Most Anticipated Matchups of the NFL Playoffs
The NFL Playoffs are just about to begin, and there’s nothing but hype surrounding them. With teams like the Chiefs, Rams, Saints, and Bears all in the same bracket, who knows what could happen? In this article, I’ll be breaking down my ten personal most anticipated playoff matchups of the year. Also feel free to follow my Medium (which you’re on), medium.com/@notcharlie
10) Baltimore Ravens (4) vs. Chicago Bears (3)
This would certainly make for an interesting Super Bowl, wouldn’t it? Obviously the defenses take center-stage in this matchup, but both offenses must be hot if they want to get to this point. Lamar Jackson and Mitchell Trubisky are going to need to put up some points against teams like New England and New Orleans. With a young quarterback duel and stellar defenses, who could go wrong with this battle? Some people might not be fans of 16–13 games, but that’s what this game might become. Under the lights of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, who will show up big? Tarik Cohen has proven to be stud at times this year, and so has Gus Edwards. Passing for both teams is going to be rough, but I think that the Bears will be willing to take more shots and play a bit more aggressive. In all of Chicago’s games, Mitch Trubisky is the decider. If he plays well, the team wins. That philosophy holds for this hypothetical matchup. Also, does anyone remember that Ravens vs. Bears game from a couple years ago? With the delays and the wind? That was crazy.
X-Factor: Mitch Trubisky
9) Indianapolis Colts (6) vs. Chicago Bears (3)
Similar to the previous matchup, Mitch Trubisky is going to have to play well to keep up with the other side of the ball. Andrew Luck would be on fire coming into this game. This rematch of Super Bowl XLI would be a great one. The Bears defense could crack at times, similar to the Miami game earlier in the year. If it’s up to Mitch Trubisky and the Bears throwing attack, can they take the game unlike Rex Grossman 12 years ago? Allen Robinson has to have a big game on this generally weak Colts secondary. As for the Colts, they need to make sure to tackle. If Tarik Cohen or Taylor Gabriel get the ball at the line of scrimmage, you have to wrap them up. Even containing Mitch Trubisky on third down and shorts is key.
X-Factor: Colts’ tackling
8) Houston Texans (3) vs. Dallas Cowboys (4)
Here it is, the Texas Super Bowl. This is a rematch of Week 5 Sunday Night Football in which DeAndre Hopkins carried Houston en route to a 19–16 overtime victory. Both teams have certainly evolved since then. For Houston, that was they’re second game of their nine game winning streak that led to them clinching the three seed in the AFC. As for Dallas, it was just another down in their crazy up and down season so far that resulted in a clinched 4 seed for the playoffs. Imagining both teams hof, it’s hard to see any team getting a stop in this game. Dallas’s defense has certainly stepped up, but is it enough vs. Deshaun Watson and co.? A matchup to watch in this game is definitely the Texans D-Line vs. the Cowboys O-Line. The Cowboys offensive line has been struggling as of late, and they are really feeling the loss of Travis Frederick at center. They can not let the likes of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney in on Dak Prescott. The determiner in this game to me is Ezekiel Elliot. The Cowboys are going to hand it off to him on first down, and the whole offense opens up if he gets 6–9 yards. Also, he’s going to be big in the pass blocking game. As previously mentioned, the Texans’ pass rush is a force to be reckoned with.
X-Factor: Ezekiel Elliot
7) Indianapolis Colts (6) vs. New Orleans Saints (1)
We’ve only seen Andrew Luck vs. Drew Brees once, and why not see them again in the Super Bowl? There are much better quarterback matchups on the list, but seeing how Andrew Luck performs vs. the Saints defense would be fun. Can Darius Leonard hold Alvin Kamara in check? What about Marshon Lattimore vs. T.Y. Hilton? Cameron Jordan vs. Quenton Nelson? These teams matchup very well, and you already know that there are going to be offensive fireworks. As a rematch of Super Bowl XLIV, you can expect some well-executes special teams plays. In 2010, New Orleans’ onside kick to start the second half caught the whole country by surprise. I would not be surprised if either of these coaches had something else up their sleeves.
X-Factor: Special Teams
6) Chicago Bears (3) vs. New Orleans Saints (1)
I’ve been over the Bears so many times that I don’t even know if I have to anymore. Whether they play the Colts, Ravens, or Saints, Mitchell Trubisky is the ultimate decider. Matt Nagy needs to dial up something special, similar to earlier this year vs. the Giants. Khalil Mack needs to get good penetration, especially when Alvin Kamara goes out for routes and doesn’t stay to block. Whatever Sean Payton does to game-plan for this NFC Championship Game, I’m sure he’ll do it well. Exposing Chicago’s defense is certainly tough, but the MVP runner-up, Drew Brees, will be up for the challenge. Michael Thomas and his ability to run after the catch will be the game changer in this game. If they pass to him at the line of scrimmage on first down, he has to make something happen with his legs. Mix in some Taysom Hill, and maybe the Saints could head to the Super Bowl.
X-Factor: RAC (Run After the Catch)
5) New England Patriots (2) vs. Los Angeles Rams (2):
What a coaching matchup this would be! Sean McVay vs. Bill Belichick is a coaching battle for the decade. No matter how the teams got to this point, we know that the coaches will be ready for this game. It is also a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI, a game of which the Patriots took 20–17. Tom Brady won Super Bowl MVP, although only posting 145 yards and a touchdown. Can Brady put up better numbers against Aaron Donald and the Rams defense? Donald finished the regular season with 20.5 sacks, a crazily high number. It’s only a matter of time until Donald or J.J. Watt breaks Michael Strahan’s mark of 22.5. Will Brady and Belichick let another Super Bowl fall from their grasp? In order for the Rams to win this game, they have to play perfect football, similar to what the Steelers did vs. New England in Week 15. Todd Gurley must have a big game if Los Angeles wants revenge for Super Bowl XXXVI.
X-Factor: Todd Gurley II
4) New England Patriots (2) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6):
This matchup is only ahead of the previous one because the first game between these two was just a year ago. Will the Patriots lose back to back to Doug Pederson? Whoever the quarterback is for Philadelphia, it’s hard to forget what happened a year ago in Minneapolis. This absolutely insane NFL year (February-February) started with Nick Foles hoisting a Lombardi Trophy after defeating the juggernauts out of New England. Wouldn’t it be crazy if it ended that way, too? There were so many historic moments made last year between these two teams, why not watch more? I can’t speak for everyone else, but after last year’s game, I just wanted to see more. The whole group of Philly’s running backs will be crucial to breaking New England’s defense.
X-Factor: Eagles’ Running Backs
3) New England Patriots (2) vs. New Orleans Saints (1):
Once again, another phenomenal coaching matchup. This time, however, two all-time great quarterbacks are battling it out. Drew Brees is fighting for his legacy, while Tom Brady is just adding to his G.O.A.T. resumé. The Patriots are obviously much more experienced in these situations, but the Saints will be ready. Sean Payton, mentioned in the previous games, knows how to coach for these situations. I’m sure he’ll be able to expose this weak Patriots’ defense. The Saints are going to need some big plays, and so are the Patriots. One big play can change the whole momentum of the game, especially when the quarterbacks are Brady and Brees. Kamara, Ingram, James White, and Sony Michel will all be huge. All of them are so versatile, you can do anything. Heck, the Patriots faked a kneel in a Super Bowl!
X-Factor: The Big Plays
2) Kansas City Chiefs (1) vs. New Orleans Saints (1):
What a matchup! Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs vs. Drew Brees’ Saints. I think we’ve covered the Saints enough, let’s talk about Kansas City. Coming off an absolutely amazing regular season, they’re ready for a deep playoff run. Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Damien Williams have all proven to be viable weapons for Patty Mahomes. After throwing 50 TDs in the regular season to these guys, I don’t think he’ll have any issues in the playoffs. Kansas City’s secondary is a little iffy, and that’s where New Orleans has to attack. If they want to win this game, they’re going to need to go over the top, similar to their gameplan if they were to play New England. The Chiefs started playing more man coverage in Week 17 — we’ll see if they’ll continue that. If so, who covers Michael Thomas. The receivers for New Orleans will be huge. If someone like Tre’Quan Smith steps up with one 50-yard touchdown, then the whole game flips upside down. As shown in the Chiefs vs. Rams game earlier this year, Mahomes doesn’t ALWAYS perform well in crunch time. If Mahomes needs a touchdown in two minutes under the lights, can he pull it off?
X-Factor: Saints Wide Receiver Depth
1) Kansas City Chiefs (1) vs. Los Angeles Rams (2):
Our number one spot would be a rematch of earlier this year in Los Angeles. The Rams took that game 54–51 in a record-breaking matchup. Not only was there a ton of offense, but seven turnovers were created. 7! I’m sure that no one in the country would be mad seeing this matchup, just for entertainment purposes. The only issue I have with it is that people will be disappointed that it won’t live up to the previous game. Goff vs. Mahomes is the future of the NFL, and it would be amazing to see both of these quarterbacks start their legacies in the Super Bowl. Anything is possible in this game. Who knows? Maybe it will be a 13–7 game? You never know with young quarterbacks… The flow of this game is so unpredictable, that the X-Factors have to be the leaders of the teams. What a matchup!
X-Factor: Andy Reid + Patrick Mahomes & Sean McVay + Jared Goff