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NFL Playoffs 2020: Schedule and Bracket Projections for Every Postseason Team

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2019

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 01: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens and cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers talk during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After four months, we finally have the NFL's cream of the crop. Twelve teams embark on a playoff journey for the right to call themselves champions and hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The road to Super LIV starts Saturday. Wild Card Weekend features four intriguing matchups.

For the first time since 2009, the New England Patriots will play in the opening round of the postseason. They'll go against a streaking Tennessee Titans squad that's won five of its last seven outings.

The Buffalo Bills aren't flashy. They've garnered little buzz through the regular season. Head coach Sean McDermott's group will have a chance to shut down the Houston Texans' star-studded quarterback-wide receiver tandem and turn spectators into believers.

In the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings will match their new-and-improved balanced offensive attack against the New Orleans Saints, who are one of the most explosive teams at home.

The Philadelphia Eagles are losing starting players seemingly every day, but quarterback Carson Wentz has carried his team to the 2019-20 postseason. Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson seems to carry the same burden. Something must give between the two teams.

We'll start with this week's games and work our way through Super LIV, providing viewing information and predictions for each contest. Which team will come out on top?

     

Wild Card Weekend

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Saturday, January 4, at 4:35 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC

No. 5 Buffalo Bills at No. 4 Houston Texans

The Bills are the Cinderella team that few picked to reach the postseason. They certainly earned their spot but lack the high-end offensive playmakers to garner trust in a high-stakes matchup.

If Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt suits up, Buffalo could struggle to run the ball. Bills quarterback Josh Allen would need to make several plays to win this contest. That's hard to envision with his 58.8 percent completion percentage.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will help his squad advance to the divisional round with a few pinpoint throws to wideout DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills.

Prediction: Texans 24, Bills 20

                       

Saturday, January 4, at 8:15 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 6 Tennessee Titans at No. 3 New England Patriots

The Patriots backed into the postseason with a 27-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins at home. Throughout the year, their defense has forced turnovers with consistency. The unit came up empty-handed in takeaways over the last two weeks.

The Patriots have two factors working in their favor, though. Over the last three outings, they've averaged 151 rushing yards. The Titans have allowed at least 102 yards on the ground in the same time frame. Secondly, New England could find success against its opponent's 24th-ranked pass defense.

The Titans should be competitive throughout this contest. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill connects with A.J. Brown for a couple of splashy plays, but the Patriots' sixth-ranked run defense makes a concerted effort to limit running back Derrick Henry on the ground.

Tannehill falls to a career 0-7 record at Gillette Stadium.

Prediction: Patriots 30, Titans 23

                

Sunday, January 5, at 1:05 p.m. ET on Fox

No. 6 Minnesota Vikings at No. 3 New Orleans Saints

The Vikings won't have another miracle in New Orleans. Both teams have a complete roster. The Saints may catch a break with running back Dalvin Cook battling a shoulder injury and rookie ball-carrier Alexander Mattison nursing an ankle ailment. Their nicks and bruises could take some steam off the ground attack.

As we saw in a crucial Week 16 Monday Night Football matchup with the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Kirk Cousins can struggle without an effective rushing attack.

The Saints come into this contest winning six of their last seven contests, and quarterback Drew Brees' arm is on fire. He's thrown for 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions over the last five games.

Prediction: Saints 33, Vikings 24

         

Sunday, January 5, at 4:40 p.m. ET on NBC

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 4 Philadelphia Eagles

This contest features a matchup between two wounded clubs. The Seahawks won't have running backs Chris Carson (hip), Rashaad Penny (torn ACL) and C.J. Prosise (broken arm). Rookie sixth-rounder Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch will lead the backfield against the Eagles' third-ranked run defense.

The Eagles could be without tight end Zach Ertz (ribs and kidney) and right tackle Lane Johnson. Right guard Brandon Brooks won't suit up because of a dislocated shoulder. Wideout Alshon Jeffery (Lisfranc) isn't going to return from injured reserve.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz managed to pull out impressive victories against the New York Giants (twice), the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins with a depleted offensive group. He won't be able to do that in a playoff matchup with the Seahawks—a more formidable opponent.

In 2019, the Seahawks have been a successful road team, going 7-1 away from CenturyLink Field. They'll leave Lincoln Financial Field with a victory behind Wilson's arm. He'll carve up the Eagles' 19th-ranked pass defense.

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Eagles 23

              

Divisional Round

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 08: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs after the Chief defeat the Patriots 23-16 at Gillette Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (P
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Saturday, January 11, at 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 1 San Francisco 49ers

After the Seahawks knock off an injury-riddled Eagles squad, they'll face the San Francisco 49ers for the third time in the 2019-20 campaign. The clubs split the season series. Both contests went down to the final seconds—the first had an overtime period.

The Seahawks have glaring flaws on defense, allowing the third-most rushing touchdowns, the sixth-most passing yards and ranking 22nd in points against. Fortunately for Seattle, Wilson's ability to move the ball and score points can mask those flaws.

With that said, he'd face a tough task against the 49ers defense for the second time in two weeks.

In the previous outing between these NFC West rivals, San Francisco led throughout the contest. Top to bottom, the 49ers have a better roster. Wilson has been an equalizer in the first two matchups. Nonetheless, he doesn't have enough around him to beat a well-rested, top-notch squad at home.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Seahawks 23

     

Saturday, January 11, at 8:15 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 4 Houston Texans at No. 1 Baltimore Ravens

In Week 11, the Baltimore Ravens throttled the Texans 41-7. The AFC North club accumulated 491 total yards, striking through the air and on the ground. We can expect much of the same—even with Watt on the field.

Watt can help the Texans front line, but he's not capable of shutting down the Ravens' high-powered offense, which ranks No. 1 in scoring. If Baltimore struggles to run the ball, quarterback Lamar Jackson can throw over the top of Houston's 29th-ranked pass defense.

Unlike Allen with the Bills, Jackson has shown the ability to consistently make timely throws using his arm. He recorded the most passing touchdowns during the regular season (36).

The Ravens pass defense has allowed the second-fewest touchdowns. The unit will make it difficult for Watson and Hopkins to connect on chunk plays downfield.

Prediction: Ravens 31, Texans 21

        

Sunday, January 12, at 3:05 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 3 New England Patriots at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs should approach this game with tremendous confidence. They already beat the Patriots 23-16 on the road in Week 14, giving up 16 points and 278 total yards.

At Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs will deliver a knockout blow to the Patriots' 2019-20 title defense. New England doesn't have the firepower to match Kansas City's offense that features Patrick Mahomes, wideout Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.

More importantly, the Chiefs can potentially shut down the Patriots' methodical offensive attack, which ranks 15th in total yards. Kansas City hasn't surrendered more than 21 points since Week 10.

New England's playoff journey ends in Kansas City.

Prediction: Chiefs 28, Patriots 26

          

Sunday, January 12, at 6:40 p.m. ET on Fox

No. 3 New Orleans Saints at No. 2 Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers boast a 13-3 record with the No. 2 seed, though, it's hard to trust them to win this matchup.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in two of the last three games, logging three touchdowns and two interceptions through that stretch.

Despite Rodgers' average to below-average performances, the Packers have won with a strong defense. The unit held its last five opponents to fewer than 20 points. In that span, Green Bay played against the Giants, Redskins, Chicago Bears, Vikings—without their top two running backs—and Detroit Lions with undrafted rookie David Blough under center.

The Packers won't be able to stifle the Saints' third-ranked scoring offense in the same fashion. Secondly, Green Bay lists 15th in scoring. The unit will probably struggle to keep pace with New Orleans.

Despite the home-field advantage, the Packers' lackluster offense falls short at Lambeau Field.

Prediction: Saints 27, Packers 21

        

Conference Championships

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Sunday, January 19, at 3:05 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs vs. No. 1 Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens draw a rematch with the Chiefs. In Week 3, Kansas City won the first meeting 33-28 at Arrowhead Stadium.

In the first game, Mahomes threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns while completing 72.97 percent of his passes. This time, the Ravens will have cornerback Marcus Peters patrolling the secondary.

Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr form arguably the best cornerback group in the league. At safety, Earl Thomas III completes a stingy secondary that won't allow Mahomes to throw for another 370-plus yards.

The Chiefs' inability to establish the run will cost them this game. Ravens defensive backs will play this contest on their heels, clogging the passing lanes to knock down and intercept passes.

The Ravens frustrate Mahomes and grind out yards on the ground en route to a gritty mid-January victory.

Prediction: Ravens 23, Chiefs 21

             

Sunday, January 19, at 6:40 p.m. ET on Fox

No. 3 New Orleans Saints at No. 1 San Francisco 49ers

Like their regular-season matchup, the Saints and 49ers will rack up points in a postseason thriller.

In Week 14, the 49ers battled through a scoring shootout for a 48-46 victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Nonetheless, it's easier to trust Brees over quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a playoff setting.

Furthermore, Garoppolo's production tapered off in the final three weeks of the regular season. He's thrown just two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions since Week 15.

The Saints' fourth-ranked run defense limits the 49ers' ground attack, which forces Garoppolo into another passing showdown in a high-scoring matchup. This time, his team loses because of Brees' hot hand.

Prediction: Saints 35, 49ers 33

          

Super Bowl LIV

Bill Feig/Associated Press

Sunday, February 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox

No. 3 New Orleans Saints vs. No. 1 Baltimore Ravens

Similar to Brees vs. Garoppolo in the NFC Championship Game, the former, who's a savvy veteran with Super Bowl experience as a starter, has the benefit of the doubt in a matchup with teams on equal ground.

Beyond the experience factor, the Saints match up well against a blitz-happy team that needs extra downhill defenders to generate pocket pressure. Brees should be able to find favorable one-on-one matchups while the Ravens attempt to collapse the pocket.

On an island with wideout Michael Thomas, running back Alvin Kamara or tight end Jared Cook, the Ravens will struggle to defend against Brees' scorching 74.3 percent throwing accuracy.

At 40 years old, Brees helps deliver another Super Bowl to New Orleans. Ironically, he won his first Lombardi Trophy during the 2009-10 campaign at then-Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens. The Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Nearly a decade later, they'll claim the franchise's second title.

Prediction: Saints 30, Ravens 28