This year’s NFL playoffs features a collision of the old guard and the fresh blood in the league. On one side, you have the Patriots and the Seahawks, looking to push their teams to historic dynasties. Meanwhile, a young core of teams, like the Cowboys and Raiders, look to usher in the next generation of stars and franchises looking for supremacy.
In the Wild Card round, television executives clearly had no say in the matchups. The Texans will host the Raiders in a game almost completely devoid of offensive play callers, while the Lions and Packers miss a chance at a rematch, in favor of opponents from the coasts.
The real questions come in the divisional round, where the Patriots await a challenger, while the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Falcons all look to exorcise the demons that have haunted their recent playoff pasts.
The Zoot Perspective paves the road to Super Bowl LI, which will feature a pair of new challengers for the Lombardi Trophy.
Wild Card Round:
Dolphins at Steelers:
If Ryan Tannehill was healthy, I’d call it a closer game, but the Steelers have the pedigree and the determination to win this. The Steelers have had some sloppy losses this season, but a healthy team and the pressure of the playoffs should make this a cake walk.
Raiders at Texans:
Oh, how I wish I could see a strong Raiders team in the playoffs. With Derek Carr injured, though, this is a tough sell. The Texans are a mess, and snuck into the playoffs by default (most likely because of a Marcus Mariota injury), so the Raiders will squeak this one out.
Giants at Packers:
This isn’t the first time these teams have met in the playoffs, and this one will be no less exciting. The Packers are on a tear, while the Giants have quietly become a very strong championship contender. The Packers have had trouble throughout the year, though, and I’m going with consistency over streaking.
Lions at Seahawks:
The Lions have won games that they had no business winning, and the Seahawks have lost games they have no business losing. The playoffs, though, generally allows the cream to rise, and the Seahawks will show their pedigree to blow out the Lions.
Raiders at Patriots:
The Raiders should have lost in the last round, but for an abysmal Texans team. The Patriots look THAT good, and it is going to be hard to imagine a team with a third-string quarterback beating them out.
Steelers at Chiefs:
This one is going to be interesting. Nobody has been talking about the Chiefs, and now they’re the division champions. The Steelers, meanwhile, have had big ups and downs. In a battle of quarterbacks, though, Big Ben beats Alex Smith every time, and his supporting cast will propel him to the AFC Championship game.
Giants at Cowboys:
We’ve seen the matchup twice, and it has been the only downfall for an otherwise immaculate Cowboys’ season. It would be easy to predict an Eli Manning-like playoff streak, but a well rested Cowboys team will have a fire under them to buck the trend and win a playoff game.
Seahawks at Falcons:
The Falcons offense has been prolific, and the Seahawks defense is legendary. This will be an absolute grudge match, but Matt Ryan is finally beginning to come into his own, and the Seahawks’ injury list will keep them from the promised land.
Steelers at Patriots:
This is the matchup of the classic NFL teams, with championship experience everywhere. The Steelers have talent across the board, but the Patriots have the discipline and excellence to keep chugging along. Tom Brady’s short season also helps him avoid the fatigue of the end of the season.
Falcons at Cowboys
The guard has officially changed in the NFC, with two teams vying for their first Super Bowl appearance in nearly 20 years. The Falcons have the age advantage, but the Cowboys are led by a pair of rookies who cannot be stopped. The Cowboys Offensive Line will ice this cake, and will ensure an invitation to Super Bowl LI for Dallas.
Super Bowl LI:
Cowboys vs. Patriots
A rookie who has taken the league by storm against maybe the greatest of all time. Two claims at the notion of “America’s Team”. This will be a perfect matchup for the haters, as everyone will have something to say. In the game, the Cowboys flash vs. the Patriots’ efficiency will result in a close matchup, but another Lombardi Trophy for NFL-villain and fan-hero Tom Brady.