The last Sunday without NFL football is behind us! This season has a few less questions than others because stalwarts like the Patriots, Packers and Steelers seem solid at the top. Still, young talent for the Cowboys and Raiders looks to build on last year’s strong campaigns, while the Panthers and Cardinals look to put last year far behind them. In the end, teams are looking for the Lombardi trophy and ‘Who will win the Super Bowl?’ is the question that will mark the season.
In my piece on team’s over/under win totals, I laid out the division standings I foresee, which lead to these playoff standings.
Let’s walk through my playoff bracket and predict how this new season will end. I will highlight my favorite championship bets at the end of the post as well.
Raiders over Ravens
The Ravens have the defense to make a run if Flacco and the offense can get on a roll, but after the painful end to last year, Derek Carr and the Raiders won’t be one and done. Carr and the young Raiders get the city of Oakland a playoff win for the first time since 2002-03.
Chargers over Texans
Houston has their QB of the future in DeShaun Watson, but the future will have to wait at least one more season. Philip Rivers will continue a great year and lead the Chargers to a road playoff victory.
Chargers over Patriots
I don’t see seven straight AFC Championship games for the Patriots. This team is loaded and the schedule is soft, it’s got to end some time and a team like the Chargers with an experienced, confident quarterback and a deep arsenal of weapons could shock the nation.
Steelers over Raiders
Meanwhile, this would be Carr’s first road playoff game and the Steelers would win this one in a bit of a shootout. Their talent on offense and an aggressive defense take them back to the AFC Championship game.
Steelers over Chargers
If the Steelers have to play the Patriots, I’m not sure they can get to Minneapolis because Brady (6-1) has their number this decade, but their talent can beat anybody else. Roethlisberger and the Steelers head back to the Super Bowl.
Falcons over Buccaneers
James Winston and Mike Evans lead Tampa Bay back to the postseason, but will have to wait for their first win. Atlanta grinds its way to a playoff berth and arrives in the postseason on a mission to redeem themselves—starting with a win in Tampa.
Cowboys over Panthers
Newton vs. Prescott would be a tremendous matchup and Dak will improve from last year’s playoff performance. Dallas will be fighting for a playoff berth all year against a tough schedule and questions surrounding Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension. The battle-tested Cowboys move on to the divisional round.
Seahawks over Falcons
Russell Wilson is 8-4 in the playoffs and 2 of those losses have come to the Falcons. Those losses were both in Atlanta though. At home, Seattle will handle the defending NFC champs and book a spot in the NFC Championship.
Packers over Cowboys
Aaron Rodgers gets the best of the Cowboys for the second straight year. The Cowboys could have won both of their recent playoff matchups with the Pack, including the infamous Dez Bryant “catch’ incident the last time they played a January game in Lambeau. Perhaps they’ll come close again, but Rodgers gets the job done again.
Packers over Seahawks
This game could be decided in week 1, as the winner of that matchup will have a head start on home field. I see Rodgers and the Packers winning the conference even if they have to go to Seattle. The last time they were there, they were an onside kick recovery away from the Super Bowl. This time they close the deal.
Packers over Steelers
Rodgers takes down Tomlin and Roethlisberger again. Its easy to simplify this pick to Rodgers, but the Packers made a tremendous move in getting Rodgers a solid Tight End in Martellus Bennett and the defense should improve enough to where Rodgers can win his second Lombardi.
Best Championship future bets:
Packers +900 SB
Seahawks +1200 SB
Steelers +525 AFC
Chargers +2000 AFC