It’s done: even in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, the NFL has managed to end its regular season without major disasters. It wasn’t easy, but now the entire football world is excitedly looking forward to the postseason starting this weekend. The regular season has already revealed a lot to us, but we will probably only get the final answers to the really important questions in the playoffs. But you can already think about some of these burning questions before the hot season begins!
Do the Kansas City Chiefs have a kryptonite?
Even if the NFL primus and reigning Super Bowl champion is not invulnerable, the Las Vegas Raiders were the only team that could beat the Chiefs with the best line-up this season (Week 5, so a long time ago). In this game, a potent raiders offensive went punch after punch with the attack of the chiefs and Las Vegas managed to build up constant pressure with their front seven. The latter is actually a must, as Mahomes is a move or two ahead of most Blitz Packages.
Especially against the sometimes fragile interior offensive line of the Chiefs, something can also go with a strong four-man front, for example Indianapolis with DeForest Buckner or Pittsburgh with Stephon Tuitt. Robbing Andy Reid’s attack with a strong and steady running game of the rhythm is actually never wrong. But of course, even that doesn’t protect against the raid-like offensive explosions that Kansas City is capable of at any time.
Will Covid-19 also become a factor in the playoffs?
Unsurprisingly, the NFL was not spared the Covid 19 pandemic either. A number of games had to be postponed, many teams were restricted in their everyday training and the illness also forced a number of players and coaches to take breaks. Prominent recent examples include Alvin Kamara, running back for the New Orleans Saints, and Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski. The latter will miss his team’s game in Pittsburgh on Sunday if there is no rescheduling.
— NFL (@NFL) January 4, 2021
Like all the other cases over the season, this episode shows how unpredictable the whole situation is, even for NFL franchises that plan down to the last detail. And you can see that one case can immediately throw the entire post-season planning upside down. Apparently Cleveland has to play its first playoff game in 18 years without its head coach and offensive playcaller – a huge weakening. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that there won’t be any more cases, not just for sporting reasons.
Can Lamar Jackson beat his playoff curse?
He is one of the NFL’s most spectacular superstars, already has an MVP trophy on the living room cupboard and leads one of the top teams in recent years. So everything is going like an international match for Lamar Jackson in the NFL, right? Not exactly. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback wanted to mature into a better passer this season, which he didn’t really manage for long stretches. In addition, his playoff record looks pretty poor: two games, two home defeats, a pass rate of 51.1 percent and five turnovers.
The sting from last year, when the Ravens and Jackson as top favorites at home against the Tennessee Titans caught a “pitch black” day, is still deep. This season, after a long period of weakness in the middle of the season, they are more likely to play the role of the underdog. Maybe that’s what breaks the postseason knot at Jackson (also in the opening match against, yes, exactly, Tennessee). Once again he has the best running game in the league behind him, which is largely driven by him, but at some point he will of course have to set accents in the air in the playoffs.
Are there potential bracket buster?
Last year not many expected the Tennessee Titans to march through to the AFC Championship Game, least of all their better-seeded opponents from New England and Baltimore. As the sixth playoff seed, the Titans became a real little Cinderella story with their run, the kind of story that is particularly popular in American sports. Now the question: who could play this role in this year’s playoffs?
All we need is a 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚https://t.co/6frRgsKiWL
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) January 5, 2021
Of course, it would be most appropriate and craziest if the Washington Football Team crowned their NFC title and spoiled their negative season record for higher-ranking teams. They would definitely have the defense for that, but in attack there is probably a lack of firepower. The same could be said about the Indianapolis Colts (7th seed in the AFC), which, however, with Philip Rivers and an improved running game, can throw more offensively into the balance. The most dangerous low seed is certainly Tampa Bay (5th seed in the NFC) with Tom Brady, even if the Cinderella’s dress wouldn’t really suit them.
Do the Buffalo Bills fit in the shoes of the favorites?
The Buffalo Bills were by far the most dominant teams of the regular season. 13 wins, many of them against well-known playoff teams, and the rapid development of Josh Allen are just two factors why the Bills enter the postseason with a lot of self-confidence. The story is not on their side, however, as the men from Upstate New York won their last playoff game 27 years ago (1993 AFC Championship Game against Kansas City). Josh Allen wasn’t even born then.
For this season it has little meaning, but psychologically it is completely different to suddenly go into a postseason matchup as a favorite and not as an underdog as in previous years. The press, fans and the community will let the players know that they can achieve something special and that quickly becomes a burden. In terms of sport, the Bills have everything you need in the hot season. Everyone can keep up with pretty much any opponent in a shootout, Stefon Diggs is one of the best receivers in the league and Sean McDermott’s roster has a lot of defensive potential.