Harv currently writes for Abstract Sports, the Sports History Network, and the magazine Gridiron Greats. Harv wrote the published book "Pro Football's Most Passionate Fans" and as a professional writer has had articles published in an array of sports publications.
First-Round NFL Playoff Predictions and Beyond
The 2019 NFL season is over. At least for 20 teams that is. The team I root for the Pittsburgh Steelers are among those 20 teams and for the Black and Gold this past season marks the second year in a row they have missed the playoffs and once again just as it was in 2018, Pittsburgh’s postseason hopes came down to the very last regular-season game.
After getting embarrassed by the Baltimore Ravens in week 17 as the Ravens sat several key starters, the Tennessee Titans took advantage of the Houston Texans who also rested players and replaced the Steelers as the sixth and final wild card seed in the AFC. The playoff picture is set with the first round set to begin on Saturday, January 4th so, from a Steelers fan’s perspective, I give you my playoff predictions to Super Bowl LIV.
Wild Card Round
BUFFALO BILLS AT HOUSTON TEXANS
The Bills may be the surprise team of the playoffs and for the regular season in 2019. They’ve had a nice ride but playing on the road against a well-rested starting lineup from Houston does not bode well for them. Their Cinderella season comes to a close on Saturday. Houston 28 Buffalo 17.
TENNESSEE TITANS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
As much as Patriots fans would like to return for yet another shot at a record seventh Super Bowl, it ain’t happening this year. Even if they find a way to win this one, they would then have to go on the road and win two more just to reach the promised land again. But they have been shaky all season and given the fact that they would have earned a bye by beating the lowly Miami Dolphins in the final week of the season but on their turf, the ‘Phins pulled the upset with a last-minute score. The Titans enter this game with momentum and with Ryan Tannehill having a hot hand right now; I like the Patriots to see the door out on Saturday. Tennessee 27 New England 20.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The NFC kicks off with this intriguing game but the way Michael Thomas has been playing this season, he’s as dangerous a weapon as Lamar Jackson is in Baltimore. The Vikes won’t have an answer and Drew Brees will take his record-setting passing marks into the next round. New Orleans 35 Minnesota 21.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Closing out the wild card round will be the resilient Eagles at home playing the resurrected Seahawks. This will be a very difficult game for both teams and I believe it will more defensive than offensive. The 9-7 Eagles will survive the battle. Philadelphia 21 Seattle 18.
If my wild card round predictions ring true, here are the matchups for the divisional rounds:
TEXANS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
I believe Kansas City is better now than they were last year when they failed to get to the Super Bowl. The Texans just don’t have the weapons or defense to oust K.C. in 2019. The Chiefs are determined to not have a repeat of 2018. Kansas City 41 Houston 20.
TENNESSEE TITANS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS
Seeing how easily the Ravens beat up on the Steelers minus Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram is scary for the rest of the AFC. Pittsburgh had one of their best defensive performances for the course of a season in years. That’s how good this Ravens team is. Jackson was a beast in 2019 and should easily win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. This victory for Baltimore will be as easier if not less difficult than how they handled the Steelers with their 14th win. Baltimore 38 Tennessee 13.
CHIEFS AT RAVENS
At the start of the season, many predicted this game as the AFC championship game. So here it is. Do you want to talk about an offensive fireworks show? This game might have it. The Ravens have the stouter defense but the Chiefs are not far behind. But the edge for weapons on offense probably goes to Kansas City however Lamar Jackson is a one-man wrecking machine. Baltimore closed the season with 12 straight wins after starting the season 0-2. They are rolling. The Chiefs are on a six-game streak finishing the season 12-4. This game could go either way so it won’t be a surprise if either team advances to the NFL title game. I have to pick one of them so I’ll go with the home team only because they are in their stadium. Baltimore 35 Kansas City 31.
SAINTS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS
Over to the NFC we go, and while Green Bay had just three losses in 2019, to start 2020 they will drop their fourth. New Orleans is just too dangerous and Aaron Rodgers did not have an “Aaron Rodgers” kind of season. New Orleans 27 Green Bay 17.
EAGLES AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
How good is San Francisco? Their defense is no joke. But they do not have the postseason experience that Philadelphia Does. However, Carson Wentz is playing in his first playoff game. I’m not that impressed with the Niners offense, but the defense should carry the day for them giving Jimmy Garappolo just enough field position to win this one. San Francisco 20 Philadelphia 17.
SAINTS AT 49ERS
For the NFC title game, I just think Drew Brees in a big game situation will rise to the occasion and avoid a Baltimore/San Francisco Super Bowl rematch. In the end, the two best teams of 2019 will reach the NFL championship to be held on February 2 in Miami. For this one, the final score in my estimation, New Orleans 34 San Francisco 24.
Super Bowl LIV
BALTIMORE RAVENS VS. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
This will be a doozy. Some serious offensive weaponry with two very good defenses attempting to stop each other. If this ends up being the matchup, I promise you that Super Bowl LIV will give you a game to remember. The Baltimore Ravens are riding such a high right now they are oozing with confidence and swagger. That’s a difficult thing to slow down or stop. As Drew Brees reaches his second Super Bowl, this time there will not be enough magic. Close…but no cigar. Baltimore 35 New Orleans 28.