NFL Playoffs 2020-21: AFC and NFC Predictions for Postseason

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IDecember 14, 2020

NFL Playoffs 2020-21: AFC and NFC Predictions for Postseason

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The NFL playoff picture is starting to take shape.

    There were plenty of movers on Sunday. In the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals jumped the Minnesota Vikings in the race for the final wild-card spot, while the Green Bay Packers took over the top seed in the conference following the Philadelphia Eagles' upset of the New Orleans Saints.

    Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs clinched the AFC West while also leapfrogging the Pittsburgh Steelers for the No. 1 seed in the conference, and the Las Vegas Raiders' playoff hopes took another hit after losing their third game in the last four weeks.

    Remember, the expanded nature of the playoffs means seven teams from both conferences will reach the postseason, and only the No. 1 seeds get first-round byes.

    With those things in mind, here are some predictions for the NFL playoff bracket.

AFC Predictions

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    AFC Wild Card

    No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers over No. 7 Tennessee Titans

    No. 3 Buffalo Bills over No. 6 Cleveland Browns

    No. 4 Indianapolis Colts over No. 5 Baltimore Ravens   


    AFC Divisional Round  

    No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs over No. 4 Indianapolis Colts

    No. 3 Buffalo Bills over No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers   


    AFC Championship   

    No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs over No. 3 Buffalo Bills   


    The AFC seeding could get quite interesting in the final weeks.

    For example, consider Monday night's game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. A win over the Ravens would give the Browns a legitimate chance of getting to at least 12 wins, considering two of their last three opponents are the New York Giants and New York Jets.

    Alternatively, a win for the Ravens could ultimately result in Baltimore running the table. After Monday, the Ravens face the Jacksonville Jaguars, Giants and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively. Depending on how things shake out, they could very well jump all the way to the No. 4 seed.

    In any event, there is plenty of intrigue when it comes to the top teams. The Chiefs survived a scare at the hands of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Pittsburgh's offense went cold yet again against the Bills, with Buffalo winning its third straight and six out of the last seven.

    Ultimately, though, everything still seems to run through Kansas City.

    The Chiefs offense entered Sunday's game ranked second in scoring and first in yards gained. Patrick Mahomes threw three picks against a vastly underrated Dolphins defense but still brought the team back.

    Although Kansas City's defense has struggled to stop opposing rushing attacks, the Chiefs have plenty of talent on that side of the football.

    Buffalo is very much trending in the right direction with Josh Allen continuing to play at a high level and the defense having a penchant for takeaways.

    But no team has been quite as consistent as the Chiefs, who are the most comfortable pick.

NFC Predictions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    NFC Wild Card   

    No. 2 New Orleans Saints over No. 7 Arizona Cardinals

    No. 3 Los Angeles Rams over No. 6 Seattle Seahawks

    No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers over No. 4 Washington Football Team   


    NFC Divisional Round   

    No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers over No. 1 Green Bay Packers

    No. 2 New Orleans Saints over No. 3 Los Angeles Rams


    NFC Championship

    No. 2 New Orleans Saints over No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers


    The race for the No. 7 seed in the NFC will be every bit as intriguing as how the AFC seeding plays out.

    Perhaps the winner of a Week 15 showdown between the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings eventually earns the final spot. But the guess here is the Cardinals do enough to sneak in.

    Meanwhile, the NFC West champion will likely have the most unfortunate prize of a showdown with either a divisional rival or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The eventual top seed in the NFC—the Packers in this case—could also be in for a rude awakening considering the No. 5 seed will almost certainly be favored over whichever team wins the NFC East.

    There has been a lot of skepticism surrounding Tom Brady and the Bucs, but Tampa Bay remains as talented as any team in football, and the pass rush is elite. The Bucs also gave the Packers nightmares in Week 6 for that exact reason, which could make for a psychological edge in the event those two teams square off.

    But the Saints still appear to be the best team in the conference, because they are perhaps the most well-rounded.

    Granted, there is no telling how Drew Brees will respond when he returns from multiple fractured ribs and a collapsed lung, but the Saints have the running game and defense to beat any team in the NFL.

Super Bowl Predictions

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Super Bowl LV   

    Kansas City Chiefs vs. New Orleans Saints   

    Chiefs versus Saints would arguably be the best showdown football fans could hope for in February.

    On paper, the matchup might actually seem to favor New Orleans. The Saints entered Sunday's game against the Eagles ranked seventh in rushing, and the Chiefs defense came into Sunday ranked 27th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in yards per carry.

    As previously noted, the Saints also have a balanced defense equally capable of scheming for run or pass while ranking seventh in turnovers.

    However, there is something to be said for how the Chiefs spread secondaries out and put up points in bunches. Sunday's game was a perfect example.

    Miami led Kansas City 10-0 with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half. The Chiefs promptly ripped off 30 unanswered points in the next 19-plus minutes of game action.

    Mahomes and the Chiefs strike hard and fast, and (as they proved last year) the offense can score in the most critical of moments.

    New Orleans could look to assert a heavy rushing attack to control the clock while letting the defense attempt to impose its will on the Chiefs.

    But Mahomes, Eric Bieniemy and Andy Reid always have something up their sleeves.

    Prediction: Chiefs over Saints


    All stats obtained via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.