Week 10 at long last gave us some much needed clarity on some of the best teams in the NFL, as well as what could trip them up. It turns out, the Eagles offense is not as effective when it is stuck on the sideline watching the other team's offense run all of the plays. Who knew! And it turns out the Vikings plucky penchant for comebacks is not just the opening of a Disney script, but a Justin Jefferson-sized threat to the league that these plucky purple people are not to be taken lightly. And Mike McCarthy is still capable of vomiting all over himself in a big game. Okay that we did already know.
When good teams lose is when you learn the most about them. What trips them up, and how can they respond to those trip ups? Once you see a team's weakness, you ask yourself it is a weakness that can be corrected, or will it flare up again down the road and cost them? These are some of the questions I ask myself when filling out these projected picks every week. This week, in a way to show how the sausage is made, I will include a notable outcome that each playoff team will have the rest of the way and how that will impact their standing in the playoffs.
Note: These are not power rankings. These are not picks based off any analytical data or insider knowledge. These are picks based off what I have seen during the season so far. I could be wrong, just like I could be right. Either way, I will be back again next week to offer an updated projection to cover any of my past mistakes. Check out the projections from weeks past here:
1 Seed: Kansas City Chiefs (14-3) AFC West Winner
Notable result: Week 14 loss at Broncos - Divisional games are tough. Divisional road games at altitude are tougher. Divisional road games at altitude against Russell Wilson playing for his “personal pride” in a lost season are a perfect mixture for that occasional inter-division upset loss.
2 Seed: Buffalo Bills (12-5) AFC East Winner
Notable result: Week 15 win vs. Dolphins - The Bills suffered a tough loss, but all worries about Josh Allen’s elbow seem to have subsided for the time being. Winning at home against a Dolphins they were so close to beating back in Week 3 will give the Bills the necessary leg up to win this division and remind Miami how far from the big kids’ table they really are. For now. Until next year maybe.
3 Seed: Tennessee Titans (12-5) AFC South Winner
Notable Result: Week 15 win at Chargers – Coming in the middle of two divisional home games, this quick trip to LA will be a great test of the Titans’ mettle for the playoffs. A Chargers team that is seeing its run defense break apart will get torn up by Derrick Henry.
4 Seed: Baltimore Ravens (12-5) AFC South Winner
Notable Result: Week 15 loss at Browns – The Ravens’ stupid soft schedule down the stretch has one little bump against a now back on the field Deshaun Watson. The loss won’t impact the Ravens’ division title hopes, and Cleveland gets to enjoy its gross quarterback. Everybody wins?
5 Seed: Miami Dolphins (11-6)
Notable result: Week 18 win vs. Jets – This game will be a play-in game for the final playoff spot between two Shanahan assistant coaches – Miami’s Mike McDaniel and New York’s Robert Saleh. The Shanahan Assistant Bowl turns into a masterclass of deft offensive and defensive play calling that we all associate with Kyle Shanahan in our minds.
6 Seed: New England Patriots 10-7
Notable Result: Week 17 win vs. Dolphins – If the Patriots make the playoffs, it will be because Bill Belichick still has the secret sauce on the Dolphins.
7 Seed: Los Angeles Chargers (10-7)
Week 18 win at Broncos – The Chargers are going to get healthy, and the schedule is weakening. Even still, the Bolts will be backed against the wall going into Denver needing a win-and-in situation to play out. The Broncos happily play along by lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 13 points in a 31-13 Chargers rout.
1 Seed: Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) NFC East Winner
Notable Result: Week 13 loss vs. Titans – This has always been my pick for the Eagles’ first loss of the season, and now it is my pick for their second. That whole thing about keeping the Eagles offense off the field really plays well for the Titans.
2 Seed: Minnesota Vikings (14-3) NFC North Winner
Notable Result: Week 12 win vs. Patriots – A short week against The Hoodie seems like no fun, but the Vikings once again chow down on our expectations that they will falter while we chow down on turkey legs just like the actual Vikings used to. It all comes full circle.
3 Seed: San Francisco 49ers (11-6) NFC West Winner
Notable Result: Week 15 loss at Seahawks – We can close our eyes and pretend really hard that it is 2019. Heck, I do that myself at least once a week. Sadly, it never works. The good news is that the Seahawks will trip up down the stretch so the 49ers can still win the NFC West by virtue of their intra divisional record.
4 Seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-7) NFC South Winner
Notable Result: Week 14 loss at 49ers – Jimmy G shows Tom Brady who the real master is now. Okay, maybe not. But this loss will be the reason the Bucs are stuck with a 4 seed and not a 3 seed.
5 Seed: Dallas Cowboys (13-4)
Notable Result: Week 17 loss at Titans – A week after taking the division lead with a home win over the Eagles, the Cowboys do what they do best and squander it in a road loss against the Titans on a short week. Classic Cowboys.
6 Seed: Seattle Seahawks (11-6)
Notable Result: Week 16 loss at Chiefs – Seattle will be flying high after a Thursday night win over the 49ers. But much like Icarus, their high flight will not last long. The Seahawks then lose the Geno Smith reunion game the next week in Seattle too because football is cruel that way.
7 Seed: New York Giants 11-6
Notable Result: Week 16 loss at Vikings – The Giants will get a big shot to show they deserve to be taken seriously in the playoffs. They fail it in grand, spectacular fashion.
AFC WILD CARD ROUND
(2) Bills over (7) Chargers
Both of these teams can bring the heat on defense, though the Bills defensive heat proves to be too much for the Chargers, who cannot reciprocate such heat.
(3) Titans over (6) Patriots
Mike Vrable has beaten Belichick before and certainly capable of doing it again.
(5) Dolphins over (4) Ravens
We see all of what is possible for the Dolphins: Tua throwing, Tyreek catching, JWJ and Mostert cutting and running, the defense doing just enough to contain Lamar Jackson for the Dolphins to eek out the win.
NFC WILD CARD ROUND
(2) Vikings over (7) Giants
The Giants were a fun story but it is time for the real fun story to take over.
(3) 49ers over (6) Seahawks
There is a reason why Geno Smith was written off, and my guess is that reason will somehow manifest itself in this game.
(4) Bucs over (5) Cowboys
Fun fact: The Cowboys have not won a playoff game on the road since beating the 49ers in the NFC Title game in 1992. But sure, I’m sure they can snap that against *checks notes* the greatest quarterback ever.
(1) Chiefs over (5) Dolphins
What if I told you that the Chiefs now could be the Dolphins someday?
(3) Titans over (2) Bills
Josh Allen has a bad case of The Mistakies, a terrible affliction in which quarterbacks make crucial mistakes in key situations. The Titans keep it close enough to trigger Allen’s symptoms.
(1) Eagles over (7) Bucs
A rule I usually follow is to take cold-weather teams over warm weather teams in the playoffs. Especially in Philly.
(2) Vikings over (3) 49ers
The Vikings look very hard to stop in a close game down the stretch, and right now that does not favor the 49ers, who have a not so great history in close playoff games down the stretch.
(1) Chiefs over (3) Titans
The Titans kept it close last time and we said that was admirable. They will keep it close this time, but with less admirability.
(1) Eagles over (2) Vikings
Neither of these two teams should be here probably so expect the Vikings to look more like they should not be there.
(1) Chiefs over (1) Eagles
At this point I will be rooting for the Sixers and Flyers to lose in the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals, respectively, just to see what would happen in Philly.