12 Teams, One Goal: A First Look at the N.F.L. Playoffs

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The Patriots can by no means be discounted, even when they may should journey to succeed in the highest postseason prize. As a result of nobody franchise has solid its persistent shadow over the Tremendous Bowl this century just like the Patriots, who’ve performed within the sport eight occasions since 2002.

The staff almost definitely within the Patriots’ cross hairs is, after all, the Chiefs (12-Four), who throttled the ever hapless Oakland Raiders, 35-Three, on Sunday. The magical quarterback Patrick Mahomes began slowly however finally ran round and flung astounding passes to seven receivers.

The younger, dynamic Chiefs might be an intimidating presence for any staff visiting Arrowhead Stadium, however they will even spend a lot of the subsequent two weeks answering questions on their two defeats within the final three weeks. And the Chiefs almost misplaced at dwelling to the Ravens 4 video games in the past.

Then there’s Kansas Metropolis’s 1-10 document in playoff video games for the reason that 1993 season.

With two losses within the final 4 video games, the third-seeded Houston Texans (11-5) have likewise seen a pause within the momentum they constructed with a nine-game win streak after a Zero-Three begin. The Texans simply manhandled dysfunctional Jacksonville Sunday, they usually have a formidable multidimensional expertise in quarterback Deshaun Watson. They may play at dwelling on Saturday in opposition to the Indianapolis Colts, who earned the sixth seed with a 16-point victory over Tennessee on Sunday evening.

The Colts (10-6) are maybe the league’s hottest staff, having gained their final 4 video games and 9 of the final 10, together with a victory earlier this month in Houston. The Texans will nonetheless be a favourite in opposition to Indianapolis, however Houston’s late-season struggles have led to questions on whether or not they can sustain with the A.F.C. elite, a bunch that will but embrace the Los Angeles Chargers (12-Four) and the resurrected Ravens (10-6). The Chargers, the fifth seed as a result of they misplaced the tiebreaker for the A.F.C. West division title with the Chiefs, would most likely be essentially the most feared staff within the convention if they’d earned dwelling discipline benefit all through the playoffs. With a 7-1 street document, they’re nonetheless going to be a frightening problem for anybody.

However the quirky Ravens, who defeated the Chargers in Los Angeles late this season, are the staff that nobody seems to be ahead to enjoying in January. Behind the incandescent Lamar Jackson, a rookie quarterback who ran for 2 touchdowns Sunday and had two different landing runs negated by penalties, the fourth-seeded Ravens have gained six of their final seven video games. Baltimore can be a quizzical throwback, with a ball-control offense that acts as the right complement to the staff’s top-ranked protection.

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