NFL Playoff Analysis
Here is a synopsis of each team in the 2016 NFL Playoffs
1) Denver: The Broncos certainly have the defense to win the super bowl. The question is at QB: will it be Peyton Manning or Brock Oswieller. My guess it’s Manning since he came off the bench to replace a struggling Oswieller. But Manning has had his struggles as well. They’ve also had problems along the offensive line all season, which doesn’t look to get better in January, as well as converting on 3rd down (35%). Defense can take you a long way, but the QB needs to make plays at some point. I look to fade the Broncos and take the points with whomever they play
2) New England: The Patriots will always be a factor as long as Tom Brady is taking the snaps. But this team has issues, particularly along the offensive line and running the ball (3.7 YPC). The Patriots are their normal don’t-beat-themselves with mistakes and are solid on 3rd down. The defense has picked up the slack this season and it may be on this side of the ball that carries NE deep into the playoffs. But if they can’t block and Brady is running around for his life, it won’t matter how well they play.
3) Cincinnati: The Bengals may be the most complete team in the AFC; that is assuming QB Andy Dalton plays. It doesn’t look as if he will though, at least in the Wild Card round. The one issue facing this team, other than the starting QB being injured, is the rush defense (4.4 YPC). But they do manage to get off the field on 3rd down. Also, can they deal with the pressure of not winning a playoff game, especially if they get behind early?
4) Houston: The Texans were the last man standing in a terrible division, and will be an underdog to anyone they face. They are terrible on offense, plain and simple. They are pretty good on defense, which could bring some value to unders. They’ve had problems at the QB position all season, and I don’t see that changing in the next few weeks.
5) Kansas City: The Chiefs come in as the hottest team in the NFL, winners of 10 in a row. QB Alex Smith had the best year of his career and the running game hasn’t missed much of a beat wih the loss of Jamaal Charles. The one issue facing this team is converting on 3rd down (38%). Outside of that, this team comes in the most complete of any in the conference, though they will have to win on the road. KC is worth a futures look coming out of the AFC.
6) Pittsburgh: The Steelers snuck in thanks to the Jets choking, and are one of those teams no one wants to face. They have a potent offense and are led by a top level QB that you need to win on the road. The pass defense has its issues (7.2 YPA) and the Steelers are the worst 3rd down team in the AFC. But they have a punchers chance in every game they play, and good punchers find ways of landing shots.
1) Carolina: One of the surprise teams of 2016, the Panthers were solid on offense and very good on defense. In all likelihood, QB Cam Newton will win the MVP. But can they win big games in January? That remains to be seen. Just last year around this time, head coach Ron Rivera was on the hot-seat. Depending on who they play, my gut instinct tells me they are one-and-done
2) Arizona: Until the season finale, this team looked unbeatable. I still think this is the team to beat in the NFC, but they’ve shown some chinks in the armor. This team has it all: solid offense behind a very good QB, outstanding defense, outstanding on 3rd down, and they don’t beat themselves with mistakes. But the confidence took a hit against division rival Seattle in week 17. That will be in the back of their minds; and in the Seahawks should they meet again
3) Minnesota: The Vikings are a young team that beat the bad teams but couldn’t beat the good ones, until the finale where they won at Green Bay. They question is can they deal with the playoff pressure? They have a strong running game and can defend the pass. But I can’t see this team winning a game with their draw.
4) Washington: Like Houston in the AFC, the Redskins were the best of the worst. Can they win a game in the playoffs? Yes, if QB Kirk Cousins stays hot and the Packers continue to flounder. Arguably the worst defense of any team in the playoffs, Washington will have to outscore their opponents. That’s a tough game plan to follow in January, especially when dealing with the weather.
5) Green Bay: The Packers are the hardest team to figure out. I can’t believe WR Jordy Nelson means that much to this offense. Every time I watch this team, something seems a bit off. They just can’t seem to make the key plays in the passing game and they also have trouble stopping the run (4.5 YPC). This was my pre-season pick, and it’s tough to jump off them. But anytime you have a QB like Aaron Rodgers, you have a punchers chance.
6) Seattle: The Seahawks reminded everyone to not forget about them with a pounding of Arizona in Arizona in week 17. This team has it all on offense, defense, and on 3rd down. Plus they’ve been there before. They do commit to many penalties, but some of them they’ll live with to stay aggressive on defense. They will have to win 3 games on the road to get to the super bowl, but this is, by far, the best #6 seed ever in the playoffs.
I think the AFC is a bit more open and I like one of the bottom seeds to come out. I think there is value with KC in both the AFC bet and a Super Bowl bet. In the NFC, I think it comes down to Arizona and Seattle, with the winner of that game hoisting the Lombardi trophy.