NFL Playoffs Preview and Predictions


Pike Temple, Sports Reporter

After 18 weeks the NFL playoffs are here … finally. The best teams from the AFC and NFC all want a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. These are the teams that will make it to the NFC and AFC Championships and have a good chance at reaching the Super Bowl in Los Angeles.


Green Bay Packers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Green Bay Packers won the NFC North and are the 1 seed, which means the race will run through Lambeau Field. In January, no NFL team wants to play in the Northern Midwest. Snow and low temperatures will be tough for teams coming from the south or west coast. Now that starting left tackle David Bahktiari is back from injury and pass rusher Za’Darius Smith is set to return, the Packers look like early NFC Championship favorites. While Green Bay may not be the explosive offense fans saw last season, their new slow and steady offense has worked against good opponents. The Packers should have a fairly easy path to the NFC championship, but Green Bay’s playoff kryptonite has been the elusive conference championship win. The Packers have been sent home a win away from the Super Bowl the past two years, losing to the 49ers in 2019 and the Bucs in 2020. This team is set up to make it past the roadblock this season.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the NFC South and will first play the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bucs are expected to win this game. Although a return to the Super Bowl looks slim, playoff Tom will be ready. The defense is still good this year, but the story is if the offense can come out and be dominant. While Brady is missing a few weapons, wide receiver Mike Evans is available and a great red zone threat. After beating the Panthers by 24 points in week 18, the Bucs hope to keep the momentum going into the playoffs. If the Bucs do beat the Eagles, they would host the winner of the Arizona vs. LA matchup or Dallas. Playoff Tommy could handle any one of these teams. Tampa Bay will be a tough playoff out. Bruce Arians’ team should be capable of reaching the NFC Championship in back to back years. 

I have the Packers beating the Bucs at Lambeau. The Packers, while their offense might not be as efficient as last year, now have a decent defense that has won multiple big games for coach Matt LaFleur this season. Not to mention the defense will be getting Z. Smith back to bolster an already improved duo of Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. Star cornerback, Jaire Alexander, could be ready soon and help an already solid secondary. The Buccaneers look good on paper, but injuries will hurt them. While multiple key players on their defense are set to return, such as Jason Pierre-Paul, Lavonte David, and Shaq Barrett, prolonged injuries could significantly hurt Tampa Bay’s odds of making it to the Super Bowl and repeating.



Tennessee Titans

Buffalo Bills

The Titans are the 1 seed in the AFC. The former offensive player of the year, Derrick Henry or “King Henry,” is set to return in time for the Titans Divisional round game. Once Henry comes back, he’s going to tear up the AFC. No defense in the conference, or in the league for that matter, is going to be able to stop a fresh Derrick Henry. Henry might not be 100% by then, but if Derrick Henry is able to play, he’ll dominate nevertheless. Ryan Tannehill is capable of leading the Titans offense thanks to coach Mike Vrabel. Vrabel will manage the game well and put Tannehill in the position to win Tennessee a playoff game. While the Titans’ defense isn’t amazing, it is more than capable of making stops and forcing three and outs. Wide receiver A.J. Brown is coming into his own and will be a nightmare for opposing defenses with Julio Jones as his running mate.

The Buffalo Bills have had a rollercoaster ride of a season. Buffalo lost to Titans, Jaguars, Colts, Patriots, and Buccaneers. Some of those losses wave red flags, but the Bills are good enough to reach the AFC Championship if Josh Allen can put it all together. Buffalo has an above-average running game which could help them establish an easy source of yards against the AFC defenses that fare poorly against the run. Stefon Diggs is a true number 1 wide receiver and will play a significant role in the Bills playoff run if Sean McDermott’s squad pushes for the AFC Championship. The Bills defense is statistically the best in the NFL. This season, it has allowed the least amount of yards per game. If the defense comes to play, Buffalo will be a strong playoff contender.

I like the Titans over the Bills. I hate to have both 1 seeds play in the Super Bowl, but Green Bay and Tennessee are the 1 seeds for a reason. With Tennessee’s run game, the Bills would struggle up front against Henry. The Titans have enough impactful players on the defense such as Harold Landry and Kevin Byard to disrupt a game. The Bills are a good football team, don’t get me wrong, but Buffalo will not be able to stop Henry, plain and simple. Josh Allen is a fairly trustworthy quarterback. Outside of Diggs, the other weapons Allen has utilized throughout the season need to show up in the playoffs. I think Diggs will be minimized and that the offense will struggle.  


Wild Card Round Predictions:

Raider vs. Bengals – Bengals

Patriots vs. Bills – Bills

Eagles vs. Buccaneers – Buccaneers

49ers vs. Cowboys – 49ers

Steelers vs. Chiefs – Chiefs

Cardinals vs. Rams – Rams