First and foremost, if you haven’t read how we have gotten to the post-season in these projections, please start by going to the very beginning of my “Win-Loss” Projections, starting with the AFC North and running through each division with specific reasoning for how we got here. Otherwise, you’re just going to read this and then think of your favorite team, and then think, “Oh, this guy is full of crap!”. Which I am sometimes, but now about this. So buckle up, buttercup! Only one team gets to win the Super Bowl each year, so let’s find out who it’s going to be in Super Bowl LVIII.
Somebody cue Jim Mora! “Playoffs? Playoffs!?” If all my predictions come true, here is what the NFC playoff picture will look like: The #1 Philadelphia Eagles will have the first-round bye. #2 San Francisco 49ers vs. #7 New York Giants (by virtue of a four-way tie between them, the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, and Seattle Seahawks). #3 New Orleans Saints vs. #6 LA Rams, and #4 Detroit Lions vs. #5 Dallas Cowboys. These games all sound fun, don’t they?!
Wild Card Round
WILD CARD ROUND: In a rematch of the regular season Week 3, the 49ers will once again beat the Giants at home. Why? First, because the 49ers aren’t the Vikings who choke right away, and second, because their starting QB Brock Purdy will not be injured this playoff season. The Saints will LOSE in LA in Week 16 of the regular season, but in this rematch AT New Orleans, the Saints will come out on top. Why? Because of home field advantage really. These two teams are evenly matched, and it will probably come down to a turnover or a long field goal in the end. Revenge for the Saints! I have the Cowboys beating the Lions in Dallas on Week 17, but in the postseason…the Cowboys will beat the Lions in Detroit. Why? Dallas just needs it more. There is was too much expectation of the Cowboys, and the Lions are just used to letting their fans down. Poor Detroit.
Number One Seed, Philadelphia, will host the #5 Cowboys in a “rubber match” game for the year. Did you know that the origin of “Rubber Match” came from Great Britain in the 16th century in lawn bowling? There would be a winner if two balls were rubbed together (STOP IT!), resulting in a tie-breaker. the Eagles will fly right through the Cowboys with ease here.
Dallas might be good enough to beat the Lions in Detroit, but they are nowhere near beating the Eagles in Philly. This will be the Cowboy’s second loss in City of Love for the season. #2 San Francisco will be at home vs. New Orleans in the first non-rematch game of the NFC Playoffs, and the 9ers will just squeak by the Saints in a high scoring extravaganza! Both offenses look stacked, and I would look for 60+ points to be scored collectively.
Unfortunately, it’s the same as it was last year, with the same outcome. As I mentioned before, the Eagles just look heads and shoulders better than most other NFC teams, and the only team that can give them a run for their money is the 49ers. Both teams are great, and either one could win, but I like the Eagles depth and special teams more, which will end up being the deciding factor. The fact that they’ll be playing in Philadelphia will help, because their fans are unruly a-holes so 49ers “fan presence” will be minimized.
The AFC is not going to be as predictable, because ANY of the seven playoff teams could make it to the Super Bowl. Seriously, that’s just how good the AFC is this year. If I’m right, the AFC will look like this: #1 Jacksonville Jaguars will have the first-round bye. #2 Kansas City Chiefs vs. #7 Buffalo Bills. #3 New York Jets vs. #6 Baltimore Ravens. #4 Cincinnati Bengals vs. #5 LA Chargers. You’re looking forward to it already, aren’t you?
Wild Card Round
In a rematch of Week 14 in the regular season, the Chiefs host the Bills. Kansas City beat Buffalo then, and they’re going to beat them again. The Bills are just outmatched and outcoached playing in KC. This is an exciting rivalry though! Baltimore will be going to New York (don’t worry; it’s not far) for a first-time meeting of the two teams. Rogers vs. Jackson. It’s almost like Brady vs. Mahomes! The Ravens WILL beat the Jets here, and Rogers will once again contemplate retirement with another mystical cave-dwelling journey. Why? Because Jackson got a huge contract and needs to prove himself by first, finishing a whole season, and second, redeeming his reputation that he can actually win a playoff game.
Cincinnati will host the Chargers in their first meeting of the season, and it will be a shoot-out game as well, as the Bengals strike down the “Bolts”. Cinci will benefit from homefield advantage, and overall having better offensive weapons than LA. Chase, Higgins and Boyd > Allen, Williams, and Johnston.
Jacksonville will host Baltimore in a rematch of Week 15 when the Jaguars beat the Ravens. Lamar Jackson proves he’s worth AGAIN and proves that he can win more than one playoff game in a season…with help from their Top 5 Defense. Jacksonville will come into this game feeling a little too cocky and relaxed after coming off a 14-win season, which was mostly because of the weakness of their schedule. The Bengals travel to the Chiefs…again. Unlike Week 17 when Cinci was beaten in KC, AND unlike last years’ playoff game between these two teams, the Bengals will win this game, and this time it won’t be close! But it’s still not called “Burrowhead”.
In 2022 the Bengals beat the Ravens in the Wild Card Round, albeit by a lucky 99-yard fumble recovery returned for a TD. These two teams will also split the 2023 regular season matchups. Cincinnati is a tough place to win as a division rival, and the Bengals are sick of only making it to the AFC Championship Game. In this “rubber match” the Bengals will prove that not only do they belong there once again, but they will make it to the big game.
Cinci will barely get by the Ravens (once again) to advance to Joe Burrow’s second Super Bowl appearance.
Quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts are both 0-1 in Super Bowls. One of them will finally get to hold the Lombardi Trophy and slide that elusive Super Bowl Champion ring on their finger. The other will, of course, fall to 0-2 in Super Bowl games. But it’s the experience is what matters, right? Yeah, not so much.
Cincinnati and Philadelphia do not play each other in the regular season, so this will be a new matchup, and an exciting one. At the end, I like the offensive fire power that the Bengals have this year, and the playoff experience that they’ve had over the previous two seasons. Their offensive unit is solid with key players that have been there for a few years now, and with the addition of Orlando Brown Jr at Left Tackle. The only thing that could keep the Bengals from winning it all is their defense.
In particular, their secondary, which is young, coming off injuries, and/or has come over from a different team and needs to build chemistry. Even with that potential crutch though, the weapons that they have with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and of course, Burrow, I would be confident in this team to come back from a 10 to 14-point deficit late in the game.
While the Eagles are the best-looking team on paper in the NFC and end up with the #1 Seed in that conference, I see a lot of inexperience, and they won’t be as “battle tested” as ANY team coming out of the AFC. Yes, the competition in the NFC is weak, and steel sharpens steel. It is also my belief that Jalen Hurts will hit a regression this season. Hurts has improved year-over-year in his first three seasons, but nobody keeps that momentum. Philly will not have played ANY team as good as the Bengals in their regular season.
Cincinnati has a tough schedule, and their Bye happens in Week 7, which means they’ll have to play 14 games in a row just to make the Super Bowl. Last season their Bye was in Week 10, and then they didn’t play their scheduled game against Buffalo. So, they won’t be quite as “fresh” as they were last year, but I think if they can win the AFC North, and get these matchups and locations through the post-season, they should be able to pull it off. Your Super Bowl LVIII Champions, Cincinnati Bengals! Thanks for the “read”!