Guys, after thinking about it for the past 24 hours, I think we have two options going forward: We either start 2021 over or we just fast forward through the rest of the year and let tomorrow be the first day of 2022.
That second option is probably the best one for Browns fans, because then they won't have to sit and watch their team lose a playoff game that the NFL is forcing them to play even though half their coaching staff is out. On the other hand, if we restart 2021, that would give the Dolphins a chance to replay Week 17 and not embarrass themselves. There are definitely pros and cons to both sides.
Anyway, since everyone probably needs a sports escape right now, I've packed this newsletter with as much NFL playoff information as I could get my hands on.
You want bold predictions? They're in today's newsletter.
You want someone predicting the entire NFL postseason? In today's newsletter.
You want to know who your team is playing next year? In today's newsletter.
With that in mind, let's get to the rundown. As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link. If your pet has an email address, feel free to sign them up too. I've heard that turtles love me.
1. Today's Show: Bold predictions for the playoffs
I wasn't planning on being on any more podcasts until the playoff games kicked off this weekend, but then Will Brinson called me with an offer I couldn't refuse: He said, "Hey Breech, let's drink some beer and make some bold predictions for the playoffs." I've known Brinson for nearly 10 years, so you'd think that he'd know by now that I prefer wine, so I should have turned down his request on principle alone, but I love making bold predictions, so I jumped on the podcast with him and Ryan Wilson.
During the show, we all made one bold prediction for the AFC wild-card round, one for the NFC wild-card games and one for the overall playoffs. You guys can judge who got the craziest.
AFC wild-card bold prediction
Brinson: Colts beat Bills. If you've ever watched the podcast on YouTube (which you can do by clicking here), you may have noticed that Brinson has a Philip Rivers doll on his desk, so no one should be surprised by this pick.
Wilson: Titans beat Ravens. These two teams have played twice over the past 12 months and Wilson picked the Ravens both times, so I'm guessing he finally flipped here because he's been burnt by Baltimore twice (On the other hand, I picked the Titans to win both times and will once again be picking them this weekend).
Breech: Every home team covers the spread. This might not seem bold, but if you're a gambler, then you might realize how bold it is. Only once since 2013 has there been a season where every AFC home team covered and that was when there were only TWO games in the wild-card round. For me to nail this, the Steelers and Bills would have to win by seven and the Titans would have to win (or lose by three or less).
NFC wild-card bold prediction
Brinson: John Wolford leads all NFC players in rushing during the wild-card round. Picking a backup QB to lead all NFC rushers might seem crazy, but it's at least plausible. Wolford rushed for more than 50 yards in Week 17 and he's going to have to use his legs if the Rams are going to beat Seattle. Plus, if you look at the best running backs playing this weekend in the NFC (Alvin Kamara, David Montgomery, Antonio Gibson), they're all going up against top rushing defenses.
Wilson: Washington upsets Tampa Bay. If you want to beat Tom Brady in the playoffs, you have to have a strong defensive line and Washington has that. Also, Brady is very beatable on the road as his career postseason record away from home is just 4-4. Oh, and let's not forget that this game will mark the first time Brady has ever played on the road in the wild-card round.
Postseason bold prediction
Wilson: Colts play Steelers in AFC title game. Wilson is a Steelers homer, so although this pick is somewhat bold, it's not surprising at all.
Brinson: Colts get to AFC title game, Tom Brady to the Super Bowl. Wilson stole Brinson's bold prediction (Colts to AFC title game), so Brinson had to come up with something else and that something else is the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. If the Bucs pull it off, they'd become the first team ever to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Breech: Seahawks get to Super Bowl. You don't usually see a 12-4 team get slept on in the playoffs, but I feel like we're all sleeping on Seattle. (Guys, I'll be honest, I really wanted to work a "Sleepless in Seattle" pun in there, but that's the best I could do).
If you want a total breakdown of our predictions -- and trust me, you do -- you can listen to the entire episode of the podcast.
2. Predicting the entire postseason
Instead of just picking the wild-card round, Jordan Dajani got a little crazy today and decided to run through the entire postseason and make a pick for every game. Do we even know who's going to play who in the divisional round? No, we don't, but that's what makes this exercise even more fun.
Here are Dajani's picks (I'll give you my thoughts on his picks at the end).
Super Wild Card Weekend
Bills 31-24 over Colts
Seahawks 24-10 over Rams
Buccaneers 27-21 over Washington
Ravens 34-27 over Titans
Saints 30-24 over Bears
Steelers 35-25 over Browns
Packers 30-23 over Saints
Chiefs 31-21 over Steelers
Super Bowl LV
Chiefs 30-28 over Packers
Man, I boldly predict the Seahawks to go to the Super Bowl and Jordan just tosses them out in the Divisional Round like he DOESN'T EVEN CARE about my bold predictions. Also, Jordan is going heavy on the favorites here. By my count, he picked the favored team in 12 of the 13 games. Based on the odds in Vegas, the only upset would be Steelers over Bills in the divisional round. The thing about underdogs though is that they've been pretty dangerous over the past three years. In 2019, they went 4-7, which came on the heels of a 5-6 year in 2018. In 2017, underdogs actually had a winning record, going 6-5. Why do you HATE underdogs Jordan?
You can read Jordan's entire prediction by clicking here.
3. Ranking the 14 playoff coaching staffs
If you're making your playoff picks based on who has the best coaching staff, then you're definitely going to want to read Jared Dubin's latest piece that ranks every coaching staff in the postseason. First, I should note that Dubin came up with his own criteria. After that, he ran his rankings by some of the other NFL writers here at CBSSports.com and then he came up with the rankings below.
Here are the top-five coaching staffs according to Dubin:
1. Chiefs: HC Andy Reid, OC Eric Bieniemy, DC Steve Spagnuolo
2. Ravens: HC John Harbaugh, OC Greg Roman, DC Don Martindale
3. Bills: HC Sean McDermott, OC Brian Daboll, DC Leslie Frazier
4. Saints: HC Sean Payton, OC Pete Carmichael, DC Dennis Allen
5. Rams: HC Sean McVay, OC Kevin O'Connell, DC Brandon Staley
I'm not sure if people named Sean got bonus points for being named Sean, but it kind of seems that way based on the top-five here. If you're wondering where the Steelers are ranked on this list or why the Packers coaching staff didn't make the top-five, you'll have to read Dubin's entire story and you can do that by clicking here.
4. Lamar Jackson could join Andy Dalton a list no QB wants to be on
Lamar Jackson already has an MVP award under his belt, but one thing he doesn't have is a playoff win. As someone who grew up a Bengals fan, no one knows more than me what it's like to be a fan of a team who has a quarterback who can't win in the playoffs.
Jackson doesn't quite have the "can't win in the playoffs" label yet, but he could soon. If he can't win on Sunday against the Titans, he'll drop to 0-3 in his career and at that point, he'll definitely have the label, and that's mostly because he'll join Andy Dalton on the one list no one wants to be on.
Dalton is the only quarterback in the Super Bowl era to start a playoff game in each of his first three seasons and go 0-3. Jackson will match that record if he loses this weekend and he seems well aware of that.
"Definitely trying to erase that narrative right there," Jackson said Wednesday. "That's the No. 1 [goal] right there on my mind."
The fact that he's aware of that narrative means that the narrative could add some pressure. If the Ravens fall behind early, they might start thinking, "oh no, here we go again." On the bright side, maybe Dalton will call and console him after the game if the Ravens lose.
5. 2021 Home-and-away opponents for every team
With the entire 2020 regular season in the bag, that means every team in the NFL now knows who they'll be playing in 2021. Sure, the actual schedule won't be released until later this spring, but every teams does know the identity of the 16 opponents they'll be facing, so let's take a quick look at that.
The NFL scheduling formula allows you to figure all of this stuff out in advance and the basis of that formula is that every team in each division plays 14 common games.
Let's take the AFC East for example: The Patriots, Jets, Dolphins and Bills will all play six divisional games plus four games against the AFC South plus four games against the NFC South. The other two games on the schedule will be against teams that finished in the same spot as you in the same conference division you're not scheduled to play. In the case of the AFC East, the Bills will be playing the first place team from the AFC North (Steelers) and AFC West (Chiefs). The Dolphins will play the second place team from those divisions and so on.
Also, the 17th game listed below hasn't been formally added yet, but if the NFL approves it, each team will play against an opposite conference team that finished in the same spot in the standings. For instance, the AFC East is matched up with the NFC South for the 17th game, so the two first place teams (Bills and Saints) will play each other next season if the 17th game gets added.
AFC East: Division (6), AFC South (4), NFC South (4), AFCN (1), AFCW (1) -- 17th (NFC South)
AFC South: Division (6), AFC East (4), NFC West (4), AFCN (1), AFCW (1) -- 17th (NFC West)
AFC North: Division (6), AFC West (4), NFC North (4), AFCE (1), AFCS (1) -- 17th (NFC North)
AFC West: Division (6), AFC North (4), NFC East (4), AFCE (1), AFCS (1) -- 17th (NFC East)
NFC East: Division (6), NFC South (4), AFC West (4), NFCN (1), NFCW (1) -- 17th (AFC West)
NFC South: Division (6), NFC East (4), AFC East (4), NFCN (1), NFCW (1) -- 17th (AFC East)
NFC North: Division (6), NFC West (4), AFC North (4), NFCE (1), NFCS (1) -- 17th (AFC North)
NFC West: Division (6), NFC North (4), AFC South (4), NFCE (1), NFCS (1) -- 17th (AFC South)
If none of this makes sense, feel free to click here and check out our story that actually lists out every opponent for each team.
6. Home-field advantage not really an advantage in 2020
If you're going to be betting on the wild-card games this year, then you might want to make sure to pick a few road teams to win, because home-field advantage has been tossed out the window. For the first time in 52 years, road teams won more games during the regular season than home teams (128-127-1).
A big part of home-field advantage is having a boisterous crowd cheering you on and that simply didn't exist this year due to the pandemic. With that in mind, here's a look at the crowd situations for each wild-card game:
Fans allowed to attend
Colts at Bills: The Bills have announced that 6,700 fans will be allowed to attend the game on Saturday.
Ravens at Titans: The Titans are allowed to fill their stadium up to 21% capacity, which means they could have nearly 15,000 fans in attendance on Sunday.
Bears at Saints: Sean Payton wanted to quarantine 50,000 fans so the Saints could fill up their stadium, but that won't be happening. Instead, only 3,000 fans will be allowed to attend Sunday's game.
Browns at Steelers: The Steelers are only allowed to have 2,500 people in the stadium, including players and team employees, which means the actual fan count is probably going to be well under 2,000.
Rams at Seahawks: The Seahawks are going to be minus the 12th man, which should even things out since you're only allowed to have 11 guys on the field at once.
Buccaneers at Washington: If Tom Brady loses to another NFC East team in the postseason and no one is there to see it live, did it actually happen?
It will be interesting to see how the home teams fare in the postseason after having a disastrous regular season.
7. The Kicker!
Welcome to my first annual meltdown rankings where I'm going to rank the kickers most likely to melt down in the playoffs. Over the past three years, kickers have combined to hit just 82.7% of their field goals in the playoffs. To put that in perspective, kickers combined to hit 85.6% of their field goals during the regular season this year.
Most likely to struggle rankings:
1. Any Titans kicker: The Titans had the second-worst field goal percentage of any team in the NFL this year thanks mostly to the fact that Stephen Gostkowski hit just 69.2% of his kicks (18/26). If Gostkowski can't play this week -- he's returning from the COVID list -- the Titans will turn to Sam Sloman, who's 10 of 13 on the season, which includes his time with the Rams.
2. Will Lutz: Lutz is normally one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL, but he's fallen apart over the past few weeks. In the past three one-score games the Saints have played, Lutz has gone an ugly 4 of 8 on field goals.
3. Cody Parkey: The Browns kicker is actually having a decent season, but this will be his first time in the playoffs since the double-doink and who knows what his state of mind is going to be the first time he walks out to attempt a field goal in the playoffs. If you know a Browns fan, just ask them how much faith they have in Parkey to hit a game-winning field goal and you'll have an idea of why Parkey is on this list.
Rookie kickers have also known to struggle in the postseason, so the Colts-Bills game could be extra fascinating since that will feature two rookie kickers (Rodrigo Blankenship, Tyler Bass) and they'll be playing in ice cold weather.
My meltdown rankings should also include my nine-month old baby, because she has at least one solid meltdown per weekend. On that note, see you guys Friday!