Friday, January 10, 2020

NFL Playoff Predictions

With the Packers back in the playoffs, it’s time for the Polivision Playoff Preview!  So many P’s!  Like in Mario 3, we’re taking things to the next level with the P-Wing!

* Chiefs over Texans
After an offseason of considering the Chiefs to be Super Bowl contenders, it felt like everyone sort of collectively gave up on them pretty quickly.  Pat Mahomes turned his ankle in the first week, it bothered him for a couple of months, he missed some games, and everyone was distracted by shiny new objects around the league.  Meanwhile, Mahomes got healthy, had a bye week to heal up, and now Kansas City has quietly won six in a row and earned the first-round bye that everyone had earmarked for the Patriots since, like, 2012 or something.  I realize that one cannot take the Chiefs in January without acknowledging Andy Reid’s history of postseason calamity, or the Chiefs’ unfathomably bad 1-7 record in their last eight HOME playoff games (!), but I’m also going to acknowledge that I don’t think Houston is very good.  It took some real luck for them to beat the Bills last week in a game that, coaching-wise, made Andy Reid’s postseason mishaps look like child’s play.  A healthy Will Fuller would make this much more interesting for the Texans, but I think K.C. and Mahomes are peaking at the right time and have got this.

* Ravens over Titans
Speaking of peaking, I rhymed!  Speaking of performing well as a football team at the right moment, it’s been a season of right moments for the Ravens and their twelve-game winning streak.  Many of those wins weren’t close, Lamar Jackson is the MVP, the defense is playing well, the special teams is playing well, the team is well-coached… the brother of an obnoxious Baltimore fan, it’s been a rough season for me.  Tennessee has been a nice story themselves but I think they won their metaphorical Super Bowl last week by knocking off the Patriots, so this week is the reality check.

* 49ers over Vikings
This one feels surprisingly close.  Speaking of a reality check, there is a very good chance the 49ers just lay a 30-point beatdown and Kirk Cousins turns back into a pumpkin, but there’s also something vaguely stirring about this Vikings team.  Beating the Saints in New Orleans is perhaps slightly an overrated achievement given the Saints’ quiet history of postseason disappointment over the last decade, but still, it’s a definite achievement.  If Minnesota’s defense can give Jimmy Garoppolo the first-playoff game jitters, this one will get dicey very quickly.  At the end of the day, however, I’m ultimately not confident enough to pick against the Niners at home against (since we’ve already mentioned the concept of playoff calamity) the Minnesota Vikings.

* Packers over Seahawks
There’s a chance this will be the single craziest game in NFL history.  The Packers have played nothing but relatively close games all season, due to their inability to play more than 25 minutes of good football in any game.  The Seahawks play nothing but close games since three-quarters of their team is injured but Russell Wilson is just a destroyer of worlds.  I am mentally prepared for any kooky possibility — five overtimes, a tie that results in some type of three-team NFC championship game next week, a dinosaur runs out onto the field, Pete Carroll actually calls a run play near the end zone at the end of a game, etc.

Not to toot my own horn, but my preseason observation about Green Bay has thus far been accurate.  Lo and behold, the Packers get rid of a dead-weight head coach and things immediately, drastically, completely improve.  (And in the funniest twist of all, Jerry Jones sees the Packers go 13-3 without Mike McCarthy and decides that McCarthy is the perfect choice as the next Cowboys coach.  You can’t make this up.). I’ll also throw out a little anti-shutout to former Packers GM Ted Thompson, whose “let’s build our team almost entirely through the draft and ignore free agents” plan isn’t nearly as fun as GM Brian Gutekunst’s “hey, let’s sign Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith and run roughshod over the league” plan. 

While it’s been fun to see the Packers operate like an actual 2019-era football team, I’ll freely admit that they’re far from a perfect team.  As mentioned, every Green Bay game this year has been 25 minutes of quality and 35 minutes of hanging on for dear life.  Aaron Rodgers certainly looks to be in the B+ stage of his career, where he’ll make most of the throws, and make very few mistakes….but that’s still a step down from the vintage Rodgers who made all of the throws and no mistakes.  It would’ve been great if the Packers had a competent coach and front office* for that decade when A+ Rodgers was around, but oh well.  Time to look to the future, which hopefully includes Green Bay squeaking one out against the walking A+ known as Russell Wilson.

* = yes, I haven’t forgotten Super Bowl 45.  That was awesome.  It was also nine years ago, and one cannot help but feel the Packers left at least two more championships on the table during Rodgers’ prime.  You can’t miss that open window!  Then you’ll just ruin your glass!

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