Tom Brady has led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into the play-offs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Photo: Getty Images
The New Year is resurrecting many post-Christmas traditions, and January is the time for NFL fans to prepare for the climax of the American sports calendar, including the ingredients for the night owls on Sunday and the usual fight off work for the Super Bowl.
Whether you feel like an amateur NFL expert, you’re a fair weather fan waiting for the train to pass or just the casual observer enjoying the excuse for a late night entertainment once a year A postseason cheat sheet like no other.
If you’ve followed the play-offs over the years, you may remember a 12-team format. This year, however, the NFL will have its first postseason with 14 teams, which means that there will now be a starting number 7 in every conference, for the first time a play-off weekend with six games and only one farewell in the divisional round. instead of two on each side of the bracket.
If you’re still a little confused about what this all means, here’s a full rundown of how the play-offs will work this year to provide you with all the info that you need to know.
The NFL is split into two 16-team conferences, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC), which form two sides of the play-off group.
The winner of the AFC will meet the NFC champions at Super Bowl LV, which will be played on February 7th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Play-off berths will be given to the winners each of the four divisions of a conference (North, South, East and West) and given to the three sides, with the exception of the division winners who have the best winning records known as wild cards.
They are all seeded one to seven , with the seed No. 1 in the second round, which are called divisions round is known, gets a goodbye and the other six play against each other in the wild card round, two against the seed seven and so on. Whoever is the lowest remaining seed after the wild card round plays the first seed in the division round. The other game at this stage will take place between the two remaining teams on that side of the bracket.
During the postseason, home advantage is always given to the team with the better seed, with the Super Bowl being the only game on one neutral place is played.
There is four weeks of play-off action: the wild card round with six teams from each conference; the divisional round, which is effectively the semifinals of the conference; the conference championships, where the winners of NFC and AFC are determined; and the Super Bowl, where they compete against each other.
Let’s get the dreaded C-word out of the way first. Coronavirus has disrupted the NFL’s ability to run a normal season. Players and staff are tested daily, but positive results can cause disruption. Since the beginning of the regular season in mid-September, 18 games have been postponed.
The presence of spectators was either limited or completely prohibited, depending on which state the stadium is located in. There were no fans in nine of the 16 games last Sunday.
No specific capacity has been set for Super Bowl LV, due to be held at Raymond James Stadium with 65,000 seats, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has promised that « We’ll try to get as many fans as possible safely, » a promise he made after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcomed 16,301 fans (25 capacity) for a regular season game at the venue in mid-December.
The virus has also knocked out many of the league’s star players, and teams have faced major training disruptions. A recent example is the Cleveland Browns, who were forced to close their training facility last week and put cornerback Denzel Ward and linebacker Malcolm Smith on the Covid list ahead of last Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
All of this means that it is possible that key players could be banned from games at the last second and a late decision could be made to ban all fans from the Super Bowl, although the latter is unlikely.
Some teams will have one in 2020 Experienced change in happiness. The Buffalo Bills, a team known for losing four straight Super Bowls from 1991 to 1994, led the AFC East Division for the first time in 25 years, thanks in part to quarterback Josh Allen, who is in his third season at den Bills helped turn the New York state team into one of the most exciting teams of the season.
Also in the good books are the Cleveland Browns, who ended the longest active play-off drought in the league, taking a wild card berth for the first time in 18 years, and the Baltimore Ravens, whose defenses have remained solid all year round.
The Kansas City Chiefs are the team to beat as the reigning champions ended the season with the best record in the NFL 14-2. This is a two-win improvement over last season when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
That record might have been even better if the Chiefs hadn’t recognized star quarterback Patrick Mahomes for their loss in the last regular season game against the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday, a win that didn’t save Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn from a sack.
Mahomes has the second highest overtaking height in this year’s league, despite playing one game less than the championship leader Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans. But the Texans’ 4-12 record is a reminder, despite their quarterback’s best efforts, that a team needs a lot more than a good pitcher to succeed, and fans of the Chiefs’ eventual opponents will hope Mahomes’ passing ability makes it Not to surpass their team’s strengths in the same way as the 49ers’ rush was last year.
The other top seed – and favorite to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl – are Green Bay Packers, whose offensive efficiency is summed up by the remarkable statistic that they ended the season with more touchdown passes than punts and roared on 13-. 3 record to top NFC Nord.
Many of last year’s play-off regulars didn’t make it this time, including the Arizona Cardinals who didn’t take advantage of Larry Fitzgerald Jr.’s standout wide receiver pairing. and DeAndre Hopkins, who is second this season, and ended up with an 8-8 record. They were relegated to the wild card position by the Chicago Bears after losing to the Los Angeles Rams on the final day.
Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl LII champions, will be featured in this year’s Play- offs not be represented. Carson Wentz didn’t impress when they landed at the end of NFC East and last year’s runner-up, the 49ers, were at the bottom of NFC West, their problems largely resulting from their inability to rush the ball as effectively as last season Arguably the most notable absenteeists this year are the New England Patriots, who kicked off the post-Tom Brady era by making the play-offs for the first time since 2008-09 and only for the third time in 20 seasons And unlike in 2008-09, when they were relegated to the post by the New York Jets despite an 11-5 record (which would be enough for a wild card this season), they fell to one in 2020 Lost 7-9 season back.
New quarterback Cam Newton, transferred from the Carolina Panthers in the off-season, plays a David Moyes-like role in the story of a team that has an Alex Ferguson-like central figure lost with constant success has, at a time when the squad was in decline, was likely inevitable.
And similar to Moyes’ fate at Manchester United, the Patriots are not planning on staying with Newton – it is reported that he will be before the start of the next season. However, whether his successor can find better form in 2021 is debatable.
Meanwhile, Brady has managed to lead Glazer’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers into the play-offs for the first time since the 2007/08 season, and the 43-year-old – with the third highest yards of all quarterback this season – could still claim an unprecedented seventh Super Bowl ring if he drives the team to the decision maker, which, by the way, will take place for the Bucs on home turf.
It will be pretty defensive to stop Allen and the league’s top receiver Stefon Diggs on the Bills’ lawn where they only lost once this year. But the Colts, driven by newly arrived quarter-finals Phillip Rivers and world-class running back Jonathan Taylor, have already claimed the Packers’ scalp this year.
The lack of home advantage means the AFC South runners-up with a cold mountain behind Go northeast to climb. They know how to flip the ball, so the key to their success is not holding it in Allen’s hands, but don’t expect it.
This is one of two games this weekend between division rivals that are already Have faced each other twice this season.
So far, LA-Seattle games on NFC West have won the home team, and it wasn’t until Week 16 that the Seahawks managed to stop the Rams from getting touchdowns at CenturyLink Field Achieve.
Russell Wilson is already a Super Bowl winner and one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL. He shows his ability to pass and race against the Rams in this game, where he scored a touchdown each time.
The Rams’ hopes will come from Seattle’s lack of world record-breaking loud viewers and their defensive strength in secondary school – Jalen Ramsey, Jordan Fuller and Darious Williams form a complete defense on the team that conceded the fewest goals, touchdowns and points all season.
Bottom line: LA will get a touchdown or two this time around, but Seattle will have the day win on a relatively low-scoring affair.
The American soccer gods have likely blessed the Washington Football team with such a below-average number of division rivals in return for changing their controversial name to « Redskins » in recent months. The mediocrity of NFC East allows a 7-9 team to advance into the postseason. Mind you, the 7-9 Seahawks beat the 11-5 Saints in 2010/11 thanks to Marshawn Lynch’s legendary « Beast Mode » run.
Washington will need its years of investment in defense, which has resulted in them being fourth best The league’s point stoppers are to bring out the magic as it’s hard to see the star player who could cause a surprise like Lynch did. In contrast, Brady is Tampa Bay’s not-so-secret weapon, and they also bring top tacklers Devin White and Jason Pierre-Paul into play, as well as a well-rounded offensive that doesn’t have stellar stars but produces consistent results. The balance between these two evenly matched teams will depend on whether Baltimore’s defense against Tennessee’s dynamic offense can make a difference again. The Ravens don’t make a quarterback’s day a nightmare, but they are great at getting a team to fumble the ball at key moments.
Tennessee Titans Running Back Derrick Henry have accumulated 2,027 rushing yards in this campaign. Photo: USA HEUTE Sport
Baltimore boasts the defensive trio of cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who have forced 18 fights between them this season. But their tendency towards lightning may need to be curbed when they face the league’s dominant backlash, Derrick Henry, who has racked up 2,027 rushing yards (fifth-best season in NFL history) and offers plenty of options for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The defense of the titans leaves much to be desired. Lamar Jackson and co can feed on it when the Ravens are motivated to avenge their 28:12 loss to Tennessee in last season’s divisional round. It will take a good day for the ravens to pass away.
Bottom line: The Titans came up with a surprise last year when they defeated the Patriots and Ravens, and they should do it again here.
Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks of all time, but the Saints’ inability to finish the job in the play-offs has held the 41-year-old in Super Bowl appearances and wrestling behind rivals like Peyton Manning and Brady’s only title coming in 2010.
It was reported earlier this week that he will be retiring and joining NBC as an analyst, and he is desperate to follow in Manning’s footsteps to add a second Super Bowl title as his swan song.
That The Saints’ first match in this quest is one they should win, despite Chicago’s strength in the rushing game – David Montgomery is the league’s sixth-best return runner in terms of yards won and has not fumbled a single time this season.
This e version of the Saints is based on a brisk, physical defense led by Cameron Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis, and it’s hard to see where Sean Payton’s team is undoing from a Bears team that ended 8-8 this season The Browns go into the game after much-criticized quarterback Baker Mayfield led them to a narrow win against their longtime rivals last Sunday. The 24:22 win came off despite strong signs of a late comeback for the Steelers.
But the Steelers got their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rested for this game, and instead of playing in front of Ohio fans, the Browns will have to travel to western Pennsylvania, where the Steelers have lost only once this season and Cleveland already in the Week 38: 7 defeated 6.
The Steelers started the season 11-0, losing games to defensive injuries, but their key players’ play-off experience should outsmart the fresh-faced Browns.
The Browns were hit hard by Covid ahead of the game and have given up more passes than this year.
With Roethlisberger, the Steelers will have a stronger offensive than last week, and the Browns may not be in the Able to have the offensive strength to stay in the game, even with the strong couple Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
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