It was another rough year for my NFL predictions. Picking the Bears to win the NFC North? Not great. Picking the Browns to win the AFC North? Even worse. At the very least, both of my Conference Champions made the postseason, unlike previous seasons. So it’s time for a little redemption. Here are my 2020 NFL Playoff Predictions. And if you’re a Baltimore Ravens or New Orleans Saints fan, I’d like to apologize in advance for jinxing your team.
(All rankings come from Football Outsiders DVOA Metrics, which can be found here)
WILD CARD ROUND
No. 3 New England Patriots over No. 6 Tennessee Titans. The Patriots are vulnerable. Though their defense finished the year ranked 4th in weighted-DVOA, their offense fell out of the Top 10 for the first time since 2003. New England won’t be able to win many shootouts this postseason, so they’ll have to keep it close. And while the Titans might be able to pull off the upset, with a ground-and-pound attack and a Top 10 rushing defense, Bill Belichick and the Patriots do just enough at home to move on.
No. 5 Buffalo Bills over No. 4 Houston Texans. The Bills’ sixth-ranked defense is well-suited to slow down the Texans’ offense. Deshaun Watson has been inconsistent, and if Tre’Davious White can shut DeAndre Hopkins down, the Bills could be moving on to a Week 14 rematch against the Ravens. Josh Allen will need to be on his game, but if the second-year QB can avoid turning the ball over, Buffalo should pick up the victory.
No. 3 New Orleans Saints over No. 6 Minnesota Vikings. If the Vikings are going to pull off the upset, Minnesota will need Kirk Cousins at his best, and then some, playing the Saints in the Superdome. The Vikings will try and control the game with Dalvin Cook, but New Orleans’ defense has been much better as of late, especially against the run. In the end though, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas will prove to be too much for Minnesota’s secondary, as the Saints get revenge for the “Minneapolis Miracle”.
No. 5 Seattle Seahawks over No. 4 Philadelphia Eagles. Whichever team can stay the healthiest might win this game. The Eagles are down to fourth and fifth-string receivers, while the Seahawks are signing running backs off the scrap heap. Seattle’s defense is a far cry from the days of the “Legion of Boom”, but it’s not like Carson Wentz has the weapons to carve up Seattle’s secondary either. In what should be a close game, Russell Wilson makes just enough plays to pull out the victory in Philly.
No. 1 Baltimore Ravens over No. 5 Buffalo Bills. The Bills kept it close in their Week 14 matchup against the Ravens, but with an extra week to prepare, Lamar Jackson and co. will better exploit Buffalo’s 18th-ranked rush defense. And while the Ravens’ defense, especially its pass rush, isn’t as formidable as in previous seasons, it’s much improved as of late. Baltimore’s defense ranks second in weighted-DVOA, and is fully capable of forcing Josh Allen and co. into a few turnovers to advance to the AFC Championship.
No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs over No. 3 New England Patriots. The Patriots put up 37 points on the Chiefs in the 2019 AFC Championship game, but don’t expect a similar output in 2020. Tom Brady and co. cannot hang with the vaunted Chiefs’ offense, while Kansas City’s defense is much improved from 2019, ranking 14th in DVOA. New England will try to exploit Kansas City’s poor rush defense, control the clock and keep things low-scoring, but this time, Patrick Mahomes will be too much for the Patriots.
No. 1 San Francisco 49ers over No. 5 Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers and Seahawks have already played two classics this season, and there’s no reason not to expect another this time around. In a fairly even matchup, the difference might be the 49ers’ bye, allowing San Francisco to get healthy, and Kyle Shanahan to scheme up something unexpected. Russell Wilson might be the better of the two QBs, but with a banged-up offensive line, Nick Bosa and co. get enough pressure to seal the victory.
No. 3 New Orleans Saints over No. 3 Green Bay Packers. The Packers might be the No. 2-seed and have a better record, but the Saints are a far-superior team. “Father time” may have finally caught up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ 11th-ranked passing attack, while Green Bay’s defense has regressed to 16th in weighted-DVOA since a strong start. Drew Brees and co. are primed to take advantage, even on the road in a potentially-snowy Lambeau Field, advancing back to the NFC Championship.
No. 1 Baltimore Ravens over No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs. Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes spearheading two of the top five offenses in the NFL should put on a show, with the advantage going to whoever gets the ball last. But whereas Mahomes and co. are more of a passing attack, facing the NFL’s fourth-best pass defense, Jackson and Mark Ingram III are better-suited to take advantage of the Chiefs’ 29th-ranked run defense and advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2012.
No. 3 New Orleans Saints over No. 1 San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers got the better of the Saints in Week 14 in New Orleans, but Drew Brees won’t let another chance at a title slip out of his grasp. This time, there will be no game-changing, missed pass interference call as a fully-healthy Alvin Kamara takes advantage of San Francisco’s 11th-ranked rush defense, while Brees outplays Jimmy Garoppolo to advance to Super Bowl LIV.
SUPER BOWL LIV
New Orleans Saints over Baltimore Ravens. In a matchup of the two best offenses and two of the best coaches in the NFL, Sean Payton and Drew Brees come out on top. While the Saints’ defense ranks just 13th against the pass, they’re top-five against the run, with a stout defensive line that’ll give Jackson and Ingram some trouble. On the other side of the ball, New Orleans’ offense takes advantage of a less-than-stellar Baltimore pass rush, as Kamara, Michael Thomas and Jared Cook help give Brees one last title.
- Super Bowl MVP: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
- Offensive MVP: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
- Defensive MVP: Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots
- Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
- Defensive Rookie of the Year: Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers
- Coach of the Year: John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
- Comeback Player of the Year: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers