“I was just trying to flick it out of bounds, I didn’t want to take the sack. Shouldn’t happen.” – Tom Brady
Two more weeks remain and there are plenty of juicy matchups to over analyze. With playoff spots and seedings still up for grabs let’s look at ten of the top trending issues as NFL fans prepare for the two greatest sports weekends of the year, January 5th and 6th and 12th and 13th. Two playoff games Saturday and two on Sunday both weekends. Nirvana!
- The Saints are clear Super Bowl favorites on the verge of securing the NFC #1 seed. They can stay indoors for their entire journey all the way to hoisting their second Lombardi trophy in a perfect scenario. Their defense is becoming dominant, they have an elite running game, coach and quarterback and are peaking at the right time. The only red flag is an offense slightly struggling with inexperienced receivers giving a glimmer of hope for NFC playoff foes.
- The Patriots lost two in a row in December for the first time since 2002, their second two game losing streak of the season. Their spell over the Steelers finally ran out thanks to dropped passes, shaky Tom Brady throws and inability to stop the run. The AFC is wide open and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Pats went on their first three game playoff journey without a bye to Atlanta.
- The Ravens and Chargers are both capable of losing in the first round of the playoffs or going to the Super Bowl. The Chargers ended their losing streak against the Chiefs with an impressive comeback but their lack of home field advantage, coaching inexperience and shaky playoff past makes them a question mark. The Ravens can win anywhere led by their defense but it also wouldn’t be a shocker if they fell to the Chargers and miss the playoffs entirely.
- The AFC version of the Young Bucks: QBs Patrick Mahomes, DeShaun Watson and possibly Lamar Jackson look to break through in their virgin playoff games and challenge the long dominant Brady, Ben, Rivers trio.
- The Chiefs will have to overcome key injuries, defensive issues and historic demons. If they hold on to the top seed and home field there will be an overload of 0-6 references, their playoff record in the last six games in Arrowhead. The last Chiefs QB to win a home game was Joe Montana.
- The Steelers ignored showing up for any of their AFC West games solely to concentrate on beating the Patriots. They will need a repeat performance from their defense in New Orleans in a brutal Christmas present from the NFL scheduling department.
- The Rams and Jared Goff have lost their mojo. Sean McVay has to reintroduce Todd Gurley back to the offense. They coasted all year in a weak division and now have to ramp up their game as the #1 seed slips through their fingers.
- The Browns and the Jets have energized their franchises with proper picks of stud quarterbacks. Now comes even tougher decisions on who will lead these teams to take the next step in the future. The right coach can lead to many playoff years while the wrong one can set them back to misery. Whatever decision Cleveland makes should involve keeping Freddie Kitchens, who has established a great rapport with Baker Mayfield since taking over as Offensive coordinator.
- Da Bears bookended this decade with playoff runs and gave their fans a lot of mediocrity in between. Matt Nagy and Khalil Mack changed the culture of the team into a winning one in rapid fashion.
- Chris Ballard has done a masterful job of rebuilding the Colts. He solidified the offensive line and drafted ball hawking players on defense. If they get help from the Chargers beating the Ravens and they beat the Giants it sets up a sexy play-in game Week 17 in Tennessee. Season finale for the last playoff spot, book it please!
“We’ve got to be able to figure this out and figure it out fast, because we’re doing things these last couple of weeks that are totally uncharacteristic of what good football teams do, of what we’ve done … It’s guys making mistakes we typically haven’t seen.” – Sean McVay