and edged out the Chargers for the top seed in the AFC West. Despite their strong regular season performance, the Chiefs have exhibited difficulty performing against teams with a strong defensive line, such as the Patriots.
“The Chiefs have surprised me this year, Reed coached them well and I could see them making a deep run, but I don’t expect to see Mahomes holding up a Super Bowl trophy,” said Mr. Denofa.
With the playoffs coming to an end, I predict the Patriots will be taking on the Rams in Atlanta on Sunday February 3, 2019. While I would like to see Goff and the Rams take home a trophy, I expect the Brady and the Patriots offense will be too much for the Rams to handle. I believe it will be a strong offensive game with the Patriots coming out on top and Brady taking him his sixth Super Bowl ring.