5-on-5 NFL Playoff Questions

Co-Written by Jack Morris, Braden Wagle, Austin Wodock, Jakob Rosati, and Andrew Labuda

With the 2018 regular season over and the playoffs about to begin, here are some answers to the biggest questions in the NFL

mahomes.jpgPhoto Credit: Odds Shark

Who should win the MVP?

Jack: This year, in particular, there are a number of players that you could make the case for as MVP. I believe Patrick Mahomes deserves the MVP award this year. Showtime Mahomes has taken the league by storm and led the Chiefs to a 12-4 record and an AFC West title. Mahomes is 2nd in the league in passing yards and 1st in TD’s by a wide margin. But more than those stats, it is hard to imagine the Chiefs being such a powerhouse this year without him. To me, he truly is the most valuable player in the NFL right now.

Braden: The MVP race this season has been a battle. Brees, Rivers, Goff, Gurley, and Mahomes all have great cases and have had amazing seasons, but for me, Andrew Luck is the answer. Luck has led a very young team with not much talent to 9 wins in 10 games to end the year and a wildcard birth. He finished second in touchdowns despite having no clear second wide-receiver. The Colts were preseason picked between two and five wins, Andrew Luck and an improved offensive line led them to ten.

Austin: Andrew Luck is the MVP. After missing an entire season while he rebuilt his robot throwing arm, Luck has put together one of the best seasons of his career. The weapons he is working are nowhere close to what other candidates like Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, and Jared Goff have. After starting 1-5, Luck has led the Colts to a wild card birth and just a tiebreaker short of winning the division. On top of his leadership, Luck has put together a statistically impressive season: 2nd in the league in touchdowns and over 4,500 yards passing with just 15 interceptions. Andrew Luck has elevated the play of a team projected to have a top 5 pick in the draft to a team some consider a threat in the AFC.

Jakob: I think this is Drew Brees’ year. I understand Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes both have a ridiculous amount of weapons and Mahomes threw a lot more touchdowns than Brees, but the Saints have that Super Bowl feel this year behind Brees’ MVP play. This is the one blemish on his resume that separates him from the other greats, as you could argue he is the least deserving this year of the candidates, he is also the most valuable to the #1 team in the league. The Saints were absolutely walloped by a Cam Newton-less Panthers in Week 17 when Brees didn’t play. The MVP is a hype award and that hype points to Brees.

Andrew:  It has to be Patrick Mahomes. He has thrown for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and nobody else is even close.  People want Drew Brees to win because he deserves an MVP award, but this is not the year to screw Mahomes out of it.  If Drew Brees were to win it they might as well just pick the most deserving person, not the actual most valuable player. The thought that Patrick Mahomes has an arsenal of weapons just isn’t true, he lost Kareem Hunt and has two solid targets in Hill and Kelce but it’s not like Drew Brees doesn’t have Kamara and Thomas.  Patrick Mahomes has thrown 28 touchdowns to players not named Hill and Kelce this year and Drew Brees only has 32 total. The award has to go to Mahomes or else it is just making a mockery of the award itself.

 

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Which NFL head-coaching vacancy is the best situation for an incoming coach?

Jack: The Cleveland Browns. With Baker Mayfield as a surefire franchise QB for the next decade or so, any new coach would be able to win a lot of games just off of Baker’s talent alone. Add to this the young talented defense that the Browns have and the dominance on the ground that Nick Chubb showed in the second half of the season, it is easy to see why any coaching candidate would want to reside in Believeland.

Braden: The Browns are the popular pick and a very good job, but the best job in the NFL has to be in Green Bay for one reason: AARON RODGERS. It’s not every day that a job comes open where you can coach one of the best QBs in the NFL. When one of those jobs comes up, nobody should pass it up (@Josh McDaniels passing up a chance to work with Andrew Luck, Frank Reich thanks you). The organization has been willing to spend big on free agents and have some young talent on defense particularly at cornerback with Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, and Kevin King. Aaron Rodgers is an instant ticket to success, any coach should jump at the job.

Austin: The Browns. God bless the city of Cleveland. Their patience has finally paid off and the Browns now have a QB who looks legit and a coaching vacancy that should bring in one of the bigger name coaching candidates this offseason. Beyond Baker Mayfield, the Browns have a young and impressive running game led by Nick Chubb, an offensive line that is solid and should only improve and a defense that has been serviceable for years and should improve through the draft and free agency going forward. Beyond the roster, the Browns play in a division that is in a bit of a chaotic state. The Bengals seem to have finally given up on mediocrity and fired Marvin Lewis, the Steelers seem to be imploding and the Ravens are a wild card between the stellar play of Lamar Jackson and their amazing, yet aging, defense. To me, the division looks fairly wide open and should be of great appeal to the top coaching candidates in the league.

Jakob: THE BROWNS. This is the first time in my lifetime that they have the QB box checked off. The drama and dysfunction have seemed to left the building with Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, as the front office has many high profile names who all left the Packers to come to Cleveland. The team is full of young studs who all want to change the narrative in Cleveland, challenging themselves and each other, another thing I haven’t seen in a long time. Not to mention the Browns have a boatload of draft picks, major cap space, and a GM who has had a rookie go to the Pro Bowl every year since 2015 (John Dorsey – Cleveland and Kansas City). The Browns are coming for the AFC North as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are falling apart and a Baltimore team who has an uncertain future with an older defense and promising young QB who has been great. My concern with Lamar Jackson is that he is like Cam and other running QBs who don’t have unlimited miles on those hips. Don’t forget about Nick Chubba Wubba Hubb too.

Andrew: I’m going to have to go with the Cleveland Browns. Yes, there are cons for the Browns but they have the best young team in football if you ask me. No other team has this much talent under the age of 26. Everything is meshing together and with a good coach, this team is not far away from contending every year. The players are young and will listen more, they need guidance. In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers won’t listen to anybody and they are old and often hurt. Aaron is 35 years old and with an aging roster, it makes the best pick the Cleveland Browns.

 

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Who is the team playing this weekend most likely to make a run to the Super Bowl?

Jack: The Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck is all the way back and dominating his opponents over the last 10 weeks with a 9-1 record. Add to this the fact that he finally is behind one of the best offensive lines in the league led by rookie Quenton Nelson, and the Colts could make some noise. The AFC is wide open and I expect the Colts to win in Houston and give the Chiefs a real run for their money the following week in Kansas City.

Braden: Might start to notice a trend, but I have the Colts here. The Colts 9-1 record in the past 10. is the same the Chiefs, Rams, and Saints had to start the year when everyone freaked out, the Colts had a rough start, but Luck was playing his first meaningful games in almost two years, the offensive line was still gelling, and the Colts had a lot of injuries. Luck has been here before making the playoffs his first three years and the AFC Championship in 2014. Luck has beaten the Chiefs in a historic comeback and knows what it takes to make a run. The Colts are the most dangerous team in the AFC right now.

Austin: I am biased and I will admit that, but the Colts are a team that nobody should want to play. Coming into the playoffs the Colts are 9-1 in their last ten games with the one loss being the biggest fluke I have seen in the NFL this year. Andrew Luck is playing some of the smartest and most efficient football of his career and finally has a running game to take the pressure off. Darius Leonard should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year and should be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year after leading the NFL in tackles and setting a franchise record for tackles in a season. While young and inexperienced the defense has shown that it is an elite bend-but-don’t-break defense that may give up yards but is fantastic at stalling drives and giving up field goals or less. Outside of Tom Brady, Andrew Luck has the most playoff experience of any AFC quarterback (sorry Philip Rivers) and his experience and leadership coupled with the stellar play on both sides of the ball could propel the Colts into the Super Bowl.  

Jakob: The AFC is deeper than the NFC, but the NFC has two glaring Super Bowl contenders in the Saints and Bears. I feel like this Chicago Bears team has the likes of the Legion of Boom when they were still intact. I don’t love Mitch Trubisky, but this defense behind Khalil Mack is deeper than people think. Philly knows cold but not Windy City cold, they are in for a tough matchup with a team who has been scrutinized for a very long time. The success of their expenditures will be measured by Trubisky and Matt Nagy’s ability to handle their first playoff run. The Bears have the pieces, it is time to deliver.

Andrew: I’m going to pick one team from each conference which I think can make a run to the Superbowl.  In the NFC I’m taking the Bears and in the AFC I’m going with the Colts.  For the Bears it is simple, defense travels better than offense and when you have the number one scoring defense in the NFL and holding teams to less than 20 points, you will win.  I know Mitch isn’t a gunslinger that will put up 40 points on a team but that isn’t what he is on this team to do. This team is lead by an amazing defense and can win anywhere. Don’t be shocked if you see them in the Superbowl.  The Colts are 9-1 in their last 10 games in which one of those games was against the Texans. The Texans have a horrible offensive line and a horrible secondary, while the Colts have a great offensive line and defensive line which will give the Texans issues all game.  Andrew Luck is the least sacked quarterback this year and if the defenses can’t get to him then the Colts are going to have a field day. Honorable Mention: The Chargers. I just wanted to point out that the Chargers are really good. They are 12-4 and a wildcard team which is just hard to fathom.  I like the Colts more but just be ready for the weaker AFC to be torn apart by both Wild Card teams.

 

Which team currently with a first-round bye is the most vulnerable?

Jack: The Patriots. Everyone likes to say “oh but Tom Brady and Bill Belichick always turn it around” but this year is different. The Patriots have one of the worst defenses that they’ve had in a long time. In addition, Gronk is noticeably slower than he used to be and is no longer a matchup nightmare. And with no more Josh Gordon, Brady really doesn’t have a lot of great weapons to give the ball to. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get upset in Foxborough in round two.

Braden: I have to go with the Patriots here. The Patriots have by far the least amount of talent and are just 3-5 away from Foxborough. People will say they have done it with less talent before, but the defense has not been the same this year. The loss of Matt Patricia is clear in the inability to get lesser talent to perform on defense. Give me the Chargers over the Patriots in the divisional round.

Austin: This is a tough pick for me. The Chiefs and Rams both got off to extremely hot starts but slowed down as the season progressed and each team lost key pieces (Cooper Kupp and Kareem Hunt). That being said I think the Rams are most likely to fall out of the playoffs early. The offense has hit a ro1/4ugh patch since Kupp went down with an ACL injury week 10. Outside of the 54-51 barn burner against the Chiefs, Quarterback Jared Goff has only thrown for 300 yards once and had an absolutely abysmal game against the Bears. The defense has been solid all season led by the ridiculous play of Aaron Donald but has taken a bit of a slip in recent weeks. On top of the injuries and shaky play of the Rams, the coaching staff and roster are both very inexperienced in the playoffs. Adding it all up, the Rams look like a vulnerable team that can’t be trusted to live up to the seed they earned.

Jakob: I think all of the teams that have byes this year have some major flaws, but the Rams don’t feel like the squad that will overcome a physical, rigid defense. Jared Goff, in my opinion, is overrated, they lost Cooper Kupp for the season, and their “All-Star defense” has been everything but that, giving up 30 points 9 times this season. They are lucky they won’t have to travel to a cold playing field in any scenario this season, everyone saw what the Bears did to them in Week 14. The star-studded Rams put up a measly 6 points. On a positive note, Todd Gurley will be coming off a ton of rest which goes in their favor. The Rams tend to play down to their competition and it could be their undoing if they don’t take a lead early. The Rams have lost 3 of 5 to the other NFC playoff teams and barely beat the Seahawks twice. Sean McVay, prove me wrong.

Andrew: I’m just going to go ahead and say it, the New England Patriots.  Yes, I know they have played in the AFC Championship for what seems like my entire life but this year is different, we are all witnessing the downfall of the Patriots. I think three of the 4 teams playing in the AFC this weekend can go to Gillette Stadium and win and they would be the Colts, Chargers, and Ravens.  I don’t trust the suspect Texans team with little to no running game, hurt offensive weapons, and terrible Secondary. Tom Brady finally looks old and it looks like Gronk hit a wall and just isn’t the same player he once was. There is no way they end up in the Super Bowl and the only way they are winning in the Divisional round is if they play the Texans which isn’t going to happen.   

 

maxresdefault.jpgPhoto Credit: NFL

Who will make and win the Superbowl?

Jack: Chiefs vs Saints. To me, these two teams and the Rams have been the best three teams all year long, but because the Rams will have to play in New Orleans they will not be able to get it done. Both of these offenses put up points in a hurry, and the Saints defense has been stronger than expected this season. I expect the Saints to bring the Lombardi back to the big easy by beating the Chiefs 34-23 in Atlanta.

Braden: Colts vs Saints. Look at the wildcard section for the Colts, and the AFC is wide open. The Colts have proven they can beat the Texans on road, Kansas City has not looked the same since cutting Kareem Hunt, and the Patriots are not the same team they have been in past. The Chargers could make a run, but I will take the best QB. In the NFC the Saints are just the best and most complete team, not only will they make the Superbowl, but they will win it with relative ease over whatever team comes out of the AFC. Prediction: Saints 34 Colts 21

Austin: Colts vs Saints. The AFC hasn’t been this open since the 90s. Any team in the conference could win it. That being said I like the Colts’ roster and the run they are on to continue through the playoffs and propel them into the Super Bowl. In the NFC, things look pretty simple to me. The Saints are the most complete team from coaching through the rest of the roster and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs which should easily translate to wins and a Super Bowl berth. The Colts-Saints rematch is one I and many other Colts fans have wanted since the heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl XLIV and I think the rematch will live up to the hype. Colts win close behind stellar play from their two best players, Andrew Luck and Darius Leonard and a game-winning field goal from Adam Vinatieri 31-28.

Jakob: Chiefs vs Saints. Yes, the Chiefs lost Kareem Hunt, a major blow, but I just don’t see anyone else in the AFC that pops out except maybe the Patriots who are balling at the right time. The Chiefs are sick of hearing that they are chokers in the playoffs and with a new QB, Andy Reid will silence the haters. Their offense has been slowed down by nobody this season and with the AFC running through Arrowhead, I like their chances. The Saints. I really think it’s their year. A Drew Brees MVP, an offense that is unreal at all positions (nobody talks about how good their O-line is), and a defense who has struggled but has seemed to straighten things out a perfect time. The Saints are hungry after getting absolutely robbed by the “Minnesota Miracle” last year, and the Super Bowl is the only bowl they want to eat out of. After a miserable loss to the Bucs, the Saints have rebounded all year by floating around as a top 3 team in the league. This is their shot, and for what seems like Drew Brees’ year to finally win MVP, it just feels perfect. Prediction: Saints 42 Chiefs 38

Andrew: Chargers vs Bears. The Chargers are notorious for not showing up for the playoffs but this team feels different to me.  They are 12-4 and have one of the best teams in football this year. The AFC is weak and it feels wide open to about any team.  The Chargers have it all and in a down year for the AFC it feels like their time to shine. The matchup I am most scared about for the Chargers is the Ravens which is the wildcard round.  It will feel like a 10 AM game for the Chargers in Baltimore but I just don’t trust a team with a non-throwing quarterback to win a playoff game. The NFC feels completely different from the AFC, to me, there seem to be three teams in the NFC that can go to the Superbowl, the Saints, Bears, and Rams and I am taking the best defense out of the 3 teams.  Everybody knows what happened when the Rams played the Bears. Yes, it was in Chicago but even if it was in LA, I can’t imagine the Rams scoring more than 2 touchdowns which is a score the Bears can overcome. The Saints are a great team, but twice in the last five weeks, they have been held to less than 13 points. That is not a great total and the Bears are a better defense than both of the teams that held the Saints to low scoring.  Defense travels and the Bears D is going to show up to play. Prediction: Bears 20 Chargers 17

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