A Pandemic Postseason: NFL Playoff Preview and Predictions

Stay up to date on the NFL Playoffs and see which teams have a shot at the Super Bowl!

Reading Time: 9 minutes

The National Football League (NFL) came into the 2020-2021 season with the arduous task of hosting a successful football season in light of a raging pandemic that continues to affect our lives. With limited fan attendance, COVID-19 protocols, regular testing, and masks, the NFL has defied the odds and completed a full regular season of football, now moving on to the postseason. But the COVID-19 regulations aren’t the only thing different about this year’s postseason. This year’s “Super Wild Card Weekend” also changes the landscape of the NFL playoffs tremendously. Seven teams are now allowed to enter the postseason instead of six, and only the first seed team has the privilege of a bye week. The result was one of the most competitive and interesting playoffs that football fans had the pleasure of viewing, with three games both Saturday and Sunday (and one televised on Nickelodeon!). Here’s the recap of this past Super Wild Card Weekend and our predictions for which teams will win their upcoming matchups.


Divisional Round:

Buffalo Bills (2) vs. Baltimore Ravens (5)

Winner: Buffalo Bills (2)

This Bills vs. Ravens matchup will be one to remember. The Bills hadn’t won a playoff game in 25 years until this year’s wild card round, and they look to win another for their shot at the Super Bowl this year. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson still has to prove to his haters that he can win playoff games, and after his first postseason win against the Titans, he is looking to continue his winning streak and cement himself as the Ravens’ franchise quarterback.

The Bills have been dominating teams all season, led by quarterback Josh Allen, who went from still learning the works of the NFL to an MVP caliber passer in a single season. Led by Allen, the Bills have one of the best pass attacks in the league with newly acquired wide receiver Stefon Diggs cementing himself as a top receiver in the league and wide receiver Cole Beasley being right alongside him. While their run game isn’t the greatest, their passing ability is what has carried them all season and what they will continue to rely on.

Jackson, fresh off an MVP season in 2019, hasn’t seen as much hype as last year but is still the best rushing quarterback in the NFL, threatening defenses with his dual-threat ability to both pass and run it himself. When he’s not running the ball, rookie running back J.K. Dobbins and running back Gus Edwards are leading the way on the ground, helping lead the Ravens to boast one of the most deadly rushing attacks in the league. Both teams have very solid defenses that dismantle opposing offenses as well. Both the Bills and the Ravens have great passing defenses; on the Bills, cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Micah Hyde lead the way, while Baltimore cornerback Marlon Humphrey shuts down opposing wide receivers. Both run defenses have been below average this season, and the Bills showed that porous defense vs. the Colts, when Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines combined for over 150 yards on the ground. However, the Ravens proved to be effective in shutting down the run vs. the Titans, led by elite running back Derrick Henry. The Bills still have a good run game consisting of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and Allen for QB runs, but if the Ravens can stop Henry and the Titans, they can stop the Bills run game as well. However, the Bills defense may have trouble staying afloat against the most effective run game in the league.

Conclusion: Both teams are coming into this game hot, but the Bills have the upper hand on this one. The Bills’ high-octane passing game is lethal to any defense, including the Ravens, and can prove to be a game winner. The Bills already faced a run-heavy team in the Colts and, despite barely beating them, have that experience and momentum entering this wild-card game. The Ravens, meanwhile, haven’t faced a team with that good of a pass offense yet. The Bills have proven themselves this season as one of the most complete teams in the NFL and are making a strong case to be a Super Bowl contender.

Cleveland Browns (6) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1)

Winner: Kansas City Chiefs (1)

The Chiefs have the best record in football right now at 14-2 and are deserving of the first seed. However, Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City are facing an unexpected team in the divisional round, and it’s none other than the Cleveland Browns.

The Chiefs boast a terrific passing offense led by Mahomes, who is highly regarded by many as the best quarterback of this generation for his ability to pass the ball accurately, make decisions on the fly, and use his athleticism to extend plays that would otherwise be dead on the spot from any other quarterback. He is not alone in his greatness, as he has a wide supporting cast; Travis Kelce is a top tight end in the league, while Tyreek Hill is the one of the fastest wide receivers in the NFL. The offensive line is fifth in sacks allowed, and running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and, more recently, Le’Veon Bell, add to the Chiefs’ newfound run game to complement the high-octane passing attack. This powerhouse of an offense would be lethal to the Browns defense, the same defense that let up 500 yards and 27 points in the second half alone.

On the flip side, the Browns have an incredible run game, with Nick Chubb having a career season alongside former Chief running back Kareem Hunt. That tandem would be deadly against what’s widely regarded as the Chiefs’ Achilles heel: their below average run defense. The Browns also have a decent pass game with Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry. But the brightest spot on the Browns offense, both carrying the run and pass offense, is the Browns’ first ranked offensive line, who managed to let in zero sacks against the sack-heavy Pittsburgh defense in the Wild Card Game, even without their pro bowl guard in Joel Bitonio, offensive line coach, and head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Conclusion: For this game, we have the Chiefs coming home with the win. Their pass attack is too great against the Browns pass defense, and the Chiefs have proven time and time again how explosive their offense can be. Even the Chiefs’ rushing attack can play a role and turn the tide of the game. As for their defense, the Browns’ main strength is their run game, and though the run defense is below average, the Chiefs proved last year in the AFC Championship against the Titans that their run defense can still hold their own even against the likes of Henry. As for the Browns’ passing game, the Chiefs’ defense can hold their own on that front as well, especially with safety Tyrann Mathieu covering the field. It’ll be tough for Cleveland to go score-for-score with Mahomes, so Kansas City has the advantage here.

AFC Championship:

Buffalo Bills (2) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1)

Winner: Buffalo Bills (2)

If this matchup ends up being the AFC Championship, it would be one of the most exciting games to watch of the season. The two teams boast one of the most high-octane passing games in the league and would be a quarterback frenzy between Allen and Mahomes. The game would most likely be a shootout, as neither team has an incredibly tough defense, and the two teams have shown all year that they can score pretty much at will.

Conclusion: Both the Bills and Chiefs have proven themselves to be top NFL teams this season with very similar strengths and weaknesses. However, the Bills have a slight edge over the Chiefs, since the Chiefs barely won their last few games. Mahomes had six interceptions in the regular season, yet 16 of his throws could have been interceptions but were dropped instead. In the last three games, Mahomes has thrown four interceptions, had his lowest passer rating, and been sacked seven times, a stark contrast to his usual performance. In essence, the Chiefs look very inconsistent, unlike the Bills who have consistently gotten the job done. The Chiefs did win this matchup in week six, but the Bills have become a different team since. The Bills, being the more consistent team, look poised to come out on top.


Divisional Round:

Los Angeles Rams (6) @ Green Bay Packers (1)

Winner: Green Bay Packers (1)

Coming off of a strong win against the NFC West division rival Seattle Seahawks, the biggest question for the LA Rams is their offense. Against the Seahawks, we saw a lackluster offense carried by rookie running back Cam Akers. With the loss of backup quarterback John Wolford, the team turned to injured starting quarterback Jared Goff, who had received surgery on his right thumb of his throwing hand no less, just 12 days prior and struggled against a weak Seattle secondary. The defense is largely accountable for the victory last weekend, and as the Rams enter Saturday’s game against the Packers, they will no doubt turn to their defense once again to pull them to a victory, led by superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The first team All-Pro that recorded 13.5 sacks this season injured his ribs against Seattle, and despite no broken bones, his health will be a situation to monitor.

Boasting a healthy 13-3 record through the regular season, the Green Bay Packers had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Led by the likely league MVP Aaron Rodgers, along with superstar wideout Davante Adams and the always dangerous Aaron Jones in the backfield, the Packers’ offense was on a mission this year. Despite a talented defense featuring the likes of defensive back Jaire Alexander and pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, the rush defense was a question for the Pack this year, and Akers will look to expose this hole with a strong Rams O-line leading the way.

Conclusion: Though the Rams defense will prove a valiant opponent, the Packers offense has proven to be incredibly challenging to stop this season. With starting quarterback Goff’s health in question, a shaky Rams offense will not be enough on Saturday, and it seems as if the Packers are shaping up to move on to the NFC championship.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) @ New Orleans Saints (2)

Winner: New Orleans Saints (2)

As of late, the Buccaneers have been playing some of their best football of the whole season. With their offense firing on all cylinders, Tom Brady in the playoffs is a force to be reckoned with, especially with weapons such as wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. However, there is a question over whether the Bucs defense will be able to sustain itself against a dangerous New Orleans offense, as they have had their struggles throughout the year. When we consider the previous matchups between these division rivals, the Saints have been dominant, and their second win of the season against the Bucs was a whopping 38-3.

The advantage that the Saints have at home against Tampa Bay seems even more significant when one considers that the Saints offense is still returning to full strength as they learn to play with one another once again. The deadly offensive trio consisting of Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas is one that has only played 67 snaps together this season entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, and they are only getting better. Coupled with a strong defense that pushed the Saints to victory during Super Wild Card Weekend, it appears as if New Orleans will simply be too much for the aspiring Tampa Bay squadron.

Conclusion: It is incredibly hard to beat the same team three times in a season, but with the trend of progression we have seen from this New Orleans defense throughout the season, along with an offensive unit that continues to make up ground as it returns to full strength, this matchup will likely be a very close one, in which the Saints go marching on to NFC championship.

NFC Championship:

New Orleans Saints (2) @ Green Bay Packers (1)

Winner: Green Bay Packers (1)

In yet another legendary quarterback battle featuring Rodgers and Brees, this game will likely be as competitive as they come. Two great offenses, paired with strong defenses, are sure to make this face off come down to the final minutes. With comparable weapons on the offensive side of the ball, this game could essentially come down to a quarterback battle between two hall-of-famers in Rodgers and Brees. The former has been playing out of his mind this year, with MVP caliber stats that include 48 passing touchdowns and just under 4,300 passing yards, with only five interceptions to his name. Meanwhile, Brees has come back strong—considering that he suffered 11 broken ribs and a collapsed lung just a few months ago. However, with Green Bay playing at home, the conditions will likely be favorable for the Packers, as the Saints’ home field is indoors, which could play a major factor depending on mother nature. This game could truly swing either way, but ultimately, it is likely to come down to a quarterback duel, in which the soon-to-be MVP will emerge victorious.

Super Bowl:

Buffalo Bills (2) vs Green Bay Packers (1)