The NFL season is almost upon us again. After a season that featured a unique amount of sloppy games, playoff blowouts and off-field distractions, let’s hope football returns to the game we love in 2017 – the type of game we saw at last year’s Super Bowl, which was one of the most exciting championship bouts of all time.
This article will take a division-by-division, team-by-team look before diving into playoff picks at the end.
For reference, here are all of my preseason Super Bowl picks since I started making them in 2010.
2010-11: Green Bay Packers (10-6, won Super Bowl)
2011-12: San Diego Chargers (8-8, missed playoffs)
2012-13: Green Bay Packers (11-5, lost NFC divisional round)
2013-14: Seattle Seahawks (13-3, won Super Bowl)
2014-15: New Orleans Saints (7-9, missed playoffs)
2015-16: Green Bay Packers (10-6, lost NFC divisional round)
2016-17: Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1, missed playoffs)
So yeah, all over the place. Let’s hope I can make a return to greatness here also.
Some teams are bound to surprise and some are bound to fall flat. The next four months will tell the story, but here’s my best shot.
1. New England Patriots (15-1)
The safest bet in sports, the Patriots are basically already a lock to win the East. They are also the favorite to win the Super Bowl by quite a large margin – they did so last year without a healthy Rob Gronkowski down the stretch.
Sure, Julian Edelman is out for the year, but he’s being replaced by Brandin Cooks. And I’m sure Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won’t miss a beat.
Three key games: Week 7 vs. Atlanta, Week 11 vs. Oakland (in Mexico City), Week 15 at Pittsburgh
2. Miami Dolphins (8-8)
The Ryan Tannehill injury hurts, but the Dolphins will be in the mix to make a second-consecutive postseason appearance.
Jay Cutler is brought into a system run by Adam Gase, who he had his best season under in Chicago. He’s not a great quarterback by any means, but he’s got the right coaching staff as well as some decent targets and a solid running game.
The Dolphins are pretty much a guarantee to get second in the East, as they are clearly not at the Patriots’ level but a tier or two above the Bills and Jets.
Three key games: Week 2 at LA Chargers, Week 13 vs, Broncos, Week 16 at Chiefs
3. Buffalo Bills (4-12)
Tyrod Taylor may very well be the most underrated quarterback in the NFL. The problem is that the rest of the team is pretty awful.
LeSean McCoy is still an elite running back, but Taylor will have to deal with a slight downgrade in terms of targets as Sammy Watkins is out in favor of Jordan Matthews.
Also, the defense isn’t what it was a few years ago, so staying in the playoff picture is a bit of a stretch.
The positive? No more Rex Ryan.
Three key games: Week 1 vs. NY Jets, Week 12 vs. New Orleans, Week 14 vs. Indianapolis
4. New York Jets (1-15)
For all of the 0-16 prognostications, the Jets actually don’t have a terrible defense. The offense, however, is so bad that the 0-16 may actually be a possibility. There’s a void at the quarterback position, there’s a void on the offensive line, and pretty much everywhere else.
Matt Forte and Bilal Powell as a running back combo isn’t awful, but they don’t have good blockers and other defenses can focus their attention more on New York’s run game since the passing game is so terrible.
Three key games: Week 4 vs. Jacksonville, Week 5 at Cleveland, Week 9 vs. Buffalo
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
One of these years, Ben Roethlisberger is going to run out of steam. But not yet. Not with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell helping him out.
Pittsburgh’s defense still could use some work, but the Steelers boast what has to still be considered the NFL’s most dynamic and explosive offense.
Three key games: Week 4 at Baltimore, Week 12 vs. Green Bay, Week 15 at New England
2. Baltimore Ravens (7-9)
The Ravens are your stereotypical middle-of-the-pack team. If all the dominoes fall in the right direction, we could see them playing postseason football, but it’s not extremely likely.
Baltimore’s linebacker corps is tough, but the rest of the defense is not what it used to be. The offense should be interesting and a bit unpredictable, however, as Joe Flacco has two veteran wideouts to throw to in Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin (if he can stay healthy), as well as two pass-catching backs in Terrance West and Danny Woodhead (if he can stay healthy)…notice a trend?
Three key games: Week 4 vs. Pittsburgh, Week 12 vs. Houston, Week 17 vs. Cincinnati
3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Bengals going into this season.
A.J. Green is healthy, which helps the passing game, but the loss of star tackle Andrew Whitworth may hurt Andy Dalton’s game. Then again, John Ross creates another target for Dalton while Joe Mixon joins Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to form quite an interesting three-back system.
Also, it’s tough to complain about a defense with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap up front, but there are still some questions about the secondary.
In the end, Marvin Lewis just hasn’t been able to get over the hump in Cincinnati and it doesn’t look like there’s any reason to believe this year will be different.
Three key games: Week 8 vs. Indianapolis, Week 11 at Denver, Week 17 at Baltimore
4. Cleveland Browns (3-13)
Wow, three wins!
The Browns are going in the right direction after making some solid offseason trades and smart draft picks (other than Jabrill Peppers).
DeShone Kizer has to potential to open some eyes as the new starting quarterback while Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. can make some noise on the ground.
Also, Myles Garrett is an absolute monster.
This isn’t the year, but better days are not far away on the shores of Lake Erie.
Three key games: Week 4 vs. Jets, Week 8 vs. Vikings (in London), Week 11 vs. Jacksonville
1. Tennessee Titans (10-6)
The Titans are a popular pick to win the South for the first time in years, and for good reason.
Marcus Mariota should be expected to only build on his stellar 2016 season after the front office added two pass-catchers in Eric Decker and Corey Davis.
Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry make up a good duo on the ground, the line is good and the defense is respectable. Don’t be surprised if the Titans meet their lofty expectations.
2. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
Missing Andrew Luck for at least the first game of this season due to injury could come back to bite the Colts. Being in a logjam of average teams in the AFC, every game matters that much more to Indianapolis.
On the plus side, the Colts have the easiest schedule in the league. There aren’t too many tough games on the slate, and the ones that are tough will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Sure, the offensive line and defense are still pretty awful, but Indy focused on its weaknesses in this year’s draft, taking safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Quincy Wilson and defensive end Tarell Basham with its first three picks.
A 9-7 mark is asking for just a one-game improvement from last year. With the schedule in their favor and a defense that should be a little better, the Colts can do it.
Three key games: Week 12 vs. Tennessee, Week 16 at Baltimore, Week 17 vs. Houston
3. Houston Texans (7-9)
Houston finished with the NFL’s best defense last year and was without J.J. Watt for a large chunk of the season. So if you want to know what to expect when the Texans don’t have the ball, there you go.
The problem comes when they do have the ball. Tom Savage is the starter at quarterback as of now, but DeShaun Watson is expected by many to take over at some point this season. But no matter which inexperienced quarterback is under center, his line won’t be that great and he won’t have much to throw to other than DeAndre Hopkins.
The Texans could certainly make it in as a wild card or even as a division winner again, but likely improvements from Tennessee and Indianapolis could leave Houston out of the playoffs.
Three key games: Week 5 vs. Kansas City, Week 12 at Baltimore, Week 17 at Indianapolis
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
What people are saying about the Titans this year is similar to what they were saying about the Jaguars last year. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
At 3-13, the Jaguars showed us that Blake Bortles wasn’t quite who we thought he was as a quarterback, and he appears to still be the starter this year.
On the plus side, five or six wins is definitely possible this season.
While Bortles isn’t exactly a standout talent, he’s got some good receivers and an exciting rookie running back in Leonard Fournette.
Also, Jacksonville’s defense could be pretty stellar, boasting Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson and Dante Fowler Jr. up front, Paul Posluszny and Myles Jack at linebacker and star corner Jalen Ramsey in the secondary. That’s quite a group.
Three key games: Week 9 vs. Cincinnati, Week 13 vs. Indianapolis, Week 15 vs. Houston
1. Oakland Raiders (11-5)
2016 was an incredible year for the Raiders – until Derek Carr went down and, well, that was that.
With Carr healthy, the Raiders are in position to wrap up the AFC West crown. The young, explosive defense has a year of winning under its belt and Oakland’s top two competitors from last year (Kansas City and Denver) may see a decline.
Also, the Raiders have a wild card at running back in Marshawn Lynch. Can he be as explosive as he was before his one-year retirement? If so, look out.
Three key games: Week 1 at Tennessee, Week 11 vs. New England (in Mexico City), Week 14 at Chiefs
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
The Chiefs are an interesting team. They quietly had a spectacular year in 2016, but lost their first playoff game at home to Pittsburgh after coming up flat on offense.
Not a ton has changed this year, although Kareem Hunt will replace the injured Spencer Ware at running back.
While the offense is still nothing to get too excited about, the defense – particularly the secondary – should again be terrific. Plus, the linebacker corps could get a boost if the newly-acquired Reggie Ragland can meet his potential.
Three key games: Week 5 at Houston, Week 6 vs. Pittsburgh, Week 14 vs. Oakland
3. Los Angeles Chargers (8-8)
An underrated defense, a blooming running back, an experienced quarterback and a healthy group of receivers has the Chargers looking ready to make a big leap in their first year back in Los Angeles.
There’s still some inexperience, but if (big if) guys like Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin can stay off the IR this year, the Chargers will be able to put up some points. Playoffs certainly are not out of reach.
Three key games: Week 2 vs. Miami, Week 12 at Dallas, Week 17 vs. Oakland
4. Denver Broncos (6-10)
From Super Bowl champion to division cellar in two years? Unfortunately for the Broncos, it’s about to happen.
The Orange Crush Defense won’t be exactly as dominant as it was two years ago, but it is still one of the best in the NFL.
Offensively, though, the Broncos are a step behind their competitors.
A wild card isn’t totally out of the question (Denver is one of those average AFC teams I mentioned earlier), but it could be a longshot given how competitive the West is.
Three key games: Week 7 at LA Chargers, Week 15 at Indianapolis, Week 17 vs. Kansas City
1. New York Giants (10-6)
Sure, the Giants had some ridiculously lucky wins last season. Sure, the running game is a big question mark.
But you know what isn’t a question mark? New York’s defense and it’s receiving trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard, along with rookie tight end Evan Engram.
Any of the four teams in the East can win the division this year, but the Giants have the edge thanks to their top-tier defense and a passing game that should be dynamite.
Three key games: Week 7 vs. Seattle, Week 14 vs. Dallas, Week 16 at Arizona
2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Last year’s 13-3 season was completely unexpected, especially with Dez Bryant missing a handful of games. How will the young Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott & Co. adapt now that the target is on their backs?
Also Elliott’s suspension, regardless of how long it is, will put a lot more pressure on Prescott and his receivers. The offensive line is one of football’s best but is a combination of Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and Ronnie Hillman good enough to shoulder the load in some tough early games?
Lastly, the defense is prone to giving up the big play, and losing Barry Church and Morris Claiborne could make what was a mediocre secondary even worse.
Still, the offensive line and explosiveness of Dallas’s offense should be good enough to keep the Cowboys in the playoff conversation, even if a repeat of last season’s 13-3 mark is a major stretch.
Three key games: Week 5 vs. Green Bay, Week 10 at Atlanta, Week 14 at NY Giants
T3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
Carson Wentz had some struggles in his rookie season, but tons of dropped passes didn’t help him out.
Management went out and grabbed two proven pass-catchers in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and now Wentz seems in position to establish himself as a decent starting QB.
The Eagles appear to be on the way up and Wentz is behind most of it, but the defense needs to hold up its end of the bargain. Exciting rookie Derek Barnett will join veteran Brandon Graham on the end while Tim Jernigan and Fletcher Cox create a fun pair at defensive tackle. Newly-added corner Ronald Darby will join Malcolm Jenkins in the backfield. While the D isn’t elite by any means, it should certainly be improved this year.
Three key games: Week 6 at Carolina, Week 7 at Washington, Week 17 vs. Dallas
T3. Washington Redskins (8-8)
It’s a big year for Kirk Cousins, who some think is auditioning for a job in San Francisco in 2018 once his contract is up. Unfortunately for him, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon are no longer on the roster.
Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson will have to step up and play bigger roles, but the front office acquired Terrelle Pryor Sr. to provide a No. 1 target with Jackson and Garçon missing. Also, Cousins has one of the best tight ends in football in Jordan Reed.
The offense, however, may be one-dimensional as Robert Kelley, Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine make up a lackluster trio of backs.
On defense, rookie Jonathan Allen could be a standout at defensive end and the secondary could challenge New York’s for best in the division, but the Redskins fall in the middle of the pack overall.
Three key games: Week 7 vs. Philadelphia, Week 12 vs. NY Giants, Week 13 at Dallas
1. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
Always tough to go against Aaron Rodgers, especially with yet another experienced target in Martellus Bennett joining the squad.
The defense isn’t one of the league’s elite units and it remains to be seen what kind of impact Ty Montgomery will have on the running game, especially without TJ Lang on the line anymore, but as long as the league’s best quarterback is under center, the Packers are the favorite to win the North.
Three key games: Week 2 at Atlanta, Week 12 at Pittsburgh, Week 17 at Detroit
2. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Things were looking great for the Vikings after last year’s 5-0 start. Then it quickly became 5-4…then finished at 8-8.
The reason for Minnesota’s start was its defense, which should again be pretty dominant.
The reason for the 3-8 finish was its offense, which should certainly be better.
Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray are an upgrade on last year’s Matt Asiata-injured Adrian Peterson duo, Pat Elflein is a strong rookie center who should make the offensive line much tougher as a whole and Sam Bradford has four legitimate targets to throw to. Expect the Vikes to be right in the wild card hunt and possibly even challenge Green Bay for the division.
Three key games: Week 6 vs. Green Bay, Week 12 at Detroit, Week 14 at Carolina
3. Detroit Lions (8-8)
Matthew Stafford is the highest-paid man in NFL history, but he still can’t win outside, beat contenders or win a playoff game.
Okay, a lot of that isn’t his fault. A bad offensive line, lack of a running game or an elite receiver and a secondary prone to giving up big plays has hurt the Lions in recent years – or at least forced Stafford to pull weekly rations of magic out of his sleeve in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for Stafford and the Lions this year, the schedule finishes up with a brutal stretch of outdoor road games. If you’re not the type of person who thinks what’s been proven time and time again in the past doesn’t mean anything, those problems mentioned above still exist. And the jury is still out as to whether or not Ameer Abdullah is any good if he’s healthy.
I’ve got Detroit at 8-8 – and that’s WITH home wins against Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina and Green Bay.
Three key games: Week 4 at Minnesota, Week 12 vs. Minnesota (Thanksgiving), Week 17 vs. Green Bay
4. Chicago Bears (3-13)
The Cameron Meredith injury hurts. Bad.
Okay, even with Meredith the Bears weren’t going to come close to the playoffs, but he was a high-upside receiver that they could’ve used because, well, their quarterback position isn’t exactly ideal.
Jordan Howard will get plenty of carries as one of the league’s better running backs, but the receiving corps now stars unproven youngster Kevin White along with a depth receiver in Markus Wheaton and some washed-up names like Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz.
The defense isn’t awful, but it could’ve been much better with a guy like, oh I don’t know, Solomon Thomas or any of the other players the 49ers picked/will pick with the Bears’ selections they received in this spring’s senseless trade.
Three key games: Week 11 vs. Detroit, Week 13 vs. San Francisco, Week 16 vs. Cleveland
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
Did anyone expect the Cowboys and Falcons to top the standings in the NFC at this time last year? How about the Panthers at this point in 2015? That’s right, it’s Tampa’s turn to catapult to the top of the conference.
Jameis Winston will establish himself as an elite NFL quarterback this season with veteran DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard joining stud receiver Mike Evans. Jacquizz Rodgers should be able to hold down the fort until Doug Martin returns from suspension in Week 4, making the ground game a bit of a threat as well.
Defensively, the Bucs aren’t perfect, but they’re good enough. Gerald McCoy is still a force to be reckoned with while Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes are a good pair of corners.
Three key games: Week 12 at Atlanta, Week 15 vs. Atlanta, Week 16 at Carolina
2. Carolina Panthers (10-6)
So after their post-Super Bowl letdown last season, the Panthers are trying to right the ship and get back to 2015 form.
Cam Newton, repaired rotator cuff and all, gets a little bit of help as rookie running back Christian McCaffrey hopes to add another dimension to the offense. The line still isn’t good, but the Panthers will have loads of options when in possession along with plenty of the same players that led them to a 15-1 record two years ago.
On defense, Carolina still misses Josh Norman but looks to be a little bit better than middle-of-the-pack in the NFL. A return to the playoffs is a definite possibility.
Three key games: Week 5 at Detroit, Week 9 vs. Atlanta, Week 14 vs. Minnesota
3. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
Atlanta’s still got all the goods on paper. An above-average quarterback, multiple deep threats, a two-back system headlined by the fantastic Devonta Freeman and a really good defense that improved greatly last year under Dan Quinn.
It seems like the Falcons have all the tools to get back to the Super Bowl this year and maybe not lose this time around.
Except that loss hurt. A lot.
Look how the Seahawks played the season after their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss in 2015. Look how the Panthers played after dropping the Big Game in 2016.
Football is an emotional game, and history has shown that losing the Super Bowl could have ramifications on the next year.
Also, take a look at Julio Jones’ final few games down the stretch last year. Is it possible that he’s starting to decline?
Expect Atlanta to lose a few surprising games this year.
Three key games: Week 7 at New England, Week 13 vs. Minnesota, Week 15 at Tampa Bay
4. New Orleans Saints (6-10)
Some are high on the Saints after the addition of Adrian Peterson, but this is the year it starts to come crashing down.
New Orleans has straddled the line of mediocrity for years now, Drew Brees is another year older, Sean Payton will do pretty much anything to avoid using Mark Ingram, the defense is still one of the league’s worst and star receiver Brandin Cooks is gone.
Not to mention the fact that the Falcons are last year’s defending conference champion and Tampa Bay and Carolina should both be better. Getting out of the basement in the South will be a tough task for the Saints, but it may finally kickstart the rebuild that is about two or three years overdue.
Three key games: Week 10 at Buffalo, Week 11 vs. Washington, Week 13 vs. Carolina
1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
There are questions about the Thomas Rawls-Eddie Lacy tandem at running back and obviously the offensive line, but this is still one of the top teams in the NFC.
Let’s not forget that the Seahawks, who are practically unbeatable at home and normally mediocre on the road, went to New England last season and came out with a victory.
The line, while still below-average, should be a bit better this year with former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel coming into the fold and some of the young linemen getting more experience. If Russell Wilson has any time at all (and he will because he knows how to buy some for himself), he’ll find Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson or Tyler Lockett.
But the reason Seattle is so good, again, is the defense. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner and others still make up what may be the best group in the NFL.
Three key games: Week 1 at Green Bay, Week 7 at NY Giants, Week 10 at Arizona
2. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Bruce Arians is a great coach, David Johnson is a great running back and Arizona has a great secondary.
The rest of the team, however, is the definition of the word “mediocre”. The Cardinals went a disappointing 7-8-1 last season after being pegged as one of the top favorites to win the Super Bowl. Johnson had an unforgettable season, but pretty much everything else went wrong for Arizona.
Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are getting up there in age, and if they become ineffective, opposing defenses can key in on Johnson even more. Also, the defense doesn’t really have a ton of room for improvement either: the Cardinals were second in the NFL in terms of yards-per-game-against (maybe it helped playing four games against the Rams and 49ers) in 2016 and still only won seven games.
Three key games: Week 10 vs. Seattle, Week 15 at Washington, Week 16 vs. NY Giants
3. Los Angeles Rams (6-10)
2016 No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff, while unimpressive in his first season, now has a talented receiver in Sammy Watkins and a potential standout rookie to throw to in third-round pick Cooper Kupp.
Also, Goff’s head coach is no longer Jeff Fisher (that’s a plus), he has a ground threat to back him up in Todd Gurley and the addition of Andrew Whitworth gives the Rams the best offensive line in the NFC West (although there isn’t much competition).
All of the tools are in place for Goff to succeed, but it remains to be seen if he is the right man for the job. Still, this team is good enough to win six or seven, maybe even eight games in 2017.
Three key games: Week 5 vs. Seattle, Week 12 vs. New Orleans, Week 14 vs. Philadelphia
4. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
The aforementioned trade with the Bears puts the 49ers in a good spot for the future, but only after they draft their future QB with a top-five pick next spring.
Simply put, the Niners are rebuilding. Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garçon could have decent personal seasons since they will be relied upon so heavily, but don’t expect more than four wins at the absolute most.
Three key games: Week 3 vs. LA Rams, Week 13 at Chicago, Week 16 vs. Jacksonville
Playoff Standings (NOTE: I went through each team’s schedule game-by-game and picked winners for each game. The official tiebreakers were used to determine these seedings.)
1. New England Patriots (15-1)
2. Oakland Raiders (11-5)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
4. Tennessee Titans (10-6)
5. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
6. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
2. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
3. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
4. New York Giants (10-6)
5. Carolina Panthers (10-6)
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
AFC Wild Card Round
The Chiefs get another shot at the team that knocked them out of the divisional round last year, except this time, it’s in hostile territory.
The matchup of Pittsburgh’s offense and Kansas City’s defense is what will draw eyes to the TV in this one, but again, the Steeler offense proves too good in the end.
Steelers 24, Chiefs 16
In their first playoff game since 2009, the Titans will host divisional foe Indianapolis. While the Colts have the more experienced quarterback in Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota has a few more weapons at his disposal.
Also, Tennessee’s defense is more capable of stopping Luck than vice-versa.
Titans 31, Colts 21
NFC Wild Card Round
Aaron Rodgers and the high-powered Packers offense will take on division rival Minnesota in the bitter cold once again.
While the Vikings have one of the NFL’s best defensive units, Rodgers has proven time and time again that he can score on anyone. Green Bay wins another January game at Lambeau.
Packers 27, Vikings 20
In what should be the most unpredictable game of the first round, Cam Newton and the Panthers make their triumphant return to the postseason by taking a trip to a chilly MetLife Stadium.
The weather makes this a game that will be decided mainly on the ground – a turn that heavily favors Carolina. The Panther ground game is much better than New York’s, whose dominant secondary will not come into play as much as it would like to.
Panthers 23, Giants 14
AFC Divisional Round
Sure, the Titans are trending up and may someday be the cream of the crop in the AFC, but they’re going to take one on the chin here at Gilette. Chalk it up as a learning experience.
Patriots 35, Titans 14
The Raiders and Steelers are about as evenly-matched as two teams can get in the AFC. When the talent level is about even, experience takes precedent. Pittsburgh’s defense comes up with a dominant performance while Big Ben & Co. scrape out another big road playoff win.
Steelers 20, Raiders 10
NFC Divisional Round
Warmer weather in Tampa means that the Panthers will have to be ready for one of the league’s top aerial attacks. Both teams should have each other figured out a bit by this point as it will be their third meeting of the year, making for an exciting cat-and-mouse game.
The Buccaneers don’t disappoint in their first playoff game since 2008, taking down their division rivals and moving one win away from the Super Bowl.
Buccaneers 28, Panthers 17
The captivating Seattle-Green Bay rivalry will add another chapter in January 2018 with a trip to the NFC Championship on the line.
On a neutral field, Green Bay may have the upper hand. However, winning on the road at CenturyLink Field at any time of the year, especially the playoffs, is one of the toughest tasks in sports.
Seahawks 31, Packers 28
A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship goes the same way. While the Steelers are talented, the Patriots are just too good to drop this game, especially at home.
Patriots 31, Steelers 23
A raucous crowd shows up to hopefully watch their Buccaneers punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. Standing in the way are the Legion of Boom and Russell Wilson’s offense.
The LOB delivers, smothering Winston and his receivers, allowing Wilson to put up just enough points to send Seattle to a Super Bowl 49 rematch.
Seahawks 23, Buccaneers 15
Super Bowl LII
Determined to shake off the bad taste left in their mouths after choking away the Super Bowl three years ago, the Seahawks come out of the gates and nab an early 10-0 lead.
However, the lead quickly evaporates and the Patriots find their niche again. Brady and Gronk hook up for a pair of touchdowns while the defense is able to stop Wilson in his tracks. New England wins its sixth Super Bowl since the 2001-02 season.
Patriots 28, Seahawks 16