The 2017 National Football League playoff field is set and we already have a pretty good guess as to who is for real and who is an inevitable bounce in the first round.
Let’s take a quick dive into each remaining team with some rapid fire reactions to how their experience will go in this year’s playoffs.
New England Patriots
We saw this coming from the moment the Patriots overcame the 28-3 deficit in last year’s Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons. The notion that Tom Brady had fallen off and the window was closing was immediately taken back as soon as Brady and the Pats got one for the thumb; and all the front office did afterwards was reload for yet another visit to the Super Bowl in 2018.
This is your representative of the AFC in the Super Bowl and the only thing standing in the way of that is a Rob Gronkowski hangover-esque bender, and even that might not be enough to stop this force.
On paper this is one of the most intimidating offenses in the league. The Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown trio makes the Steelers a threat to anyone in the NFL, and when you add in the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster and the potential of Martavis Bryant, you’re looking at an offense that every other fan base in the league is 100 percent jealous of.
A strong NFC and Tom Brady stand in the way of the Steelers earning their seventh Super Bowl victory, but this team should be on your must-watch list as often as possible while this current offense is assembled.
The mysterious case of Blake Bortles has been one of the main storylines of the 2017 season. A team clearly led by their defense, the Jaguars finished the regular season near the top of the league in points and yards allowed per game, sacks and forced turnovers.
However, the inconsistency of Bortles and lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball will spell the end to the Jaguars’ season that very few could have predicted.
Kansas City Chiefs
A team that’s hot at the right time, the Chiefs are looking more and more like the squad that started the season 5-0 and made several NFL analysts believe Alex Smith had turned the corner and become an MVP candidate.
Unfortunately, despite the recent stretch of quality play, an opposing team will succeed in slowing down Kareem Hunt and the Chiefs’ running game and force Smith to beat them – which will not go in Kansas City’s favor.
Talk about limping into the playoffs, the Titans owe their 2017 NFL Playoff appearance to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who basically rolled over in their week 17 matchup since they were locked into the No. 3 seed.
The once-feared run game isn’t scaring anyone, the defense finished in the bottom third of the league in points allowed per game – and with Marcus Mariota’s performance at quarterback this year – you’ll need a strong run game and dominating defense to make any noise in the playoffs. Sorry, Titans’ fans, this won’t be your year.
Fans of the NFL should be happy that the Bills made the playoffs instead of the Ravens. There’s really nothing exciting about a Joe Flacco-led team, so at least we’ll get to watch Tyrod Taylor make his case for why he’s a starting caliber quarterback, even if the Bills’ front office doesn’t believe so.
Problem is the Jaguars defense stands in the way and will make the Bills first appearance in the playoffs since 1999 a fairly quick one.
A promising season led by MVP hopeful, Carson Wentz, is guaranteed to end in disappointment for Eagles’ fans.
Despite a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, Philadelphia won’t be in position to take advantage of its outstanding regular season and will only get one game in this year’s playoffs.
With a stacked NFC this season, every one of the teams in this conference has the ability to go into Philly and knock out the Wentz-less Eagles. It’s inevitable that the 2017 season will be remembered as the “what if” season.
Will the dream season end in disappointment for the Vikings?
Let’s take a look at how crazy and unpredictable this season has been in Minnesota:
– Sam Bradford gets injured as Teddy Bridgewater isn’t ready to return; Case Keenum steps in and the team actually gets better
– Rookie running back, Dalvin Cook, looks as good as advertised and proceeds to blow out his knee, leaving the position in the hands of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, who actually do a very good job easing the pain of the loss of Cook
– Anthony Barr’s body weight takes care of Aaron Rodgers’ collar bone and the Green Bay Packers hopes at making the playoffs, leaving the division wide open to the Vikings who took advantage of the opportunity
– This year’s Super Bowl will be in Minnesota, and the Vikings will play all of their playoff games at home leading up to the Super Bowl once Philadelphia gets bounced in the second round
I’m not ready to crown the Vikings as NFC champions, but they haven’t shown me a glaring weakness that will eventually haunt them as the playoffs progress.
Los Angeles Rams
Joining the Jaguars as one of the surprise teams in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams have quickly overcome the curse of Jeff Fisher and turned into one of the league’s top-scoring offenses.
The late-season emergence of Todd Gurley makes the Rams even more explosive and will be a difficult out for any team they face in the playoffs. I think the youth of this team will eventually catch up to them and we won’t see them playing on Super Bowl Sunday, but the future is very bright and the team’s quick turnaround looks like it’s for real with one of the league’s youngest core of offensive skill players.
New Orleans Saints
Who would have thought we’d see a New Orleans Saints team led offensively by their run game?
The Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara tandem has led the Saints back to the playoffs and lifted the weight of carrying the offense off Drew Brees’ shoulders, which is long overdue.
If the Saints’ defense can continue to outperform expectations, it might be wise to place a little pre-playoffs wager on New Orleans as Super Bowl champion.
One of the more confusing teams in the NFL in 2017, the Panthers postseason is likely to have a short shelf life as Cam Newton and the inconsistency on offense will ultimately spell the end to the season.
Not that Newton is a bad quarterback, or the team can’t get it done offensively as they are one of the top teams in the league in rushing yards per game, but a high level of consistency is required in the postseason and I just don’t see it this year with Carolina (that win/loss record seems a bit misleading, I’m not sold on their strength of schedule).
This year’s Falcons team definitely has the ability to win a game over wild card weekend, but that’s where the season ends for Atlanta.
Despite making the playoffs, this season has been fairly disappointing for last year’s NFC champion as they had to win three of their last four games to slide into postseason play.
It’s looking more and more like last year’s juggernaut of an offense was an outlier as Matt Ryan came nowhere near matching his 2017 MVP performance. I’d like to say any team featuring Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman has the ability to compete with anyone, but unfortunately I haven’t seen the potential of this offense this year, so why should I start now?