The Vikings may not be a part of this year’s playoff picture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t spend a little time speculating on it, right? Because of Covid, an expanded format, and a slew of other things, this year’s playoffs seem more up in the air than any other in recent memory. That uncertainty just makes it more fun to talk about it. What if we see a Super Bowl victory from a nameless team? Okay, maybe we can’t go that far, but there are plenty of other scenarios to talk about.
The “Chalk” Scenario
As fun as a crazy postseason would be, there’s always the possibility that 2020 extends into 2021 and sucks all the fun out of it. This would result in a Green Bay vs. Kansas City matchup. I mean, sure, it might be fun to watch Aaron Rodgers duel with Patrick Mahomes, but at the end of the day, all our speculating and arguing would seem like a waste of time if that happened.
Of course, this is still the most likely scenario given the two teams have high-flying offenses led by two of the top quarterbacks in the league. Green Bay’s defense has improved in the second half of the season, and the signing of Damon “Snacks” Harrison strengthens their run defense. Kansas City ran through their schedule en route to a 14-2 record, and their defense is a very underrated unit, giving up the 10th fewest points in the league. The road to the Super Bowl runs through Kansas City and Green Bay, and that may prove to be the matchup.
The “Freaky Friday” Scenario
In 2017, Carson Wentz was well on his way to an MVP before an ACL tear abruptly ended his season. All hope seemed lost, but then Nick Foles stepped in and led an improbable playoff run, beating Atlanta, Minnesota, and New England en route to a Super Bowl victory.
This year, there’s a chance that a nearly identical situation could occur. Carson Wentz was the second pick in 2016’s draft, and directly ahead of him was Jared Goff. Guess who’s season has been cut short because of an injury? Jared Goff. Goff hasn’t had an MVP-type season, but there were still times where he played very well. If John Wolford has to take over throughout the postseason, can he turn into Nick Foles?
It’s a longshot, but the Rams are going into the postseason as the NFC’s 6-seed. They have a matchup this week with Seattle, who they have beaten already this year. If they can win that, they go to Green Bay and face the Packers. Aaron Donald doesn’t let Aaron Jones break free, and Jalen Ramsey will make things difficult on Davante Adams. The Rams also have a top-10 rushing offense because of production from Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, and Malcolm Brown, so they can win the time of possession battle.
If the Rams win, it sends them to the NFC Championship to play (probably) either New Orleans or Tampa Bay. New Orleans has already beaten Tampa Bay twice, and we all know the history of having to beat a divisional rival for a third time. It usually does not end well.
Tom Brady tops New Orleans’ injured, COVID-ridden roster, and Wolford must truly unlock his inner Foles and beat Brady. When these two teams faced off earlier this year, LA took the win. It’s not inconceivable that it happens again. They then move onto the Super Bowl and await the AFC champ. Completely improbable, but not impossible.
The “If it Quacks Like a Duck and Walks Like a Duck, it’s Probably a Duck” Scenario
If things don’t go the way of the chalk scenario, there is one that stands out as the most obvious to me. The Buffalo Bills are playing the best football in the NFL right now, and they are coming off an absolute domination of Miami who were, until that meltdown, the best scoring defense in the NFL. Josh Allen, as much as Green Bay fans don’t want to admit it, absolutely belongs in the MVP discussion, and Stefon Diggs had an incredible season as WR1. Since their week 11 bye, they’ve won every game by double digits.
As for the NFC, the Buccaneers went into their week 12 bye on a two game losing streak, but have won every game since and scored 40+ points in each of the final two games. Tom Brady showed everyone this year he can still be THE Tom Brady if he has weapons. Mike Evans seems like he should be ready to go for the wild card round against Washington. The defense has been great.
New Orleans has a ton of uncertainty given recent injuries and covid quarantines to Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Alvin Kamara, and Latavius Murray. Tampa has already beaten up on Green Bay this year. Pittsburgh has no running game, and Kansas City has just looked flat for much of their recent games. If it looks like a contender and plays like a contender, it probably is a contender.
The “2020” Scenario
The Cleveland Browns have made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. While that in and of itself is crazy, why not make things even crazier?. It’s certainly possible. Baker Mayfield is playing with a chip on his shoulder, the running game is one of the best in the league, and the defense is good enough not to be a liability. Is it still crazy for Cleveland to get past Kansas City and Buffalo and make the Super Bowl? Sure, but 2020 was also crazy.
As for the NFC, there is only one team in the NFL that has had nearly every game devolve into chaos. That team is the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle has played 11 one-possession games this season; each one has been crazier than the last. What would be more crazy than this team making a postseason while Russell Wilson runs around making insane play after play? The Browns and Seahawks meeting in the Super Bowl would have the potential to be the wildest matchup we’ve ever seen.
The “Old Man Bar Fight” Scenario
Not only would this scenario feature two of the oldest quarterbacks in the league; it would also feature two of the most imposing, physical defenses. That matchup is of course Pittsburgh vs. New Orleans. Drew Brees vs. Ben Roethlisberger. Number three scoring defense vs. number five scoring defense.
There’s a lot riding on this matchup if it happens because there is potential that it seals the legacies of both 41-year old Drew Brees and 38-year old Big Ben. It would be extremely impressive for either quarterback to lead their teams to a title at their age. Neither defense will make it easy, though. The Steelers led the NFL in sacks during the regular season while the Saints have their own ferocious pass rush anchored by Cam Jordan and Trey Hendrickson. The two quarterbacks will take plenty of hits during this fight. It will probably end up being an ugly, low scoring affair.