Based on the collective strength of the 15 teams currently in the NFL playoff picture and heading into Week 17, the 2019 postseason is one of the best and most unpredictable 11-game tournaments the league has seen.
Once a team makes the playoffs, history shows that it has the best chance of winning everything like everyone else – if it can warm up and pull the right matchups at the right time in a high-pressure environment, one does.
NFL GAME VIEWS:
Anticipating the seeds, matchups for AFC, NFC
Looking at where the teams are now and where they might end up for and after Week 17, here’s the best and worst of these matchups.
Best possible combination: Patriots. The Ravens had no problem moving the ball and breaking key AFC champions in the regular season. Their aggressive wrinkles around Lamar Jackson counteract the Patriots’ creative defensive plans. The Ravens defense is also loaded enough to earn a rematch with a lower rating.
Worst possible match: Head. The leaders beat the Ravens in Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes’ off-script play can cause defense problems at the front, while Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce can use speed and sport to open against the Ravens minor.
Best match: accounts. The Patriots should win friction battles based on their defensive and special forces. They also lost the Ravens, Chiefs and Texans, so we have to go with the only other team that is already in. Familiarity with a division enemy also helps prepare them.
Worst possible match: Ravens. The Patriots are also familiar with John Harbaugh’s team, who is a young play-off player. The Patriots will have to adjust to try to understand Jackson, and they just can’t get enough points with the current state of their offense.
MORE: Patriots sowing scenarios in the AFC
Lamar Jackson and Tom Bradyhttps: //images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/e5/c/jackson-brady-122119-getty-ftr.jpg_1029iwr2ry7ow1c4jytl0h92o7.jpg? T = 692312159 & w = 500 & quality = 80
Best Match: Texans. The Chiefs lost to the Texans at Arrowhead Stadium during the regular season, but Houston has a downfield oriented offense, and Kansas City has an impressive secondary game all year. The Texans would try to replicate the ideal ball control approach and have no one to cover Hill or Kelce.
Worst possible match: Ravens. These groups have equal nightmares with each other. Managers have a strong secondary and versatile rushing pass that they can upgrade when needed, but their linebackers are a big weakness, both in stopping the running game and in covering back and tight ends.
MORE: Seeding scenarios for AFC leaders
Best match: accounts. Defending the Texans is a huge weakness of many abilities. They can benefit from an unstable, inexperienced general on the other side of Deshaun Watson, who can make big plays even when defending their accounts gets away from the script.
Worst possible match: Ravens. The Texans kicked off their first meeting in Baltimore. The rematch is sure to be just as bad.
Best possible combination: Steelers. The Bills played the Patriots in regular season but not the Ravens, Chiefs or Texas. They just did the Steelers in an ugly defense game. Buffalo fits well against Pittsburgh, too, with Allen having off-script problems for the Steelers defense and 3-4 pressure.
Worst possible match: Ravens. Welcome to the club, bills. The Ravens can run everywhere with Jackson and Mark Ingram and make the game a nightmare for Josh Allen.
Best possible combination: Heads. Tennessee beat Kansas City earlier this season and its running offense could give the Chiefs more trouble in a wild card game. Keep in mind that the Titans went to Arrowhead and won the playoffs two years ago.
Worst Possible Match: Patriots. The Titans aren’t that sophisticated to defend at the moment when their current game is contained, and rookie A.J. Brown will be locked up by Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots also fit very aggressively, due to their versatile play.
Duck Hodges and Matt Judonhttps: //images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/5c/3/duck-hodges-122119-getty-ftrjpg_106yqdqo02tba1sc4vc04b47gc.jpg? T = 692288031 & w = 500 & quality = 80
Best Match: Ravens. What? Yes. Familiarity helps, and the Steelers played the Ravens hard in the first meeting. Pittsburgh could really have the defense that was best built to slow down Jackson and turn the game into a slugfest. The Steelers would probably need to get past the Chiefs on the road to get their Ravens shot.
Worst Possible Match: Patriots. We know what’s going on with Mike Tomlin’s team when dealing with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s team when Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, so we certainly know what will happen to the Steelers against the Patriots when they are under a third-string quarterback.
Best Match: Texans. The Raiders had no problem scoring the Texans when the teams met in the regular season. They could steal a higher-scoring game in the playoffs.
Worst possible match: Head. They don’t want to see their AFC West rivals for the third time. The games were not close, and Patrick Mahomes can easily pick Oakland individually.
MORE: How Raiders Can Make the Playoffs
Best Matching: Packers. The 49ers had no worries about beating the Packers in San Francisco. They calculated the action with their volatile offense and set themselves up to break Green Bay’s compressed offense around Aaron Rodgers.
Worst Possible Match: Saints. The 49ers survived the first game in New Orleans, but the Saints had no problem moving the ball to their defense. It’s hard to expect the 49ers to constantly explode for a second offense.
MORE: Seeding scenarios for the 49ers in the NFC
Jimmy Garoppolo and Drew Breeshttps: //images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/22/3e/garoppolo-brees-122119-getty-ftrjpg_11tj7isunwtd512th3bqlxvyxa.jpg? T = 692394223 & w = 500 & quality = 80
Best possible match: Vikings. The Seahawks have only played one game decided by more than one possession all season. This game was against the Vikings at home, where the Seahawks ran into a tough defense and won the fights in front of the other side of the ball, too.
Worst Possible Match: Saints. The Saints won in Seattle without Drew Brees. They have a strong defense running even with their injuries and can make great plays when needed on the pass. The Seahawks also don’t fit well with Michael Thomas and / or Jared Cook.
MORE: Seeds for Seahawks in the NFC
Best possible combination: Saints. New Orleans is not the efficient running team that gives Green Bay a break. The game would fall to Rodgers vs. Brees, and the leaks in the Saints’ pass defense would benefit the Packers in a future Famers Hall duel.
Worst Possible Match: Seahawks. The Packers are struggling with relentless running teams, and Rodgers vs. Russell Wilson provokes some bad playoff memories. Passing the Packers game, just beyond Davante Adams, would give the Seahawks a pass defense.
MORE: Seeding scenarios for NFC Packers
Best possible combination: Seahawks. The Saints are the best outdoors and team with their current makeup. That, of course, would be even better is the rematch is in New Orleans.
Worst possible match: 49ers. The Saints scored a ton against the 49ers in the first matchup, but couldn’t stop Raheem Mostert, Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Kyle Shanahan’s systematic experience against New Orleans will remain a great asset.
MORE: Seeding scenarios for the Saints in the NFC
Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousinshttps: //images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/f7/82/prescott-cousins-122119-getty-ftrjpg_9j256ah173321ohc7xetyonre.jpg? T = 692337591 & w = 500 & quality = 80
Best possible combination: Cowboys. The Vikings lost to the Seahawks and the Packers and were not yet playing for the Saints or the 49ers. They went to Dallas and won Sunday night vigorously.
Worst Possible Match: Saints. The Saints can control the Vikings running and get Kirk Cousins. Thomas would be a nightmare for the secondary. There would be no Minneapolis Miracle this time around.
Best possible combination: Seahawks. The Eagles played the Seahawks hard in the first meeting, and Seattle is starting to look like a weaker team overall, due to increasing injuries.
Worst possible match: 49ers. The defense that depends on the Eagles ‘elimination will outweigh the 49ers’ creative offense. Philadelphia’s compressed offense will also drown San Francisco at every level.
Best possible combination: Seahawks. Seattle will not be able to push Dak Prescott behind his strong offensive line and lack the secondary depth to handle Dallas aggressively throwing downfields at wide receivers and tight ends.
Worst Possible Match: Packers. Rodgers lights up when he sees the Cowboys defense. He has had great success against Dallas both at home and outside of the playoffs.