Matty Ice’s ascent, Antonio Brown’s breakout among playoff predictions
Part of the fun of the NFL playoffs is making bold predictions that may or may not happen.
Wait, did we say part of the fun? We mean all of the fun.
Here are 12 playoff predictions that have anywhere between a zero and 100 percent chance of coming true.
Dallas will be doomed by its poor pass defense
The Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the league, powered by the best running back to enter the league in a decade. But Dallas’s 26th-ranked pass defense has been a worry all season, and while it has improved in recent weeks with the return of safety Barry Church, a murderer’s row of established quarterbacks awaits.
Tom Brady will be denied a QB-record fifth title
These are bold predictions, and there’s nothing bolder than betting against the greatest playoff quarterback in history. Brady is far from flawless — just 13-9 in the playoffs since 2005 — but with New England at 14-2, the Patriots are the heavy Super Bowl favorites. Things are lining up just a bit too conveniently for coach Bill Belichick. Feels like one of those years.
Matt Ryan will make his first playoff run
Matty Ice has been frigid in the playoffs, throwing 7 interceptions to 9 touchdowns in five games, four of them losses. This is the year he reverses course, though, capping off a potential MVP season with an extended run.
Tyreek Hill will be the breakout star of the playoffs
Don’t know his name yet? Learn it. The Swiss Army Knife has crisscrossed his way to the end zone with an array of moves and dazzling speed, and there is no better showcase than January football. The Chiefs sometimes-conservative offense thrives on Hill’s sporadic touches, and coach Andy Reid won’t clam up now.
Russell Wilson will be doomed by lack of No. 2 target
With Tyler Lockett’s season-ending leg injury in Week 17, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is left with just Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson to play opposite Doug Baldwin. Tight end Jimmy Graham might be thrust into a bigger role, but he hasn’t broken the 70-yard mark since Nov. 7.
Antonio Brown breaks free
Brown hasn’t looked, well, like himself this season — his yardage dropping by 550 and his receptions falling by 30 from last year’s pinnacle of 136. Most surprisingly, he had just four 100-yard games this year as 10 Steelers targets had 114 or more yards for the season. Brown has at least 98 yards in his last three playoff games, so he’s due for a big one.
Aaron Rodgers will revert to early-season Aaron Rodgers
He’ll go down as one of the most efficient quarterbacks of all time, but truth be told, Rodgers has not been a playoff standout since Green Bay’s Super Bowl run to close the 2010 season. Rodgers has two playoff games of 100-plus rating since then while going 3-5.
Brock Osweiler will become the first NFL quarterback to throw for negative yards in a playoff game
OK, so maybe this one is a bit of a stretch, but not that much. The Oakland Raiders are one of the most forgiving pass defenses in the league, but Osweiler has been downright brutal this year. Count on at least a couple of picks, and yeah, maybe a few yards for Osweiler.
Landon Collins will become a household name
He may not take home defensive player of the year honors, but there has been no defender more crucial to his team’s success than Collins. The resurrected Giants defense has been led by the second-year star out of Alabama, who had 125 tackles, 5 interceptions — including 1 returned for touchdown — and a fumble recovery, to go along with 4 sacks.
Connor Cook will make Oakland fans forget Derek Carr
For a week, at least. The Raiders have the far-and-away the best first-round matchup with the sluggish Texans, who may have performed admirably on defense in the absence of J.J. Watt but still have a middling (and that’s being generous) offense. Cook started off hot against Denver after Matt McGloin went down, and he’ll gain some confidence from it.
Matthew Stafford will win his first playoff game
The Lions’ 26-year playoff drought ends this year. A Detroit pass rush led by Kerry Hyder will frustrate Wilson, and the Legion of Boom will be relatively quiet. Stafford will edge one step closer to being a Super Bowl contender.
Jay Ajayi will run wild over the Steelers, to no avail
Ajayi became just the fourth running back in NFL history to rush for 200 yards three times in the same season, and he’s proven to be an able workhorse for the Dolphins. Pittsburgh allows 100 yards per game on the ground, 13th in the NFL, but Ajayi will surpass that mark. Count on the Steelers to overwhelm the Ryan Tannehill-less offense, though.