Ravens favorites for Super Bowl success, Niners lead the NFC. But watch out for Santos and Caciques, possible troublemakers
& Commat; Massimooriani
Eventually there will only be one left. And for once, it won’t be the New England Patriots. The joke in Boston goes something like this: “What is the Super Bowl? That game played on the first Sunday in February where the Pats beat the NFC winner.” With the dynasty (perhaps) on its knees, the way is open for Brady and his cronies to take the throne. Let’s line up the top 12 before Wild Card weekend.
1. Baltimore Ravens
They come into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, bookmakers’ favorites at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas (2-1) and with all their inertia having won the last 12 games after starting 2-2. They line up future mvp Lamar Jackson and they don’t seem to have any weaknesses. They are the team to beat.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Some doubts due to the many injuries that have decimated the defense (48 sacks in the season) but with many weapons, the sharpest Gronk 2.0, aka George Kittle, a devastating tight end. Crucial for Jimmy Garoppolo will be limiting the turnovers that are lethal in the playoffs (5 fumbles and 13 interceptions on the season). The field factor is not decisive as for others, but it is still a good advantage.
3. New Orleans Saints
They start from the back, without the bye, and they will have an uphill climb back to Miami, where 10 years ago they won their only Super Bowl by beating Peyton Manning’s Colts. Stellar attack with the Drew Brees-Michael Thomas-Alvin Kamara trio that allowed them to add at least 30 points in 11 of the 16 games, even above 34 in the last 4. They open with Vikings (4-4 away) with the goal to avenge the Miracle in Minneapolis two years ago.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
A year ago they entered the playoffs as favorites. They’re now behind the Ravens in the conference but they’re the only ones with the weapons to point the other way. Patrick Mahomes is still 100% devastating, the speed of the receivers, Tyreke Hill in the lead, is 4×100 Olympic, but it is the defense that allowed him to turn around after the 4 losses in 6 races between October and November (with Mahomes injured or not at the top): only 66 points awarded in the last 6 races. With an extra Terrell Suggs in the engine.
5. Seattle Seahawks
By one yard they did not win the division. Far from being impeccable but with a Russell Wilson who played as mvp until the attack line held (48 sacks suffered, some for trying to prolong the action too much). They do not enter the playoffs with much inertia having lost 3 of the last 4, but they open in Philadelphia, not an insurmountable obstacle. Though then the road would get rough.
6. Green Bay Packers
Almost a 5A on par with Seattle. Many doubts about a team that finished 13-3 but with only 3 wins against teams then in the playoffs (2-0 over Minny and Kansas City in the Chiefs’ worst moment). They were scrapped by the Niners (37-8) and even by the Chargers (26-11), they have a very bad percentage of closed thirds (36%) and Aaron Rodgers who was not amazing. That said, with Aaron Jones they can do damage in the races and Rodgers in the end is always Rodgers and in the playoffs he is exalted.
7. New England Patriots
Almost more by coat of arms than by conviction. In the Brady-Belichick era, they never made it to the Super Bowl as of wild-card weekend, which they will be forced to do after Sunday’s mess with Miami. Edelman is together with the Scotsman, they don’t have a tight end worthy of the name, the fullback is a linebacker and the defense may not be as strong as they said. But beware, if there is a team capable of transforming itself in the playoffs, it is New England. This time, though, it takes a 3-28 Super Bowl-style miracle with Atlanta.
8. Tennessee Titans
How I turn a season on you: Mariota on the bench, key in hand at Tannehill and 7-3 in the last 10. Coach Vrabel has changed the face of the Titans who now enter the playoffs with no awe. Especially against former teacher Belichick, whom Vrabek already defeated (and convincingly, 34-10) a year ago. Derrick Henry finished the rushing title at 1,540 yards, AJ Brown should win offensive rookie of the year, Tannehill has completed 70% of the passes. Lost bullet.
9. Buffalo Bills
Beware of underestimating bills. They are pretty solid. High-level defense and that’s what they’re going to have to get them where they want to go. Josh Allen must limit mistakes, also relying on the running game with rookie Devin Singletary as bright as freshly uncorked sparkling wine. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them win in Houston.
10. Houston Texans
Everything revolves around the availability of Will Fuller. He is not the star of the team (DeShaun Watson) nor the strongest receiver (DeAndre Hopkins) but his presence is essential: with him on the field the Texans have an average of 298 passing yards per game, almost without halving ( 158). . Coach O’Brien should be able to count on him, but he certainly won’t be 100%. JJ Watt returns, who has been unemployed in the middle of the season due to a broken dorsal. The defense does not offer certainties, on the contrary, it offers some to the opponents, but with Watt, he will surely take a step forward.
11. Minnesota Vikings
With Dalvin Cook not 100% and Kirk Cousins seeming to melt away in prime time, it’s hard to believe the Vikings’ chances. The only playoff team they beat was Philadelphia and that was in October. The opening in the house of Saints leaves no hope.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Someone had to win the NFC East. The Eagles even did more than expected given the spate of injuries but to make the playoffs, even with a home game, decimated that way (Brandon Brooks is knocked out, Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson doubtful, while Miles Sanders and Avonte should recover). Maddox), makes it clear how his fate is sealed.
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