Through eleven weeks, we have a pretty good idea who is a real playoff threat and who’s just another team. It is time for teams to make their playoff push, especially the ones who have hopes of making some noise in the promised land. Are the Chiefs going to continue being a high octane juggernaut? Will the Steelers keep riding their hot streak? Did we count out the Patriots too soon? Is the Texans’ resurgence a fluke? Let’s take a look at some predictions for the playoffs.
#6 Indianapolis Colts @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Yes, the Colts. Andrew Luck has been playing like a dark horse MVP candidate. Their offensive line has been vastly improved, and Marlon Mack has been a good running back that nobody talks about. They are 5-5 and have been playing some great football going into Week 12. They will not win the AFC South and are by no means a perfect team, but they are dangerous and can present problems to anybody.
The Steelers began 1-2-1 and then flipped a switch. Their offense can beat you over the top or they can just run it down your throat with James Conner. Their defense allows the sixth fewest points and the sixth fewest yards in the NFL. Well-rounded teams usually have the most playoff success because when one area of their game is halted, they can ride another one to victory. Expect this game to be close for three quarters and for the Steelers to pull away in the end.
Steelers 35, Colts 23.
#5 Los Angeles Chargers @ #4 Houston Texans.
Speaking of well-rounded teams, the Chargers have the personnel on both sides of the ball to compete with anybody. Philip Rivers has been playing some of the best ball of his life and Melvin Gordon has established himself as an elite running back in this league. The defense is young, athletic, and they haven’t seen the return of stud pass rusher Joey Bosa yet. Unfortunately for them, they happen to play in the same division as the juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs.
The Texans, on the other hand, have been riding a seven game winning streak entering Week 12. The defense has been playing terrific and Deshaun Watson has been looking like Deshaun Watson again. The offensive line has been done a better job protecting him, which is especially key for a quarterback who can make plays with his legs. DeAndre Hopkins has been making a case for being the best wide receiver in the NFL. This offense has the potential to put up big points, even though we have not seen them break through quite yet. Houston should be firing on all cylinders by the time the playoffs arrive.
Texans 27, Chargers 24.
#3 Pittsburgh Steelers @ #2 New England Patriots
Football fans dream of these type of games. Two historic franchises, two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, two teams that have a past and do not like each other. This game has the makings of a classic. History has gone in the Patriots’ favor over recent years, however. In their last postseason matchup, the Pats beat the Steelers in a game that was never close, a game that sent them to the Super Bowl.
This Steelers squad looks like a different team, though. They play great defense and have the ability to make Tom Brady’s life difficult in the pocket. The Patriots are the Patriots. We can talk about red flags that pop up during the regular season, but it always seems to be the same story. They face some kind of struggle during the season. People doubt them and call for the end of their dynasty. They are right back in the AFC Championship Game. It’s been that way for several years now.
And it will continue as long as they have #12 leading the way.
Patriots 33, Steelers 27.
#4 Houston Texans @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs
Deshaun Watson vs Patrick Mahomes. A match-up of young superstars from the 2017 NFL Draft. What more can we ask for? These two quarterbacks are going to be the showcase of the AFC for the next twelve years and this is just the start.
The concern about this game is whether or not the Texans can make enough defensive stops. The Chiefs’ offense has no weakness and it will take a turnover or a key sack to beat them. They are almost always a lock for thirty points. The Texans do not have the same offensive firepower and will lose if they try to beat Kansas City in a shootout. They must have Watson on his A-game, but what will the pass rush do? Will the secondary hold up its end of the bargain? Can they slow down Kareem Hunt, even just a little bit?
Chiefs 34, Texans 28.
AFC Championship Game
#2 New England Patriots @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs will play in their first conference title game since they got the remains of Joe Montana in uniform. The Patriots... well, they will be here for their eighth straight. Despite playing in their eighth straight conference championship game, they are 0-2 on the road in those games. They did beat the Chiefs 43-40 earlier this season, but that game was in Foxborough. At Arrowhead, with a roaring crowd behind them, the Chiefs should be favorites in this game. Patrick Mahomes will show the world what a superstar he truly is. The Patriots’ defense has made Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota look like John Elway and Dan Marino. One can only imagine what will happen when they go to the home of Mahomes. Tom Brady can never be counted out and Bill Belichick is the greatest coach ever for a reason. New England will be disciplined, prepared, and ready for the challenge.
But they have no real answer for Tyreek Hill, who will burn any defensive back you put on him. This just is not the Patriots’ year.
Chiefs 37, Patriots 32.
What are your AFC Playoff predictions as the calendar gets ready to flip to December?