The NFL regular season came to a close last Sunday, and looking back, it’s actually pretty easy to see that this season was way different from seasons past.
I’m not just saying this because the Ravens and the rest of the NFL played through a pandemic. This season was different in that it has much more parity than past years. The New England Patriots missed the playoffs, but people will still get to see Tom Brady play in January. Representing the AFC East this time around are the Buffalo Bills, who actually have a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing. Also missing the playoffs are the New York Giants, who saw their playoff hopes dashed by an Eagles team that gave up when down only three points in the fourth quarter.
Philadelphia hosted the Washington Football Team on Sunday Night Football on NBC in what was the final game of the regular season. The Football Team just needed to win to get into the playoffs, sporting a 6-9 record. It became the third team to make the playoffs with a sub-.500 record. The other two are the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers. Each managed to win one playoff game.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson pulled his starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts, early in the fourth quarter with his team down 17-14. Hurts was replaced by Nate Sudfield, a quarterback whom even Eagles fans had never heard of. Philadelphia lost the game. Giants fans, and Giants players, took to social media to vent their frustrations over the Eagles losing the game on purpose.
The Giants finished the season with a 6-10 record, tied with the Dallas Cowboys. They had defeated Dallas earlier in the day, and needed a Washington loss to clinch the division. It also would have meant three teams would be tied at 6-10, and the Eagles right behind at 5-10-1. A team has never won a division with a 6-10 record, and I’ve never seen a division finish that close. Needless to say, I was pulling for the Eagles to make it all happen.
But that didn’t happen. Washington dropped that ugly “R-word” from its name and now it’s the best team in the NFC East. Coincidence? I guess time will tell us. They will host Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Saturday night.
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I know that all of our great readers care about the Ravens and not the football team. Baltimore looks to be coming on at the right time, something they have done twice before as a Wild Card team. They get their rematch against Tennessee this Sunday afternoon. A win sets them up with a Divisional round game at either Kansas City or Buffalo.
One player for Baltimore who is getting hot at the right time is JK Dobbins. He scored rushing touchdowns in his last seven games and is seeing upfield really well. He treated the Bengals defense as if it were a turnstile last Sunday in the regular season finale. He set a new franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie (9) and had 805 yards in 15 games. The future is bright for this young man.
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The only person on the Ravens who concerns me heading into the playoffs is Lamar Jackson. As expected, he had another big year. But this isn’t the regular season. This is the playoffs. He has had two playoff games to prove himself, one of those coming off an MVP season. He failed in both games.
I like Jackson as a football player. He’s quick, and his large frame makes him tough to bring down. Watching him play reminds me of another mobile NFL quarterback – Vince Young.
And that is the problem. Young was an athlete. He was not a quarterback at the NFL level. If his first read wasn’t there, he would run. Jackson does the same exact thing. If his first option isn’t open, he doesn’t look for a second or third option. He tries to make a play. A quarterback’s job isn’t to make everything happen. Jackson needs to learn patience. He could be so much more dangerous if he could just do that.
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The Kansas City Chiefs are the favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champions, although their vaunted offense showed some cracks in December. They rested their starters in the final week, but already had the No. 1 seed locked up. They have a first-round bye.
Also getting a first-round bye are the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers played all season with a chip on his shoulder after the Packers drafted his replacement last Spring. Instead of drafting a wide receiver and giving Rodgers another chance to win a Super Bowl. He has played on an MVP level this season, and is the favorite to win the coveted player award.
I really want to pick Buffalo as my Super Bowl champion this year. Josh Allen is the Bills’ best quarterback since Jim Kelly. The Bills defense is stingy. Sean McDermott is creating a winning culture in upstate New York. But Buffalo hasn’t shown anything to anyone just yet. They finally won a division title thanks to the Patriots … we’ll call it “retooling.”
This is also a franchise that went to the Super Bowl four straight years and lost every time. My pick for the AFC Championship is the Chiefs against the Bills (sorry, everyone). The Bills are capable of pulling this off. The game would be at Arrowhead, undoubtedly the toughest venue in the NFL, but it would be at maybe 20 percent capacity. Volume won’t be a factor. I’ve personally sat inside Arrowhead when it’s sold out and raucous. You can literally feel your insides rattle.
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I’m going with the safe pick and picking Kansas City. Andy Reid is a mad scientist when it comes to drawing up offensive plays. Patrick Mahomes will seal up the cracks that were exposed in December. Tyreek Hill and Co. will give the Bills defense fits. Buffalo will keep up but the Chiefs’ speed and talent will carry them to Tampa for the Super Bowl, where they will get the Green Bay Packers.
Yes, my prediction is that we are going to have a State Farm Super Bowl. Imagine the commercials.
If and when Rodgers makes it to the Super Bowl, he will still have that chip on his shoulder. He has spent this season proving to his front office that he isn’t finished. He’s carrying that determination all the way to Florida. The Packers are the No. 1 seed in the NFC and will have the elements on their side. Green Bay, Wisconsin, is not a pleasant place during the winter.
My other pick for the other team to reach the NFC Championship is Seattle. So, the “final four” of the NFL playoffs will feature the Chiefs vs Bills and Packers vs Seahawks.
My pick for the Super Bowl is Green Bay over Kansas City.
Let the games begin!