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Jan. 6, 2018

Super Bowl LII Playoff Predictions

by Nate Bodner, Sports Editor, Ellie Williams, Features Editor, Noah Stern, Staff Writer and Eric Feigen, Staff Writer
NFL Playoff Predictions
Congratulations to Nate and Ellie for tying for the first in SCO's NFL predictions this season! The season was full of unexpected surprises like the Eagles and Rams, as well as more pleasant surprises like the Bills breaking their streak of 17 consecutive seasons missing the playoffs. Now it's time to move on to our playoff predictions. Although our hometown teams, the Redskins and Ravens will not be featured this year, there are plenty of good matchups on the way that should leave us with a highly competitive Super Bowl 52. See how each member of the prediction team think the postseason will play out.

Regular Season Standings:
Nate: 149-75
Ellie: 149-75
Eric: 146-78
Noah: 129-95

NFC wild card:

Nate:
Rams over Falcons
Saints over Panthers
Ellie:
Rams over Falcons
Saints over Panthers
Eric:
Rams over Falcons
Panthers over Saints
Noah:
Rams over Falcons
Saints over Panthers

Nate says: The Falcons, on both sides of the ball, have been far from the team that made a run to the Super Bowl last season. And, even though the Rams don't have anywhere close to the playoff experience of Atlanta, they have a number of talented young weapons on offense and a solid defense coordinated by 40 year NFL veteran Wade Phillips. In the other game, the Saints will cruise to the NFC divisional round (and their third win of the season against Carolina) behind their commitment to the run game, and a revamped defense that has quieted Cam Newton and the Panthers twice already this season
Ellie says: Last year’s Falcons team is nowhere to be seen. In their place is a team who barely pulled it together by the end of the season. Their defense is lacking and the Rams offense averages 29.9 points per game, so this one will go to L.A. Both the Saints and the Panthers ended their regular seasons at 11-5, however the Saints have been able to beat the Panthers each time they met. The Carolina D-Line isn’t ready for Drew Brees.
Eric says: The Falcons are like Nate's predictions this year… inconsistent. Against a superior Rams offense led by Todd Gurley, the Falcons defense will crumble like some chocolate chip cookies in warm milk. The Rams have pure talent throughout the lineup, while the Falcons are notorious for choking on big competitors. The Panthers on the other hand will wreak havoc on an unorganized Saints defense. To say the least the Panthers will Brees past the Saints like they are in a Kamary. After losing against the Bucs, New Orleans just don't have the momentum to beat the Panthers straight off their win against the Falcons.
< b>Noah says: To start off, the Falcons barely snuck into the playoffs this season. Yes, they had a magical run to the Super Bowl last year but that season is over. The Rams will take their high flying offense and run over the Falcons mediocre defense in Los Angeles. In the Saints case, their dynamic duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are virtually unstoppable when on their game. They both have been all season. That's an extremely scary thought for the Panthers fans. Cam Newton is overrated and will not be able to lead the Panthers past the first round this season. (And will leave the press conference early too.)



Nate:
Chiefs over Titans
Jaguars over Bills
Ellie:
Chiefs over Titans
Jaguars over Bills
Eric:
Chiefs over Titans
Jaguars over Bills
Noah:
Chiefs over Titans
Jaguars over Bills

Nate says: The Chiefs will win at home at the Arrowhead, because they've been the better team all season. Despite a rough patch, the defense still has the potential to be lockdown and the offense has a number of reliable weapons that will be used to break down the Titans middling defense. The Bills only made the playoffs because of a last minute choke by Baltimore. The Jaguars defense will keep Buffalo in check all game long.
Ellie says: Both the Titans and the Bills barely made it into playoffs, and aren’t nearly as experienced as the Chiefs and the Jags. Mariota proved himself this season, but is no match for Kansas City’s skilled offense. Bortles, Fournette, and Cole’s stats speak for themselves, and they have the home field advantage. Expect wins from the Jaguars and the Chiefs over these less skilled teams.
Eric says:The Titans barely slipped into the playoffs and the Chiefs turned themselves around from what seemed to be a catastrophe mid-way through the season. The Jaguars defense is one of the best in the NFL and against the Bills, whose offensive has proven inconsistent, the Jags will edge out a victory.
Noah says: The Titans limped into the playoffs and barely squeaked in. The Chiefs are starting to pick up speed and they are a momentum team. The Chiefs should roll all over the inexperienced Titans. The Bills are not a very good football team. They barely made the playoffs and the Jaguars defense should dominate the Bills lackluster team the entire game. No contests here.



Nate:
Vikings over Rams
Eagles over Saints
Ellie:
Vikings over Rams
Saints over Eagles
Eric:
Rams over Vikings
Panthers over Eagles
Noah:
Vikings over Rams
Saints over Eagles

Nate says: The Vikings have been stellar all season, with a hard hitting defense, a QB playing at a very high level, and a talented core of runners and pass-catchers. I'll take them over the solid, but young and inexperienced Rams. The Eagles will prevail in this match-up despite the loss of their starting QB to an ACL tear just weeks from the end of the season. The defense will step up, and Nick Foles will step up in a big way to power Philadelphia to the NFC Championship game.
Ellie says: The Vikings have barely faltered this season. They have an impeccable offense led by Bradford, and a strong defense that will be able to shut down the Rams offense. The Eagles haven’t been the same since they lost Carson Wentz, and Nick Foles won’t be able to hold down the fort. The Saints also have the best running back duo in the league which will lead them to a win in the divisional round.
Eric says:The Rams have shown themselves to be the superior team in the NFC, I expect them to make a promising Super Bowl run. Meanwhile the Eagles don't have Carson Wentz which will prove detrimental to their offensive. The Panthers talented defense lead Luke Kuechly will hold the line and prevent Philly from scoring.
Noah says: Without Carson Wentz, the Eagles won't be able to take this dream season anywhere. The high flying Saints offense should run all over them and move them onto the NFC championship. The Vikings defense showed earlier in the season that they could dominate the Rams offense, holding them to 7 points. They'll be able to do the same here and beat the extremely young Rams. Case Keenum should continue his strong play. The Saints and Vikings will be the NFC Championship game.



Nate:
Patriots over Chiefs
Steelers over Jaguars
Ellie:
Patriots over Chiefs
Steelers over Jaguars
Eric:
Patriots over Chiefs
Steelers over Jaguars
Noah:
Chiefs over Patriots
Steelers over Jaguars

Nate says: The Patriots will avenge their opening day trouncing at the hands of the Chiefs in last-minute fashion to go back to yet another AFC championship. Brady is simply unstoppable, and the offense has enough weapons and schemes to keep defenses guessing right til the bitter end. The Steelers will also make their return to face the Patriots after defeating Jacksonville at home with plenty of help from their unanimous All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown.
Ellie says: The Patriots are playoff veterans who have remained one of the best teams in the NFL throughout the season, and Alex Smith doesn’t have the tools to overpower Tom Brady’s offense. The Steelers fell to the Jaguars early in the season, but Roethlisberger will be ready to put the Jags in their place next weekend at home.
Eric says:The Patriots have been consistently solid throughout their entire season, while the Chiefs had a mid-season crisis. I except that in a game of high-stakes and pressure, Brady and crew will come out on top. The Jags aren't exactly this year's favorite to make a promising Super Bowl run, against the Steelers, they are outclassed and their season will come to an abrupt end.
Noah says: The Patriots may be the best team in the league but again, the Chiefs play well with momentum, and with a win in the Wild Card round, they will have plenty of momentum to knock off the defending champions. They did so in Week 1 in dominating fashion. The Chiefs and the always reliable Alex Smith will be able to beat the Pats in this one. It pains me to say it but it's true, the Steelers have far and away the most complete team in the entire league. The Jaguars have a good enough defense to compete with the Steelers offense but the Jaguars offense just isn't good enough. The Jags will make it close but the Steelers will pull this one out. It'll be Steelers, Chiefs in the AFC Championship.


Nate:
Vikings over Eagles
Steelers over Patriots
Ellie:
Steelers over Patriots
Vikings over Saints
Eric:
Patriots over Steelers
Rams over Panthers
Noah:
Vikings over Saints
Steelers over Chiefs

Nate says: This will be a battle of two very strong defenses, but the Vikings will come out on top. Defensively, their secondary is very strong and they have a shutdown corner in Xavier Rhodes, and their front seven has been dynamic all season long. This defense, coupled with the variety of talent Mike Zimmer has in his offense will carry the Vikings over the Eagles. In the AFC, the Steelers will finally get revenge from last year, and from week 15 in Pittsburgh. With all of their weapons healthy and playing in Foxborough (which is something we haven't seen from the Steelers in a while), they will be able to break through a New England defense that has ranked 20th against the rush and 30th against the pass.
Ellie says: The Patriots and the Steelers are evenly matched, and despite Tom Brady’s experience, he could fall to Big Ben on any given Sunday. The Steelers almost overpowered the Patriots in week 14 but were edged out in the last quarter by Brady and Gronkowski. With the pressure on, the Steelers could get the win. The Vikings defense has what it takes to stop the Saints in their tracks. Drew Brees may have more playoff experience, but he won’t be able to get past the rock solid Minnesota D-line.
Eric says:With Brady spearheading the Pats offensive, New England looks unstoppable, even a well-rounded Steelers team is likely to lose when up against a high scoring and explosive offense. I except the Panthers to make an incredible run this year, but there is just no way they can compete toe to toe with the Rams and come out on top. The Rams defense is just too good for the Panthers, and Carolina will fail to put up enough points to win.
Noah says: Drew Brees and the Saints have an incredible offense. Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings have an incredible defense. This should be a good matchup. The matchup that won't be good is the Saints defense against the Vikings offense. Yes, the Saints defense has in fact improved this season but it won't be enough to stop the surprising Vikings offense. The Vikings will carry their complete team to the Super Bowl. This will be where the Chiefs run ends. The Steelers will get them again. Maybe not with 6 field goals, but they'll end the Chiefs season just like last season. The Steelers are just that much better than Kansas City. The Chiefs defense isn't good enough to beat the Steelers offense and the killer B's.


Nate: Vikings over Steelers, 27-25
Ellie: Vikings over Steelers, 20-16
Eric: Rams over Patriots, 24-21
Noah: Vikings over Steelers, 20-18

Nate says: The Vikings will bring home SBLII. This will be an incredible game, as two equally deserving teams will battle it out for the Lombardi Trophy. The Steelers may have a slightly more explosive offense than Minnesota, but that Viking defense makes up for it completely. Rhodes will hold Ben Roethlisberger's favorite weapon, Antonio Brown, in check for much of the match, and their vaunted front seven will pile on the pressure play after play to keep the Steelers offense scrambling. Offensively, Case Keenum has carried Minnesota all season, playing well enough to hear "MVP" chants from more than just Vikings fans. The duel threat of Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray has been dominant for stretches this season and the combination of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Zach Rudolph will wreck havoc through the Steeler secondary. It'll be a good game.
Ellie says: Pittsburgh has the more talented offense in this matchup, however Minnesota has the best defense in the league, and they’ll be able to control the game by slowing Roethlisberger’s offense. Both teams have had successful seasons, however Keenum and Bradford stood out week after week, and will be able to take down the Steelers strong defense. Super Bowl 52 will go to the Vikings at home.
Eric says:I refuse to imagine a world where the Patriots win another Super Bowl. Especially after last year's fiasco, the Rams just have to take the title. In terms of likelihood, I also believe they are the team best suited to upset New Englands dynstany. Their steadfast defense will be able to hold up against Brady and in a very close and low scoring match, the Rams will edge out a Super Bowl victory.
Noah says: This may be crazy. I'm just extremely high on the Vikings. They will be able to pull out this Super Bowl victory in front of their home crowd. These two teams are both complete. The Vikings have the better defense and the Steelers have the better offense. The saying goes, offense wins games, defense wins championships. I don't care who's at QB for the Vikings, all three of them are good enough. Teddy Bridgewater is a dual threat QB with a strong arm. Case Keenum has lead this team the entire season. Sam Bradford has shown just how good he can be. Big Ben and Antonio Brown will have to wait another year for their ring together. The Vikings will get the best of the Steelers.



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