Postseason Draws Near

Caleb and Mason give their takes ahead of what should be an eventful NFL playoffs


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The 2023 NFL playoff bracket is set in stone and ready to take off this weekend


Another NFL season is in the books and it was certainly an exciting one. The playoff picture was heated through week eighteen, with several teams from both conferences fighting to obtain a spot in the postseason. Many of the recent AFC powerhouses remain at the top like the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals, while the NFC has shifted a bit more with franchises like the Eagles, 49ers, and Vikings taking the reins. In fact, last year’s Super Bowl champion, the Los Angeles Rams, hit a blunder this season and went just 5-12.

The league was tested as well with the critical injury of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin in week seventeen when he experienced cardiac arrest in the Bills’ game against the Bengals. However, the NFL rallied together and pulled through an extremely difficult situation. Hamlin is now improving greatly by the day, which is fantastic news

With the playoffs beginning this weekend, it seems like a great time to predict and analyze the match-ups and story lines surrounding this year’s postseason. Here are several takes from Caleb and Mason for the 2023 NFL playoffs.


Regular season overall analysis:


Caleb: It was intriguing to see the differences between the AFC and NFC in terms of continuity from last year. As mentioned above, the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals, who were all top four seeds last year with the Bengals making the Super Bowl, are seeds one through three, respectively. However, the NFC side looks different this year. Last year’s one seed, the Packers, missed the playoffs for the first time since 2018. I think Aaron Rodgers makes the playoffs more fun, so I was a little disappointed Green Bay didn’t make it. Reigning Super Bowl champs, the Los Angeles Rams, had an abomination of a season. A Jalen Hurts-led Philadelphia Eagles have risen to the top of the NFC. The San Francisco 49ers, at the two seed, have been an incredible story with Brock Purdy, the last pick of the 2022 draft and an Iowa State alum, being undefeated since taking over at the quarterback position back in week thirteen. Being a big Cyclone fan, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the 49ers. It was an entertaining regular season and we certainly have a fun playoff slate in front of us.


Mason: Similar to last season, there are no teams that look significantly better than the rest. From the NFC it was a battle all season long, with different teams fluctuating in and out of the playoff race and in week 18 the Green Bay Packers just had to beat the Detroit Lions, but instead they lost and were eliminated from the playoffs, with the Seattle Seahawks getting the nod instead. In the AFC there were a lot of different playoff scenarios being drawn up in the final weeks as the Bengals and Bills finished as a no contest and threw off the regular season standings. If the Chiefs and Bills somehow find a way to face off in the AFC championship, then the game will be played at a neutral site which is in Atlanta. The one thing that will make this playoffs more special than many of the others, is the amount of talent spread out through the league paired up with the lack of injuries. These playoffs are going to be fantastic to watch and there are no teams that stand out at the top such as Georgia was in the college football national championship game.


Most dangerous team:


Caleb: This is a difficult one for me. I think when it boils down to it, there are two teams that I see being more dangerous right now than anybody else, and they each come from different conferences. On the AFC side, I think the Bengals are the scariest team to play. Just like last season, they are hitting their stride at the right time. The biggest difference from last year to this year is that Cincinnati’s offensive line is much improved and completes a very well-rounded roster. Over in the NFC, I think the 49ers are also very dangerous. San Francisco has won ten games in a row. Ten! Six of those have included the aforementioned Brock Purdy at the helm. I think the 49ers have the best overall roster in the NFL. However, I’m ultimately going to have to give this one to the Bengals. This team is hot right now and I could easily see them running the tables and taking a Lombardi Trophy back to Cincinnati.


Mason: There are a lot of teams that are starting to peak at the right time. When it comes to the most dangerous team, I have to give it to the Eagles. Although they did just suffer an injury on their offensive line, they still have an MVP candidate in Jalen Hurts with a great wide receiver core and tight end. Only behind the 49ers, I can confidently say the Eagles have the second best defense in the NFL. Their secondary can be argued to be the best in the NFL but they have made great additions throughout the season by trading for defensive end Robert Quinn and making more off-season moves by also trading for James Bradberry. I’m a little biased when it comes to the Eagles as they did win me a fantasy football championship, but they have more than enough skill and the talent to win the Super Bowl. If it wasn’t for injuries the Eagles could have the overall best record going into the playoffs but they are tied at the top with the Chiefs. With the Eagles getting a first round bye as well I think it’s easy to call them the most dangerous team.


Biggest sleeper team:


Caleb: There is one team that came right to my mind when I thought of sleepers. That would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yes, I know they have virtually no run game. Yes, I know their defense has been lackluster. Yes, I know they have a losing record. But are we forgetting about the fact that this is Tom Brady? You know, the guy who has won seven Super Bowls? The guy who has made it to the postseason in 22 out of 23 seasons and played in 47 playoff games throughout his career? Tampa Bay very well could be the weakest team in the playoffs and they have shown no reason for anybody to have any confidence in them this season, except for the fact that Brady is on the roster. He holds seven Super Bowl rings while all of the other playoff quarterbacks this year have a combined one ring. This guy has been here. Brady could be playing with high schoolers and I still wouldn’t doubt him. I’m not saying I expect this team to go all the way, but people are writing off Brady and the Bucs too early.


Mason: Jaguars. This is their first time making the playoffs in what seems like a million years. I couldn’t even make a guess at the last time they made the playoffs because that’s how bad they have been. But I like their first round match-up and how they match up talent wise. The Jags definitely don’t have the big names like Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen. But they have under the radar guys like Travis Etienne and Christian Kirk who are vastly underrated and can really show how good they really are in this game. If the Jags can win their first game going into it as an underdog, they will get destroyed in the second round against the Chiefs. I like to call the Jags my underdogs still, but even if they do win their first game I don’t see a world where they can go into Arrowhead stadium and upset the number 1 seeded Chiefs. Just because this is the first time the Jags have made the playoffs in what seems like a hundred years, they are going to be my underdogs as they have the best story going into playoffs by firing their head coach during the season last year to making it to the second round of the playoffs this season.


Potentially disappointing team:


Caleb: This is an easy pick. The Minnesota Vikings are who I see as being the biggest potentially disappointing team. The Vikings have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL this year, yet still hold the three seed in the NFC. Minnesota has required several late game comebacks including a 33-0 halftime deficit which turned into the largest comeback in NFL history against the Colts. It was fun and magical, but it was proven to be unsustainable when the Vikings were dismantled by the Packers a couple of weeks ago. On top of that, when Minnesota has lost this year, they have lost badly. I know inconsistency can prove to me a good thing in the postseason, but this team has too much of it. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys are notoriously bad in the playoffs, but I trust them more than the Vikings at this point. Also, keep an eye on the Kansas City Chiefs. They have quietly limped past several weak opponents on their schedule in recent games. I wouldn’t be so sure as to give them an automatic win in the divisional round. 


Mason: There are a few teams that could very easily be disappointing in the playoffs. The Vikings, Cowboys, and Bills are the 4 that come to mind for me. The Cowboys and Vikings are a little more obvious as the Vikings have played in close games all year long and have barely found ways to win those. Even in week 16 the Vikings got blown out by a Packers team who failed to make playoffs. And they allowed the Packers to score 41 points which is the most points the Packers scored in a game all year long. The Cowboys have an unfortunate first round match-up as they are paired up with the Buccaneers and Tom Brady. An interesting fact about Tom Brady against the Cowboys is that his record is 7-0 which makes this match-up even tougher for the boys. This year could be Tom’s last, which has been that way for the last 5 years, so he could be playing with a different sense of pride. The Bills are my hot take as most people have them possibly advancing to the Super Bowl. The Bills are playing arguably the most explosive offense in the league in the Dolphins, but the only factor holding them back is their quarterback situation in which Tua Tagovailoa is ruled out with a concussion which is like his fifth of the season. If Skylar Thompson can come out and have a career day I can see the Dolphins upsetting the Bills. The Bills are losing to the Bengals if they beat the Dolphins.


Wild Card Predictions




1/14: No.5 Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) @ No.4 Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)


Caleb: This may be the most difficult match-up to predict. It features two young quarterbacks who are both playing the best football of their careers up to this point in Justin Herbert of the Chargers and Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars. Ultimately, I think Lawrence and the Jags, who have won six of their last seven, will continue on this hot streak into the playoffs and take down the Chargers.


Mason: Jags are my sleeper team so we’re riding together through this first round as I have them winning in a high scoring match-up. Trevor Lawrence is finally playing like his first overall pick status which makes this young Jags team scary. As long as the Jags secondary can slow down Herbert and Ekeler a little bit I don’t see any reason why they can’t win this. Jags win in a very close game.


1/15: No.7 Miami Dolphins (9-8) @ No.2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)


Caleb: Buffalo wins this one with zero doubt in my mind. In fact, I think it could get ugly for Miami. After starting the season with an impressive 8-3 record, the Dolphins have dropped five of their last six. On top of that, they are starting rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson after the injuries sustained by both Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater. On the flip side, the Bills are playing with an extra chip on their shoulder after the Damar Hamlin injury. Bills by at least 17.


Mason: I’m disagreeing with Caleb completely on this one. This is my hottest take throughout the entire playoffs. I think the Damar Hamlin situation will be thought about too much through the Bills organization which will hold them back in this game. Skylar Thompson hasn’t been playing his best as of late which makes me second guess my pick. But I’m staying loyal to the best wide receiver in the NFL and his awful quarterback to win this game in another very close match-up.


1/15: No.6 Baltimore Ravens (10-7) @ No.3 Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)


Caleb: From the sound of things, it’s doubtful that Lamar Jackson will be playing this week for the Ravens. Tyler Huntley has been serviceable for the type of football the Ravens play, but he isn’t Lamar. If Baltimore can pound the ground with its efficient rushing attack, the Ravens have a chance, but Cincinnati is playing as good of football as anyone in the NFL right now. Like I said earlier, I think the Bengals are the most dangerous team in the playoffs. They will win this one comfortably.


Mason: I don’t see the Bengals having any struggle with the Ravens, especially with Lamar being ruled out. I don’t see the Ravens having the big play potential that the Bengals can produce on any given play. I can definitely see Joe Burrow having a massive day with Jamar Chase in a blow out victory. This game should be over by halftime and Joe Burrow will finish with over 300 passing yards. Bengals win big.




1/16: No.5 Dallas Cowboys (12-5) @ No.4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)


Caleb: It’s not often one would pick an 8-9 team to beat a 12-5 team, but here we are. As stated above, I think the Bucs are the biggest sleeper team. Combine Tom Brady in the playoffs with the historic postseason debacles of the Cowboys and I think Tampa Bay takes this one. Dak Prescott has won one playoff game while Brady has won 35.  It will be close, but Brady and the Bucs will prevail, maybe even on a game winning drive. 


Mason: No upset here even though the Cowboys would make the playoffs a lot more fun especially if they were playing the Eagles in the Divisional round. With Tom Brady’s 7-0 record over the Cowboys all time, I don’t see how this will change and the Bucs have a great wide receiver and running back core that will be able to wear down this inconsistent Cowboys defense. Also I don’t see how the Cowboys offense can compete with the Bucs defense especially led by Dak Prescott who leads the NFL in interceptions thrown. The Bucs win this game in a relatively close match-up.


1/14: No.7 Seattle Seahawks (9-8) @ No.2 San Francisco 49ers (13-4)


Caleb: I found myself being a bit of a closet Seahawks fan this year because it was awesome to see Geno Smith making his return to relevancy after almost ten years of being a bench quarterback on numerous teams. It’s been a season of ups and downs for Seattle, but the franchise has made the playoffs in what was presumed to be a rebuilding year after trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. However, I’ve been more of a fan of the 49ers this year than Seattle due to Brock Purdy. Fandom aside, I think San Francisco takes this one. The 49ers, in my opinion, have the best roster in the league. It could definitely be close, but give me San Francisco with the win.


Mason: There’s not really a lot to talk about in this match-up as the 49ers have arguably the best defense in the last 20 seasons of the NFL, and their offense has more than enough play makers. Mr. Irrelevant will be leading the 49ers and he has done more than enough to prove his status in the NFL. On the other side the Seahawks are led by Geno Smith who had a pretty good season after being considered the worst starting quarterback going into the season. In this game I could see the 49ers resting some of their star players in the 4th quarter because they will be up by so much. 49ers win big in this match-up.


1/15: No.6 New York Giants (9-7-1) @ No.3 Minnesota Vikings (13-4)


Caleb: Again, I think the Vikings have a significant chance to disappoint here, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised if they do. The Vikes have simply been too “wishy washy” this season and their defense still has major red flags. Now, the Giants have also struggled since starting the season 7-2, but most of these losses have been close. I am anticipating a big game from Saquon Barkley attacking the porous Minnesota defense and a New York Giants playoff victory for the first time since their Super Bowl season in 2011.


Mason: This is such an interesting game to look at since it’s the first time in forever that the Giants have made the playoffs. On the other side the Vikings have been in 11 one score games which shows they are not able to ever stay with their lead or they are always having to comeback in most games. As much as I want to take the Giants and after saying the Vikings could be a disappointing team, I still think the Vikings will find a way to win this game and it will be led by Justin Jefferson. This game will come down to how the Giants defend Jefferson and how the Vikings can utilize him to advance to the next round. Vikings win on a last second field goal.


Super Bowl champion:


Caleb: There are several teams who I think are worthy of taking home the Lombardi Trophy and winning the Super Bowl. Ultimately, the most realistic team to me right now is the Buffalo Bills. Like I said earlier, this team is playing with an extra punch after the Damar Hamlin injury. In addition to that, the Bills definitely feel like they have something to prove after losing an overtime thriller to the Chiefs in one of the most exciting playoff games of all time last season. Josh Allen is playing fantastic football right now, too. However, I’m going to go with a different squad. Yes, it’s the San Francisco 49ers who I have been touting this whole time. I know it seems crazy for a team with Mr. Irrelevant playing quarterback to win a Super Bowl, but Purdy is a great fit for Kyle Shanahan’s system. But it’s not just that. You have Christian McCaffrey, maybe the best running back in the NFL, a healthy Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams and an elite offensive line, Nick Bosa and likely the best defense in the sport, and so much more. And seriously, the Brock Purdy to George Kittle connection is ferocious. Shanahan is one of the best coaches in the NFL. I’m taking the Purdy-9ers to win the 2023 Super Bowl!

Mason: Chiefs vs. Eagles Super Bowl. Calling it now. The Eagles are going to peak at the right time as they finally get to have a healthy Jalen Hurts back and I think their offensive line will have a significant impact on how much time Hurts will have to create in the pocket. The Chiefs are being led by the MVP in Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has had as good of a season as he could’ve after losing Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins and having to figure out a whole new wide receiver staff. The Mahomes-Kelce duo is what is going to get the Chiefs to the Superbowl and possibly win it. These two teams will match up for an interesting game as the Eagles have the better defense, o-line, and wide receiver core. But the Chiefs have the better quarterback, tight end, and coaches. The Chiefs play calling this year has been tremendous as they have drawn up plays that look straight out of the youth flag football playbook. At the end of the day and what I’ve been saying all along, is the Eagles are going to peak at the right time. I’m going to give the Eagles the win in a somewhat high scoring match-up and Jalen Hurts wins Super Bowl MVP. Eagles win 31-24.