The regular season was full of surprises for both conferences. The Chiefs started 1-5 only to win 10 straight, nearly stealing the AFC West away from the reigning Broncos. The Seahawks seemed to be dead offensively at the beginning of the season despite featuring the likes of Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham. Without the two, the Seahawks got as hot as ever on offense, and are one of the hottest teams going into the playoffs.
But which conference is hotter? On one hand we have the Broncos, Patriots, Bengals, Texans, Chiefs, and Steelers. On the other, we have the Panthers, Cardinals, Vikings, Redskins, Packers, and Seahawks.
Both conferences have strength all the way to the sixth seed (Seahawks and Steelers), so who will reign supreme?
Top two seeds
The NFC has the Panthers and Cardinals at one and two. The Panthers are stacked on defense which has consistently kept Cam Newton in the game — not that he needed any help. Newton and company torched defenses left and right this year despite having a who’s who receiving corps and injuries practically everywhere. Bruce Arians is an evil mastermind, scoring at will with an aggressive offense led by MVP candidate, Carson Palmer. Defensively, the Cards are aggressive and innovative, sporting a DB-heavy group and relentless blitzing. Week 17 wasn’t a real game, and I will not read into it. Nobody wants to play the Cardinals.
The Broncos and Patriots hold the top two seeds in the AFC. I will never write off the Patriots. Injuries and all, they are dangerous. That being said, in an important game for the number one seed, the Patriots proved that anyone can beat them after falling to the Dolphins on Sunday. The Broncos might win one playoff game, but they will not win two. The defense has slowly gotten worse while the offense hasn’t found stability in the passing game the past few weeks.
Wildcard Weekend Teams
The Steelers are very dangerous on offense when they are playing well. The flop in Baltimore in Week 16 is concerning, especially since the game had significant meaning and almost knocked them out of the playoffs. The Bengals are the most talented team in the AFC, and maybe in the NFL. However, can A.J. McCarron lead the Bengals to victory over the post-season savvy Steelers? If he does, can Andy Dalton win his first playoff game the next week? If the Texans can manage to beat the Chiefs, and I don’t think they will, they won’t make it much further.
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins are hot, but can they win a shootout every week with a suspect defense? The Seahawks are a team the nobody, NOBODY, wants to play. The offense has been on fire, and the defense is stout. They start off the post season against the Vikings who they slaughtered in the regular season. It seems that only the Rams know their weakness. The Packers have Rodgers — that is about all I can say about their offense, but their defense is no joke. Mike Daniels, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are causing a lot of problems up front.
Edge: NFC. Two of the top Wildcard Weekend AFC teams play each other, and neither are very consistent.
The NFC’s Vikings have blown out their last three opponents 107-47. They have the two keys to January success in a powerful run game and a top-tier defense. If they can beat Seattle on Sunday, is there anyone they can’t beat? Don’t count out Teddy Bridgewater. He has been doing precisely what the coaching staff has asked of him. Speaking of coaches, Mike Zimmer for coach of the year anyone? (@eddiechisham)
On the other side, the Chiefs are unbeaten in the last 10 games. Their fantastic pass rush mixed with a blossoming secondary featuring DROY candidate, Marcus Peters, has left opponents with 12.8 ppg the past 10 games. Their main hindrance at the start of the season was offensive production. Well, that is no longer a problem as their committee of RBs and Jeremy Maclin’s emergence have added fire power to their attack.
There you have it, the NFC is too hard to bet against. They will take home to Lombardi Trophy this year.