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NFL Playoffs 2019-20: Bold Predictions for AFC and NFC Matchups

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 10, 2019

Philadelphia Eagles' Zach Ertz reacts after scoring the game-winning touchdown during overtime of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Fourteen teams are fighting for 11 remaining NFL playoff berths over the next three weeks. 

In the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens have established themselves as the favorite, while the New England Patriots have growing concerns about their potential success in the six-team field. 

The NFC is much harder to figure out, with the San Francisco 49ers holding a one-game advantage on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West and on the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints for the No. 1 seed. 

The black eye of the playoff hunt is the NFC East, where the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are tied at 6-7. One of them will host a playoff game, despite likely having the worst record of any postseason participant. 

Due to home field in the wild-card round, the Cowboys or Eagles may earn a surprising victory against a franchise that finished with a much better record.  

                 

NFL Standings

AFC

Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (11-2)

2. New England (10-3)

3. Kansas City (9-4)

4. Houston (8-5) 

Wild Card

5. Buffalo (9-4)

6. Pittsburgh (8-5)

7. Tennessee (8-5) 

8. Cleveland (6-7) 

9. Oakland (6-7) 

10. Indianapolis (6-7) 

          

NFC 

Division Leaders

1. San Francisco (11-2)

2. Green Bay (10-3) 

3. New Orleans (10-3) 

4. Dallas (6-7) 

Wild Card

5. Seattle (10-3)

6. Minnesota (9-4) 

7. Los Angeles Rams (8-5) 

8. Chicago (7-6) 

9. Philadelphia (6-7) 

10. Tampa Bay (6-7) 

          

Bold Predictions

Philadelphia Wins in Wild Card Round

Michael Perez/Associated Press

The boldest prediction here is for the NFC East champion to defeat either the Seahawks or 49ers in the opening round. 

Dallas has looked like anything but a playoff team with three straight defeats and losses in four of its last five contests. Jason Garrett's team does not own a victory over a side that currently owns a winning record. Its best win is over 6-7 Philadelphia. 

The Eagles avoided disaster Monday night by beating the New York Giants in overtime at Lincoln Financial Field. Before Monday, Doug Pederson's squad fell in three straight games to New England, Seattle and Miami. 

Despite everything going against them, the Eagles or Cowboys will have some momentum going into the playoffs since one of them has to win the division. 

The Eagles appear to have a better chance of succeeding since they face Washington and the Giants before hosting Dallas to finish the season. 

Philadelphia's most favorable matchup would be against Seattle, which it held to 17 points at home in Week 12. 

In that game, the Eagles only earned four fewer total yards than the current NFC No. 5 seed, and their pressure forced 12 incompletions from Russell Wilson among his 25 passes. If Carson Wentz had not turned the ball over on four occasions, the Eagles may have come out on top. 

Seattle's rushing attack, which gained 174 yards in Week 12, is hampered now that Rashaad Penny is out with a torn ACL, per ESPN.com's Brady Henderson

If the NFL's third-best run defense contains Chris Carson while Wentz can avoid turnovers, there is a path to victory for the Eagles. 

If San Francisco visits Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles could also use their front seven to contain Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert and others. 

Jimmy Garoppolo played well against New Orleans, but he has thrown four interceptions in the last five games and been sacked 15 times in that span, which suggests the Eagles could benefit from interior pressure and contend with the 49ers if they drop out of the NFC West lead. 

                    

New England Does Not Advance to AFC Championship Game

Steven Senne/Associated Press

The Patriots are 0-3 against the other AFC division leaders. 

That is one of the most concerning statistics involving a team currently in a playoff position. 

Even if the Pats win out and earn a first-round bye, which is no guarantee with Buffalo ahead in Week 16, they would likely have to beat two of Baltimore, Kansas City and Houston to reach the Super Bowl.

Given the way it has played of late, Bill Belichick's team may not make it out of the divisional round.

Against the first-place teams, the Patriots allowed 331.3 yards per game, and they were out-gained by the Ravens and Chiefs. 

Kansas City is the likeliest divisional round foe at the moment, unless the Patriots find a way to get past the Ravens in the next three weeks. 

Simply put, the Chiefs offense has more reliable options to call on, while Tom Brady is struggling to find consistent targets besides Julian Edelman. The veteran has 1,010 receiving yards, but the next two receivers on the stat chart combined for 681 yards. 

The Patriots have failed to properly replace Rob Gronkowski, as three New England tight ends have totaled 369 receiving yards and a single score on 28 catches. 

Kansas City has five players with over 375 receiving yards and at least three touchdowns through the air, with Travis Kelce leading the group with 75 receptions, 989 yards and four scores. 

Although beating the reigning champion twice at Gillette Stadium is still a tough task, it does not appear as daunting as it did in previous seasons. 

            

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference

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